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09.30.2015

Second year in row of widespread crop failure in Karamoja, Uganda

Developing methods to monitor crop conditions for early warning becomes more critical - information from satellite data tracks crop condition for early warning.

Near-real time satellite and field data collected in Karamoja provided unequivocal evidence in a food security report that was presented to an Inter-Ministerial Meeting, chaired by the Prime Minister of Uganda Rt. Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda on Friday 25th September 2015. The report prepared by the Office of the Prime Minister contained field data, photos and satellite image analysis from GLAM East-Africa. The overwhelming hard evidence led to an immediate decision to send relief food to Karamoja (see news report: http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/673821-govt-to-distribute-relief-food-to-karamoja.html)

Earlier in August, during a field campaign led by AgriSense-STARS farmers had already acknowledged the eminent disaster as most of their crops had already failed.

“The first plowing was done in April and crops were planted but few germinated and others died at the germination level. The next plowing was also done. That is why you see the other place cultivated. That was the next plowing which was done in the month of May when the rainfall had started again and the farmers had planted the seeds again. Nothing has also germinated from there so there is no hope totally of getting any crop from that garden. It is because of the drought which has caused all that.  “ Sabina Alepe, Lokitalakapest.

  • Depicts Crop Conditions in Rupa Sub-County August 13, 2015. A food security monitoring officer talking to a farmer whose maize garden totally failed. Depicts Crop Conditions in Rupa Sub-County August 13, 2015. A food security monitoring officer talking to a farmer whose maize garden totally failed.


According to Mr. Edonu Janaan Moroto District Entomologist what destroyed crops this year was a long dry spell proceeding germination and  followed by an outbreak of pests, mostly grasshoppers. He adds “The biggest issue remains the unreliability of rainfall. Which falls today then takes a month and when crops are destroyed then it again re-falls then takes like two weeks then falls again”

Satellite Images from NASA’s MODIS satellite and a recent field visit by the Agrisense-STARS team revealed widespread crop failure in Moroto, Karamoja this year. The local communities comprise subsistence farmers who rely fully on rainfall with minimal to no inputs.  “We prepare the land in February, plant in March and wait for rain”. Rainfall in the region is erratic, highly unpredictable, weather forecasts are disregarded and there are no irrigation systems. Failed rains and “change in seasons” are the root cause of widespread crop failure and irreversible environmental destruction in the region. General crop condition tracked by OPM using GLAM East-Africa show failed crop, meaning no harvest and hence food stocks will not be replenished this year without aid.

Satellite and ground data also provide information on pasture conditions. 

The key livelihood alternative during drought years such as this is the sale of livestock. However, pasture conditions across the region are overall poor. This has impacted livestock health and has limited animal sales as a livelihood alternative. Hence, the challenges to farmers and the whole population this year are enormous.

  • Increasing deterioration of crop and pasture conditions from June (green=good) to September (Brown=failure). Currently (September) the food insecurity situation is acute because there has been no harvest during the normal harvest period beginning end of July (see figure 6). We are now in the month of September and still there are no harvests. Increasing deterioration of crop and pasture conditions from June (green=good) to September (Brown=failure). Currently (September) the food insecurity situation is acute because there has been no harvest during the normal harvest period beginning end of July (see figure 6). We are now in the month of September and still there are no harvests.

This information prompted immediate response and OPM dispatched first relief food on Saturday September 26th. http://ntv.co.ug/news/local/26/sep/2015/government-sends-food-relief-famine-stricken-karamoja-8857