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Food insecurity in Crisis during lean season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Haiti
  • February - September 2020
Food insecurity in Crisis during lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Despite the resumption of most economic activities to near normal levels, the socio-political climate remains unpredictable and fragile. The operating environment of the Parliament and insecurity, among other factors, creates uncertainty, which still risks disrupting the calm observed for more than three months. In the event of renewed civil unrest, similar to that seen in 2019, household access to food and income would be more significant impacted. However, based on recent calm, broad stability is expected through at least September.

    • Rainfall deficits during the 2019 second rainy season contribute to lower than average yields of the currently harvested winter bean season in the Nord-Est, Nord, Nippes, Nord-Ouest, and in some municipalities in Ouest departments. However, the harvest is closer to average in the Greater South of the country (with the exception of Nippes) and Artibonite, where beans, maize, peanuts, rice and market garden produce are currently being harvested, in addition to the harvest of bananas and roots. The availability of these foods is driving some improvements in food security.  

    • Despite these improvements, high prices of basic food products, persistently low employment opportunities, and the negative effects of the socio-political crisis more broadly are all negatively impacting many poor households’ ability to sufficiently access their food and non-food needs. In areas of greatest concern, including those in which production is likely to be below average and income-earning opportunities are low, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are anticipated through September 2020.


    Current Situation

    Socio-political context: Since the second half of November, economic activity has returned to normal, with the exception of the hotel industry. Transport, trade, schooling and public administration have resumed. However, developments remain unpredictable.

    In addition, the operating environment of the Parliament and insecurity, among other issues, are creating uncertainty, which could jeopardize the apparent calm observed for over three months.

    The situation is particularly worrying in and around the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, where there has been a wave of kidnappings since the beginning of the year. In addition, a protest movement started around two weeks ago by Haitian national police officers is manifesting in confrontations, sometimes violent, between the national police and the Haitian armed forces.

    Climate conditions and outlook: Cumulative rainfall over the month of January was around average overall, but with irregular temporal and geographical distribution. At the beginning of February, however, rainfall was below normal levels. In some regions, such as Nippes, Centre, Nord-Ouest and Ouest, the early end to the rains in late January is delaying land preparation activities, which normally start in January and February in preparation for spring planting in March and April.

    Impact on seasonal crop production: Except for irrigated plains and semi-humid mountain areas, the temporal and geographical irregularity of rainfall has disrupted current crops, negatively affected the performance of the winter harvest, and delayed land preparation activities for the spring season.

    Urban and regional markets: With the exception of Croix-des-Bossales market, which is operating on a limited basis, markets are continuing to function normally and are well supplied, mostly with imported produce, and well-stocked. Large distribution centers for imported food products are also well-stocked.

    There is low availability of local foods, apart from yams and bananas, due to poor fall and winter harvests in some parts of the country.

    Price trends: Food prices remained relatively stable in January and February. The price of imported rice fell between November and January, despite a volatile world price trend (OSIRIZ report no. 191, January 2020). There was an average fall of almost 5 percent at the national level, with a 6 lb pot (marmite) of rice selling for around 270 gourdes, compared with 283 gourdes in December. Further reductions are expected in February.

    According to FEWS NET sources, this situation is due to the improved movement of goods across the country. Food products, including rice, can now reach all departments.

    Prices for local grain maize and black beans remain relatively stable, with slight downward fluctuations. A 6 lb pot of local grain maize is still selling for around 148 gourdes, and of black beans for around 491 gourdes.

    Meanwhile, as in December, prices remain stable for most imported staple foods, in particular cooking oil, peas (all varieties) and wheat flour. This trend could be explained by the fact that products can now reach all destination zones, and that wholesalers and some retailers have been able to build up stocks, unlike in previous months.

    Nevertheless, prices have not yet returned to their pre-crisis levels. For example, the price of maize is 21 percent higher than last year, and 60 percent higher than the five-year average. The price of beans is 40 percent higher than the previous year, and 70 percent higher than the five-year average.

    Livestock: The current situation for livestock farming, particularly for cattle and goats, has slightly improved compared with previous months, due to the availability of fodder and water. However, some species, especially pigs and poultry, continue to be affected by Teschen and Newcastle disease in rural areas. The prevalence of these diseases is posing a serious threat to households who use livestock as a means of saving for occasional expenditure.

    Supply and demand for agricultural labor: Current agricultural activities are dominated by winter harvests and preparations for the spring season in areas that have received favorable rainfall. In some places, land preparation activities are under way for the spring season, while awaiting the next rainy season. Workers are therefore being recruited for these activities, although the peak demand for labor is expected from March. This demand for labor is slightly below average, as there is lower production from the winter season.

    Other sources of income: Currently, the most effective sources of income for poor and poorest households are small-scale trade or self-employment, given the slowdown in agricultural activities. These income sources are generally close to average. One-off “cash-for-work” activities have also been observed, in relation to restoration of the drinking water supply system or construction of particular sections of roads, but these apply in only a limited number of communes. In border zones, migration to the Dominican Republic provides a significant source of income.

    In terms of malnutrition, the preliminary findings of the Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) survey conducted last January by the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP), with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), revealed a national increase in cases of malnutrition (weight-for-height) compared with the Mortality, Morbidity and Service Utilization Survey (EMMUS) survey in 2016/2017. There is now 6 percent prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM). At the department level, severe acute malnutrition (SAM) ranges from 0 percent (Nippes) to 1.3 percent (Nord-Est). However, the situation is more serious in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, where there is 6.5 percent prevalence of GAM and 2.5 percent prevalence of SAM.

    Impact on food security: Food security outcomes continue to suffer the residual effects of the socio-political crisis. While food is available in most markets, income sources remain disrupted as a result of socio-political unrest and inflation.

    In some zones, where there is greater diversity in sources of food and income, such as Grand’Anse (excluding coastal zones), Sud, Sud-Est (excluding Belle-Anse), Bas Plateau Central and Bas Artibonite, households are using stress strategies to access food. These include reducing non-essential expenditure, increasing food purchases on credit, extending the migration period, or consuming less preferred food. These zones are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity.

    In other zones that are more vulnerable to price shocks or drought, such as Nord-Est, Nord-Ouest, lowland communes in Nippes, and some communes in Ouest (e.g. Gonave), households are using crisis strategies, such as increasing sales of charcoal or removing children from school. Given the importance attached to children’s education, especially among poor households, the reduction in this expenditure in favor of food expenditure is an indicator of significant deterioration in the situation. Also, although the cutting of wood to make charcoal is a normal activity in several zones of the country, it constitutes a strategy when it is dramatically increased. These areas are therefore in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    The most likely scenario for February to September 2020 is based on the following assumptions at the national level.

    • Socio-political situation: The socio-political situation means there is a high likelihood of seeing further disruptions comparable to those in September and October. This would negatively affect the movement of food products and individuals, with negative consequences for food security outcomes (availability, accessibility and use). However, as with the disturbances observed in September and October, these impacts would be mostly temporary, especially with regard to the movement of products. The long-term economic crisis, which is having an impact on inflation and thus on access to food, is fully taken into account in the most likely scenario for this outlook report. The emergence of new socio-political disturbances and their temporary impact are included in the table of events that might change the most likely scenario.
    • El Niño–Southern Oscillation conditions and weather forecasts: According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the most likely scenario for February to September 2020 indicates neutral El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions.
    • Agricultural production and gathering
      • Winter season: Winter season harvests are expected to be below average in most regions, as crops were affected by water shortages during the flowering period.
      • Spring and summer season: Good rainfall conditions are expected to support spring and summer harvests. However, due to the impact of low production from previous seasons on farmers’ ability to finance these activities (e.g. payment for labor, purchase of seeds), performance could be slightly below average in some places.
      • Rice: There will be continuous harvesting of the crop in irrigated zones. Production is expected to be close to average.
      • Bananas and tubers: Production of bananas and tubers is expected to be close to average during the outlook period.
      • Mangoes: Mango production is expected to be normal between March and July.
    • Income sources
      • Agricultural labor: Based on the assumption of a normal first rainy season and normal progress of the spring season, the availability of labor opportunities is expected to be close to average. Given that there has been little increase in payment for labor over recent years, income is also expected to be close to average.
      • Sales of charcoal: Given the rise in food prices, sales of charcoal are expected to be higher than in other years to compensate for this increase. They are thus expected to be above average.
      • Migration to cities and to the Dominican Republic: Migration to the Dominican Republic is expected to be at a normal level. In Haut Plateau Central, Nord-Est and Sud-Est, which are much closer to the agricultural zones on the border with the Dominican Republic, migration is usually higher than in the rest of the country.
      • Sales of agricultural produce: Income from agricultural sales is expected to be close to average from June onwards.
    • General price trends
      • Prices for imported food will remain high, due to the level of depreciation of the gourde against the dollar.
      • For some local products, particularly maize and beans, prices may fall until March, because of the winter harvests expected to supply markets in the coming weeks.
      • Food prices are still expected to remain higher than the pre-crisis period, last year (except for imported rice) and the five-year average.
    • Other assumptions
      • Market supply: The stability in market supply is dependent on the socio-political stability, which remains fragile and would be disrupted in the event of prolonged riots (see table of events that might change the scenario). In the long-term, however, markets are expected to be regularly supplied with imported products during the outlook period. Local produce will be available in March (from winter crops) and from the end of June (spring season). In addition, bananas and tubers should supply the markets throughout the period, and mangoes should appear from April or May.
      • Dollar and peso exchange rates: The gourde exchange rate against the United States dollar and the peso is expected to continue to increase, as it did at the beginning of 2019 and has done since January 2020. The political instability is one of the determining factors in the depreciation of the gourde. Thus, the benchmark exchange rate could reach 100 gourdes during the outlook period. This is unless the monetary authorities intervene by injecting United States currency into the interbank exchange market, as happened last year.
      • General inflation: The annual inflation rate is expected to be around 20.1 percent, according to projections by the Haitian Central Bank (BRH) for the second quarter of 2019–2020 (January–March).
      • Foreign remittances: Remittances from the Haitian diaspora are expected to increase throughout the outlook period, especially in August and September when classes restart.
      • Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate: According to World Bank forecasts in the latest edition of the Global Economic Prospects, the Haitian economy is expected to see a negative rate of growth of 1.4 percent in 2020. This would entail a high level of unemployment during the scenario period.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The first period of the scenario (February to May) coincides with the harvest period for the winter season, which contributes very little to total annual production. It includes beans and maize in irrigated plains and humid mountain areas, roots, tubers and bananas. This period also coincides with the lean season, which sees a reduction in local food as a share of total food consumption, and the depletion of household stocks. Households are expected to turn to markets for more of their supply, at a time when prices for staple products are higher and income is limited. This would affect the purchasing power of the poorest people, thus reducing their economic access to these products.

    In these circumstances, the poorest households will continue to use coping strategies to meet their food needs. There may therefore be an increase in the number of food insecure households during the lean season. Most zones of the country will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity.

    The second period of the scenario (June–September) coincides with the spring harvests and also with the beginning of the summer/fall season. Based on the favorable agro-climatic forecasts, these harvests are expected to be more productive than last year. Greater availability of local produce such as beans, maize, rice and wild produce (bananas, breadfruit, etc.) should therefore help to improve food security for the poorest households. The increased availability of local produce compared with the first period is likely to have a downward effect on the prices of staple foods, even for imported produce, widening access to staple foods. There is expected to be a slight increase in own production as a source of food, compared with the first period of the scenario, although purchases will remain significant.

    Given the outlook for a normal spring season, and then summer season (with employment of agricultural labor), there may be a slight improvement in livelihoods during the second period of the outlook, with households using less crisis or stress strategies. Thus, zones previously in Crisis (see maps for February–May and June–September) may be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the period. However, most communes in Nord-Est, where livelihoods have been severely affected by various shocks for two consecutive years, will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next six months that could change the most-likely scenario



    Impact on food security outcomes


    Increased socio-political unrest

    The escalation of violence would likely disrupt the current functioning of the economy and markets. This would lead to a decrease in food availability and access, forcing more households to adopt negative coping strategies. As certain coping strategies are depleted, food consumption deficits could appear. Thus, more areas and households could be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    Substantial improvement in the socio-political situation

    The potential for socio-political stability, with the establishment of a consensus government, could strengthen trade flows and market supplies. Sources of income should also return to normal. This would reduce the number of people and areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Production zones

    Early end to rains

    An abrupt end to the rainy season at a critical phase of development for spring crops (rice, maize, beans) and at the beginning of the summer season could lead to significant crop losses and damage to the livelihoods of the poorest households. This would increase the number of people and areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Figures le NDVI indique de bonnes conditions de végétation dans un grande partie du pays

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    les précipitations sont proches de la moyenne et le NDVI est légèrement au-dessus de la moyenne au début de 2020

    Figure 2

    Figure 2


    Le prix du riz indique un diminution relative mais demeure nettement au-dessus de la moyenne

    Figure 3

    Figure 3

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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