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Poor households across the country remain food insecure

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Haiti
  • March 2013
Poor households across the country remain food insecure

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2013
  • Key Messages
    • The spring cultivation season has started up in just about all parts of the country. In addition to land preparation, sowing activities are already underway in certain areas in the south, for example. However, despite the evident readiness of local farmers, poor seed availability is threatening the success of this year’s crops. 

    • There will be very limited access to locally grown crops between now and the upcoming harvest in June. Supplies of these crops are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive due to last year’s poor harvests and the current high demand for seeds. Yet, markets are well-stocked with imports, whose prices are relatively stable.

    • This year’s lean season began in February, a full month earlier than usual. Poor households in rural areas are virtually entirely dependent on market purchases for their food supplies, while demand for labor, their main source of income, is declining. Even with resorting to irreversible coping strategies, they are still unable to meet their food needs. Many municipalities are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity.

    Current Situation
    • The current situation is driven by preparations for the start of the spring growing season. However, according to NOAA reports released in March, the recent rainfall activity in certain parts of the country such as in Artibonite, the Northwest, the North, and Grande Anse, was less than half the usual amount of precipitation. As a result, current soil water conditions are hindering the smooth progress of farming activities. Moreover, according to a field assessment by FEWS NET and CNSA in early March, the Central Plateau in general and, more specifically, the municipalities of Thomonde, Cerca-Cavajal, Cerca-la-Source, and Thomassique have been experiencing a continual, unusual dry period since last November. Certain municipalities in the Northeastern department such as Mombin Crochu, Les Perches, Ste Suzanne, and Mont-Organisé, among others, are also battling drought conditions.
    • The start-up of the growing season hinges on the availability of seeds. The scarcity and resulting high price of seeds could mean scaling back the size of the area normally planted in crops for the spring season, which would reduce output. This season accounts for approximately 60 percent of nationwide crop production. Poor households in many rural areas could still be facing a food shortage directly after the July harvest.
    • Farming activities in rice-growing areas of the North, the Northeast, and the Artibonite Valley are creating beneficial job opportunities for the poor. Seasonal migration to the plains of Limonade and Quartier Morin is a major source of income for poor households in certain municipalities in the Northern department such as Ranquite, Bahon, La Victoire, and Pignon, which are also hard hit by the drought. However, demand for labor in these areas is down as a result of the drought. The fishing season has gotten underway in Tiburon, Dame Marie, Anse d’Ainault, etc., but sales are much slower than usual, which means a loss of income for fishing communities.  
    • In general, prices for imported foods are high but have been more or less stable since January/February. On the other hand, prices for certain locally produced food items like black beans and ground maize are rising as a result of high demand. Bean prices in Hinche rose by 18 percent between January and February, while the price of ground maize rose by 8 percent in Jérémie and jumped by 24 percent in Jacmel, in the Southeast, during the same period. This has weakened the purchasing power of poor households, which are earning less income due to the low demand for farm labor. Virtually entirely dependent on market purchases as their sole source of food, poor households in areas impacted by last year’s extreme weather conditions will find it increasingly difficult to get enough to eat between now and the upcoming June harvests.

    Updated Assumptions
    • Weather forecasts dating back to January of this year predicted normal rainfall conditions for the period coinciding with the spring growing season. However, rainfall levels in most parts of the country have been below-average for the past two months. The Southeast, for example, has gotten three to four times less rain than compared to the same time last year.
    • Many NGOs providing assistance will have difficulty obtaining seeds for distribution to local farmers. Market supplies of seeds, which are obtained mostly from previous harvests, are scarce after last year’s 50 percent below-average production levels. For more information on this subject, see the Food Security Update for February 2013.

    Projected Outlook through June 2013
    • Poor households in areas such as the Central Plateau (Cerca-la-Source, Cerca Cavajal, Thomassique, and Thomonde), the North (La Victoire, Bahon, Pignon, and Ranquitte), among others will be principally dependent on market purchases between now and May/June due to the earlier than usual depletion of their food reserves after last year’s poor harvests.
    • The scarcity and high market prices of seeds will mean there will be less planted area for crops during the spring growing season, resulting in less production and income for poor households.
    • With the upward trend in the price curve, the lower than usual incomes of poor households, and the depletion of their livelihood assets, these households are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity. It is expected that these conditions should last until the beginning of the upcoming harvesting period sometime in June.
    • The humanitarian assistance delivered to households in the Southeast and La Gonâve could lower acute food insecurity levels from IPC Phase 3 to Phase 2. However, this assistance does not seem to be having a significant impact on the municipalities of Thomassique, Thomonde, Cerca-Cavajal, and Cerca-la-Source, which will remain in Crisis between now and June.
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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