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Rainfall deficit in part of the Extreme South compromises the main cropping season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Madagascar
  • February - September 2020
Rainfall deficit in part of the Extreme South compromises the main cropping season

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • The 2019/2020 cyclone season is particularly intensive this year compared to previous years. Following Cyclone Belna in December 2019, a tropical disturbance formed in the Mozambique Channel in the third week of January 2020 and caused heavy, incessant rains and floods in northern parts of Madagascar.

    • Below normal cumulative rainfall and below-average vegetation have been recorded in southern Madagascar between October 2019 and February 2020, particularly in northern Amboasary and parts of Ambovombe, Tsihombe and Bekily.

    • The Fall Army Worm (FAW, Spodoptera Frugiperda) continues to infest cereal crops. Pest infestation rates remain high (80-90 percent) in Ambovombe district and dry conditions will likely result in significant losses and well below normal maize production.

    • Poor and very poor households in south and southwest Madagascar are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2), with humanitarian food assistance in Beloha, Tsihombe, and Ambovombe, are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), and households in Ampanihy remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to the emergency nutrition situation and the onset of the lean season.

    National Overview

    Current situation

    Rainy season progress: Below normal cumulative rainfall has been recorded in southern Madagascar between October 2019 and February 2020, particularly in northern Amboasary and some parts of Ambovombe, Tsihombe and Bekily. This occurred at the time when some maize crops had already been harvested but the majority were at flowering stage except in Ambovombe where some maize had just been sown. Cassava crops were in development and pulses were also at maturation stage. Dryness has led to the determination of drought likely. Based on remote-sensing data, vegetation in the South is below the median, about 70 percent of normal. In terms of absolute vegetation, remote-sensing data indicates greenness still exists. In contrast, northern Madagascar received well above-average rainfall, among the highest in some areas for that period, resulting in reports of flooding for several regions, including northern and central Madagascar.

    Cyclones and floods: The 2019/2020 cyclone season is particularly intensive. After the Cyclone Belna in December 2019, a tropical disturbance formed in the Mozambique Channel in the third week of January 2020 and caused heavy incessant rains and floods in northern parts of Madagascar. In total, 128,000 persons were affected in seven districts, which is about eight percent of total population in each district. In Mampikony district, however, the total affected population exceeds 20 percent of the total population. The main damages recorded were infrastructural such as road cuts (most of which have been restored), dike ruptures, classroom destruction and damage to homes and storage.

    Agricultural campaign: About 58,000 hectares of rice fields have been silted up or flooded as of January. Nine percent of the rice fields in the main rice producing area (Alaotra Mangoro region) remained under water for about two weeks after the heavy rains due to the failure of Tanambe dam in Amparafaravola district. This will likely have negative effects on the main rice season. Rainfall deficit in southern Madagascar, particularly in Betroka district, where most of maize sold in the Grand Sud comes from, has affected the cropping season. Elsewhere, normal rain allowed farmers to expand cropped areas and to insure the normal development of crops.

    Rice imports: On average, Madagascar imports around 360,000 metric tons (MT) of rice per marketing year to meet local demand, preference and to fill localized gaps. Imported rice volumes are most significant from November through April and typically enter the country through the three main ports of Fort-Dauphin, Tulear and Toamasina. India and Pakistan supply close to 80 percent of the imported rice in Madagascar. From June to December 2019, Madagascar imported near 257,000 MT, or 90 percent of 2019/2020 needs, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This quantity is similar to what was imported in 2018 but 40 percent above the five-year average of the same period. The most significant quantity was imported in June 2019, at the peak of harvest, in anticipation of the lean season.

    Export cash crops: Vanilla accounted for the fourth largest share of Madagascar’s export value in 2019. Vanilla crops are currently flowering and will be mature in June-July. Depending on expected production, market prices will be fixed at the end of April but will likely decrease because of reduced quality as well as the projected 20 percent decline of international prices. In the meantime, the government issued a public notice setting the minimum FOB export reference price at USD 350 per kilo and the local market reference price at MGA 900,000 per kilo. These prices are slightly higher than in 2019 but remain nearly half of 2018 prices. Due to favorable rainfall, litchi production was above average, bringing income to small farmers on the east coast of Madagascar.  Annual production is around 100,000 MT on average while the exported quantity is capped at 18,000 MT. Litchis are mainly exported to the European market, but some are also traded to Russia and Saudi Arabia. Consumer prices increased in 2019 compared to 2018. As with other cash crops, such as clover, pepper, cinnamon and Ylang Ylang, the growing global demand will support steady price increases.

    Livestock body condition: Livestock body condition was good in southern Madagascar in early January 2020. Herd sizes increased compared to previous years as pastoralists restocked during the post-harvest period. Observed herd sizes varied between 14 and 60 animals, including among poor households. Pastures are generally in good condition, with the exception of northern MG24, in Betroka and Amboasary. Cattle are also fed with both fruit peels and cactus leaves.

    Wild food availability and consumption: In southern Madagascar, yellow cactus fruit (Opuntia Fiscusindica) is largely available in fields and at the markets. Mangoes have been available for longer than usual because of the above-normal rain before December 2019 at the time of their flowering and maturation. Yams and other wild tubers are also available but to a lesser extent compared to previous years due to deforestation.  Other wild food, such as Malagasy prune (lamonty), continue to contribute to a near normal part of very poor and poor households’ food in southern Madagascar in January 2020. It is consumed to complement meals. In southeast Madagascar, poor households also currently consume breadfruit. In this area, wild food consumption is near normal.

    Livestock prices in Southern Madagascar: Livestock sales have slightly increased from October 2019 to January 2020 because households relied more on markets as their own production stock depleted. Nevertheless, no abnormal sales have been reported. Cattle prices across markets in the South decreased slightly by six percent and small ruminants decreased by nine percent compared to the last quarter because of the lean season. Nevertheless, prices remained above last year and five-year average levels. Price trends improved household income compared to previous years and improved food access as well.

    Macroeconomic context: The exchange rate between the Malagasy Ariary and the US dollar slightly improved by two percent between September 2019 and January 2020 but declined by four and 28 percent compared to January 2019 and October 2014 respectively. The depreciation of Malagasy Ariary has negative impacts on domestic prices of imported food and non-food products and is hampering purchasing power of local producers. According to INSTAT, the Consumer Price Index in Madagascar increased by 0.4 percent on average per month in 2019. The national Inflation rate slightly decreased to five percent between November 2018 and November 2019. Food price inflation was 4 percent, which was lower than that of electricity and petroleum, which were nine percent. Prices overall in Madagascar increased by 24 percent in the last three years.

    Prices of staple foods: In general, staple food prices in most markets were below last year’s level throughout Madagascar in December 2019, due to the improvement in supply. While cereal prices were above the five-year average, except in the South, tuber prices were below average. The main reasons for above-average cereal prices are the below-average production of maize and the fact that imported rice is relatively more expensive considering the depreciation of the Malagasy Ariary. In January 2020, staple food prices remained stable compared to previous month except for the price of maize, which started to decline with the beginning of harvests in the Central Highlands and in the South.

    FAW infestations: Fall Army Worm (FAW) are still present in Madagascar during the current cropping season. In the South, FAW mainly affects maize but can also be found in sorghum crops. According to the Agricultural Production and Food Security Assessment report, the national infestation rate was 53 percent on average in 2018 and yield losses on maize crops are estimated at 47 percent. The infestation rate was lower in 2019 than 2018 because of normal rainfall and the use of treatments in certain areas like in Bongolava Region. Nevertheless, FAW infestation remains significant in drier areas like southern Madagascar. Infestation rates are higher (80-90 percent) in the district of Ambovombe, likely due to better breeding conditions. In this area, crops have been particularly affected in late January and early February, i.e. during a critical stage of the maize cycle, between flowering and the cob formation. The pest is also present in other southern areas of concern, but at a lower infestation rate.

    State policy, migration and insecurity: Last January the government announced to have reached a deal in lending 60,000 ha of land in the Bas-Mangoky area, in the Southwest region near the Tsiribihina Delta, to a foreign agricultural firm. In return for the 30 years free lease, mainly rice will be produced in this area but also maize, wheat, soybeans. The government will have the first purchase option at a lower price. FEWS NET will continue monitoring the impacts of this agreement on creating new agricultural employment opportunities to poor and very poor households in the area, on migration, on national rice supply, but also the effect that public opposition to the agreement will have at political level. Migration is still important particularly in southern Madagascar, where pastoralists from districts where dry spells occurred in January and February migrated to more southern areas where water was still available. Meanwhile, given the increasing livestock from last year, cattle and some zebu thefts have been reported in Ambovombe and Amboasary.

    Humanitarian Assistance: In response to the 2019/2020 lean season and based on the national IPC analysis conducted in October 2019, humanitarian stakeholders are currently undertaking some emergency programs in the South. WFP’s emergency program consists on distributing food to about 220,000 beneficiaries from November 2019 to March 2020 in the 8 districts of the Grand Sud particularly in Ambovombe, Beloha and Tsihombe. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) also have a large program, which includes food distribution, targeting 279,400 beneficiaries in the districts of Beloha, Tsihombe and Ampanihy starting from January 2020 and lasting four years. Apart from that, FAO through their PROACT project and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) support very poor and poor household livelihoods by diversifying their income sources and by distributing seeds to promote more resistant agriculture in the area. Action Against Hunger (ACF) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also support nutrition programs by preventing severe malnutrition in Bekily and Ampanihy.

    In the meantime, contingency stocks have been mobilized in response to floods in northern Madagascar. The Bureau National de Gestion des Risques et des Catastrophes (BNGRC) distributed 76 MT of food assistance to both displaced and affected people. Through the World Food Program (WFP), a free distribution of food for 15 days of assistance is underway for 178 households in Ambato-Boeny and 80 households in Mampikony (9.58 MT) as well as cash transfers for 1,020 households in the districts of Ambatondrazaka (200 households), Amparafaravola (301 households) and Maevatanana (519 households). Monetary transfers are being targeted in coordination with stakeholders including WHH, Malagasy Red Cross and FID. Humanitarian assistance also continues in southern Madagascar to combat the effects of the lean season. Most of current activities will end in March.


    The most likely scenario for February to September 2020 period is based on the following national level assumptions:

    • 2019/2020 rainy season: According to the National Department of Meteorology, southern and western Madagascar will receive normal to slightly below normal rainfall in March. This may relieve crops in the South from three months of dryness since December but will be late for their development, particularly for young maize crop sown in January in Ambovombe. Meanwhile, the rest of the country will receive normal to above-normal rainfall during March, which will likely allow farmers to restart the rice cropping season, following the floods, provided they have access to seeds. NMME, however, forecasts below-normal rainfall in north central Madagascar from March to May and a deficit in the East from June to September.
    • Cropped areas and staple production: maize and peanut cropped areas have been extended in the South. Maize production from the remaining harvests starting from April will likely be below last year and average levels. The effects of FAW is more significant in rainfall deficit areas. Cassava production is also assumed to be at a similar level to last year because of extended cropped areas but yields may slightly decline because of dryness. In main producing areas, the rice cropping season will likely be delayed as farmers are expected to sow rice again after the floods. The harvest may be delayed, and production will likely decrease if some farmers do not have enough seeds to plant their entire fields anymore.
    • Rice imports: Imports of rice are expected to be below average, between 20,000 and 30,000 MT per month, from March to May 2020 because large quantities were already imported just after the harvests in June 2019. Monthly imports will likely decrease at the time of main harvests but will likely remain near average between 10,000 and 20,000 MT per month. In total, more than 400,000 MT of rice will likely be imported in the 2019/2020 marketing year.
    • Staple prices: Prices of locally produced cereals will likely decrease in February with the beginning of early harvests. With a single main harvest in Beloha, maize prices will likely continue to decrease until April, when they will likely start to increase again. In Ambovombe, however, maize crops are currently in different stages and will likely be harvested in different periods. Therefore, maize prices in Ambovombe will likely decrease until June before increasing again through the end of the outlook period. Rice prices, both imported and local, will also likely decrease until June-July and then steadily increase through the end of the outlook period. As for dried cassava, prices will constantly decrease until the end of the outlook period. In general, food prices will likely be slightly above last year’s level but near the five-year average, because of the stability of food availability. The exception will be local rice in Antananarivo and dried cassava in Ampanihy, both of which will be above the five-year average.
    • Livestock body condition: Livestock body conditions are expected to deteriorate between February and May due to the decrease of pasture and water availability in southern Madagascar and furthermore by the current rainfall deficit, particularly in Amboasary and Ambovombe. Livestock will likely be fed with cactus leaves. Weights will likely increase between June and September with the availability of cassava and sweet potatoes leaves and the reappearance of grass again after a few months of rain.
    • Wild food availability and consumption: Wild food availability and contribution to poor and very poor household’s source of food and income in southern Madagascar will likely increase between February and March because of below-normal cereal production expected in March/April. During that period, red cactus fruit will be available and expected to be consumed at a higher rate to fill the gap of staple food. Fresh cassava will likely be available starting in May, as a result, wild food consumption will likely reduce. Tamarind and sugar cane will replace the cactus fruit in August and its sales will likely contribute more in household’s income source.
    • Livestock prices in southern Madagascar: Livestock prices will likely stabilize between February and May as sales will likely slow down with the onset of cereal and pulse harvests. Livestock prices will likely increase between June and September due to peak staple food harvests as households will depend on recently harvested food for consumption, reducing their need for cash as they will be less dependent on markets at that time. Livestock prices will likely be similar to last year’s level and higher than the five-year average because food production, particularly cassava, will likely increase.
    • Nutrition in southern Madagascar: Between February and April, acute malnutrition will likely increase due to decreased availability of food and access to safe water following the rain. However, most of the districts currently “under control” will remain as is. Bekily will likely shift from “alert situation” (proxy-MAG between 10 and 15 percent) to “under control” and Ampanihy will remain in “Emergency” (proxy-GAM above 15 percent) because of the poor resilience of the population to food insecurity and the poor coverage of support programs. The number of admissions at the Centre de Réhabilitation Nutritionnelle Ambulatoire pour la Malnutrition Severe (CRENAS) will likely increase between February and April and will likely decrease from May through July and then increase again between August and September.
    • Humanitarian Assistance: Following January emergency responses to the floods in the northwest and center-east of the country, the current contingency stocks will likely no longer be enough to cover short-term humanitarian needs in the event of future hazards. Most activities that have been planned for southern Madagascar are mainly for recovery activities starting March 2020. Many humanitarian actors planned to transition from emergency to resilience programs starting from April 2020. Following poor rainfall in January and February, however, lean season may last longer than anticipated and the planned and funded assistance may not be sufficient to meet needs.

    Most likely Food Security Outcomes

    In the Extreme south: cassava, maize, and livestock rearing livelihood zone (MG 24), food insecurity is currently more severe than previous months with the onset of the lean season. However, some households still have stocks from previous harvests and from new harvests of maize and pulses. Nevertheless, food is mostly accessed through markets, and household dependence is increasing. Prices of staple food, however, have stabilized and remained lower than this period last year but above the five-year average. Livestock sales are increasing. Wild food will increase in importance as both a food source and an income source for very poor and poor households. Humanitarian assistance to face the lean season is ongoing in the area between December 2019 and March 2020 as a result of previous warnings, with a large coverage. As a result of humanitarian food assistance, a smaller proportion of the population in the area currently has severe food gaps putting the area in Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) acute food insecurity in February 2020. Most households will likely continue to consume staple foods but with fewer cereals and more purchased tubers of poor quality. Cowpeas will likely remain part of the diet. More poor households will likely eat wild food like cactus fruit as a main meal. Generally, a higher proportion of households will likely have livelihood protection deficits and survival deficits particularly in February and March. Moreover, more animals will likely be sold, as well as cash crops, both at lower prices. More wild food as well as charcoal and firewood selling will likely be observed. With the unchanged nutritional situation in the area and the ongoing emergency assistance until March 2020, very poor and poor households will likely remain in Stress (IPC Phase 2!) between February and May 2020. From June onwards, most households will likely continue to eat staple food mainly based on fresh tubers from own production. Consumption of pulses will likely reduce.  Cowpeas also will likely remain part of the diet. In general, a smaller proportion of households will likely have food gaps. Households will likely engage in less animal selling and more staple food selling. Additionally, households will engage in more agricultural labor work for tuber harvests and preparation for next cropping season. In the second and third quarters, the nutritional situation in the whole district is typically in “under-control”, so poor households will likely return to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity between June and September 2020.

    In the Southwest: cassava and small ruminants (MG 23), food insecurity deteriorated compared to previous months due to the lean season. Increased consumption of mangoes was observed, and food availability decreased at markets. The situation remains more severe in Ampanihy because of the persistence of an emergency nutrition situation. Most livelihood changes consist of expanding small ruminant sales, increasing labor work (particularly in peanut fields), selling wild food and watermelons and engaging in petty trade. Temporary migration to Ilakaka, Ambanja, Morondava and Diego was also reported by some of poor household members. Therefore, the very poor and poor households in the area are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity and in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in Ampanihy in February 2020. From February, food consumption will improve in the zone as some maize harvests are expected in March although harvests will likely be below-average. Consumption of fresh cassava and sweet potatoes will begin in April. Humanitarian assistance will likely be little to none during this period. Nevertheless, more than 20 percent of households in Ampanihy will likely have livelihood protection and survival deficit particularly in February and March. The sale of wild foods will reduce while the sale of staple food and cash crop production like pulses and peanuts will likely increase. Agricultural labor will likely be normal while livestock selling will likely increase. Given the remaining emergency nutritional situation, households in Ampanihy will likely remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and May 2020. Between June and September 2020, food consumption will improve as very poor households will have access to new harvests and consumption of wild foods will reduce. Less animal selling will likely be observed. More staple food will likely be sold.

    Increased agricultural labor work will be undertaken for tuber harvests and for land preparation for the next cropping season. Poor and very poor households in the area will likely face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity between February and May 2020.

    In other dry spell affected areas in MG25, MG26 and eastern part of MG22, maize cropping season has been delayed in Betroka, the main staple food production area which supplies the Grand Sud during the lean season, particularly in bad years. Some large-scale movement of cattle has been observed since February from northern Amboasary to coastal southern areas in search of water. In Bekily, severe food consumption gaps concerned few households in January 2020 and the nutrition situation remained at an alert level since the third quarter of 2019. Labor opportunities and wages were above normal because of expanded cropped areas of peanuts. Nevertheless, after the dryness, those areas will likely be in Stress (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity during the outlook period because of expected below normal production.

    Local stresses have been identified in some localized areas of Madagascar like in Mampikony district where recent floods affected more than 20 percent of population putting that district currently in Stress (IPC Phase 2) acute food because of major damages on food stock and rice fields. However, the situation in that district will likely return to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity in March because households in the area are more resilient and will likely able to recover from the shock.

    Elsewhere, no major shocks affected the food security situation. Therefore, households throughout Madagascar will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity from October 2019 through May 2020 outside the areas of concerns.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.

    AreaEventImpact on food security
    NationalCyclones2019/2020 cyclones will continue until March. Other disturbances may affect Madagascar. Potentially powerful cyclones are still forecasted from the Northwest, which will likely improve rainfall projections along the western and southwestern parts of the island but may damage and flood rice fields and cash crops in northern areas. Depending on the strength of the cyclone, food insecurity in the affected areas may deteriorate.



    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report. 


    Figure 1

    Current Situation for February 2020

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    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.

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