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Rainfall patterns in Siti Zone are bimodal with the diraa rains expected in March – May and the karan rains in July – October. Rainfall is generally erratic and sparse. While both rainy seasons are important, failure of the diraa rains has a devastating effect on livestock because it follows the long dry jilaal season. Drought spells are the main hazard affecting the zone. In 2011, the eastern Horn of Africa experienced two consecutive poor rainy seasons caused by the La Nina effect, resulting in one of the driest years since 1950-51 in many pastoral zones. The Somali region faced extreme food insecurity due to the prolonged lack of rainfall, and many poor households had to sell more livestock than they usually do to generate cash income for food purchases. The drought spell continued through 2012 and parts of 2013.
This assessment was conducted as part of a joint Oxfam, Save the Children and Concern initiative and was used to test out the collection and cohesion of the baseline assessments and the use of this data in the Situation Response Analysis Framework (SRAF) process. The exercise took place in the Siti Zone of the Somali region and focused on the rural pastoralist communities whose livelihoods are regularly affected by cyclical drought spells and conflict over scarce resources. The reference year for comparison was 2011. The assessment focused on the sorghum, rice, and pasta market systems, representing the common staple foods for the rural pastoralist population. The purpose of the assessment was to determine the market systems' capacities to provide basic food products to the rural pastoralist communities during a severe drought and to judge what types of humanitarian responses might be required and feasible to ensure food security of these people during such a crisis situation.
The assessments of the staple markets revealed that the respective markets in Siti Zone are well integrated. The market actors of the different market systems behave competitively and profit margins at all levels of the market chains appear moderate. All market systems seem to have the capacity to meet the respective needs of the population in Siti Zone – even during a severe drought. All three market systems appear to have some potential to expand their supply. All households met during the assessment reported to be able to access markets. A main concern regarding market access is transport costs, especially for households living in very remote areas.
This assessment recommends that the three organisations should strive to understand the scope of the government food aid programme in Siti and its capacity to react to a crisis, like the drought mentioned earlier. This process should establish whether food security responses should be a part of drought contingency plans for Siti Zone. The present assessment suggests that cash based programming is a feasible alternative to in-kind distributions of food in Siti Zone. In this respect it would make sense to advocate for a policy change of the PSNP in Somali region and try to motivate the responsible authorities to some pilot projects in which PSNP starts to distribute cash. First trials could be done using a mixed approach (cash and in-kind). When implementing cash transfers particular attention should be paid to the geographic location of the beneficiaries when determining the amount of the cash transfer, as households in remote rural areas face higher costs to procure food products than do households that are closer to the urban centres.