Average to above average rains expected in April to June
Rainfall forecasts for the Gu’ 2020 period indicate a strong possibility of average to above-average precipitation in most parts of Somalia. These Gu’ rains are expected to maintain rangelands and support planting activities. However, they could enable a new wave of breeding and further spread of the locust pests. Pasture losses are expected in areas where swarms land, although rainfall in coming months is likely to partially continue offsetting the impact. Nonetheless, if the desert locusts continue to multiply, this offsetting effect will be drastically reduced.
Analysis by FAO shows that the most significant food security impact will be felt by households in areas where swarms pass through and cause damage, especially those that are reliant on cropping activities and are already facing acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 2+) due to existing high vulnerability and the effects of expected crop losses. On 27 February, FAO and the Somali Government released the “Desert Locust Crisis - Somalia Action Plan” which requires US$32.2 million to implement through July 2020
Regional response to locust infestation
FAO has adopted a regional response plan to the locust infestation and urgently needs $138 million to respond in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania. Like Somalia, these seven countries have experienced widespread infestation. FAO urgently needs this money to help governments to scale up control operations to mitigate the devastating impact of the pests as soon as possible.
The required funding will ensure that activities to control the locusts can take place before new swarms emerge and breed. It will also provide help for people whose crops or pastures are already affected, to protect their families and their livelihoods. As of 25 February, FAO had received commitments totalling $33 million. WFP has estimated the cost of responding to the impact of locusts on food security alone to be at least 15 times higher than the cost of preventing the spread now.
The desert locust is considered the world’s most dangerous migratory pest. A swarm of one square kilometer can consume the equivalent of crops that could feed 35,000 people for a year. The current infestation in Somalia is the worst in 25 years. On 2 February, the Somalia Government declared a national emergency over the locust infestation.
Average to above average Gu’ rains expected in most parts of Somalia
An earlier than usual start of rains is expected across most parts of Somalia, especially the southern regions. Delayed rainfall onset is expected over the northern parts of Somalia. These areas are also likely to have prolonged dry periods a few weeks after the start of the season. According to the January climate outlook for the Greater Horn of Africa issued by FAO, there is a strong possibility of the Gu’ 2020 rainfall being average (35 per cent) and above average (35-40 per cent) in most parts of Somalia with usual temperatures likely to be warmer than usual across the country. This also includes the Ethiopian highlands which contribute significantly to both Juba and Shabelle river flows inside Somalia. Some areas in Somaliland have higher chances of below normal (40 per cent) to normal (35 per cent) rains.
Most annual rain in Somalia is recorded during the Gu’ season
The expected average to above average rains will boost crop production prospects and replenish pasture and water sources in most parts of Somalia. This comes after a largely favorable rainy season during the October-December 2019 Deyr season, which will contribute to continued recovery among pastoral and agropastoral livelihoods that have previously been adversely affected by recurrent drought conditions. According to FAO-managed Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM), riverine flooding along the Juba and Shabelle rivers is likely to occur, exacerbating the devastation that populations along the two rivers experienced during the 2019 Deyr season. Currently, there are many open river breakages along the two main rivers, and this could worsen given the expected increase in river levels and consequent flooding during the forthcoming Gu season.
The Gu’ rains start in March/April and end at different times across Somalia, depending on the north-south movement of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) which is the leading factor for the timing of rainfall in most parts of Africa. Most of the annual rainfall in Somalia - 75 per cent - is recorded during the Gu’ season. Therefore, the performance of Gu’ rains is critical both for crop and livestock-dependent livelihoods across Somalia.