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Rainfall between October and December 2021 registered as among the driest starts of season on the 40-year historical record, driving drought conditions to start the season. Forecasts now call for below-average rainfall across Madagascar between December 2021 and March 2022, most notably for southwestern Madagascar. The exception to this is in the east, where average rainfall is forecast.
Given the low rainfall to date and forecast for poor rainfall for the remainder of the season in all areas except eastern Madagascar, main-season rice production in May is likely to be below-average nationally. Maize production in the south is expected to be significantly below-average, and cassava production in the south, southeast, and central Madagascar is likely to be below average. Agricultural labor opportunities will likely be below-average across much of the country, driving lower than normal income from this source. In the south, the income earned from agricultural labor will likely be minimal.
In the south, humanitarian food assistance is playing a significant role in mitigating the severity of food insecurity, and assistance delivery is expected to continue through April 2022. Poor households will likely experience Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) as humanitarian assistance mitigates food consumption gaps throughout the projection period. However, some poor households are still expected to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).
In the rest of the country, widespread Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected through May, though an increasing number of very poor worst-affected households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). These are households worst affected by the poor rainfall who have lost access to typical agricultural labor income.
Rainfall and cropping progress: Rainfall between October and December 2021, the start of the October to March main season, is among the driest starts of season on the 40-year historical record, driving drought conditions to start the season (Figure 1). Between October 1 and December 31, most areas of central, northern, and western Madagascar had received around 200-400 mm of rainfall, somewhat below the 500-600 mm that is typical by this time. Rainfall deficits are more significant in southern and some eastern parts of the country, with Toliara Province recording around 165 mm on average by the end of December, nearly half of the 300 mm typically received by this time. The very poor start to the 2021/22 season follows consecutive below-average seasons over the past six years.
In many central, western, and southern areas, off-season rice, green maize, fruits, and vegetables are typically harvested in December, but key informants suggest the ongoing harvest is significantly below-average. Similar sources report that agricultural labor opportunities in these rural areas are also very low.
The persistent drought conditions in southern parts of the country have broadly been insufficient for most main season planting activities. Most planted crops in southern and western areas were planted late and are between germination and early vegetative stages. Reports from key informants also indicate some crops were destroyed by the drought. In central, eastern, and northern areas of the country, rainfall deficits also exist, but the overall aggregate rainfall amounts have been sufficient for near-normal planting, and satellite-derived analysis indicates that planted crops are in good condition.
Labor opportunities: Typically, at this time of year, poor households across most of the country engage in agricultural labor (planting and weeding) for income. Agricultural labor typically earns more income than casual non-agricultural labor. But given the drought, poor households in southern areas are engaged primarily in non-agricultural casual labor (selling water and charcoal; informal/illegal mining). Overall income from these activities is very low, and FEWS NET would estimate sufficient to buy only one bag (25 kgs) of maize grain per month. Conversely, in eastern and northern areas where crop conditions are relatively good, poor households are engaging in agricultural labor and earning income at near-normal levels.
Livestock: Cattle trade now requires authorization papers from the veterinary service and district administration officers. Unfortunately, staff from these two key departments are on strike, and legal cattle trade has been affected. Farmers who want to sell their cattle have resorted to informal trade at lower prices than average. In addition, the current drought conditions are affecting pasture and water resources, resulting in a drop in cattle quality and prices.
Food prices: Both local and imported rice prices seasonally increased slightly from October and are above the five-year average. In December, imported rice prices were 10 percent above last year due to the combined impact of COVID-19 supply disruptions, low 2021 production, and high global commodity prices. Monthly maize prices rose sharply in December due to the combined effects of low domestic supplies and a seasonal increase in demand for planting. Since August, industrial demand for beer and feed production is also putting persistent upward pressure on prices. Dried cassava prices have been generally stable across most of the country, with slight declines from the five-year average. However, in the south, dried cassava prices increased in December and remain above last year, and the five-year average due to reduced supplies and increased demand fueled in part by the large-scale cash transfer program.
Security: In Southern Madagascar, despite the government's effort, bandit attacks have increased between October and November and are higher than last year. The latest attack resulted in the death of a cash distribution agent and other injuries. In Tranomaro, a commune of Amboasary Atsimo, the UN classified the security situation as concerning, leading to some disruption to assistance distribution. In addition, robberies have increased, especially of cattle, linked to the consecutive droughts, cash distributions, and restrictions on cattle movent.
Humanitarian assistance: While recent distribution reports are not available to FEWS NET, available information continues to suggest that large-scale humanitarian food assistance is ongoing across southern Madagascar. According to the preliminary results of a SMART survey conducted in November 2021, between 30 and 75 percent of households in the south received food assistance equivalent to roughly a half-ration for a household of five members or cash assistance of 100,000 Malagasy ariary (MGA). This level of aid is estimated at almost double that of the same period in November 2020. In addition, large-scale malnutrition treatment and prevention programs are ongoing across the south.
Current food security outcomes in the south: In addition to the food security outcomes as reported by the CFSAM and available in the FEWS NET's October Food Security Outlook, preliminary results from the November 2021 SMART survey suggest a large proportion of the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, with some likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Around 30 percent of the population surveyed reported a Poor Food Consumption Score (FCS), indicating both poor dietary diversity and low food intake. The reporting of a Poor FCS did not deviate significantly from the reporting of this indicator at the same time last year (Figure 2). Roughly 3 percent of respondents reported severe hunger based on the Household Hunger Scale (HHS), while around 45 percent reported a moderate HHS. Trends in the reporting of moderate and severe hunger are somewhat mixed relative to the same time last year, but most southern areas reported higher levels of hunger this year (Figure 3).
The November 2021 SMART survey also collected data on malnutrition and mortality. Across surveyed areas in the South, the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) as measured by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ) was over 5 percent and under 10 percent, indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. The crude death rate and under-five death rate pointed to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or better outcomes.
Due to the impacts of persistent drought in southern parts of the country, which has, in turn, led to low off-season production and minimal agricultural labor activities, it is likely food security has somewhat deteriorated since November. While seasonal deterioration in food security would typically be likely during this time period, deterioration in food security has likely been greater than is typical given the compounding impacts of consecutive years of drought and COVID-19 related income losses. Household purchasing power is low given low income and high food prices, limiting market food access for hundreds of thousands of households with no food stocks. Ongoing large-scale humanitarian assistance continues to play a large role in mitigating the severity of outcomes, though available data continues to suggest that poor dietary diversity, low food intake, and moderate hunger persist. Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected across much of southern Madagascar. In Farafangana and Vangaindrano, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely.
In the rest of Madagascar, most households are still consuming own-produced staple foods. The near-normal start of the season is driving engagement in agricultural labor activities. However, for some very poor households worst-affected by dry conditions, income from these opportunities are below average, and due to this lower income there is likely an increase in the population facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3), though area-level outcomes remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1).
The following assumptions have been updated from FEWS NET's most likely scenario for the period of October 2021 to May 2022
- 2021/2022 rainy season: Forecasts available from FEWS NET's science partners (USGS, NOAA, UCSB CHC) now call for below-average rainfall across Madagascar between December 2021 and March 2022, most notably for southwestern Madagascar. However, the exception to this is in the east, where average rainfall is forecast.
- Staple food production: The December to February off-season harvest is expected to be below average. Furthermore, given the low rainfall to date and forecast for poor rainfall for the remainder of the season in all areas except the east, main-season rice production in May is also likely to be below-average nationally. Maize production in the south is expected to be significantly below-average, and cassava, mainly grown in the south, southeast, and central Madagascar, is expected to be below average.
- Agricultural labor: Through the rest of the season, agricultural labor opportunities will be below-average across much of the country, driving lower than normal income from this source. In the south, the income earned from this source will be minimal, as production will be most adversely affected here. Conversely, in eastern and northern areas of the country, agricultural labor income is expected to be near-average primarily due to the somewhat more favorable rainfall to date and forecasts.
- Food prices: With below-average production expectations for off-season and main season harvests, market supply will tighten, and prices for local rice, cassava, and maize are expected to remain elevated and above average. Reduced cassava market supplies in the south will drive continued high prices and narrow the gap with imported rice prices. Maize prices will remain high and track import parity levels during the projection period.
- Livestock movement and price: Due to the expectation of limited pasture and a more limited ability to sell livestock due to the new trade restrictions, income from livestock sales is likely to be below normal during the projection period, in particular in the South.
- COVID-19: The COVID-19 virus has been widespread in Madagascar, and the daily rate of infection has been increasing since mid-November. Given the economic impacts of previous lockdowns, the government will likely introduce localized restrictions and avoid actions that will drive further declines in the macroeconomy.
- Migratory labor: Income from migratory labor is expected to be below normal and below last year due to the current drought and forecast for below-average rainfall through May 2022. Migration for labor will likely increase from Menabe, Vakinankaratra, Ihorombe, and Vatovavy regions, where rainfall deficits persist, and local labor opportunities will be limited. Many people will most likely migrate to Analanjirofo, Sofia, Diana, and Sava region. The decline in demand for cash crops and tourism due to the pandemic will further lower labor demand. The overall higher competition for migratory labor will likely decrease the total income earned by poor households and local remittances.
Contrary to earlier projections of average rains for October to December, southern, central, and western parts of Madagascar experienced a very erratic start of season and drought conditions. In the south, most notably, this has resulted in further reductions in income, as minimal opportunities are available. While poor households are expected to engage in non-agricultural casual labor, total income earned will be far lower than that of typical income from agricultural labor during normal seasons. While these income sources are now lower than previously expected, their total contribution to food and income during this time is relatively low as humanitarian food assistance is playing the most significant role in mitigating the severity of outcomes, and assistance delivery is expected to continue through April 2022. Poor households will likely experience Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) as humanitarian assistance mitigates food consumption gaps through the peak of the 2021/2022 lean season. Households who do not have access to humanitarian food assistance and limited ability to access income, primarily in worst-affected areas of Ambovombe, Ampanihy, Tsihombe, Amboasary, Beloha, Taolagnaro, and Toliara II, are expected to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Some households are expected to face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in parts of Bekily, Ambovombe, Tshiombe, and Amboasary, where access to humanitarian assistance and income is extremely limited, and some populations do not have the ability to migrate to more urban areas to access food or income.
In northern, central, western, and eastern Madagascar, rainfall forecasts deviate somewhat, and given the forecast, agricultural labor opportunities are expected to be somewhat lower than usual in all areas but the east and north. This will result in lower income-earning and overall lower food access through markets for some. However, income will still be earned through agricultural labor, even if lower than usual. This, alongside carry-over stocks from past favorable seasons, near average food prices, and available fruit and vegetable crops, area-level outcomes will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through May. An increasing number of very poor worst-affected households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), though, specifically those in areas worst-affected by deficits and unable to access sufficient labor.
Source: Climate Hazards Center UCSB
Source: Madagascar National Vulnerability Assessment Committee (NVAC), November 2021
Source: Madagascar National Vulnerability Assessment Committee (NVAC), November 2021
This monthly report covers current conditions as well as changes to the projected outlook for food insecurity in this country. It updates FEWS NET’s quarterly Food Security Outlook. Learn more about our work here.