Heavy rains to improve yield prospects in East Africa: study 

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) — Heavy rains which intensified across the East Africa region in late April and early May are likely to improve cropping prospects and water available in some areas, a food security report reveals on Saturday.
The monthly report by donor-funded Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS Net), the early warning system that monitors food insecurity, says late season rains reduced rainfall deficits across some drought-affected areas of the Eastern Horn of Africa. “While these rains are likely to contribute to improvements in cropping prospects and pasture and water availability in some areas, flooding has already resulted in damage in localized areas of Kenya, and may affect parts of Ethiopia and southern Somalia in the coming weeks,” FEWS Net said. The severe drought in East Africa in late 2016 has heightened food insecurity in several countries in the sub-region.But the report says recent increases in rainfall have improved cropping prospects in main agricultural production areas of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, and northern Tanzania.
However, in parts of southern Somalia and marginal agricultural zones of southeastern Kenya, the shortened growing period associated with a late onset and likely normal cessation of seasonal rainfall is likely to result in reduced yields.The short- to medium-term rainfall forecasts indicate increased likelihood for continued very heavy rainfall across coastal areas and western and northern areas of East Africa, which is typical during May and early June and contributes to heightened flood risks.The report says rainfall during the past several weeks has been average to above average in many areas of the region, with localized areas of Kenya, northern and eastern Tanzania, eastern Uganda, and Rwanda receiving well above average rainfall amounts (50-200 mm). “Ongoing rainfall is expected to generally reduce moisture stress that had negatively affected cropping conditions in much of Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, southern Somalia, and southern Belg-producing areas of Ethiopia,” said FEWS Net.
The report says in marginal agricultural production areas of southeastern Kenya and neighboring southern Somalia, the current rains are likely to be beneficial to cereal crops in the short-term. “Cropping prospects remain below normal as a combination of delayed start of season and expected on-time end of season is likely to lead to a shortened period for crop growth,” said FEWS Net. According to the report, late-planted crops are more likely to reach full development in coastal areas of Somalia that receive July-August Hagaa rainfall, but overall yields are still expected to be below average. Prospects for other short maturing crops, such as legumes and vegetables, are likely to improve significantly with the ongoing rains.
However, these rains also triggered localized flooding in several counties in Kenya that caused property damage, and deaths of humans and livestock, especially in Marsabit, Isiolo, Taita-Taveta, Kwale, and Mombasa counties.     FEWS Net said some of these areas are also among those highly affected by drought in 2016 and 2017, and flooding may only impede recovery for some worst-affected households. Meanwhile, Fall Armyworm remains a concern in the region, particularly in parts of western and southeastern Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and southwestern Ethiopia, although ongoing heavy rainfall could contribute to some limitations on the spread of the pest and damage on crops in some areas, according to UN observations.