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Seasonal forecasts for 2017 predict normal to above-normal levels of cumulative rainfall across the country, with a typical distribution of rainfall and normal to late end-of-season. The same applies to flooding levels which, together with large-scale farm input assistance, in general, should translate into average to above-average levels of cereal production across the country.
All parts of the country are reporting a steady seasonal rise in cereal prices. Price levels in the north are above the five-year average by five to 15 percent. The combined effects of the rising price of cereals and falling price of livestock are sharply eroding terms of trade for livestock/cereals, negatively affecting the market access of poor households in these areas.
The longer than usual lean season and limited market access will keep food insecurity in rice-growing and pastoral areas of the Gao and Timbuktu regions and parts of the Inner Niger River Delta and Western Sahel at Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels between June and September. Very poor households in these areas will be unable to meet their food needs without outside assistance and, thus, will be facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity between June and September.
The expected average to above-average cereal and animal production in all parts of the country, the decline in cereal prices, and the improvement in terms of trade for livestock/cereals will strengthen household food access in October. Thus, there will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity in all areas of the country between October 2017 and January 2018.
Progress of the growing season
The normal onset of the rains by May in southern farming areas helped jump-start the new growing season. In general, cumulative rainfall totals in southern farming areas of the country as of June 10th were reportedly normal to above-normal. Work transporting and spreading manure, field clean-up work, and ongoing crop planting activities are providing average food and income-generating opportunities for poor households in these areas. Crop planting activities are still actively underway in flood recession farming areas of the Timbuktu and Mopti regions, with average to above-average production prospects based on the well-above-average flooding levels in these areas. Current forecasts put cereal production for this growing season just getting underway at 35 percent above the five-year average and 11 percent above the figure for 2016. Continuing subsidies for farm inputs and equipment and hydro-agricultural development schemes are raising expectations for an average to good growing season across the country. Harvests of off-season rice crops have started up and will continue through June/July, helping to improve rice availability on markets.
The new pasture growth, particularly in southern areas of the country, and replenishment of animal watering holes with the onset of the rains mark the end of the lean season for livestock and the beginning of their physical recovery and of the improvement in animal production. The longer than usual lean season due to the shortage of pasture and watering holes in holding areas for livestock in the Gourma area of Gao and Timbuktu created grazing and watering problems for livestock, which explain their poor physical condition and the little if any animal production in these areas. The vaccination campaign for livestock continues with the help of certain development partners, particularly in the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions.
Fish production is up from last month and above-average with the falling water levels on rivers and streams and the communal fishing activities underway. The average to above-average revenues from the sale of fish and fish products are improving the purchasing power of fishing households.
Operation of markets and cereal prices
Cereal markets across the country are fairly well-stocked in spite of the seasonal contraction in cereal supplies. The subsidized sales by the OPAM (the National Produce Board) and the unloading of cereal crops by farmers to meet their needs for funds to cover their expenses for Ramadan, along with the ongoing harvests of off-season rice crops, have helped improve supplies since last month. The security incidents in the Timbuktu and Gao regions and central part of the country are disrupting the flow of trade, in some cases, with negative effects on the operation of markets. As of the end of May, prices for millet (the number one cereal crop) were up from the previous month (by anywhere from three percent in Bamako to 18 percent in Timbuktu) on markets in all regional capitals with the exception of Gao, where they were stable. Millet/sorghum prices at the end of May were above the five-year average by five percent in Mopti, 12 percent in Gao, and 17 percent in Timbuktu and near or below-average on other markets in regional capitals.
There are average supplies of livestock in the southern part of the country and above-average supplies in the north and Western Sahel due to the poor pastoral conditions in these areas. There is a growing demand for livestock for the celebration of Ramadan on major source markets across the country, both from within the country and from neighboring countries. Prices for female goats, the animal most commonly sold by poor households, are below the five-year average by 40 percent in Rharous, 27 percent in Gao, and 12 percent in Timbuktu and five percent above the five-year average in Mopti. Terms of trade for goats/cereals are below the five-year average by 15 percent in Bourem, 25 percent in Timbuktu, and by more than 35 percent in Gao and Rharous, which is negatively affecting the market access of pastoral households (Figure 1). These below-average terms of trade are causing households to sell more animals and resort to more strategies in order to maintain their market access, which is only serving to help deplete the livestock capital of poor households with small animal herds.
The National Response Plan is being implemented by the Food Security Agency (Commissariat à la Sécurité Alimentaire) in coordination with the WFP, ICRC, and ECHO. It provides for the delivery of free food assistance to approximately 900,000 food-insecure recipients between June and September 2017, 41 percent of whom are concentrated in the Timbuktu, Gao, Ménaka, Taoudenit, Kidal, and northern Mopti regions. Some 2,500,000 recipients in these same areas are scheduled to receive both resilience-building assistance through distributions of farm inputs (seeds, fertilizer, and animal feed) and equipment and herd-building assistance (2500 head of livestock). These food supplies and farm inputs will improve the food access of poor households and protect the recipients’ fragile livelihoods, enabling them to plant their fields in crops for the current growing season.
There are continuing reports of security incidents in northern and central areas of the country, which are negatively affecting population movements. The disruption of business activities is limiting job and income-earning opportunities, particularly for poor households. The population displacements affecting an estimated 22,300 people as of the end of April (according to the May 2017 report by the Commission on Population Movements) and resulting losses of assets are further weakening impacted households, heightening their vulnerability to food insecurity.
There is a steady flow of normal return migration by migrant workers to their home areas for the new growing season. Their average to above-average cash and in-kind earnings will help improve household purchasing power.
The most likely food security scenario for June 2017 through January 2018 is based on the following underlying assumptions with regard to trends in nationwide conditions.
Progress of the growing season
Rainfall: Agro-climatic forecasts from May 2017 by the IRI, NMME, ECMWF, Malian National Weather Service (Agence Mali Météo), and PRESASS forum show no major anomalies between the months of June and August 2017. According to these forecasts, there should be normal to above-normal levels of cumulative rainfall in all parts of the country. FEWS NET is predicting that, as usual, the rainy season will get underway in June in the country’s Sudanian and Sahelian zones and in July in northern areas of the country, producing average to above-average levels of cumulative rainfall for the period from June through October (Figures 2, 3, and 4). Forecasters are predicting a normal to late end-of-season, extending through the end of October in most farming areas of the country.
Crop predators: As of the end of May, the desert locust situation was still stable. The Inter-Tropical Front advanced approximately 150 kilometers farther north than usual, producing above-normal levels of rainfall in the Sahel, Adrar des Iforas, and southern Tamesna, which are all proliferation areas for desert locusts (fao.locusts). The resulting new pasture growth is creating conducive breeding conditions for the locusts. While this may slightly increase the size of the locust population, their numbers will not reach threatening thresholds and there should not be any major expansion in locust activity beyond the usual areas of Adrar des Iforas and Timétrine. In addition, there will be a normal presence of grain-eating birds between September and January and of caterpillars and grasshoppers between June and August, causing light to average damage to crops in the usual areas of the Western Sahel and the river valley, with a limited impact in terms of losses of crops and pastures.
Flooding from rivers: As of May 30th, rivers and streams were lower than they were at the same time last year. Water levels in all parts of the country are above the multi-year average, except on the Niger River in Bamako and Markala. The levels of lakes in the Timbuktu region are visibly higher than last year and well above the multi-year average. The onset of the rains will help raise the levels of rivers and streams by June-July 2017, which will continue to rise through the month of October. According to forecasts by the PRESAS forum in May 2017, there should be average to above-average runoff rates in Sahelian and Sahelo-Sudanian river basins during the 2017 season, which is good for rice production and fishing activities.
Crop production: The continuing government subsidy program for farm inputs and ongoing distributions of farm equipment and hydro-agricultural development schemes will help boost cereal production for the 2017/2018 season. With the average planting rates for off-season rice crops and the larger areas planted in flood recession crops with the good flooding rates from lakes and seasonal lakes and ponds, there are average to above-average production prospects for off-season rice crops in June-July and for flood recession crops in July-August in the Timbuktu, Mopti, and Gao regions. Government forecasts for the 2017 season put cereal production 35 percent above the five-year average and up 11 percent from last season. The combined effects of the expected normal to above-normal levels of rainfall between May and October in southern farming areas of the country and between June and September in central and northern areas of the country and the factors discussed above should, hopefully, translate into generally average to above-average levels of crop production across the country.
Other sources of food and income
Animal production: In general, the improvement in pastoral conditions with the onset of the rains by June will help promote average to good levels of milk production across the country between June 2017 and January 2018. However, the harsh lean season for livestock in the Gourma area of the Timbuktu and Gao regions between April and June causing physiological problems and miscarriages is liable to negatively affect milk production, which will be at below-average levels in these areas.
Herd movements: The beginning of the rains in June triggers normal herd movements back to rainy season pastures, where the animals will remain through the month of October, at which point they are expected to return to their home bases to graze on crop residues and drink from year-round watering holes. The security incidents in the northern part of the country will continue to affect normal patterns of transhumance throughout the period from June through January.
Fish production: The average to large fish catches during the last fishing season (from December to April) will dwindle with the rising water levels on major rivers and streams and the rains between June and November. The near-to-above-average flood levels predicted by the PRESASS forum will help promote good breeding rates for fish populations, suggesting a good fishing season between November and January 2018.
Migration: Migrant workers leaving farming areas in search of extra income will return to the land beginning in May-June to engage in farming activities for the new growing season. The average to above-average cash and in-kind earnings brought back by these workers will help ease hardships for their households during the lean season for farming populations between June and September. There will be a new wave of normal labor migration to urban areas of the country and neighboring countries beginning in October.
Labor: The average earnings from the normal types of farm labor between June and September and small trades engaged in by workers across the country will help improve the purchasing power of poor households dependent on these sources of income. However, the limited job opportunities for unskilled laborers (in construction, the small trades sector, etc.) in northern regions of the country and river delta areas of the Mopti region where crop production is down as a result of the security situation in these areas will drive income levels below-average.
Wild plant foods: The expected average to above-average levels of rainfall in all parts of the country will guarantee normal plant growth and development providing supplies of wild plant foods such as water lilies, wild fonio, and cram cram grass. The average to above-average yields of these wild plant foods will help bridge household food shortages during the lean season between August and October.
Agropastoral lean season: The average to good food availability from crop production and good pastoral conditions across the country re will translate into a normal agropastoral lean season for most of the country’s population. In general, as usual, the agropastoral lean season will run from June through September. However, with the premature depletion of their food stocks, poor rice-farming populations in certain riverine areas of Mopti, Timbuktu, and Gao have been in the midst of an earlier than usual lean season since February, whose severity will be heightened by the seasonal rise in food prices. The new pasture growth as of June-July and the availability of early crops in September will help end the lean season by improving the food supplies and incomes of pastoral and agropastoral households. The deliveries of humanitarian food assistance beginning in June will ease food access problems for poor households.
Markets and prices
Cereal markets: There will be adequate supplies on cereal markets across the country, even in insecure areas, where there will be occasional disruptions in trade flows. The seasonal rise in prices already underway will continue through September, fueled by the additional demand for Ramadan. Ongoing humanitarian food assistance programs by the government and its humanitarian partners (distributions of free food rations and subsidized sales) in northern high-consumption areas will extend through the month of September, with a buffer effect on the rising prices of foodstuffs between June and October. Based on its main technical analysis of historical price trends and current market dynamics, FEWS NET is assuming that millet prices will stay near to slightly above-average between June and September in southern areas of the country and above-average in northern anomaly areas. The availability of fresh crops from the expected average to above-average October harvests will ease market demand, triggering a seasonal decline in cereal prices to average or below-average levels.
Livestock prices: Livestock prices should stay above-average, fueled by the generally average to good pastoral conditions across the country and a sustained average demand. The poor condition of animal herds in pastoral areas of the Gao and Timbuktu regions due to the poor pastoral conditions and security problems in these areas depressing demand will drive down livestock prices to below-average levels. The rebound in pastoral conditions with the beginning of the rains as of June-July, improving the physical condition of livestock, and the high demand for livestock for the observance of Ramadan in June and the celebration of Tabaski in September will drive prices back up, which should generally stay above the five-year average.
Civil security issues: The security situation is still marred by the attacks by armed groups in the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions and northern Mopti and Ségou regions, which are interfering with the movement of people and their goods. This instability could continue in localized areas of the country throughout the outlook period from June 2017 through January 2018.
Population movements: The ongoing security incidents in northern and central areas of the country are continuing to displace local populations to more secure areas. According to the UNOCHA, as of the end of May, approximately 22,300 residents of the Ménaka area and slightly more in central areas of the country had fled to more secure areas to escape the fighting.
Humanitarian operations: The national response plan devised by the government and its partners provides for the delivery of food assistance to approximately 900,000 recipients located mainly in the Timbuktu and Gao regions on account of the poor crop production and effects of the residual security problems in these areas, which are continuing to undermine the socioeconomic situation of local households. There will be distributions of four months’ worth of free half-rations and full rations of cereals, pulses, and oil over the course of the lean season between June and September. These distributions of food supplies will be paralleled by recovery and resilience-building efforts involving distributions of and/or subsidies for seeds, fertilizer, and animal feed and herd rebuilding and cash transfer programs for approximately 2,400,000 recipients.
Most likely food security outcomes
Near to slightly-above-average cereal prices, favorable terms of trade for livestock/cereals from the standpoint of pastoralists, and the availability of in-kind payments for farm labor are giving agropastoral and pastoral households across the country average food access. As a result, most agropastoral households around the country were experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity in June 2017.
The premature depletion of their food stocks with the large shortfalls in crop production in riverine areas of the Gao and Timbuktu regions, parts of the Inner Niger Delta area of Mopti, and the Koulikoro area of the Western Sahel have made poor households market dependent for their food supplies longer than usual, by as early as February rather than by March-April, as is normally the case. The high poor food consumption scores of 23.4 percent in riverine areas, 12.5 percent in the Niger Delta area, and 15.8 percent in the Western Sahel since February will steadily worsen, though only to a limited extent on account of the ongoing humanitarian assistance programs. The need for extra income created by their market dependence at a time of year normally marked by rising food prices is causing poor households to resort to atypical coping strategies involving migration, cutbacks in nonfood spending, and wage labor, which will put them in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity between June and September 2017.
The decline in animal production and poor physical condition of livestock in pastoral Gourma areas of the Timbuktu and Gao regions have reduced pastoral incomes and weakened terms of trade for goats/cereals, which is negatively affecting the market access of poor pastoral households. Their atypical sales of livestock to make up for their lower prices and abnormal recourse to borrowing will put poor pastoral households in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity between June and September.
Very poor households in anomaly areas of the country unable to meet their food needs without outside assistance will be in a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situation during the lean season, though their numbers do not meet the 20 percent threshold requirement for downgrading any particular area to this phase of food insecurity.
The availability of green crops, animal products, and wild plant foods by the end of September will improve food availability and household food access. The availability of home-grown crops, though limited, in-kind payments from work in the harvest, and the decline in cereal prices will enable households to meet their food needs without resorting to atypical coping strategies. As a result, most pastoral and agropastoral households will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between October and January. However, poor flood-stricken households and households of returning DPs and refugees will find it difficult to adequately cover the cost of food supplies and of rebuilding their livelihoods and, thus, will be in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity by January.
Table 1: Possible events in the next eight months that could change the outlook
Impacts on food security conditions
Flooding between July and August
The heavy losses of crops and assets will negatively affect food availability and household livelihoods. The resulting production shortfall or lack of crop production would make flood-stricken households food-insecure.
Inadequate rainfall or premature end of the rains in August/September
Inadequate rainfall or an earlier than usual end of the rains will have a negative effect on crop and animal production and expose households to food insecurity. The resulting contraction in cereal supplies would contribute to the rise in prices and negatively affect household market access.
Northern Mali (livelihood zones 3 and 4), Niger River Delta, and Dogon Plateau (livelihood zones 5 and 6)
Heavy damage from crop predators (grain-eating birds, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and plant lice)
Heavy damage to mature crops from grain-eating birds between September and January may limit cereal availability in these areas and prematurely drive up prices, which would curtail the food access of poor households. Crop damage from grasshoppers in the Western Sahel, the Lake area, and the Dogon Plateau area will have the same effect.
Timbuktu, Kidal, Gao, Mopti, and Ségou regions
Escalation in security incidents
Repeated attacks by Jihadist groups in the southern part of the country would hamper farming activities and hurt employment prospects, limiting job opportunities for farm laborers and crop production in affected farming areas.
Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions
Disruption or suspension of humanitarian assistance programs between July and September
The disruption or suspension of humanitarian operations would aggravate food access problems for area households, increasing their recourse to atypical coping strategies and weakening the nutritional situation in these areas.
SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR
Source: FEWS NET
Figure 1. Trends in terms of trade for goats/millet (kg/animal)
Source: FEWS NET
Figure 2. Probability of the most likely rainfall category between June and August 2017
Figure 3. Probability of the most likely rainfall category between July and September 2017
Figure 4. Probability of the most likely rainfall category between June and August 2017
Source: Agence Nationale de la Météorologie - Mali
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.