Food Security Outlook, October 2013 to March 2014
IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
Weather. Better weather conditions this year lead to improved crop production as compared to last year, which was marked by drought and two major hurricanes. Though total rainfall was still below-normal, it was well-distributed this year in many crop-producing areas. This was definitely the case in lowland single-cropping areas in the South, the West, Artibonite, and the Northeast, agricultural humid mountain areas, agropastoral plateau areas, and other such areas, where there has been a better rainfall distribution since April/May. Rainfall in the southern peninsula, for example, during this same period ranged from an average of 100 to 400 mm.
However, other parts of the country have been affected by dry spells during the spring between March and July and, again, in the second season beginning in August/September. The Dry Agriculture and Fishing livelihood zone in the southern peninsula and Dry Agropastoral livelihood zone in the Northwest and Artibonite have particularly been affected by the prolonged drought. These areas are still experiencing water deficits, which are hindering normal crop growth and development (Figure 4). In contrast, other areas such as the Cul-de-sac Plain area and the lower Central Plateau, for example, were experienced flooding. The excessive rainfall in these municipalities in October caused physical damage, as well as losses of human lives.
Crop production. Harvests of grain, tubers, pulses, and market garden crops in areas with well-distributed and near-normal rainfall were significantly better than last year. According to the findings from the 2013 crop assessment by CNSA and its partners, high-production areas have had and will continue to have above-average harvests, while harvests in areas affected by water deficits will be below average. In general, according to this assessment, crop performance is notably better than it was last year, which was marked by a series of climatic shocks (two hurricanes, extended droughts, etc.), which has had a compounding effect on this year’s harvests.
In addition to this year’s favorable rainfall conditions for agriculture in Haiti, assistance from various stakeholders in this sector is worth mentioning. The almost 60 percent subsidy for fertilizer from the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as the free distribution of several hundred metric tons of bean and maize seeds and millions of sweet potato cuttings, contributed to improved crop performance. There was similar input assistance from NGOs and FAO to help alleviate seed shortages.
The Ministry of Agriculture and its partners are also currently taking steps to expand rice and maize-growing activities on the Les Cayes Plain, where grain production will surpass last year’s levels. Other areas such as the Central Plateau, parts of the Southeast, Artibonite, and the Northeast, among others, should have surpluses of grain and tuber crops, which could meet short-term food needs in food deficit areas like the Northwest Peninsula and certain municipalities in the Southeast and the North.
Infestations of pests in certain parts of the country reduced crop yields. For example, the Southern Peninsula was not only affected by the drought, but also by an infestation of cochineal insects, which destroyed its groundnut crop. Invasive ants caused significant damage to crops in nine or so municipalities in the Grand-Anse Department. These shocks also strained the incomes of affected farmers, who will have difficulty managing the next agricultural season, as groundnuts are a cash crop.
Price trends. This year’s crop performance has had a major impact on trends in prices for locally grown foods. For local crops like cornmeal and beans in nearly all markets around the country, prices have dropped sharply since the beginning of the harvesting period in July/August and are currently stable. Prices for cornmeal in the Jacmel market have been steadily falling, decreasing by 18 percent between August and September. The later than usual harvests of late-planted spring crops produced a larger than usual supply of maize in September. Likewise, the unusually large supply of beans has brought down prices, putting them closer to the five-year average, particularly in the Port-au-Prince market (Figure 5). Prices are also decreasing for other valued crops like bananas and tubers in the Jérémie and Cap-Haitien markets with the harvests ongoing in these areas.
Prices for imports are following these same trends, stabilizing and, in some cases, decreasing, reflecting world market trends. The increased availability of locally grown crops along with the sharp drop in their prices are reducing demand for imported foods and, thus, stabilizing and lowering import prices. The price of rice, for example, in most markets around the country, was stable between August and September.
Agricultural labor. The start to the rains in September is helping to restore normal demand for agricultural labor. In lowland single-cropping areas such as the Artibonite Valley, the demand for agricultural workers for the growing of rice, bean, and market garden crops will steadily increase. However, working-age youths are showing less and less interest in agricultural activities, which is increasingly affected by climatic hazards and hampered by a lack of credit and appropriate technology for long-term sustainable crop production. They are more inclined to go to cities and emigrate to other countries (such as the Dominican Republic and, currently, Brazil). Motorbike taxis and small-scale commerce are among the most popular income-earning activities for rural youth.
Foreign remittances. Remittances from Haitians living abroad are steadily increasing. These funds are vital to the recipients, who use them to meet their food needs and, in particular, to send their children to school. This flow of funds normally increases during the months of the year in which households are facing extra expenses, particularly in March, September, and December, coinciding with the celebration of Easter, the beginning of the new school year, and the year-end holiday season, respectively. The Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH) confirmed remittances at US$ 107 million as of August this year, which is a 14 percent increase over last year. Figure 6 shows the growth in migrant remittances over the last three years. This trend is likely to continue throughout the outlook period and possibly beyond (Figure 6).
The following general assumptions are based on the facts outlined above:
- Harvests for the second season, which got off to a late start in many areas of the country, will be smaller than usual, but larger than last year.
- Prices for locally grown food will be stable through December, before starting to rise as of January/February of next year.
- The rice-growing season in Artibonite and the bean-growing season in irrigated plain areas in November and December will create agricultural employment opportunities for poor households in neighboring areas.
- According to forecasts by the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CARICOF), there is a high probability of above-normal rainfall in October and November in the southern part of the country, which could cause flooding, hinder crop production, and interfere with the usual transportation of goods and services.
- In keeping with seasonal trends, there will be an approximate 10 percent increase in remittances to family members back home in Haiti for the year-end holiday season.
Most likely food security outcomes
The significant impact from various shocks affecting agricultural activities in 2012 was still being seen in food security outcomes for poor households through the first quarter of 2013. These households, which are generally dependent on market purchase for their food, were unable to meet their food needs. Thus, poor households in most areas of the country had been Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while certain municipalities in the Central Plateau and Southern Peninsula particularly affected by these shocks were in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
However, the situation began to improve in July/August with harvesting of spring crops. The large improvement in conditions helped ease food insecurity. This was confirmed by the food security and nutritional survey (ESSAN) conducted by CNSA and its partners in August 2013, where the food consumption scores and dietary diversity indicators were similar to survey data from before the 2012 shocks. For example, 56 percent of the population had an acceptable food consumption score in October 2012 in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, compared with 84 percent in August of this year. The survey also showed a reduction in the severe acute malnutrition rate from 1.6 percent in November 2012 to 0.6 percent in August 2013. In addition, the decline in food prices has improved food access.
Improved conditions should continue throughout the entire outlook period. Local food supplies are expected to increase, particularly between October and February with the ongoing harvests of grain, pulses, tubers, bananas, and vegetables in most of the country’s agro-ecological areas. However, food needs will outweigh supply, requiring imports and food assistance to compensate for shortages.
However, not all municipalities have had the benefit of good harvests. Municipalities in the North, the Northwest, Artibonite, and in the Southern Peninsula are still affected by drought and the resulting poor harvest from the first growing season. Higher expenses associated with the beginning of the new school year in October strained some Haitian households, particularly those without the benefit of cash remittances from relatives overseas and those short of funds due to this year’s poor harvests. Many households have been forced to deplete their livestock capital by selling young animals in order to eat, and their extremely weak purchasing power is preventing them from properly meeting their food needs.
Moreover, in October, cases of malnutrition were identified in certain municipalities in the Southeast. This phenomenon was, most likely, accelerated by the close-out of three humanitarian assistance projects in that department in August. Over twenty severely malnourished children had to be hospitalized for treatment. Estimates by the Public Health Service put the severe malnutrition rate in this area at seven percent, compared with the national average of five percent. The main contributing factors include poor food availability as a result of crop failure, the poor condition of local roads, poor health and sanitation conditions, and a heavy flow of migration by family members. Based on the IPC analysis, conditions in these municipalities are currently classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but could deteriorate by January or February 2014 with poor harvests expected at the end of the fall season.
Areas of Concern
Dry Agropastoral Zone (Bombardopolis, Baie de Henne, and Anse-Rouge)
Dry agropastoral areas are beginning to recover from the dry spells causing poor harvests in 2012 and continuing into the first agricultural season of this year. After a period of erratic, light rainfall in September, the second rainy season finally got underway in October, a month late. Cumulative soil water deficits are diminishing. Drought-resistant pigeon pea crops planted in April/May and currently in the flowering stage hold good promise for a successful harvest, while harvests of sorghum and millet crops are expected to be poor. Highland areas such as Bombardopolis, for example, have seen some rainfall activity and are planting maize and bean crops. At the same time, there are small ongoing harvests of maize, pigeon peas, and bananas in these areas.
On the other hand, the irregular distribution of rainfall in coastal and plain areas, particularly in Anse-Rouge, has caused local farmers to lose their crops. The sea salt production in this municipality creates jobs for local households. However, overproduction as a result of the growing numbers of salt producers is causing sales to slump and making it difficult for salt producers to pay their workers. This is concerning for households dependent on the market for over 80 percent of their food supplies. These households need income, not only to buy food, but also to cover their children’s tuition costs and pay any outstanding credit. In addition, water sources in this area have dried up and the local population is being supplied with drinking water by a government agency.
After a decreasing trend in food prices until August, prices are relatively stable. Bean prices, however, are fluctuating, most likely, due to transportation problems. The virtual total loss of local bean crops has affected supplies and curtailed food availability. In general, prices are 20 percent above the five-year average.
Food reserves are very low after 2012 and 2013 crop failures. According to Action Against Hunger, 73 percent of the population is selling off productive assets or depleting their savings. The same study found many poor households have been forced to sell their breeding animals, which is damaging to their livelihoods. Their decision to send their children to school in October was made at the expense of their food consumption. Thus, in order to survive, they have sold off their assets and significantly stepped up their charcoal production in spite of the scarcity of wood resources.
The national food security analysis conducted in August of 2013 shows a deterioration in certain indicators such as the food consumption score (
With the uneven distribution of rainfall in this area and its impact on crop production, the food security situation is especially problematic in Anse-Rouge, where even the animal population is suffering from a shortage of pasture and water. Food security conditions in the municipalities of Bombardopolis and Baie de Henne are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while Anse-Rouge is in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
- Poor households will be forced to increase their charcoal production, reaching a peak by December or January, rather than typically between February and March.
- Whenever a particular area is facing a food shortage, local youth are the first to leave in search of work in cities or in irrigated farming areas. This year, larger numbers of youth and heads of household will be heading to lower Artibonite and major cities in search of employment to enable them to support the rest of the household.
- Based on rainfall forecasts by CARICOF, this livelihood zone will likely continue to see below-average rainfall resulting in deficits for the entire outlook period.
- Fall harvests, particularly sorghum, maize, and beans, will be reduced by as much as 50 percent than normal.
- The 2014 lean season will begin earlier than usual. The poor autumn harvest and crop losses from the 2013 first season will inhibit the replenishment of food stocks until February/March. As a result, the lean season will begin by January, compared with to normal in March.
- Food prices will remain stable throughout December. This will be followed by a faster than usual rise in prices.
Most likely food security outcomes
The loss of crops in 2012, the crop failures early this year, and the expected poor fall harvests will increase the market dependence of poor households. Own production, which generally accounts for 25 percent of household food supplies, has significantly decreased. The declining food prices since August and the current price stability should improve the food access of poor households. Nevertheless, income from agricultural activities like crop sales and labor (which account for close to 80 percent of household income) has decreased since the drought, severely limiting agriculture investments. The food security situation of poor households facing a food consumption gap between now and December will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
Given the expected low food reserves in January, food prices are expected to rise. Many poor households will be forced to further deplete their savings by selling livestock or cutting down more trees for charcoal production, which will only hurt their livelihoods. This group of households will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between January and March of 2014.
Semi-humid Agropastoral Zone (Jacmel and Bainet)
A prolonged drought has affected this zone, along with adjacent areas, since the beginning of the planting season (in March/April). Crops planted in the spring - maize, beans, and pigeon peas - offered mediocre July harvests. The sorghum harvest in December/January will be extremely poor if rainfall deficits in this area continue. Production levels for perennial crops like bananas have still not returned to normal after the damage caused by hurricanes in 2012. There are limited ongoing harvests of beans, maize, and yams in some areas where households are benefiting from more favorable rainfall conditions. After the poor spring harvest, household grain reserves are extremely low.
The Multi-Year Assistance Program (MYAP) providing food assistance to at-risk groups such as malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women came to an end in August after six years of service in this area. There are ongoing cash-for-work programs in certain parts of the area providing jobs for local household members on a rotating basis.
Driven by national trends, prices for staple foods, such as maize and beans, having been extremely high until June of this year, started to decrease in July before stabilizing in September. Thus, September prices for maize, for example, were 74 percent lower than June prices. Prices for imports such as rice and flour are quite stable. Income from certain sources such as crop sales and agricultural labor has significantly decreased as a result of the continuous drought in this zone. On the other hand, sales of livestock are on the rise, though they cannot make up for the decline in agricultural income.
As of August of this year, 17 percent of the population had borderline food consumption score (see the study by CNSA and its partners). This figure was greater than in August 2012. Yet, with declining prices and ongoing harvests, even though small, it was expected to decrease by October. Moreover, though higher than in August 2012, the global acute malnutrition rate remains low.
All this confirms the hardships currently faced by poor households, which have been forced to sell many more animals in order to meet their food needs and cover the cost of their children’s schooling. The sharp reduction in the share of food and income from crop production has not been offset by other sources. Therefore the food security situation for poor households currently facing a food consumption gap is Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
- Food prices will remain stable through December. Beginning in or around January, the depletion of food stocks will cause prices to increase faster than usual.
- Fall harvests, particularly sorghum, yams, beans, and bananas, will be reduced mainly due to the limited rainfall activity over the past several months.
- According to forecasts by CARICOF, there is a high probability of normal to above-normal rainfall activity, which will have an extremely positive effect on perennial crops like bananas, although much less of an impact on annual crops, which have already suffered too much damage as a result of the drought.
Most likely food security outcomes
The reduced maize, yam, and sorghum harvests between October and January will hinder poor households in meeting their food needs. As of January, rising food prices will exacerbate food gaps, just as household food stocks from the previous harvests begin to run out. Limited supplies could cause a 15 to 20 percent increase in maize and bean prices.
Poor households will resort to their usual coping strategies to try to narrow these food gaps. They will sell more livestock, although many such households have already sold off almost their entire herd in response to poor crop production and its effects in 2012. They have already depleted their livelihood assets, which will force certain members of the household to head to a major city in search of employment. However, these strategies are not always very effective and can further impoverish these households by depriving them of productive resources.
Poor households will continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes through December and could fall into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between January and March of next year.
Events that could change the outlook
Table 1: Possible events in the next six months that could change the outlook
Impact on food security conditions
Worsening situation over migration policy between Haiti and the Dominican Republic
Reduced trade between the two countries, causing an increase in food prices
Escalation in socio-political tension
Reduction in investment and increased market disruption
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.
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