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Presence Country
Food Security Outlook

High levels of food insecurity with livelihood protection deficits

February 2018

February - May 2018

June - September 2018

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

  • Despite regular, adequate supplies of imported foods (wheat, rice, sugar, flour, oil, milk, etc.) on retail markets and the pick-up in coarse cereal imports (sorghum, millet, and maize) from Mali, poor households in areas of concern (the western agropastoral zone and central portions of the Senegal River Valley) are already cutting their food intake (by 25 to 50 percent) and some are skipping meals. Approximately 667,345 people in these areas may already be in a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situation, with very poor households more than likely in an Emergency (IPC Phase 4) situation.

  • Poor households in most rural areas have 70 to 80 percent lower than average seasonal incomes due to their lack of income from farm labor and wild plant products, the steady decline in migration income, and the falling prices of livestock due to the poor pastoral conditions. 

  • The Stressed (IPC Phase 2) conditions in the central and eastern parts of the agropastoral zone and in the rainfed farming zone are steadily spreading, spurred by the combined effects of the below-average levels of crop production and the livelihood protection deficits engendered by the atypical seasonal sales of livestock. In fact, the deterioration in pastoral conditions and saturation of livestock markets with animals from transhumant pastoral households have driven down livestock prices.

  • The lack of crops in walo areas and the failure of flood recession crops in the agropastoral zone have added to the shortfall in crop production. The lean season, which does not normally begin until May, is already underway in the western part of the agropastoral zone and central reaches of the Senegal River Valley and could start by as early as March in the rainfed farming zone.

NATIONAL OVERVIEW

 

Current situation

Pastoral conditions: Pastoral conditions in the western part of the country are severely degraded. In spite of the earlier than usual mass migration by livestock herds (in November/December), there are virtually no suitable pastures anywhere in Trarza, Brakna, Gorgol, Tagant, Adrar, or Inchiri. Sedentary pastoralists have been resorting to purchasing animal feed for the past several months. There is an ongoing government assistance program for pastoralists selling animal feed at subsidized prices (50 percent below formal market prices). Most of the nation’s livestock population is currently concentrated in areas along the Malian border between southern Guidimakha and southern Hodh El Chargui. Many pastoralists having anticipated the pastoral crisis are already in Mali and Senegal. At present, there are no reports of any epizootic diseases.

Agro-climatic conditions: Despite the sharp drop in temperatures, there are still no signs of any cold season rains capable of improving pastoral conditions or reviving flood recession crops affected by the mediocre levels of seasonal water balances. All parts of the country have been reporting stronger and cooler than average winds since January

Farming conditions: Farmers in flood recession farming areas in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone are in the process of harvesting crops (maize and sorghum) parched by the low level of the groundwater table. The small areas planted in crops are currently being harvested. This crop production should meet consumption needs for 15 to 20 days at most, compared with an average coverage period of two to three months. The only crops liable to fully mature and produce near-average yields are in the northern and central reaches of the rainfed farming zone (late season crops in dam and bottomland areas). Poor households in these areas are expecting yields from these crops to last 30 to 40 days compared with their average duration of 60 to 75 days.

There are no signs of any flood recession crops in walo areas in the central part of the river valley. The narrow depressions holding surface runoff draining into various distributaries are already running dry.

Rice farmers in the western part of this area (Trarza) and a few localized areas of Brakna have been busy growing cold off-season crops since January since, given the current low level of the river (at less than three meters, compared with the average of four meters), they do not expect to be able to grow any hot off-season crops. However, with the only large cropped areas concentrated in the western part of the valley, their impact on central areas of the valley will be too limited to have any positive effect on income and food availability during the outlook period.

Harvests of wild plant products: With the poor rainfall conditions severely affecting output from trees, poor households have virtually no income from this source (which is generally around 20,000 MRU/year). Sales of straw in the western part of the country are limited to the sale of rice straw. Sales of wood and charcoal are severely limited by the competition from portable gas tanks and the surveillance activities of agents with the Environmental Protection Service.

Locust situation: According to the latest bulletin by the National Locust Control Center (CNLA) issued in January 2018, the locust situation is stable.

Seasonal income: The focus groups conducted as part of the January mission revealed that poor households have 70 to 85 percent smaller than average incomes. This is attributable to the decline in income from farm labor, as well as to the modest earnings from short-term seasonal labor migration and the sharp drop in livestock prices. The cash transfer programs (providing approximately 2,200 MRU) mounted in certain villages in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone, the Senegal River Valley, and the rainfed farming zone by certain NGOs (OXFAM, Save the Children, ACF) with ECHO and USAID funding ended in December, where there has been a revival of the system of food lending against future income.

Cross-border trade: There is a steady, large flow of coarse cereal imports (sorghum, maize, and millet) from Malian to most border markets in Hodh ech Chargui and Hodh el Gharbi, Assaba, and Guidimakha. On the other hand, there are limited shipments of cereals between relay markets in border areas and markets in the interior (in the southern reaches of the agropastoral zone and the Senegal River Valley). As a result, markets in the interior are continuing to report low supplies of coarse cereals. In addition to this food trade, there are also shipments of animal feed to border markets and Nouakchott.

Imports of Senegalese rice, though picking up, remain limited. A 50 kg bag of rice from Senegal sales for around 900 MRU compared with the selling price of 1,100 MRU for locally grown rice. There is less and less consumption of imported rice in interior areas of the country. 

Retail markets: Retail markets and government-subsidized “EMEL” shops (boutiques de solidarité) are adequately stocked with regular supplies of imported staple foods (wheat, rice, oil, sugar, flour, etc.) The steady, large flow of imported crops (millet, maize, sorghum, cowpeas, and peanuts) and animal feed from Mali is improving their availability on markets in the rainfed farming zone, the central, southern, and western reaches of the agropastoral zone, and even in Nouakchott.

The large shortfall in production is driving up sorghum prices in all parts of the country. The steepest price increases are reported on markets in high-consumption areas, particularly in the agropastoral zone (on the Magta Lahjar market), the Senegal River Valley (on the Boghé market), and in the rainfed farming zone (on the Adel Bagrou market). Prices on the Magta Lahjar market are up from last year by 100 percent and 117.4 percent above the five-year average. Prices in Boghé are up by 13.3 percent and 34.3 percent above-average. Prices on the third market, which is a weekly market supplied with Malian imports, are up by 8.85 percent from last year and 14.48 percent above the five-year average.

Movements in the price of wheat, the main substitute cereal, are in line with trends in sorghum prices, with the Boghé market in the central part of the Senegal River Valley reporting the largest jump in prices from the same time in 2017 (namely, 26 percent). Naturally, prices for local varieties of rice, the second most important substitute cereal, are following this same trend, with steep rises in prices reported in all areas (ranging from 3.7 percent in Magta Lahjar to 7.59 percent in Adel Bagrou, to 15.5 percent in the central part of the river valley, which is actually a rice-producing area).

Livestock markets: Supplies on livestock markets in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone and the Senegal River Valley fluctuate and are highly contingent on food purchasing needs and the presence of Senegalese traders. Thus, while markets in the interior are virtually empty most of the time, the Boghé and Kaédi markets getting supplies of cattle and sheep from the agropastoral zone can be glutted one week and empty the next, which is keeping livestock prices up, with intermittent very sharp weekly drops in prices. Markets in these cities are getting increasingly large supplies of cattle and sheep, both of which are at high risk from current shortages of pasture and whose current prices are a harbinger of distress sales of growing numbers of animals as the hot season continues to settle in. However, the steadiest decline in prices is in rural areas supplying animals to markets in regional capitals. The focus groups conducted in these areas showed prices down by more than 30 percent from the same time in 2017 in many cases. Prices tend to be more stable farther east, where pastoral conditions are somewhat better and, after the last sales in preparation for the departure of transhumant livestock or to clear herds of any vulnerable animals, sales have slowed and market supplies have stabilized.

Food security and nutrition: In the absence of a more recent SMART survey, we are relying on data from the SMART survey published back in August, according to which malnutrition levels in Hodh ech Chargui, Hodh el Gharbi, Assaba, Brakna, Gorgol, and Guidimakha are at the emergency threshold, where GAM rates are over 15 percent, and malnutrition rates in Tagant Trarza are at warning levels, or between 10 and 15 percent. The poor performance of different types of crops, the sharp decline in seasonal income limiting access to commercially sold foodstuffs, and the lack of a good supply of milk due to the poor conditions in pastoral areas suggests that this will continue to be the case, particularly with the different focus groups showing poor households already forced to cut the size of their meals (by 25 to 50 percent, depending on the area) and, in some cases, even skip meals (breakfast and dinner).

 Assumptions

The most likely nationwide food security scenario for the period from February through September 2018 is based on the following general assumptions:

  • Climatic conditions: In spite of the two consecutive poor rainy seasons marked by rainfall deficits, the next rainy season is expected to get off to a normal start compared with the historical average, by the end of June or the beginning of July, and produce average levels of rainfall well distributed in both time and space.
  • Agro-climatic conditions: The logical inference from the previous assumption that there will be suitable physical conditions for growing crops under all types of farming systems. Farming schedules for rainfed crops (in all farming systems), as well as for flood recession and irrigated crops will be in line with average crop calendars. With the river starting to rise by July, there is a high likelihood of the successful planting of crops in irrigated rice-growing areas and the flooding of walo areas in the Senegal River Valley.
  • Crop production: There will be an average to above-average volume of production of all types of rainfed crops (cereals and pulses). In the absence of any seed reserves outside of the rainfed farming zone, most farmers will use cereals purchased on local markets as seeds, just as they have done in the past. On the other hand, there will more than likely be a sharp decline in crop production in oasis areas (vegetable production between January and March) and in date production (between June and August) due to this year’s large rainfall deficit. The nonpayment of outstanding debts leaving many farmers (individual farmers and village-level rice-growing schemes) without access to farm credit is also expected to put the size of the area planted in rice well below the five-year average. 
  • Commercial imports: As usual, there will be a regular, adequate supply of imported rice, wheat, oil, sugar, etc. throughout the outlook period. There will more than likely be a sharp increase in imports of wheat for human consumption and for use as animal feed between February and August. Coarse cereal exports by Mali are expected to slow beginning in March and, as usual, pick up again in June, once Malian farmers are reassured by the progress of the rainy season in that country.
  • International and regional market drivers: With very little likelihood of a malfunction in trade networks for food exports, there should not be a shortage of domestic food supplies during the outlook period.
  • Market prices: The large shortfall in national cereal production and the country’s dependence on foreign (Malian and Senegalese) markets will trigger a much sharper than average seasonal rise in coarse cereal prices throughout the outlook period. Likewise, the high demand for wheat will drive up its price, particularly in areas where it is considered the main substitute cereal (the central and eastern reaches of the agropastoral zone, the eastern and central reaches of the rainfed farming zone, and the oasis zone). In the absence of a sharp decline in the usual levels of local rice and food paste production, there should not be an abnormally high demand for wheat in other parts the country.
  • Government-subsidized « EMEL » shops: Both the numbers and the capacity of these shops have been scaled up. In addition to the sale of food for human consumption, they are now also selling animal feed at prices 50 percent below formal market prices. These shops are expected to continue to do business as usual at prices consistently below formal market prices throughout the outlook period.   
  • Livestock prices: Reversing the normal seasonal upward trend in livestock prices between October and January, the current downward movement in livestock prices in rural areas is only going to accelerate. The distress sales of animals already reported in transhumant pastoral, pastoral, and trading areas of Trarza could spread to other pastoral areas severely affected by the shortage and poor condition of pastures.  
  • Farm labor: Based on the forecast for a normal, average rainy season, there should be normal levels of seasonal income from farm labor between June and September.
  • Wild plant products: There will be average levels of wild plant production in all parts of the country. 
  • Pastoral conditions: The normal, timely start of the rains and average rainy season conditions will produce normal levels of new pasture growth meeting the needs of grazing animals for the entire outlook period.
  • Short-term seasonal labor migration and migration income: With the earlier than usual start-up of short-term seasonal labor migration, there will be a smaller than average flow of migration between February and June. The already extremely limited flow of migrant remittances will continue to slow throughout the outlook period.

Most likely food security outcomes

February through May 2018: Poor households in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone (in Aleg, Magta Lahjar, Moudjéria, Barkéol, Ould Yengé, M’Bout, Monguel, Kaédi, M’Bagne, Bababé, and Boghé departments) have been dealing with crop production deficits for three if not four consecutive years. The livelihood protection deficits created by their repeated sales of animals as a source of income for the purchasing of food supplies will keep these households in their current state of Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Poor households in the central part of the agropastoral zone and the rainfed farming zone could be facing food consumption gaps (with only the southern part of this area expected to generate average levels of cereal production), which will put them in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity through the month of May.   

June through September 2018: The end of the lean season in pastoral areas in July will improve milk production, though it is expected to stay below-average due to the low breeding rates of livestock herds. By July, poor households will also have a supply of wild leaves to bolster their food consumption. The combined effects of these food supplies and of sufficient income from farm labor to improve their access to commercially marketed foodstuffs will, at the very least, stabilize their situation. However, any de-escalation of the current Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will likely be a slow process, since the weight of its lasting effects (excessively high levels of indebtedness, losses of livelihoods, changes in eating habits) is apparently such that it would require a string of several years of good pastoral conditions and average levels of crop production.  

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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