SOMALIA: FSAU flash - urgent need for seeds 1999.1.29

SOMALIA: FSAU flash - urgent need for seeds 1999.1.29

FSAU - Food Security Assessment Unit 27 January 1999


Urgent Need for Sorghum Seeds in southern Somalia
to Prevent Increased Food Needs After July

This FSAU flash comes following discussions held by the SACB Task Force on seed distribution in Somalia, co-ordinated by the FAO. It is fully endorsed by the SACB Task Force and is submitted as an appeal to the SACB. The FAO, in the September 1998 SACB ap peal, requested similar quantities of seed to that being recommended herein.

Food Security Context

Food security in Somalia depends on different factors according to the type of population group (or Food Economy Group) under consideration.

In 1998, due to the abnormal rains, both the gu and deyr harvests in the rainfed areas have been badly affected. Taking into account appropriate risk factors, the FSAU, in its food needs assessments for January to June 1999, highlighted the rainfed and ag ro-pastoral farmers as those most vulnerable to food insecurity. Other groups, such as those predominantly pastoral or those with irrigated fields, were not considered among the more vulnerable.

Rainfed farmers from Bay region account for 40-45% of the total current vulnerable population in Somalia. In addition Bay region is traditionally known as the breadbasket of Somalia producing about 60% of Somali sorghum.

The gu harvest comprises 75% of annual cereal production in Somalia. 1998 gu production was 76% below the historical average and 60% below 1997 production. This level came from irrigated and recessional type cropping areas. The rainfed sorghum harvest alm ost entirely failed in 1998. The current deyr rainfed harvest is also expected to be very small.

Sorghum, which is relatively drought resistant, is the major crop grown by rainfed farmers. If sorghum seed is in short supply and Food Aid hybrid maize is planted there will be a total crop failure and continued food insecurity beyond July.

Seed Needs

Household stocks of cereal and therefore seeds for the coming gu season are very low.

The implication is clear: with household seed stocks low, area planted and harvest levels are likely to be low. Unless there is a timely seed distribution effort the need for food aid may well continue and even increase beyond July.

The current vulnerable population, as identified by FSAU, are rainfed farmers: * poor rainfed farmers amount to 75,000 households (using average household size = 5) * average farm size is 2ha, with sorghum being the major crop cultivated * Bay region, currently the most vulnerable of areas, accounts for 40-45% of those households * seeds are required by early March

At 10kg/ha, 20 kg of sorghum seeds per household would reasonably cover 1-2ha while allowing for losses due to re-plantings, wild animals and targeting failure.

Approximately 1,500 MT of sorghum seed would be required for the above level of coverage, in order to prevent rainfed farmers' livelihoods being further jeopardised through a lack of inputs for the coming Gu season.

As done in the past, a protection package, at least equal in weight to the seed distribution but ideally equivalent to one month's food needs would help to guarantee use of seed for cultivation and not consumption.


Multiplication Factor more seeds today = less food aid tomorrow

10 kg sorghum seed = 250 kg cereal production (a conservative estimate, considering normal losses, re-planting and low-yields. Actual yields may be closer to 400 kg/ha).

At a multiplication factor of 25:1 therefore, 1,500 MT of seed delivered in March will be approximately equivalent to 37,500 MT of cereals harvested in July.

A relatively small and inexpensive seed distribution programme now will likely significantly reduce future food needs.


Seed Multiplication Seed multiplication sites, already operational in various areas of Somalia, could be a useful way to support local livelihoods as well as guarantee a local source for future seed needs/distributions. Such sites may allow seed distribution to occur through normal commercial channels in the future.

This is an appropriate strategy for areas where technical supervision can be sustained over a long period.

Save the Children (UK) are currently running a seed multiplication programme in Belet Weyn.

Alternatives/supplement: An associated vegetable seed distribution, for areas with access to irrigation, would have the following advantages: * lightweight & inexpensive - at 50 gms and $2 per family, a packet could be distributed with Unimix * income generating - for food purchase * short-cycle/quick return - providing a buffer in the most critical period * nutritional complement to food aid or other cereal foods


There are currently estimated to be 25-30,000 IDPs in southern Somalia, the majority of whom are in Gedo region. Some will return to their original areas in order to cultivate their land. Others will remain where they are but will usually have small garde n plots available.

Seeds could be distributed as part of a repatriation package or for use where they are currently.

With less land and/or time for preparation possible cereal seed requirements for this population group would be an additional 50 MT.

Summary of Current Coverage and Shortfall

Bay - 40-45% of needs Agencies (seeds) - (Intersos, ICRC)

Bakool - 10% on needs (Intersos, ICRC)

Lower Shabelle - 15% of needs Concern WW, CINS, ICRC, CEFA No coverage for rainfed farmers in Afgoye, Brava, Sablale and Wanle Weyn districts

Middle Shabelle - 10% of needs ADRA, ICRC, CEFA

Gedo - 10% of needs Agencies - Intersos, ICRC

Hiran - 5% of needs SCF, ADRA, CINS, ICRC

Lower Juba - none Intersos, ICRC

Middle Juba - 5% of needs Intersos, ICRC, World Vision

The overall shortfall, assuming all current commitments materialise, will be 545 MT. However current targeting does not match current needs.

With Bay having the greatest seed needs, and assuming Intersos distribute half of their allocation there (175 MT), there will still be a shortfall of 366 MT.

FSAU is managed by WFP/Somalia, funded by EC/Somalia Unit, the Italian Co-operation and WFP/Somalia, and supported by USAID/Somalia and FAO. FSAU partners are WFP/Somalia, FAO, FEWS/Somalia, SCF/UK, Terra Nuova and ACF/Paris. Telephone: (254-2) 622929, 622947 ( Fax (254-2) 622698 ( E-mail:


Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 13:24:31 -0300 (GMT+3) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: SOMALIA: FSAU flash - urgent need for seeds 1999.1.29

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,