Food Security Outlook

Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions limited to pockets of the agropastoral zone

February 2017 to September 2017

February - May 2017

Mauritania February 2017 Food Security Projections for February to May

June - September 2017

Mauritania 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 failure of flood recession crops accentuated the production deficit in the agropastoral zone. The progress of cereal (rice, wheat, and sorghum) and market garden crops in the rest of the country is still cause to hope for a near-average volume of annual production. 

  • Pastoral conditions across the country are still generally satisfactory and will sustain livestock through the end of July provided brush fires are contained and quickly extinguished. Internal transhumant herd movements are keeping to normal migration routes and schedules. There will be average new birth rates and levels of milk production through September.

  • Markets are well-stocked with imported foods (rice, wheat, wheat flour, pasta, oil, sugar, and vegetables) from regular imports and a cross-border trade with Mali, Senegal, and Morocco. However, there are still below-average seasonal market supplies of coarse cereals (sorghum, millet, and maize) with the shortfall in local production.

  • There will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity in most parts of the country through September. However, poor households in western (Tagant, Assaba, Gorgol, and Brakna) and eastern (Hodh Chargui) areas of the agropastoral zone are already facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) conditions. This is due, either to the combined effects of poor annual crop production and livestock protection deficits, or to the competition which is limiting their incomes in spite of their increased sales. 

NATIONAL OVERVIEW

 

Current situation

Climate: Temperatures in all crop farming areas have been slightly above-average since December (Figure 1). As a result, there has been no reported cold season rainfall activity thus far, which is oftentimes beneficial for pasturelands in the northern part of the country.

Crops: Flood recession crops have been affected by crop predators (beetles, termites, grasshoppers, stalk borers, etc.) and above-normal seasonal temperatures. Planted in October/November, they were harvested in January/February as opposed to February/March, which is the norm. Most of these crops withered before reaching maturity. In spite of these handicaps, crops in other parts of the country are in the developmental stage and yields could be near-average.

Planting activities for cold off-season rice crops are underway in the river valley area but, as was the case in the rainy season, poor access to farm credit is expected to keep the size of cropped areas below figures for 2016 and the five-year seasonal average.

Seasonal market garden crops are already selling on urban markets in oasis areas, where there are near-average supplies of these crops. Future date production (between June and August) should also be at least on par with the average.

Locust situation: According to the National Locust Control Center (CNLA), in spite of the favorable conditions for the survival of desert locust populations in certain parts of the country (northwestern Tiris Zemmour and wadi and lowland areas of Adrar), there should be a net decline in  infestation levels in survey areas.  

Pastoral conditions: With ongoing efforts to rehabilitate and create new fire breaks, existing supplies of biomass pasture will likely meet the needs of domestic livestock through the month of July. The timely start of the rainy season (in July) would bolster pastoral conditions, spurring the growth of fresh green pasture. Seasonal birth rates are in line with the norm and, while currently in decline in line with normal seasonal trends, there will be well above-average levels of national milk production after two consecutive good pastoral years.

Seasonal income: Seasonal incomes will continue to decline in all livelihood zones. In fact, outside of commercial pastoral areas profiting from the higher prices of livestock, the main sources of household income between February and May are farm labor (work in the harvest and ancillary activities) and migrant remittances. With migrant workers from rural areas having difficulty finding jobs in their destination areas (Mauritanian, Malian, and Senegalese cities), these remittances, which account for 30 to 40 percent of the seasonal incomes of poor households, are down sharply. As a result, there is an over-reliance on the sale of livestock, putting pressure on a livelihood already weakened by the reduced size of livestock herds. An average rainy season between July and September will jump-start farming activities and boost income from this source.

Cross-border trade: Trends in the flow of cross-border trade with Mali are in line with seasonal norms. This trade is providing an adequate supply of coarse cereals (millet, maize, and sorghum) for weekly markets and exports to Nouakchott. There is still a smaller than average flow of rice imports from Senegal and, with the shortfall in domestic rice production, households will be forced to resort to market purchases in spite of the soaring market price of rice since 2015. Prices for vegetables are rising in line with the price of imports from Morocco, which also exports fruits.

Retail markets: All retail markets are well-stocked with imported staple foods (wheat, rice, oil, sugar, flour, etc.). In general, wheat prices are stable and even down from the same time in 2016 and below the five-year average on markets (Magta Lahjar and Adel Bagrou) in (agropastoral and rainfed farming) areas where there were distributions of wheat in December/January. This decline in prices is creating favorable terms of trade, strengthening the food access of poor households increasingly inclined to sell their sorghum crops in order to buy wheat. The good wheat availability on local markets and average harvests of rainfed crops have brought down the price of sorghum since December 2016, except in the rainfed farming zone, where the presence of cereal traders from Nouakchott is sustaining an atypical seasonal rise in prices.

Food outlets (“boutiques de solidarité”) supplied with staple foodstuffs (wheat, local varieties of rice, oil, sugar, and milk) by the government selling at prices 30 to 40 percent below formal market prices continue to operate throughout the country.

Livestock markets: Supplies on all livestock markets are much lower than usual. Ongoing distributions of free food rations are bolstering household food stocks from average harvests, thereby limiting recourse to commercially sold cereals and seasonal sales of animals. Thus, livestock prices are still steadily rising, except in areas (the western reaches of the agropastoral zone) where the failure of flood recession crops is forcing households to resort to purchasing wheat. The price of an average sheep on the Magta Lahjar market (in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone) is down from December by 33.5 percent but still generally close to figures for January 2016 and the five-year average.

Food security and nutritional situation: Seasonal trends in the food access of poor households are still in line with the norm, though certain households in western (Moudjéria, Monguel, Magta Lahjar, M’Bout, and Kankossa) and eastern (Nema and Timbédra) areas of the agropastoral zone are being forced to begin selling their animals earlier and in larger numbers than usual. With their large presence on rural markets and lower prices compared with other cereals (sorghum, maize, and millet), wheat and pasta are becoming dietary staples for many poor households in areas other than the Senegal River Valley and the rainfed farming zone for reasons of economy. This change in diet hinges on favorable terms of trade, since prices for wheat and pasta are generally stable for long periods of time, while livestock prices are constantly rising. Trends in global acute malnutrition (GAM) rates should be in line with the norm.

Households in most parts of the country are still experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. Once terms of trade for poor households in eastern areas of the agropastoral zone turn around, they will also experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between February and May. On the other hand, the situation of households in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone already facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions is not expected to show any change until the beginning of the rainy season (in June). Based on the outlook for an average rainy season, they should eventually be experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between July and September.    

Assumptions

The most likely nationwide food security scenario for the period from February through September 2017 is based on the following general assumptions:

  • Rainfall conditions. The rainy season will get off to a normal start in June and there will be average levels of rainfall.
  • Agro-climatic conditions: There will be normal rates of flooding from the river, submerging the river valley beginning in July and peaking between August and September.
  • Crop production: There will be average levels of rainfed crop production. Assuming there are average levels of rainfall and regular flooding from the river, there should be good growing conditions for flood recession crops. On the other hand, there could be a sharp decline in rice production for the second consecutive year with certain farmers unable to pay off their debts to the Farm Loan Bank since 2016 denied access to credit this year. There will be average yields of dates and market garden produce.
  • Food imports: There will be sufficient regular national food imports (wheat, rice, oil, sugar, etc.) throughout the outlook period to meet domestic demand and fuel cross-border trade. Rural markets will get regular supplies from Nouakchott and the smooth flow of cross-border trade with Mali. Rice imports from Senegal will remain limited with the continuing close surveillance by customs agents on both sides of the Senegal River.
  • Government-subsidized boutiques de solidarité: These government-run food outlets will continue to operate through September.
  • Livestock prices: In line with seasonal trends, there are low supplies of livestock in all parts of the country. As a result, even with the existence of pockets of poor pastures, prices for livestock are up as sharply as in a good pastoral year. The downward movement in livestock prices in the pockets of pasture deficits within the agropastoral zone should, logically, reverse itself once households have finished selling animals to rebuild their food stocks or pay off some of their debts.
  • Farm labor: Only in areas affected by the failure of flood recession crops will there be below-average levels of seasonal income from farm labor between February and April. The timely start of the rainy season should raise incomes back up to their usual levels in all farming areas of the country. Daily wage rates will hover around 2000 MRO, with an average of two to three days of work per week between the middle of June and the end of July.
  • Wild plant products: The erratic, inadequate rainfall activity in 2016 was not conducive to good yields of wild fruits. The unfavorable conditions at this time of year (the dry season) for foraging activities will limit food consumption and income from the gathering of wild plant products in all livelihood zones.
  • Pastoral conditions: The adequate pastoral conditions throughout the outlook period will limit the purchasing of wheat for use as animal feed. This will help boost birth rates and milk production. There will be normal internal transhumant herd movements. Herd movements to neighboring countries (Mali and Senegal) will be limited and of extremely short duration.
  • Population movements and migration income: The only reports of earlier than usual short-term seasonal labor migration (beginning in January as opposed to March) by larger than usual numbers of migrant workers (two to three household members compared with the average of one to two) were in the areas of concern (the western and eastern reaches of the agropastoral zone). In the rest of the country, the timing of this migration will be in line with the norm (between March and the beginning of June) but, as in previous years, seasonal income from this source will be well below income figures prior to 2014. In fact, the share of this migration income, which used to account for 20 to 40 percent of the annual income of poor households in the agropastoral zone and played a major role in the management of lean season conditions (between May and July), has been barely more than 10 percent since 2014.
  • International and regional factors affecting markets: Barring any future event liable to affect international trade channels for wheat and rice and sub-regional factors obstructing or slowing the flow of cross-border trade, there should not be any disruptions in the flow of supplies affecting the smooth operation of domestic markets during the outlook period. Better yet, the likelihood of the rainy season getting off to a normal start should help promote the usual seasonal sales of crops by Malian farmers (in June/July). At the very least, this will stabilize coarse cereal prices and may even bring them down, thereby improving access to these crops for households in the rainfed farming zone and southeastern reaches of the agropastoral zone.

Most likely food security outcomes

Between February and May 2017, average harvests of flood recession crops and access to commercially-marketed foodstuffs, facilitated by the high prices of livestock and smooth operation of government-subsidized “boutiques de solidarité” selling food items at prices 30 to 40 percent below formal market prices, will help keep food insecurity in most parts of the country at Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels. The only households facing food consumption gaps (due to the failure of their annual crops and shortfall in their milk production), compounded in many cases by livelihood protection deficits, are poor households in the western and eastern reaches of the agropastoral zone, which will put them in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity.

Between June and September 2017, the expected timely start of the rainy season will help jump-start farming activities and boost farm income. Likewise, the new green pasture growth will strengthen milk production and the physical condition of livestock, thereby raising their market value. The combined effects of these factors will help reduce the food insecurity of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) households to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels and further strengthen the situation of households already experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) 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 28 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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