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Broad improvements in food availability and consumption following harvests

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Madagascar
  • April 2023
Broad improvements in food availability and consumption following harvests

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2023
  • Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance
  • Key Messages
    • Through April 2023, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected to persist across the Grand South as humanitarian assistance continues to mitigate worse outcomes at the tail end of the lean season. With the onset of the main harvest, however, outcomes are expected to improve gradually in the coming months to broadly Stressed (IPC Phase 2), as household access to food improves significantly with maize, legume, sweet potato, and cassava harvests. Despite the positive rainfall year, some erratic rainfall distribution and limited access to seed have limited anticipated yields and harvests, and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to re-emerge in the worst-affected areas of the Grand Southwest by July or August.

    • In the Grand Southeast, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are currently ongoing as cyclone recovery slowly proceeds. The upcoming rice harvest, due in May and June, will likely be below average in these areas due to the passage of Tropical Storm Freddy, but it will still provide some relief to food insecure households, as will root and tuber crops and some short-cycle crops that have been planted since Freddy hit. Nevertheless, isolated areas with limited market function and fewer opportunities to recover livelihoods, particularly in Befotaka, Midongy Atsimo, and Ikongo, are likely to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes should humanitarian assistance not continue past the rice harvest. In both regions, below-normal expected crop production will deplete quickly, resulting in an atypically early start of the annual lean season for most poorer households.

    • In most areas of the Grand South, rainfall performance during the 2022/23 season was near-average or even above average, supporting the development of crops for the agricultural season. However, limited access to seed for most poorer households reduced cropped area and anticipated harvests, while dry spells and erratic rainfall in localized areas of the Grand Southwest, as well as localized locust and army worm outbreaks, negatively impacted crop yields in affected areas. This year’s maize harvest is therefore expected to last 1-3 months, representing an improvement over recent drought years, but still below average. A similar trend is expected for root and tuber crops across not only the Grand South but also the Grand Southeast, where rice harvests have been somewhat impacted by recent storms but will remain only slightly below average.

    • At the national level, headline inflation rose to 12.4 percent in March, driven by the depreciation of the national currency as the import-dependent country continues to suffer a negative trade balance amid atypically high global prices. At the household level, above-average prices are putting pressure on budgets and limiting purchasing power, despite seasonal improvements in price. Markets in the Grand South are now beginning to see inflows of maize and legumes from the recent harvests, precipitating a seasonal decline in prices even as prices remain well above average given the shocks of recent years. However, households in the Grand Southeast are continuing to rely on market purchases to meet their food needs, with prices at their seasonal peak before the rice harvests begin. In localized areas with very poor accessibility following infrastructure damage from previous storms, prices are higher still as limits to market functions persist.

    Current Situation

    2022/23 main agricultural season harvest: The main harvest for cereal and legumes has now begun throughout the Grand South, gradually improving household access to food through own production and increased supply in local markets. Improved rainfall performance in the 2022/23 production season is driving relatively better harvests this year in comparison to recent years (Figure 1). However, overall maize and legume production remains below average due to seed access challenges, which led to lower-than-average cropped area, and due to some erratic distribution of rainfall throughout the course of the season – particularly in the Grand Southwest. As a result of near-normal rainfall, soil moisture conditions have rebounded following multiple years of drought, favoring the ongoing development of root and tuber crops, both in the Grand South and the Grand Southeast.

    Figure 1

    Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI) for maize, April 2023, Dekad 2
    Map showing positive WRSI for maize across nearly all of Madagascar, with localized areas in the Grand Southwest showing mediocre or poor conditions.

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    In the rest of the country, rainfall performance was near-normal, except for several areas in the northern part of the island, which received below-average cumulative rainfall. In the main rice producing areas in northern and central Madagascar, producers are preparing for the upcoming rice harvest, which will likely begin in May. Although localized areas impacted by floods and winds brought on by Tropical Storms Cheneso and Freddy saw some crop damage and losses, the vegetative stage of the rice at the time of the storms allowed for the recovery of most rice paddies prior to the harvest.

    Wild food availability: Throughout the Grand South, wild food availability remains below average, given the cumulative impacts of multiple years of drought. Nevertheless, as harvests begin to become available, households are beginning to rely on this food source less. Meanwhile, as rice harvests are not yet available in the Grand Southeast, poorer households remain heavily reliant on wild foods to meet their food needs. Breadfruits, jackfruits, and bananas were negatively impacted by the passage of Freddy in localized areas, forcing poor and very poor households in these areas to turn to other wild foods, such as ofitra, babangy, and the root of via, which can cause digestive issues or be dangerous to their health if they are not prepared correctly.

    Pasture and livestock body conditions and prices: In the Grand South, positive rainfall conditions have favored pasture regeneration, resulting in improved livestock body condition compared to the previous years during the drought. Prices of livestock have seasonally increased with the harvest, given improved body conditions and a seasonal increase in demand. FEWS NET price monitoring recorded increases of 23 percent for cattle and 13 percent for goats between March and April in Toliara, whereas the prices of cattle increased by 11 percent over the same period at Ihosy market.

    Labor opportunities and sources of income: Agricultural labor demand in the Grand South is seasonally increasing with the ongoing harvest and land preparation for off-season cultivation, at levels above recent drought years, but below average. To cope with below-average income, poorer households are increasingly engaging in alternative income-generating activities, such as selling charcoal and firewood, doing laundry, and engaging in informal mining. In addition, according to key informants, some households are taking advantage of recent locust outbreaks to sell fried or dried locusts at rates similar to the price of a cup of rice. In the Grand Southeast, labor opportunities are seasonally low before the rice harvest and current wage rates vary according to sex and activity. Women can earn between 2,000 and 3,000 MGA a day, whereas men can earn between 3,000 and 5,000 MGA a day. During the harvest, wage rates will even out for both sexes at 3,000 MGA per day, remaining below normal following the impacts of the recent tropical storms.

    Macroeconomic situation, market function, and staple food prices: Despite a generally favorable economic outlook and price ceilings imposed by the government in 2022, headline inflation has nearly doubled year-on-year, reaching 12.4 percent in March, putting pressure on household budgets, and limiting purchasing power. Although markets remain well supplied and are operating normally across most of the country, prices remain well above average. In localized areas in the Grand Southeast, significant infrastructure damage caused by both last year’s and this year’s cyclone seasons have limited market function and increased prices even further. Nonetheless, maize and legume harvests are now flowing into markets in the Grand South, improving supply and seasonally reducing prices, albeit at a lower rate than is typical, given below-average production and increased costs.  For example, in Amboasary Sud, the price of 1 kg of maize decreased by 33% from March to April, while rice prices remained stable as this harvest has not yet been released. Prices will, however, remain significantly above five-year average; in Ampanihy, cassava prices in March remain 25 percent higher than last year and 64 percent higher than the five years average.

    Humanitarian food assistance: Ongoing humanitarian food assistance is continuing to support vulnerable households through April 2023 and, in localized areas, through May 2023 due to earlier delays in the pipeline. Nearly 2 million beneficiaries are being targeted by humanitarian actors for cash transfers or general food distribution across the Grand South and Grand Southeast.

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal calendar for Madagascar

    Source: FEWS NET

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Madagascar Food Security Outlook for February to September 2023 remain unchanged, except for the following:

    • Following the passage of tropical storms during the 2022/23 cyclone season, affected areas planted short-cycle varieties of rice, cassava, and sweet potato. These short-cycle crops are currently in different vegetative states, and their upcoming harvests will partially offset crop losses from cyclone damage and extend the harvest seasons for rice and roots and tubers, encouraging a regular supply of local markets.
    • Following the harvest period, humanitarian food assistance is expected to decrease in coverage throughout the country, although assistance plans for May to September are not yet finalized.

    Projected Outlook through September 2023

    As maize and legume harvests become more available across the Grand South, access to food is expected to gradually increase as market supply increases driven by the main harvest and as demand for these commodities begins to reduce as households rely – for a period of time – on their own production. However, these positive impacts will not yet be widespread in April, leading to a continuation of Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes supported by ongoing humanitarian food assistance, during this month. Beginning in May, improvements to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) will slowly spread throughout the region, although pockets of households who were unable to sow crops this year due to limited access to seed or who saw significant damage due to pests, erratic rainfall, or other hazards are not likely to be able to meaningfully improve their outcomes even post-harvest. In the Grand Southeast, broadly Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely to persist through April. Should post-cyclone assistance not continue to be delivered in May, outcomes are expected to deteriorate for worst-affected households until the arrival of the rice harvest in late May and early June. Across the rest of the country, a majority of households will maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security, despite some rainfall deficits and damage caused by Tropical Storm Cheneso, given the broad diversity of typical livelihood strategies available to most households in these areas.

    Beginning in June, more widespread improvements across the country in market supply and access to food are expected as the main rice harvest begins to flow to markets. Food prices are expected to follow seasonal trends, declining soon after the harvest begins, allowing non-producing households to also benefit. In both the Grand South and the Grand Southeast, sweet potato and cassava harvests will also supply household reserves and markets from June or July through August or September. However, areas of the Grand Southwest, which have been worst affected by recurrent drought in recent years, are only likely to experience improvements to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes for a very limited period of time, given they will have some of the lowest yields in the region for maize and legumes, lasting as little as one month for some. It is likely that poorer households in these areas begin harvesting their root and tuber crops early once harvests from the main season deplete, reducing yields and resulting in sweet potato and cassava harvests lasting only through July. In the absence of humanitarian assistance, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to re-emerge by July or August. For the rest of the Grand South, poorer households will likely be able to meet their basic food needs through September but will struggle to meet their non-food needs such as firewood, agricultural inputs, health expenses, traditional obligations, etc., resulting in their classification as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) throughout the second outlook period. An earlier-than-usual start to the next annual lean season is most likely for poorer households across the region. Despite the sweet potato and cassava harvest in July, some areas of the Grand Southeast are at risk of deteriorating to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes between June and September, in the absence of humanitarian assistance, especially the districts far from the seaside and the Pangalanes channel, including Midongy Atsimo, Befotaka and Ikongo where accessibility is most difficult and where food and cash assistance are limited due to inaccessibility. For the rest of the Grand Southeast region, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are anticipated to persist as cyclone recovery progresses slowly and households cope with reduced local labor demand and reduced harvests. In northern and central Madagascar, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security will prevail through September, although pockets of households are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and even in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to the negative impacts of recent years of cyclones on cash crop labor opportunities (including for the production of vanilla, cloves, coffee, and pepper) and the lingering effects of the below average 2022/23 rainfall season.

    Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance

    Recommended Citation: FEWS NET. Madagascar Food Security Outlook Update, April 2023: Broad improvements in food availability and consumption following harvests, 2023. 

    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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