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Presence Country
Food Security Outlook

Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions in the Niger River Valley

February 2017 to September 2017

February - May 2017

Mali February 2017 Food Security Projections for February to May

June - September 2017

Mali February 2017 Food Security Projections for June to September

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • The 35 percent larger than average volume of cereal production points to average to above-average cereal availability in most parts of the country between February and September 2017. However, there are reportedly pockets of large production shortfalls in localized riverine areas of the Mopti, Timbuktu and Gao regions and in the Western Sahel due to flooding, drought conditions, and crop predators.

  • In general, an average availability of food stocks, price levels close to or slightly above the five-year average, and favorable terms of trade for goats/cereals from the standpoint of pastoralists will maintain household food access.

  • The atypical reliance of households in flooded rice-farming areas of Mopti, Timbuktu, and Gao on strategies for cutting back on their food and nonfood spending to meet their food needs is expected to heighten food insecurity from Minimal (IPC Phase 1) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels. This is also the case for poor flood and drought-stricken households, particularly in the Western Sahel and the Goundam lake area.

  • Very poor households in the above-mentioned anomaly areas will be able to meet their food needs during the lean season between June and September only by resorting to strategies for cutting their food intake and relying on outside assistance. These households will be in a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situation, though they do not reach the 20 percent threshold for reclassifying a given area. 

NATIONAL OVERVIEW

Current situation

Overall food availability

Crop production for 2016-2017 is approximately 35 percent above the five-year average, creating a 1,635,000 metric ton surplus and translating into average to good cereal availability across the country. Farming activities for off-season cereal and market garden crops are underway in the usual areas. In general, forecasts are predicting average levels of production, particularly for market garden crops whose harvest is currently in progress and will continue through the month of March.

Pastoral conditions

In general, there are average pastoral conditions in all parts of the country with the exception of the Gourma area of the Timbuktu and Gao regions, where conditions are average to poor. The combined effects of grazing problems, particularly in the Gourma area of Timbuktu and Gao with the shortfall in pasture production in floodplain pastures (“bourgoutières”) in the river valley, and security issues are triggering atypical herd movements. This is creating unusually large concentrations of livestock on certain relatively lush pasturelands. Normal north-south migration by livestock herds to graze on crop residues in farming areas and to year-round watering holes elsewhere in the country is currently in progress.

As usual, there are larger supplies of livestock with the return of transhumant herds and the normal needs of pastoralists for food supplies. There is an ongoing flow of exports to foreign countries, though there is a smaller than average volume of exports to Niger due to the problems with sales to Nigeria. Even with the increase in supplies since last month, livestock prices are still above the five-year average. Prices for goats, the animal most often sold by poor households, are up by 19 percent in Gao, six percent in Timbuktu, and 20 percent in Mopti.

Market supplies and trade flows

The current post-harvest period is marked by adequate cereal supplies on markets across the country. In general, there is a growing supply of cereals, mainly from local crop production. However, there is a below-average availability of locally grown rice due to the large crop losses caused by localized flooding problems in the Niger River Delta area of the Mopti, Timbuktu, and Gao regions. The normal flow of supplies to the Kidal market from Algeria and Gao is still impacted by isolated disturbances hampering the movements of traders from time to time. In any event, there are sufficient supplies to meet consumer demand. 

Food access

Trends in prices for major staple foodstuffs vary from one regional capital to another, but prices tend to be stable. The downward trend in prices is less steep than usual due to the above-average demand from food-short areas in the north and the Western Sahel, the stockbuilding needs of traders, and institutional procurements. As of the end of January 2017, the price of millet, the most widely consumed cereal, was seven percent above the five-year average in Gao, near-average in Mopti, and seven and twelve percent below-average in Koulikoro and Ségou, respectively. These price levels and the availability of home-grown crops and wild plant foods (fonio and cram-cram grass) are helping to improve household food access, except for poor households in certain parts of the north, flood victims, and returnees with reduced incomes.

Other important factors

The security situation in the north and localized areas in the central part of the country is still precarious, where security incidents continue to hamper the socioeconomic recovery and the free movement of people and goods. In addition to their effect on the socioeconomic recovery, these security incidents are interfering with humanitarian assistance programs for poor at-risk households, which is heightening their vulnerability and limiting the rebuilding of their below-average livelihoods.

Food security situation

The average to above-average availability of home-grown crops and wild plant foods and near to slightly above-average cereal prices are giving most agropastoral and pastoral households across the country average food access. Above-average terms of trade for livestock/cereals are helping to give pastoral households average market access to meet their food needs. Thus, most households are currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.

However, crop production by poor households in the Niger River Delta area of the Mopti, Timbuktu, and Gao regions and localized areas of the Western Sahel is well below-average. As a result, poor households are prematurely resorting to scaling up their wage labor and short-term seasonal labor migration in order to generate as much income as possible and help maintain their market access in the face of the premature depletion of their food stocks. The availability of fresh crops, though limited, and the current near-average levels of food prices are helping to improve their food access. Accordingly, they are presently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity but will soon be facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions due to the factors outlined above.

Assumptions

The most likely food security scenario for February through September 2017 is based on the following underlying assumptions with regard to trends in nationwide conditions.

Agropastoral activities:

  • Rainfall: According to the latest agro-climatic forecasts from December 2016 by the ECMWF and IRI, the seasonal outlook shows no major anomalies between now and June 2017 affecting the start-of-season in May. FEWS NET expects the rainy season to begin on schedule, in June in the country’s Sudanian and Sahelian zones, and in July in northern areas of the country. There will be average levels of rainfall during this period, allowing the growing season to get off to a timely start in all parts of the country according to the isohyet map.
  • Level of rivers: The levels of rivers and streams across the country are steadily falling. Current water levels are higher than at the same time last year and above the multi-year average. They are expected to start rising again beginning in June-July 2017 and will continue to rise through the month of September, staying within the average range throughout the 2017 growing season.
  • Crop production for 2017/2018: The extension of the government subsidy program for farm inputs, distributions of farm implements, and ongoing hydroagricultural development projects will help expand the size of the area planted in crops for the 2017/2018 growing season. The combined effects of the expected average or near-average rainfall activity and the factors outlined above should translate into an overall above-average volume of crop production at the country level.
  • Off-season crops: Based on the good levels of reservoirs (year-round and seasonal lakes and ponds) and rivers, there are average to above-average production prospects for market garden crops between February and March and off-season rice crops scheduled to be harvested in June-July and between July and August in the case of flood recession crops in the Timbuktu, Kayes, and Mopti regions. Continued assistance for the diversification of crop production and, in particular, the socioeconomic reintegration of households in northern areas impacted by the security crisis will help improve crop production through the distribution of high-quality seeds and equipment as part of the national resilience-building plan.
  • Lean season for agropastoral populations: The average to good food availability, fresh crop production, and good pastoral conditions across the country will translate into a normal lean season for most households in agropastoral areas. As usual, the lean season will run from March-April through June-July for pastoral populations, with a normal deterioration in pastoral conditions and reduction in animal production in general, and from June through September for agropastoral populations with the normal depletion of their food stocks. However, the lean season for poor rice-growing populations in certain riverine areas of Mopti, Timbuktu, and Gao will get off to an earlier than usual start with the premature depletion of their food stocks by February instead of in March-April due to the poor harvest in December 2016. The new pasture growth beginning in July and the availability of early crops in September will help end the lean season by improving the diets and incomes of pastoral and agropastoral households.

Other sources of food and income:

  • Animal production: In general, current pastoral conditions bode well for average levels of animal production, except in the Niger River Valley in the Mopti, Gao, and Timbuktu regions affected by shortfalls in pasture availability. The large concentrations of animals in these areas since February will help quickly degrade local pastures, which will negatively affect the physical condition of livestock and animal production in these areas between March and June. The first rains in June-July will improve grazing conditions, triggering a rebound in milk production and the physical recovery of livestock.
  • Herd movements: The normal herd movements to farming areas to graze on crop residues and to year-round watering holes beginning in February will continue into the month of March. Livestock will remain in these areas until the beginning of the rains in June-July, which will trigger the usual flow of return migration to rainy season holding areas in June-July. However, the existing pockets of pasture deficits and continuing security incidents will create larger than average concentrations of animals in certain northern areas (Gao), which will negatively affect grazing conditions for livestock.
  • Fish production: The heavy runoff from the river helped adequately flood all fish breeding areas, which bodes well for the good reproductive performance, growth, and development of different species of fish. There will continue to be average to large fish catches for the current fishing season beginning in December with the falling levels of rivers and streams between now and July-August. The lifting of bans on communal fishing activities beginning in March-April will help improve the availability of fish to meet food needs and generate household income. Policies such as the stocking of lakes with fish and the provision of fishing equipment, combined with the average to above average availability of fish, should generate above-average levels of income for fishing households.
  • Migration: The normal flow of labor migration from farming areas to urban areas of the country and abroad beginning in October-November will continue through the month of March. The average in-kind and cash earnings brought home by returning migrant workers beginning in May-June will help ease hardships for households during the lean season for farming populations between June and September. This year’s earlier than usual massive flow of labor migration in areas with poor crop production should help produce above-average levels of migration income with the larger than usual numbers of migrant workers and their longer than usual stay in their destination areas. 
  • Labor: As usual, workers across the country will engage in normal types of nonfarm labor and small trades between February and May and in farm labor between May and September. The average incomes generated by these activities will help improve the purchasing power of poor households dependent on these types of work. However, the shortage of employment opportunities for unskilled labor (in construction, small trades, etc.) in northern areas of the country and river delta areas of Mopti with little crop production due to the security situation will translate into below-average incomes.

Markets:

  • Cereal prices: The good cereal availability across the country suggests that prices will stay within range of the average for this food year. However, demand for the rebuilding of national food security stocks and from Burkina Faso in crop-producing areas will drive cereal prices above-average in crop-growing areas of San reporting shortfalls in production. In turn, there will be an atypical rise in prices on northern markets dependent on that market, particularly with the 25 percent jump in shipping costs between these areas, driven by the hike in fuel prices and poor condition of the road. The reportedly stable prices at this time of year normally marked by a drop in prices suggests an earlier than usual seasonal rise in prices beginning in February and extending through the month of September, with price levels staying at or slightly above the average. However, the subsidized sales and distributions of free food rations by the government beginning in June will slow the upward trend in prices on retail markets.
  • Livestock prices: Livestock prices are expected to stay above-average, bolstered by the generally average to good pastoral conditions across the country and a continued average demand. There will be a seasonal drop in prices between April and June with the normal deterioration in pastoral conditions. The rebound in pastoral conditions with the beginning of the rains in July will drive up prices with the normal tightening of supplies as livestock herds head back up north and the heightened demand for livestock for the celebration of Ramadan in July and Tabaski in September. Terms of trade for livestock/cereals will stay in favor of pastoralists. 
  • Institutional procurements: Institutional procurements will include the procurement of 15,000 metric tons of millet/sorghum for the rebuilding of OPAM’s national food security stocks and procurements by the WFP and other humanitarian organizations for 2017 in connection with the implementation of the National Response Plan. In general, there will be fewer such procurements than in 2016 with the smaller numbers of recipients of assistance at the country level and the shift in assistance strategies, with the focus on resilience-building rather than on distributions of free food rations.

Other important issues:

  • Humanitarian programs: The combined effects of the poor crop production in the Niger River Valley area of the Mopti, Gao, and Timbuktu regions and the persistent security problems in these areas still negatively affecting the socioeconomic situation of local households will curtail the food access of poor households in these areas. Scheduled relief programs as part of the National Response Plan will distribute free half rations to approximately 500,000 people across the country over the three-month period from June through September and support agropastoral and fish production through farm input grants and/or subsidies by the government and its partners during that same period.
  • Security situation: The security situation will continue to be marked by isolated incidents disrupting the free movement of people and goods, particularly in the Timbuktu and Gao regions and the northern reaches of the Mopti and Ségou regions. The staging of joint patrol operations beginning in January involving all rival groups is a symbol of reconciliation that will significantly improve the security situation and minimize its impact on socioeconomic conditions in these areas.
  • Nutritional situation: In spite of the stable epidemiological situation, as usual, the nationwide nutritional situation during the current post-harvest period is still concerning. As usual, acute malnutrition rates for this post-harvest period are slightly below the median global acute malnutrition rate for the lean season (GAM <10.7 percent) calculated based on non-consecutive SMART lean season surveys (2008-2016). There will be a normal deterioration in the nutritional situation as of March-April (the beginning of the lean season), particularly in areas with poor crop production where the earlier than usual lean season is prompting changes in eating habits due to the limited food availability. The beginning of the rains in June, which only serves to further degrade health and sanitation conditions through the use of surface water, combined with the prevalence of diarrheal diseases and lean season conditions, will likely contribute to the deterioration in nutritional conditions through the month of September. The generally average household food access, combined with the improvement and expansion of screening and treatment programs for malnutrition, particularly in areas impacted by poor crop production and the conflict, will help improve the food security situation and limit the deterioration in the nutritional situation. By September, the availability of early crops and milk will help strengthen the nutritional situation, putting it back on par with the norm.

Most likely food security outcomes

Cereal availability from average to good nationwide harvests, in-kind payments, and near-average affordable cereal prices owing to normal sources of income and favorable terms of trade for livestock/cereals from the standpoint of pastoralists are sustaining the food access of agropastoral and pastoral households across the country. Accordingly, most households around the country were experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity in February 2017.

The shortfall in crop production in the Niger River Delta area of Mopti, riverine areas of Timbuktu and Gao, and the Western Sahel and small pockets of production deficits scattered across the country due to premature flooding, drought conditions, and crop predators will deplete food stocks earlier than usual and prolong the market dependence of households in these areas. Households faced with declining incomes will resort to cutting their food and nonfood spending, scaling up their nonfarm labor, borrowing, and reducing their food intake in order to meet their food needs. As a result, they will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions between March and September 2017.

The protracted reliance of very poor households in anomaly areas of the country on strategies calling for cutbacks in food intake and the liquidation of livelihood assets to meet their food needs during the lean season between June and September will weaken their food consumption. These households will be in a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situation, though they will not reach the 20 percent threshold for reclassifying a given area. 

About Scenario Development

To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 34 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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