March to May rains poor over many areas of the Horn of Africa

March 1st - May 31st seasonal rainfall anomoly, as a percent of ‘normal’ (1983-2009 averages)

Light rainfall occurred in much of the Horn of Africa during mid to late May. Overall, performance of the March to May seasonal rains was “very poor” in most of southern and central Somalia and northern Kenya. Northern areas of Ethiopia saw some improvements in seasonal rainfall, but many southern parts of the country are experiencing below-average rains.

The image above shows where rainfall was lower than the 1983-2009 average. It was released in a report this week by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), an initiative funded by the US Agency for International Development and supported by US meteorological agencies.

According to FEWS NET, southern Ethiopia’s Gu/Genna seasonal rains were delayed and erratic after they began, resulting in below-average rainfall amounts. Affected areas include the Somali Region, South Omo and the Borena and Guji zones.

On the other hand, Belg-producing areas of northeastern Amhara and southern Tigray experienced significant improvements in rainfall performance in April and May, according to FEWS NET, eliminating early season deficits and improving cropping prospects. Early seasonal rainfall has also been somewhat favorable in western Meher-producing areas.

In Somalia, Gu seasonal rainfall performance has been broadly below average, generally worse in the central part of the country (50% of normal) and slightly better in southern and northern areas (80% of normal). Nevertheless, in southern agropastoral areas, seasonal rainfall during May has contributed to some improvements in rangeland resources and cropping conditions.

In Kenya, the March to May “long” rains were significantly delayed, unevenly distributed, and well below average (25-50% of normal) across some areas. The worst-affected areas include Isiolo and the southern Rift Valley counties of Kajiado, parts of Narok, and Naivasha. Heavy rains in mid-May caused flooding in Kilifi, Kwale, and Taita Taveta counties, destroying recently planted crops and resulting in livestock deaths. Recent rainfall has contributed to marginal improvements in pasture and water availability, but these are expected to be short-lived.

Image Source: NOAA/NWS/CPC

Analysis: FEWS NET