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Presence Country
Food Security Outlook

General improvement in food security

October 2012 to March 2013

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.

With the uncertainty over future developments in the political crisis in northern Mali, and with current indications of continuing relative stability across the country, projected food security outcomes for this outlook report are based on a status quo scenario. However, the report also outlines the potential effects of a new outbreak of conflict on food security.  The analysis will be updated as new data is made available.

Key Messages

  • IPC Phase 2: Stress levels of food insecurity in the Western Sahel and the North, even in agropastoral areas, should improve between now and December with the new harvest availability (millet and rice), good levels of milk production, the gradual rebound in economic activity, and ongoing humanitarian assistance programs. In the South, these same factors are promoting a return to normal seasonal practices and bringing food insecurity levels down to IPC Phase 1: Minimal acute food insecurity.

  • The losses of large tracts of cropland to flooding and the seed shortages in riverine rice-growing and transhumant livestock-raising areas (LZ 3) and the Niger River Delta area of Djenné (LZ 6) will mean less seasonal income for poor households, putting them in IPC Phase 2 (stress) between now and March of next year. 

  • The threat of a desert locust infestation is diminishing with the end of the rainy season in the Sahel and the likelihood of their moving northwards, into North Africa. However, ongoing locust breeding activities in require continued vigilance on the part of locust control agencies. 

  • The political situation remains status quo, with no new large-scale outbreaks of fighting in the North.  This state of relative calm is encouraging IDPs to return to their homes, gradually revitalizing the economy and, in general, is helping to stabilize market conditions, food availability, and the pursuit of farming activities.  A new outbreak of conflict could affect food security levels between October and March of next year.

Nationwide Overview

Current situation

The political situation remains status quo, with efforts underway to effectively and definitively resolve the current tensions with involvement of the United Nations. In the interim, the stable political situation and semblance of peace in affected areas are encouraging displaced populations to return home to work their land and to avoid increasing difficulties in areas receiving and hosting displaced people.

The May forecast for below-average to average levels of rainfall in the southwestern part of the country did not come to fruition, as the rainy season progressed favorably all across the country. In general, cumulative rainfall totals as of October 10th were average to above-average (90 to over 130 percent of the norm). Parts of the central and north-central reaches of the country getting the heaviest rains saw moderate to severe flooding, particularly in the central part of the country.

With good rainy season conditions and technical assistance programs in southern farming areas, seasonal progress  continues normally all across the country. Initial cereal harvests are already underway in both southern and northern farming areas. The availability of lean season foods (cowpeas, earthpeas, and fonio) and of early-maturing rainfed and flood-recession millet and rice crops since September have helped bolster the food access of poor farming households during this year’s relatively harsh lean season, particularly in the north, the Niger River Delta, and in Sahelian Belt areas of the country’s Kayes and Koulikoro regions. Various assistance programs mounted by the government, its development partners, and humanitarian aid agencies supplying farm inputs to southern farming areas helped ensure adequate planting levels for cereal (millet, sorghum, and corn), cash crops (cotton, groundnuts, and cowpeas), and rice by farmers in both the North and the South. As projected in the August update, the use of farm inputs in the North helped optimize rice-growing activities to support the area’s farming potential, matching if not surpassing last year’s cropping rates with the development of new village-level irrigation schemes.

Good rainfall levels across the country created favorable conditions for crops, with fewer pests to hinder crop growth and development. However, these same good rainfall conditions were also responsible for rather large crop losses (of rice, millet/sorghum, and pulses), particularly in the Ségou, Mopti, Koulikoro, and Sikasso regions. The size of areas planted in just about all types of crops topped figures for the last two years, except in the case of flooded rice crops in localized areas of the Niger River Delta plagued by shortages of seeds and lowland flooding.

Conditions for livestock-raising activities are generally good. Animals in the northern part of the country are still in their usual rainy season grazing areas and are just beginning to move down towards the river. Milk production levels in the Western Sahel are good, though down from last year due to the harsh lean season for livestock herds in this part of the country. The usual vaccination campaign is underway in the South. Vaccination activities in the North are being conducted with the help of certain humanitarian partners rather than as part of the national vaccination campaign, suggesting a more limited than usual coverage rate.

The desert locust situation continues to require monitoring, given ongoing locust breeding activities in gregarization areas in the northern part of the country. However, the improvement in environmental conditions in North Africa, with the beginning of seasonal rains, renders an invasion of southern farming areas less likely. Cereal-eating birds continue to pose a threat to crops in general and, in particular, to rice crops in the Niger River Delta and riverine areas of the Timbuktu and Gao regions. This threat is further heightened by failure of the government to mobilize its usual preventive crop treatment program in September (the nest-building and band and swarm formation period) for budgetary reasons. A treatment program has been developed, with implementation contingent on availability of funds.

In general, cereal prices are falling, in line with normal seasonal trends, as mounting evidence supports the good harvest forecast in the July 2012 outlook. Increasingly signs of decreasing market prices for cereal are evident as farmers and traders proceed to unload their inventories. Market prices are down from last month by an average of five to 15 percent, though still more than 50 percent above the five-year average. Though varying from one market to another, at a broad level, prices are consistently lower than they were last year, particularly in the case of corn. High demand for millet/sorghum for institutional procurements by OPAM, capped at 35,000 MT, humanitarian agencies, and cereal banks for the restocking of their reserves, which could begin as early as December, could create an excess market demand, halting the seasonal downward trend in prices much earlier than usual (by December-January).

The extension of humanitarian food aid programs is helpful for poor households in the northern part of the country, the Niger River Delta, and the Western Sahel, who are unable to fully meet their food needs. In addition, according to food security/nutrition cluster data, the continuing food aid, nonfood aid, and cash transfer programs for displaced northern households and southern host families mounted back in June of this year are easing the pressure on these households. These assistance programs are being run by the government, humanitarian organizations, and volunteers.

The government and its development partners are continuing to address the needs of displaced northern populations. As of October 30th, there were an estimated 174,000 displaced persons. Their primary destination is the Mopti region housing 41,239 DPs, or a total of 5,846 households. However,  a steady stream of IDPs are returning to their homes.  These returns are increasing as the harvesting period gets underway in the northern part of the country. The humanitarian community supports the strengthening of assistance programs, as some programs are coming to a close. Food security among IDPs who are unable to assimilate into the socioeconomic fabric of receiving areas will require continued monitoring.

Assumptions

The most likely food security scenario at a national level from October 2012 to March 2013 is based on the following assumptions:

  • Crop pests: There will be a lull in desert locust activity, with little likelihood of an invasion of southern farming areas and a small possibility of light damage to pastures in gregarization areas in Kidal. The start of seasonal rains in North Africa should help draw the locusts northward, particularly with ecological conditions steadily deteriorating with the end of the rainy season in the Sahel. Cereal-eating birds will cause light to moderate damage to rice crops in the Niger River Delta and the Niger River Valley area of Timbuktu and Gao in November-December due to the government’s failure to implement this year’s preventive crop treatment program. However, the presence of water and pasture should keep the bird population in fallow fields, keeping millet/sorghum crops mostly protected until the harvest.
  • Crop production: In general, harvests of all types of crops should be average to good, except in localized flood-stricken areas of livelihood zone 6 in Djenné and livelihood zone 3 in Bourem and Gao. The timely start of the rainy season and the good spatial-temporal distribution of rainfall, combined with sizeable distributions of aid in the form of high-quality seeds and fertilizer, bode well for generally average to good harvests in both the North and the South. This good harvest outlook is already evidenced by ongoing harvests of pulses and short-cycle crop varieties.
  • Market gardening activities: High levels of seasonal lakes and ponds and other water sources suggest a good harvest of market garden crops, which are a crucial source of food and income-generation for poor households. Thus, these crops should last longer than usual, or from three to five months. Prices in the north will be shaped by the vitality of local markets which, in turn, is contingent on the security situation. Households will consume any vegetable crops they are unable to sell.  
  • Animal production: Milk and meat production should be better than usual by October. The good supply of pasture in interdune and floodplain areas and the high levels of animal watering holes should ensure normal livestock-raising conditions throughout the outlook period.
  • Transhumant herd movements: Absent any major change in the currently stable sociopolitical situation, a normal pattern of herd movements by transhumant animals is expected. The absence of major security issues suggests a normal pattern of seasonal migration by livestock herds from rainy season holding areas to dry season grazing areas between November and June to allow for farming activities in rangeland areas.
  • Epizootic outbreak in the north: This year, for lack of a well-organized vaccination campaign, there will be more severe epizootic outbreaks of diseases such as foot and mouth disease and pasteurellosis in remote northern areas due to poor vaccination coverage.
  • Livestock prices: Livestock prices in southern farming areas will be above-average, particularly between the current harvesting period (October) and April. Prices in the northern part of the country will be slightly lower due to the security constraints in that area, limiting the numbers of foreign wholesalers frequenting livestock markets. High demand in the weeks leading up to the Feast of Tabaski and the Christmas holidays and the tightening of supplies from farmers will help to drive up prices for livestock.
  • Cereal prices: The good nationwide harvest will trigger a relatively sharp seasonal decline in cereal prices between now and December, though prices will remain above the five-year average.  Prices are expected to stop falling after the end of December with procurements for the restocking of institutional reserves, in line with normal price trends for this time of year.
  • Poor household debt: Mass sales as a way of coping with this year’s tough conditions have depleted the saleable assets of poor households in areas previously in crisis, which will impair the income-generating capacity of these populations after this year’s harvest. As a result, there will be slightly higher than usual levels of reliance on credit through March of next year.  
  • Fishing activities: Good flood levels in spawning grounds for different species of fish should help create good breeding conditions. The expected large catches should generate higher than usual levels of fishing income between December and April of next year.
  • Political / security situation: The most likely scenario assumes that there will be no change from the status quo with respect to the political situation during the outlook period, except for a few localized episodes of public unrest in the North. This state of relative calm will encourage displaced persons to return to their homes.
  • Market rebound and economic recovery: A continuation of the status quo will speed up the revitalization of northern markets, improving trade flows with the rest of the country, particularly with the steady improvement in road and river transportation services. However, the slow rebound in business activity and, in particular, in the banking industry, in the North will limit the regular household income of urban populations in the northern part of the country throughout the outlook period.
  • Humanitarian aid: Scheduled humanitarian food aid programs for the poor will run through the end of December in the Niger River Delta area, the Western Sahel, and the North. However, with the launch of CAP 2013 (the 2013 consolidated appeals process) and scheduled fund-raising activities by the humanitarian community, assistance programs in the northern part of the country are likely to be extended beyond the end of December.
  • Internal population displacements and population movements: IDPs are expected to continue to return to their homes throughout the outlook period.
Most likely food security outcomes

Based on the assumptions presented above, the improvement in food security conditions as of September in southern farming areas and as of August in pastoral areas with the availability of early-maturing crops and good milk production levels should steadily gain momentum throughout the outlook period all across the country. The good harvests already underway in the southern part of the country are a dependable source of food and income for all household groups with the larger need for labor driven by good crop levels. The favorable harvest outlook should bring down prices, improving food access for poor households between October and March 2013, with over 60 percent of households in this part of the country relying on on-farm production between October and January, if not beyond. The high levels of water sources in all parts of the country (seasonal lakes and ponds, dams, etc.) should help intensify off-season market gardening activities beginning in December, affording employment opportunities for very poor and poor households. This should put households in southern farming areas in IPC Phase 1 (minimal acute food insecurity) between October of this year and March of 2013.

The good physical condition of livestock and good levels of milk and dairy (cream and cheese) production in pastoral areas should generate average to good incomes for pastoralist households throughout the outlook period.

Very poor and poor households in northern rice-growing and agropastoral areas having lost large tracts of cropland to flooding will continue to face challenges through the end of October, when the availability of fresh rice crops will provide food and income for poor households, though in somewhat smaller than usual amounts. Thus, poor households in rice-growing areas of Djenné and riverside areas of Timbuktu and Gao in IPC Phase 2: Stress in October will move into IPC Phase 1 between November and next February, at which point, without outside assistance, the depletion of their food reserves, rising market prices, and their weakened livelihoods sorely strained by this past lean season will cause their food security situation to deteriorate, putting them back in IPC Phase 2 (stress). Next year’s lean season for populations in both areas will begin a month early, or by March of 2013. In addition, poor households in rice-growing areas of Djenné and other areas in the North will require assistance with farm inputs between November and December, particularly with supplies of seeds and small farm implements, to enable them to take advantage of the good conditions in these areas to boost their incomes through sales of vegetable crops between January and March of next year, which would delay or prevent the use of harmful coping strategies and mitigate the effects of seasonal debt.  

Areas of Concern

Livelihood zone 3 (Fluvial rice and transhumant livestock rearing)

Current situation

The primary occupation in this area is rice farming associated with transhumant livestock-raising. Very poor and poor households, which account for just over 60 percent of the approximately 460,000 residents of this livelihood zone, are dependent on their small rice harvests brought in between November and January, on-farm employment with better-off households, livestock-raising, market gardening activities, fishing, and migrant labor. The area is normally a cerael deficit zone, with local harvests meeting household consumption needs for just three to six months in the case of better-off households and one to three months in the case of poor households. As a result of their small harvests, residents of livelihood zone 3 are dependent on market-buying to meet over 60 percent of their food needs beginning as of March. Market access among poor households is contingent on income earned from farming activities between August and December and from April and June,  and on migrant remittances in July.

This year, with the heavy rains and high flooding of the river between August and September, large crop losses estimated at approximately 40 percent of normal output are limiting employment opportunities for poor households paid in kind at harvest time, between November and December. These losses of rice crops will affect the seasonal incomes of poor households in this livelihood zone by reducing the size of their harvests and of in-kind wage payments normally made between November and December. The assistance furnished by the government and its development partners in the form of seeds and fertilizer between July and September helped optimize farming activities in irrigation schemes, where transplanting and weeding activities in the month of August helped generate income for poor households. However, these activities produced less household income than usual due to the large demand for this type of work, as it is the only guaranteed source of employment in certain areas (such as Timbuktu and Diré) in the current tough economic climate.

The revival of river transportation services with the high floodbank of the river is helping to re-establish market systems in this area, allowing trade to support adequate market supplies and affording employment opportunities for job seekers in small business activities and the livestock trade, as is normally the case at this time of year. Livestock prices have improved since last month, particularly prices for small animals. Price levels are slightly below-average (by five percent). The combined effects of the boost in income from livestock sales and the stability or downward trend in cereal prices have strengthened terms of trade for goats/millet compared with previous months, but which are still approximately 10 percent and 40 percent below-average in Timbuktu and Gao, respectively.

The continuation through December of humanitarian food aid (cereal, oil, pulses, and salt) and nonfood aid (farm inputs, small animals, and vaccinations) programs mounted back in May for 1,476,000 recipients in the northern part of the country according to the April count by the SAP will help to take pressure off poor households. This assistance has enabled farmers to continue to work on their land preparation activities. The nutritional assistance programs of certain partner organizations are improving the nutritional status of children under the age of five. The number of admissions of children suffering from malnutrition dropped from 1925 to 1103 between August and September, which is in line with normal seasonal trends in this area. 

The heavier than usual flow of mass labor migration continues in areas affected by the loss of large tracts of cropland. The main destinations are large urban areas of Mali and neighboring countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal). A certain improvement in mobility with the good connections between the North and South helped to jump-start regular migratory movements by jobseekers to their usual destinations within and outside the country. Migrant remittances to relatives back home have held steady if not grown in the face of current economic difficulty marked, in particular, by the high price of staple foods.

Assumptions

The most likely scenario for food security in this livelihood zone for the period from October through March of next year is based on the following assumptions, specific to this area:

  • The loss of approximately 40 percent of the rice crop to flooding will limit household food availability and, thus, income from sales of rice between November and December, the time of year normally marked by the restoration of good household food security conditions.
  • However, though approximately 40 percent smaller than usual, the November rice harvest will help improve food availability and the short-term food security situation of very poor and poor households, creating more or less normal food security conditions for local populations between November of this year and February of 2013.
  • Regular market supplies of staple foods will help provide physical cereal availability for the local population, which could be critical between February and March of next year. However, even with this cereal availability, very poor and poor households will still have poor food access due to their limited purchasing power, particularly between February and March of next year. Most poor households are expected to resort to market-buying to meet their food consumption needs earlier than usual, or starting in February of next year. Thus, local households will be market-dependent longer than usual due to crop losses this year.
  • There will be a normal pattern of herd movements into holding areas beginning in October and continuing through March of next year, where the good condition of pasturelands will provide livestock with a good food supply and help them hold their market value by staying in good physical shape. This should ensure milk production through next March.
  • Income from livestock sales is expected to improve, particularly with the return of wholesalers to area livestock markets. The high demand for livestock in general and, in particular, for small animals for the celebration of Tabaski and the Christmas holidays, is an opportunity to sell livestock at average or slightly above-average prices, helping to generate larger amounts of income that improve market access to meet food needs.
  • The availability of water lilies (an aquatic plant consumed during the lean season) between October and December of this year will provide poor households with a source of substitute foods in the weeks leading up to the next harvest. 
Most likely food security outcomes

In the most likely scenario, very poor and poor households in livelihood zone 3 will meet their food needs in October of this year at the expense of their livelihoods, which will be eroded by excessive sales of livestock at higher than usual prices and the depletion of their livestock herds by previous sales throughout the year. Humanitarian food aid programs for poor households that started in June will continue to distribute monthly food rations through December. The difficult economic situation has prompted migrants to intensify cash and in-kind food remittances to local households, particularly during the lean season from July to October. These two factors, combined with harvests of available wild plant foods and fish catches generating household income, have improved food availability for poor households. Pending the November harvest, poor households remain in IPC Phase 2 (stress) as of the end of October. Beginning in November, the availability of seasonal rice crops, falling cereal prices, and income from livestock sales should give poor households average food access, enabling them to meet their basic food needs without too much difficulty through January of next year, putting them in IPC Phase 1 (minimal acute food insecurity). By February, the depletion of household food reserves from on-farm production, the seasonal rise in food prices, and the limited sales potential of their livestock herds after stress on livestock in 2011 will put poor households back in IPC Phase 2 (stress) between February and March. Migrant remittances during this period will also be used to pay off existing debts and should help provide some limited food access.

Livelihood zone 4: Gao and Timbuktu (millet and transhumant livestock rearing)

Current situation

Households in this livelihood zone live mainly from harvests of millet crops in dune areas between October and January or even March, which cover their cereal needs for approximately three to six months depending on their location, and from livestock-raising, which supplies them with milk, an essential feature of local diets, between July and December.  Harvests of wild fonio between September and October are important in this livelihood zone, where they are a major source of food for poor households, meeting household consumption needs for as much as one to three months. Labor migration to urban areas within the country and in neighboring countries such as Niger, Burkina Faso, Algeria, and even Libya normally begins after the harvest in December and is an important source of income for all socioeconomic groups in this livelihood zone. The outlook period is normally a time for engaging in small trade and local unskilled manual labor.

Poor agropastoral households in IPC Phase 2: Stress in October are beginning to benefit from food security improvements with onging access to early millet crops and, in particular, to wild fonio which, as usual, should help to  meet basic food needs between October and January. Good rainfall conditions and timely start of the rains and growing season helped spur the growth and development of millet crops and pasture growth in this livelihood zone. The availability of plentiful pastures and animal watering holes explains the good levels of milk production in this area, enriching local diets. Following the population displacements by the conflict in this part of the country, there are signs of an increasingly rebound in economic activity as IDPs begin returning to their homes. The improvement in socioeconomic conditions with ongoing harvesting activities and continuing humanitarian aid programs is helping poor households to meet their basic food needs.

Contrary to the assumption of a sharp decline in production with the population displacements in this area, as presented in the most likely scenario for July 2012 outlook, sufficient land was successfully planted in crops, giving new prospects to many IDPs, though planting rates were not as high as they could have been. In spite of some disruptions, there has been a more or less normal steady volume of livestock sales on markets in Niger generally frequented by residents of this area. These marketing channels have been generating income for local residents, up by 15 to 20 percent from July, due to the good physical condition of livestock. Livestock prices continue to fluctuate, but are generally approximately 15 percent above the five-year average.

Labor migration to urban areas within the country and to neighboring countries as a source of income to meet household needs has started back up. The average to good harvests for this past growing season explain the current normal flow of migration, as able bodied laborers are heading South and to near-by cities in neighboring countries like Niger and Burkina Faso. However, disruption to economic systems is reducing income otherwise earned from farm labor and small trades (construction, craft-making, and the livestock trade). Agricultural income is down, with workers getting less work time with the somewhat (10 to 20 percent) smaller than usual areas planted in crops. Economic difficulty is driving households to prioritize food-related spending to the detriment of other jobs serving as sources of income for poor households. Though wage rates are unchanged, this coping strategy is reducing job opportunities. Poor households are living from cash remittances, which have been increased in light of the unique situation in this livelihood zone. Remittances of food from relatives outside the area and loans from tradesmen and family members are critical  commodities for the poor.

The combined effects of the improvement in livestock prices and drop in cereal prices is helping to strengthen terms of trade compared with previous months and with the average, putting them approximately 20 percent and, in some cases, only 10 percent below-average. Favorable conditions for livestock-raising activities are helping to sustain these good prices for livestock.

Ongoing humanitarian programs distributing food and nonfood aid to some 148,000 recipients in millet-growing and transhumant pastoral areas of the Gao and Timbuktu regions and throughout the North are scheduled to continue through December, as are the livestock vaccination campaigns mounted by a number of development partners. Malnutrition treatment programs will continue at operational community health centers.

Assumptions

The most likely food security scenario in this livelihood zone for the period from October of this year through March of next year is based on the following assumptions specific to this area:

  • Ongoing harvests of millet and wild fonio through November will promptly improve cereal availability for poor households between October and January.
  • The availability of pasture and animal watering holes will help keep animals in good physical condition and ensure good milk production levels throughout the outlook period. These good conditions guarantee normal levels of income from livestock sales on different markets. The rise in income from livestock-raising activities compared with previous months is improving market access for area households.
  • Regular herd movements to holding areas beginning as of October will keep livestock in good physical shape and ensure good milk production levels through next March.
  • The smooth operation of area livestock markets guarantees sales outlets for livestock and an improvement in income from livestock sales, particularly with the good communications with livestock markets in neighboring countries like Niger and Burkina Faso.
  • Continuing humanitarian aid programs for poor households through December will ensure good food availability for households vulnerable to food insecurity.
  • The failure to mount a coordinated vaccination program in this area in spite of the best intentions of the country’s development partners will mean poor vaccination coverage, with non-vaccinated herds posing a serious risk of disease transmission in holding areas for livestock.
Most likely food security outcomes

With the availability of early millet crops and wild fonio since the end of September, which are crucial in this livelihood zone, poor households have begun to meet their food needs and, thus, will be in transition to IPC Phase 1 (minimal acute food insecurity) between October and January. The area’s average millet harvest, bolstered by in-kind payments and humanitarian food aid programs scheduled to run through the end of December, will enable poor households to meet their food needs between October and January without major obstacles.

The depletion of household food reserves and the sharp seasonal rise in food prices between February and March of next year will limit the market access of poor households for purchases of staple foodstuffs. With expected decreases in revenue following the decapitalization of saleable livestock, and despite increased income from remittances by family members, households will gradually transition to IPC Phase 2: Stress, although they will be able to meet  food needs.

Livelihood zone 6: Mopti (Niger Delta – fluvial rice)

Current situation

The majority of the population of this livelihood zone consists of farmers and fishermen living from rice-farming and fishing activities. This is normally a food-secure, surplus-crop-producing area.  Rice-growing activities provide good employment opportunities throughout July and August and between November and January, for the rice harvest. With this year’s lower than average rice harvest due to the drought and the poor 2011 fishing season, the main sources of food for the local population are currently food purchases and loans from tradesmen and well-off family members. Thus, area households have been relying on market-buying to meet their food needs all year long, which has affected their livelihoods. Ongoing livestock sales are an important source of income for the poor, though the volume of sales is extremely limited due to the meager livestock resources of both poor and better-off households, particularly poultry resources.

This year, the combined effects of the heavy rains and the high flooding of the river limited job opportunities for the poor due to the losses of viable cropping areas between July and August. The high cost of seeds selling for more than double their usual price precluded the optimal farming of cropping areas by better-off as well as poor households, which have been substituting or, in some cases, adding seed loans to the liens against their future harvests.

The high price of rice, the mainstay of the local diet, is forcing households to consumer larger than usual quantities of corn and millet, which are comparatively less expensive and whose prices have been falling, particularly in the case of millet (whose price is down by 12 percent). In spite of government subsidies, rice prices are unaffordable for poor households, which have exhausted all means of meeting their food needs. In fact, with the current rice shortage, even less expensive local rice  more affordable for poor households is selling for 50 percent more than usual.

There has been an increasingly visible improvement in fish catches since September compared with previous months, giving fishing households access to food markets. However, with the high flood stage of the river, catches are not as good as they could be and, thus, are generating less household income. Even the improvement in terms of trade for fish/millet by approximately 40 percent has failed to produce as much income as expected due to the small October catch with the river running so high. Thus, fishing income is approximately 30 to 50 percent below-average. Poultry sales, which are an important source of income, are more or less normal, improving the market access of certain poor households.

In spite of the increase in remittances from abroad or from the southern part of the country, which are approximately 20 percent larger than usual, households are still finding it difficult to adequately meet their food needs. Purchases of rice seeds have depleted such remittances, which are an essential recourse for area households. The combination of current difficulties and of the poor harvest outlook has prompted larger than usual numbers of area residents to resort to labor migration to meet household needs.

There is an ongoing humanitarian assistance program in this livelihood zone targeted at the elderly population, pregnant women, and children suffering from malnutrition. Ongoing food-for-work activities conducted by an NGO scheduled to run from May through November of this year are serving as a potential source of food for just over 8,000 local residents. In addition to these different forms of assistance, poor households are also getting gifts and loans from better-off family members.

Current situation

The most likely food security scenario in this livelihood zone for the period from October of this year through March of next year is based on the following assumptions specific to this area:

  • Normal migratory movements by fishing households to their regular fishing grounds beginning as of October should help improve catches and boost profits from fishing activities between now and next April.
  • As usual, the rice harvest will get underway as of November-December, but output will be sharply reduced. The small harvest will reduce not only on-farm production, but also in-kind payments for farm labor by members of poor households, which are an essential input helping to meet household food needs.
  • The loss of approximately 60 percent of the area’s rice crop is sharply reducing the availability of local rice for area households. The extremely limited availability of rice is driving up prices, making them less affordable for poor households.
  • The beginning of the fishing season will provide poor households with job opportunities with better-off fishing households and small fishing businesses. These activities are a source of income, giving poor households market access as of December.
  • There will probably be a larger than usual steady flow of labor migration to urban destinations within the country and abroad. The expected hardships will give rise to a flow of remittances, the volume of which generally varies according to the local economic situation. The earlier than usual flow of labor migration will help increase the volume of remittances by extending the stays of migrant workers.
Most likely food security outcomes

In short, the lack of a rice harvest stressed the food security situation of poor households in this livelihood zone in October. The beginning of the rice harvest and the building of food reserves from in-kind payments should improve food availability for poor households in November. The steady improvement in fish catches along the river is an income-generating opportunity and opportunity for improving the diets of local households over the next few months. In addition to these factors, area households will also benefit from falling millet prices due to their proximity to millet-producing areas. As usual, labor migration to the Central Niger River Delta area (Tenenkou) between October and December, which is having an average to good season, will produce sizeable benefits, helping poor households meet their consumption needs. Thus, these households should be able to meet their food needs between November and January, which will put them back in IPC Phase 1 (minimal acute food insecurity). In December, good water conditions will encourage local households to intensify off-season market gardening activities, which will generate substantial amounts of income giving them market access to meet their food needs. Adding to their income from vegetable sales between January and March of next year, migrant remittances will enable local households to meet their food needs through market-buying without too much difficulty, even with the seasonal upturn in prices. However, the eroded local livelihoods and repayments of larger than usual household debts are blunting the positive impact of migrant remittances. As a result, poor households will be under stress by February of next year. On the other hand, middle-income and better-off households will be food-secure throughout the outlook period.

Impact of the conflict

A resumption of and/or escalation in fighting due to the political situation in the North would disrupt the socioeconomic system in that area and could affect food insecurity levels. Though it is hard to predict future developments in the conflict, given its potentially significant effect on the scenarios described in this report, the possible disruptive effects of a new large-scale outbreak of fighting in northern Mali are outlined in the table presented below. The indicators in the table should help give readers an idea of the potential impact of such a conflict, whatever its nature or origin.

Geographic area

Possible events

Possible impact on food security conditions

Livelihood zones 1,2, 3, and 4 (Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal)

Inaccessibility of conflict areas to traders and humanitarian aid workers

A breakdown in communications with the southern part of the country could disrupt the flow of food supplies to local populations. This disruption in the flow of imports from Algeria and in supplies from southern Mali could contribute to across-the-board price inflation on area markets, limiting the physical and financial food access of local households, which could make them more vulnerable to food insecurity, particularly since these areas are chronically dependent on imports from the South and from Algeria. Humanitarian organizations would likely face access constraints in reaching victims of the fighting, which could quickly aggravate the humanitarian crisis.

Nationwide

Population displacements

The conflict could displace large numbers of Malians seeking a peaceful existence. Such displacements could be detrimental to their livelihoods, which could be damaged if not altogether destroyed, further heightening the vulnerability of IDPs. Living conditions could deteriorate, particularly for poor households without the means to distance themselves from the conflict area. In the absence of outside assistance, this could increase the incidence of acute food insecurity and, thus, of disease and malnutrition. Neighboring countries could be forced to set up IDP and refugee camps. This could further complicate the situation of host households in the southern part of the country still coping with the effects of the first waves of DPs between March and July of this year.

Northern Mali                (livelihood zones 1, 2, 3, and 4), Niger River Delta (livelihood zone 6) and the Sahelian Belt in Nara and the Office du Niger area

Herd movements

Pastoral populations may leave the conflict area with their livestock for southern receiving areas. This unusual influx of livestock could create large concentrations of animals on local rangelands, posing a risk of overgrazing problems and of disputes between natives and newcomers, both in Mali and in neighboring countries. The degraded condition of pasturelands could give rise to shortfalls in pasture production and high animal mortality rates varying  from area to area. There is also a high risk of disease transmission.

Possible Scenario-Changing Events

Geographic area

Possible events

Impact on food security conditions

Livelihood zones 3, 4, 6, and 8 (Kayes and Koulikoro)

Severe crop damage from cereal-eating birds

Cereal-eating birds could wipe out crop production in these areas, particularly with the failure to mount preventive crop treatment programs in September of this year. These large losses would limit cereal availability for affected households, heightening their vulnerability to food insecurity.

Livelihood zones 3 and 6

Large distributions of aid in the form of farm inputs for off-season rice and market garden crops (fertilizer, seeds, and fuel) in November- December

Large amounts of aid in the form of high-quality seeds for rice and market garden crops in November-December would help intensify these farming activities, providing food and income for residents of both livelihood zones. This would help guarantee employment opportunities for poor households in these areas.

Northern Mali                (livelihood zones 1, 2, and 3), Niger River Delta (livelihood zone 6) and the Sahelian Belt (livelihood zone 8)

Severe damage to pastures from brush fires

Large losses of pasture to brush fires would disrupt herd movements, affecting the availability of milk and dairy products for local populations and accelerating the deterioration in the physical condition of affected animals, whose poor condition would mean lower household incomes and, in the worst-case scenario, livestock deaths.

Livelihood zones 3 and 6

Establishment of a support system providing poor households with fishing equipment as of November

Providing fishing households with proper equipment would boost their profits from fishing activities, particularly with current weather conditions pointing to a good fishing season. This assistance would protect poor fisherman from moneylenders charging high interest rates.

Nationwide

Institutional procurements by government agencies and humanitarian organizations between November and December to meet restocking needs

Heavy pressure on cereal markets sustaining an unusually strong market demand, which would drive up food prices much earlier than usual.

Livelihood zones 1, 2, and 3 and parts of livelihood zone 6 (northern Mopti)

Launching of armed attacks by the military to take back the North

General upheaval throughout the area, isolating northern populations and triggering new mass population displacements. This would severely disrupt the smooth operation of local markets, posing a risk of shortages in impacted areas.

Northern Mali (agropastoral areas)

Erroneous assumptions with respect to the size of areas planted in cereal or rice

Poor agropastoral households, mainly in rural areas, would be unable to plant as large an area in cereal or rice as originally expected, resulting in a merely average or even poorer harvest. In the worst-case scenario, cereal production in northern agropastoral areas would be moderately to significantly below-average, resulting in fewer months of food security from the harvest and an earlier than usual dependence on outside aid and assistance to prevent a rise in acute food insecurity.

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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