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Cassava harvests offer marginal improvements in southwestern Madagascar as the lean season begins

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Madagascar
  • August 2022
Cassava harvests offer marginal improvements in southwestern Madagascar as the lean season begins

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Ongoing humanitarian assistance is currently mitigating worst food security outcomes in Betioky and Ampanihy districts, some of the hardest hit by this year’s severe drought, resulting in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes. Given the significant shocks to these areas in recent years – including drought and well below-average maize and cassava harvests, households’ ability to employ coping strategies is severely limited. In the absence of humanitarian assistance, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes will likely emerge in southwestern Madagascar during the 2022/23 lean season.

    • Households in the Grand South are now accessing cassava and sweet potato harvests from own production as harvesting is ongoing. However, root and tuber production is expected to be below average due to limited access to inputs and poor soil moisture conditions, which developed in southwestern Madagascar during the severe drought. According to the 2022 cassava production forecast by the Malagasy Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MINAE), Atsimo Andrefana region is expected to be worst-affected and cassava production in this region is projected to be 11 percent below last year and 41 percent below the most recent three-year average. Cyclone impacts in the Vatovavy Fitovinany region are also expected to reduce this year’s cassava harvest by 8 percent compared to last year and 49 percent compared to the most recent three-year average. 

    • Food prices for cereals (rice and maize) and pulses (cowpeas) have continued to rise in key reference markets since June. Dried cassava and groundnut prices have also been trending upwards seasonally across markets, reflecting declining stock levels following the maize harvest and before the start of the cassava harvest. Food prices are consistently above 2021 and five-year average levels across crucial reference markets, especially in the Grand South. In Toliara market, the price of maize increased by 21 percent from June to July while trending at 15 percent above 2021 levels and 103 percent above the five-year average. Meanwhile, prices in July of dried cassava and local rice were 82 and 14 percent above last year, respectively, and 211 and 48 percent above the five-year average, respectively.  

    • Forecasts indicate that average rainfall is most likely across the Grand South at the outset of the 2022/23 rainy season, supporting an on-time start to the agricultural season. Soil moisture deficits must still be overcome, but rainfall should improve agricultural labor opportunities, as compared to last year. However, multiple years of drought, limited access to agricultural inputs, and higher than normal prices are all expected to lead to below-average agricultural labor opportunities and hence reduced income levels for poor households in the Grand South. 


    Many poor households in drought-stricken southern areas have depleted or fully exhausted their maize reserves and have been relying on humanitarian assistance, supplemented by market purchases to meet their food needs. According to key informants, households are experiencing earlier than normal dependence on the markets given significant reductions in maize production.

    In the cassava and sweet potato-producing areas of southern Madagascar, households have started accessing crops from the main harvest. Persistent food consumption gaps following the poor maize harvest led some households to harvest a portion of these crops earlier than normal, before they had reached full maturity, reducing yields. In addition, below average soil moisture across the southwest has negatively impacted crop development such that total production is expected to be well below average, with districts in Atsimo Andrefana and Androy worst-affected (Figure 1). Coastal Vatovavy Fitovinany region has also seen negative impacts as excess moisture and flooding during the 2022 cyclone season resulted in rotted roots. However, Anosy region, a major producer of roots and tubers for markets across the Grand South, saw relatively better rainfall throughout the year and should see near-average production.

    The supply of food commodities like maize, rice, and cassava is around average in most markets across the country, except in the Grand South, where staple supplies are below average due to limited production this year and high transportation costs. These limitations are driving high prices and negatively impacting household purchasing power. In Toliara market in the Grand South, for example, the price of maize in July increased by 21 percent since June and remained 15 percent above last year and 103 percent above the five-year average. Local rice was 14 percent above last year and 48 percent above the five-year average. The price of dried cassava was 82 percent above last year and 211 percent above the five-year average (Figure 2). Disposable income continues to be eroded by increasing inflation rates across key commodities as well as other goods and services.

    Although the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions is allowing for more movement and the possibility of seasonal labor migration, cyclone impacts in eastern Madagascar have damaged or completely destroyed major cash crops, including pepper, vanilla, clove, coffee, and fruit trees, with localized areas reporting total write-offs. A post-disaster assessment carried out in southeastern Madagascar by FAO and MINAE, in collaboration with the Madagascar Vulnerability Analysis Committee and the Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster reported that cash crops (banana, coffee, cloves, lychee, vanilla) were negatively affected, limiting employment opportunities and household income for the rest of the year due to the absence or sharp reduction in production. For example, across the regions, the percentage of households that reported total loss for coffee ranged between 9 and 63 percent, with the highest percentage of households reported in Nosy Varika and Vohipeno at 63 and 61 percent respectively. The average area damaged by the cyclones for vanilla was 76.5 percent while for clove was 49.4 percent and 73 percent of the cropped area for coffee was damaged. Northern Madagascar, which also saw excess rainfall from the passage of tropical storms, experienced significantly less crop damage, allowing for slightly below-normal labor demand to continue in these areas. Nevertheless, given the reductions in labor demand in the east, limited opportunities in the south, and high fuel prices constraining some poorer households in pursuing seasonal migration, agricultural labor income is below average.

    Livestock sales and associated income are also below average. Poorer households, who often rely on poultry and usually have one or two goats, are left hardly with any livestock due to desperate sales in the previous years following consecutive years of drought. In the Ground South, below-average pasture availability because of the severe drought experienced earlier is driving below-average livestock body conditions and below-average livestock prices. Cattle and goat sales are currently seasonally low as they usually peak between December and February households are looking for income to purchase food and agricultural inputs during the peak of the lean season.

    Humanitarian assistance plans have been extended at similar levels through October 2022. The assistance will cover a significant percentage of the population in Amboasary, Ampanihy, Betioky, and Bekily, covering 50 percent of kilocalorie needs in Amboasary, Betioky, and Bekily, and covering 100 percent of kilocalorie needs for targeted households in Ampanihy. mitigating worse outcomes in these areas. 


    Most of the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET's most likely scenario for the Madagascar Food Security Outlook for June 2022 to January 2023 remain unchanged except for the following:

    • Rainfall: Through January 2023, below-average rainfall is most likely in eastern Madagascar, negatively impacting the secondary rice harvest in this area, while average precipitation is likely expected throughout the rest of the country.
    • Cyclones: Beginning in December 2022, there is an increased likelihood of an above-average number of cyclones strikes in Madagascar. Although the current rainfall forecasts anticipate average accumulations across most of Madagascar, a single cyclone strike can completely change expected seasonal rainfall accumulations.


    Without a continuation of humanitarian food assistance past October, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely to emerge in southwestern Madagascar, following severe drought and extremely low maize, cassava, and sweet potato harvests. As poorer households exhaust their limited harvests and face below-average labor demand and income expectations, with limited capacity to cope after multiple consecutive drought years, their access to food will further deteriorate with the progression of the lean season. Poorer households are expected to employ unsustainable consumption and livelihood coping strategies, such as reducing the frequency and quantity of meals, intensifying petty trade, informal mining, atypical migration, and charcoal and wild food selling, as well as increasing desperate sales of productive and non-productive assets. However, their capacity to cope has been greatly reduced after multiple consecutive years of drought.

    Average rainfall is most likely across the Grand South at the outset of the rainfall season, supporting an on-time start to the agricultural season once lingering soil moisture deficits have been reduced. An average rainfall season is likely to improve local agricultural labor opportunities, as compared to last year. Typically, very poor households in southwestern Madagascar earn around 80 percent of their annual income from local agricultural labor and poor households earn around 40 percent. However, below-average access to agricultural inputs, due largely to high fertilizer prices and to back-to-back droughts reducing seed availability are likely to constrain agricultural labor opportunities to below average, thereby reducing income levels for poorer households. Furthermore, income generated from self-employment activities, such as the sale of firewood and charcoal, is expected to be slightly below average as higher than average engagement by poorer households as a coping strategy, combined with below-average consumer demand given low income, is expected to reduce prices.

    Across most of the Grand South, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to persist throughout the annual lean season. Areas worst affected by the above-average 2022 cyclone season are expected to slowly recover, but still experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, although pockets of households will likely continue in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in these areas due to crop and infrastructure losses. In the rest of the country, near-average production and near-normal incomes will continue to drive Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through January 2023.  


    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a typical year


    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: MINAE

    Figure 3

    Figure 2

    Source: WFP

    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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