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Crop failures in the South result in worsening food security outcomes

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Madagascar
  • August 2016
Crop failures in the South result in worsening food security outcomes

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through January 2017
  • Key Messages
    • 2015/16 crop production across southern Madagascar failed or was very poor, depending on the area, due to the effects of last season’s drought. As this follows two previous years of below-average crop production, which caused households to deplete their resources, poor households are expected to have limited capacity to cope. Consequently, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected through the end of the lean season in February 2017 with consumption gaps and elevated levels of acute malnutrition likely.

    • In western areas, the currently observed Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity that was caused by the effects of below-average maize and rice harvests earlier in the year will soon improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) with new cash crop and cassava harvests that will provide additional food and income for poor households.

    • In other areas of the country, average to above-average cassava harvests are ongoing. This, coupled with the recent rice harvest and typical livelihood activities, will ensure seasonally normal food consumption. Consequently, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity is expected to continue in most of these areas.

    Current Situation
    North and central areas

    Crop production: July and August is the typical harvest period for cassava in much of Madagascar, outside of western areas where the harvest starts in November. In most areas, the ongoing cassava harvest was near average. This follows a relatively average to above-average rice harvest earlier in the year.

    Food sources: In most areas of the country, households are relying on their own cassava production to meet food needs. Exceptions, however, are western areas where households normally continue to rely on their maize and rice production from earlier in the year. However, this year, those staple food stocks have already been depleted due to below-average crop production in the West, causing households in these areas to rely on alternative food sources.

    Southern areas with a focus on Androy and parts of Atsimo Andrefana region

    Crop production: In southern Madagascar, a severe drought during the 2015/16 agricultural season resulted in poor to failed maize harvests across much of the region. This poor harvest follows two consecutive years of below-average production in 2014 and 2015, which caused households to rely on atypical coping strategies and deplete their assets. Similar to other parts of Madagascar, this zone typically harvests cassava between July and August and is normally considered a cassava surplus production zone. However, cassava harvests this year were very poor due to the drought conditions. Sweet potato production levels were better but were still well below average.

    Looking forward to the next agricultural season, a lack of cassava cuttings from this year’s harvest is preventing households from planting cassava at this period, which could negatively affect next year’s production.

    Food sources: While in a typical year, most households are able to rely on own production of maize, sweet potatoes, cowpeas and cassava to cover their needs from April through November, this year only a few households can rely on their own production, which is mainly comprising of sweet potatoes. Food stocks have already depleted about three to four months earlier than usual, causing households to be market dependent at this time.

    Coping strategies: To cope with the effects of the drought on household food and income sources, many households are cutting non-food expenditures, begging, and intensifying the sale of remaining animals (poultry in Tsihombe and goats and lambs in Ambovombe and Amboasary), forest products (ex. firewood and cactus peas), and  household items. In Amboasary Atsimo, Ambovombe, Tsihombe, and Beloha, increased levels of migration from villages to the district capitals continue as households desperately look for labor opportunities to get cash for market food purchases. However, these efforts are not fully enabling households to cover basic needs and as a result, households are decreasing the frequency and quantity of meals.

    Nutrition: During the week of June 20, 2016, UNICEF conducted a door-to-door malnutrition screening using Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) in nine districts in Southern Madagascar. The screening included 185,504 children aged 6-59 months, and found that 8,540 children suffered from global acute malnutrition (5.0 percent).  Screenings conducted from April 2015 – June 2016 have shown a decrease in the percentage of children suffering from GAM in most districts except Tsihombe, where 13 percent of screened children were acutely malnourished in June 2016. It should be noted, however, that the 2015 lean season also saw elevated levels of acute food insecurity due to below-average crop production and therefore should not be considered as an average, reference year. Additionally, the decline in the percentage of acutely malnourished children during the first half of 2016 is likely partially driven by seasonal trends, as GAM typically declines during the post-harvest period.

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not affected most of the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of October 2016 to January 2017.

    Projected Outlook through January 2017

    Through January 2017, households in most northern, eastern and central areas of the country will remain in Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity because of a near-average staple food production and typical livelihood activities. However, households in the western part of the country who experienced below-average rice and maize production will likely remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until the October to January period when harvests of cassava and increased levels of cash crop sales improve food availability and access.

    In the Androy region and parts of the Ampanihy district located on the coast and in Betioky Atsimo, the 2016/2017 lean season has already begun, several months earlier than usual. Although households will continue to try to cope through wild foods, humanitarian assistance, and remittances, they will likely be unable to meet basic needs and will continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity or higher. The worst outcomes are expected in Tsihombe where the impacts of several consecutive years of drought have been particularly severe. In this district, households will face larger food consumption gaps and/or will experience an extreme loss of livelihood assets during the peak of the lean season and will likely be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Urgent humanitarian assistance is required to reduce food consumption gaps, rebuild livelihoods, and treat acute malnutrition for these populations.

    Figures Figure 1. Global acute malnutrition (GAM) estimates for southern Madagascar during 2015 and 2016 years, based on screening da

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Global acute malnutrition (GAM) estimates for southern Madagascar during 2015 and 2016 years, based on screening data of children 6 to 59 months using mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC)

    Source: UNICEF/National Nutrition Office/Ministry of Public Health

    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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