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Food security for pastoralists improves

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Djibouti
  • January - June 2014
Food security for pastoralists improves

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that might change the outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Compared to recent years, food security has improved in most rural areas. This is primarily due to mostly normal, seasonal rainfall in 2013 and thus far in 2014, which has supported improved livestock body conditions and water access in most areas.
    • Limited, but continued improvements in food security are likely for practically all rural, pastoral areas between now and June. Greater availability of pasture and water will continue to lead to better livestock body conditions and improved livestock to grain terms of trade during the expected, mostly normal March to May Diraac/Sugum rainy season. Most rural populations are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through at least June 2014.
    • In the Southeast, pastoralists are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), and they are likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through June even with mostly normal performance of the October to February Xays/Dadaa rains. Recurrent drought in recent years has significantly reduced livestock ownership, and households continue to draw down their assets to purchase food and other essential items.

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    In rural areas, fewer people are currently food insecure due to the likely reductions since the May primarily due to improved pasture, browse, and water availability. While much room for further bolstering of food security exists, dietary diversity has improved since May with more frequent consumption of milk and legumes across much of the country. Following the July to September 2013 Karan/Karma rains being mostly normal (Figure 1), the start of the October to February Xays/Dadaa rains has, overall, been much better than in recent years. The current Xays/Dadaa started with a slight delay, but the rainfall has been mostly normal in amount (Figure 2) and distribution. With the start of these rains, conditions for livestock husbandry improved with pasture, browse, and water availability having increased. In some areas, some estimated vegetation measurements even moved to being slightly above average in late 2013 (Figure 3). Pastoralists have seen improvements in their food access, but they generally remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
    Pastoral populations currently have greater access to natural resources than recent years, including new infrastructure for water storage including reservoirs, dams, and catchments, which has helped sustain improvements in livestock body conditions. However, water resources may be insufficient in some pocket areas due to competition for access and excessive use. Rural populations are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2), despite ongoing food aid from the World Food Program (WFP) in most rural areas. With households and their herds still recovering from recurrent drought in past years, many still depend on food aid or are selling charcoal, gathering firewood, or using coping strategies to support themselves.

    Assumptions

    From January to June 2014, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following key national assumptions:

    • The October to February Xays/Dadaa rains over coastal areas of Djibouti are expected to continue to be near normal to above normal in terms of total rainfall due to warm sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Gulf of Aden. 
    • The March to May Diraac/Sugum rains are expected to start around the normal time and be near normal in terms of total rainfall.
    • Extreme cold temperatures are likely in January and February, increasing the incidence of some livestock diseases, such as livestock pneumonia, especially among younger animals.
    • Staple food prices will remain stable with a possible slight decrease for wheat and sorghum between January and March, following trends in Ethiopian and international markets.
    • The livestock sales level is likely to increase between January and June. This will be driven primarily by improved livestock values as a result of improved livestock body conditions, resulting from favorable pasture, browse, and water availability expected through June. Also, households will sell as they will need cash income, and the increase will follow the typical seasonal pattern of increased export demand as Ramadan approaches in late June 2014.
    • Despite the government's ban, poor households will continue to sell charcoal, especially from January to March.
    • The emergency food assistance program will continue from January through June, but the target has been recently reduced from 60 percent of the rural population to 30 percent of the population. Households will likely be provided with half rations from the program.
    • Food for Work (FFW) activities will continue between January and June, but the number of beneficiaries is likely to decrease considerably over the coming months.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In inland areas, water resources will be maintained from January to March primarily from water conservation systems such as dams and reservoirs. In coastal areas, the Xays/Dadaa rains will continue through February. With the start of the March to May Diraac/Sugum rains, pasture, browse, and water availability should be replenished before being exhausted. This suggests that in most rural areas of the country, livestock production and other livelihood activities should be along normal lines with some improvements due to successive seasons of near average or above average rainfall. Most rural areas are likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or the areas with fewer and less reliable livestock resources or poorer access to labor markets will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) but only with the presence of humanitarian assistance.
    In urban areas in and surrounding Djibouti City, the most vulnerable households are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) at least until June 2014 with a situation characterized by a lack of employment opportunities and increased competition for labor opportunities. The food voucher distribution program ended in October 2013, and currently, poor urban residents are not receiving outside assistance.


    Areas of Concern

    Southeast Pastoral livelihood zone in Arta, Ali Sabieh, and Dikhil Regions

    Current Situation

    Since November, temperatures have been fairly cold in this region, increasing incidence of human and livestock diseases. Pasture, browse, and water remain available following mostly normal performance of both the July to September Karan/Karma rains and the first part of the October to February Xays/Dadaa rains in areas closer to the coast. Further bolstering water resources, two dams were recently rehabilitated in Grand Bara, and they currently have water. Vegetation conditions are near normal to slightly above normal (Figure 6). Not much livestock migration has been reported, and the observed migrations have been to seasonally normal areas for this time of year. Livestock body conditions have continued to improve for several months, and pastoral households can access sales of their livestock, with the livestock to grain terms of trade having largely recovered. Even with improved conditions and some normal livestock reproduction, livestock ownership and herd sizes have fallen over the past decade, and they remain low. Even with a great deal of recovery in livestock body conditions, some households continue to have herds with very few, if any, animals able to meet the highest quality standards of livestock traders.

    Food assistance is still on-going. In October, the number of beneficiaries decreased to a target of around 30 percent of the population from 60 percent of the population. Ration sizes have also decreased. However, households continue to redistribute food aid within the community.

    Other sources of income are mostly normal. Even with restrictions having been in place for nearly five years now, many people continue to produce, sell, and trade charcoal. Construction labor on the Addis Ababa-Djibouti City railroad in Ali Sabieh Region are mostly normal, though these opportunities remain limited due to the railway company importing some labor instead of hiring locally, the slow nature of the work often not requiring large numbers of workers, and the lack of specialized construction skills by some seeking work.

    The prices of major staples foods including wheat flour, belem rice, and sorghum have remained mostly stable over the last few months in markets across the livelihood zone (Figure 4). While prices are stable, they remain higher than they were before the food price spike in 2007/2008. However, between May and September last year, many households have been able to diversify their diet from one of only cereals, vegetable oil, and sugar to a more diverse diet that more routinely includes vegetables, legumes, and milk.

    Goat and camel milk are available currently, but in somewhat limited quantities in the Roadside sub-zone. Milk sales and milking are much less prevalent and nearly non-existent right now in the Border sub-zone.

    Nutritional status remains a concern in this livelihood zone. According to the November/December 2013 Standard Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) surveys conducted by the Ministry of Health and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate was 15.8 percent (confidence interval (CI) 10.5 to 23.1) in Ali Sabieh Region, 14.8 percent (CI 10.9 to 19.8) in Arta Region, and 14.7 percent (CI 11.1 to 19.2) in Dikhil Region. These remain high compared to other parts of the world, though not unusually so for these areas.

    Poor households are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2) though in much of the Border sub-zone households are only Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) due to the presence of humanitarian assistance. Without ongoing food assistance, food security outcomes in the Border sub-zone would likely be much worse.

    Assumptions

    No additional assumptions have been made other than the national assumptions made above.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From January to March, the sale of charcoal will remain a significant source of income even while being banned, given demand outstrips supply, especially in the Roadside sub-zone, causing a continued increase in the price of charcoal as the ban does constrain supply. During the second period, income from this activity will decline due to end of the cooler weather after the Xays/Dadaa rains cease. However, households will continue to profit for other sources of income such as railroad construction, construction in Djibouti City, and other forms of casual labor.

    Household income from the sale of livestock will increase as June and the start of Ramadan approach. Income from milk sales will be higher than recent years and will be more typical, especially in the Roadside sub-zone which has better market access. Births have recently occurred in December and January, so milk production will be somewhat better in February and March than later. Sales of food assistance are expected to remain low because of the recent reduction in the number of

    beneficiaries. Remittances from urban areas will likely be a bit less than a typical year, as increasing competition from labor opportunities, especially in Djibouti City, limits the ability of households to employ this income-generating strategy. Households will continue to send some members to urban areas to look for work though, despite the limits to income associated with this strategy. However, as livestock sales and local casual labor are the most significant source of income, there will likely be a very slight increase in overall income compared to last year or a typical year.

    Milk is the primary own-produced food source in this region, and despite recent improvement in livestock conditions, due to the long decline in herd sizes, milk availability will remain less than ideal, but far more than last year. Most households will provide milk to children but will not have enough milk for other household members to consume. Community support and other intra-community transfers are expected to be typical between now and June, as better off households are able to provide some limited support as their livestock herds are slowly growing. Even using all available sources of income, many households will be dependent on food aid to meet their food needs, especially in the Border sub-zone.

    Households in Ali Sabieh and Arta Regions will face the most constraints in their access to food and income from January to June as livestock holdings are generally lower in these areas, and drought was worse in coastal areas over the last several years. These areas will have higher use of charcoal and be more dependent upon timely receipt of planned food aid. Most poor households are likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through at least June, though in the Border sub-zone along the borders with Ethiopia and Somalia, households will only be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) due to the presence of humanitarian assistance.

    Central Pastoral livelihood zone in Dikhil, Tadjourah, and Obock Regions

    Current Situation

    Despite normal or even at times heavy rainfall from the start of the Xays/Dadaa rains in October to the first week of December, the rains stopped suddenly in December in many parts of the livelihood zone (Figure 5). Since November, it has been unusually cold, increasing the incidence of human diseases such as tuberculosis and livestock diseases like pneumonia.

    While pasture, browse, and water resources had been improving and becoming near normal during the July to September Karan/Karma rains, they have since the sudden stoppage of rain in December, fallen back towards normal (Figure 6). However, the availability of and access to water is much better than at the same time last year, and many wells currently have some water in them. Only normal livestock migration patterns have been observed, but most pastoralists have not migrated recently with their livestock. Livestock body conditions are improved compared to last year, and in general, terms of trade are better than they have been for several years. Despite some livestock births in recent months, overall, livestock ownership remains low. Milk availability is limited to about one liter per day per household as compared to normal availability levels of three liters.

    The prices of major staples including wheat flour, belem rice, and sorghum remained mostly stable in most markets in this livelihood zone.

    Food consumption remains likely poorer in this livelihood zone compared to others, with less milk and other nutrient-dense food like vegetables being consumed. Nutritional status also remains poor in many areas of the livelihood zone. According to the November/December 2013 SMART surveys conducted by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF, the GAM rate was 16.4 percent (CI 12.5 to 21.1) in Tadjourah, 14.7 percent (CI 11.1 to 19.2) in Dikhil, and 25.7 percent (CI 19.8-32.6) in Obock.

    Poor households are currently in Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but in Obock Region where the coastal Xays/Dadaa rains are more important, households are only Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) due to the presence of humanitarian assistance.

    Assumptions

    No additional assumptions have been made other than the national assumptions made above.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Casual day labor and the sale of charcoal will likely be significant sources of income from January to March. Starting in May at the beginning of the hot, dry season with the end of the March to May Diraac/Sugum rains, these income-generating strategies will seasonally decrease in their importance to households. Households are expected to sell more livestock than last year, partially due to receiving less food aid. However, livestock body conditions, and thus prices, are likely to be better than last year. Milk sales will continue to be a fairly minimal source of household income. From January to June, other sources of income such as remittances from urban centers will increase, partially to compensate for the recent reductions in food aid. Overall, despite recent improvements in livestock conditions, income is likely to be somewhat less than in a normal year.

    No livestock births are expected between now and June. Milk production is likely to remain low, due to overall, low herd sizes and as some female livestock quit lactating between now and June. The milk that is available will mainly be consumed by children, and it will likely not be available for other household members. Community support will be similar to recent year and at mostly normal levels. The emergency assistance program of assistance for drought-affected households will continue to provide coverage to around thirty percent of the population through June.

    During the scenario period, household food consumption will be lower and less diverse than desirable, but it will remain better than last year. To procure additional food, many households will send members to urban centers to look for work to generate additional income. Some households may also sell off more livestock to cover their immediate food needs.

    The Central Pastoral livelihood zone is likely to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through at least June, but households in Obock District are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) but only due to the presence of humanitarian assistance. This area has the worst malnutrition rates in the country, and it has suffered an early end of the Xays/Dadaa rains that has not occurred in areas farther south.


    Events that might change the outlook

    Table 1: Possible events over the next six months that could change the most-likely scenario.

    Area

    Event

    Impact on food security outcomes

    All areas

     

     

     

    A late start of the March to May Diraac/Sugum rains

    These events are likely to reduce household income and food access, leading to increased severity of acute food insecurity.

     

     

     

    Below-average total March to May Diraac/Sugum rainfall

    Additional decline or break in humanitarian assistance

    Substantially increased staple food prices

     

    Figures Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. July to September rainfall anomaly in millimeters (mm) from 2002 to 2012 mean

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. July to September rainfall anomaly in millimeters (mm) from 2002 to 2012 mean

    Source: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)/FEWS NET

    Figure 2. October to December rainfall anomaly in mm from 2002 to 2012 mean

    Figure 3

    Figure 2. October to December rainfall anomaly in mm from 2002 to 2012 mean

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 3. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) in Ali Sabieh Region, 2013 compared to 2001 to 2010 mean

    Figure 4

    Figure 3. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) in Ali Sabieh Region, 2013 compared to 2001 to 2010 mean

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 4. Prices of staple foods in Ali Sabieh, Djiboutian francs (DJF) per kilogram (kg), May 2008 to December 2013

    Figure 5

    Figure 4. Prices of staple foods in Ali Sabieh, Djiboutian francs (DJF) per kilogram (kg), May 2008 to December 2013

    Source: World Food Program (WFP)

    Figure 5. Xays/Dadaa rainfall in mm (RFE2) in Obock Region, October to December 2013

    Figure 6

    Figure 5. Xays/Dadaa rainfall in mm (RFE2) in Obock Region, October to December 2013

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 6. NDVI in Obock Region, July to January

    Figure 7

    Figure 6. NDVI in Obock Region, July to January

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 8

    Source:

    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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