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Seasonal improvements expected, but likely limited in some areas by erratic rainfall and cyclone strikes

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Madagascar
  • February - September 2023
Seasonal improvements expected, but likely limited in some areas by erratic rainfall and cyclone strikes

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Key Messages
    • Through the peak of the annual lean season, humanitarian assistance is expected to mitigate worse outcomes throughout the Grand South and in parts of the Grand Southeast, resulting in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes through April. With the onset of the main maize and legume harvests in the Grand South in April and the main rice harvest in the southeast in May, food consumption gaps are likely to decrease for poorer households, as they consume their own production and rely less on markets. As post-cyclone recovery progresses in the Grand Southeast and the cassava and sweet potato harvests become available across southern Madagascar, area-level Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes will prevail through at least August. However, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to re-emerge earlier in largely isolated areas of the Grand Southeast in the absence of continued assistance and in areas of the Grand Southwest that were worst affected by drought in recent years and saw dry spells during key periods of development for maize in early 2023.

    • Rainfall performance has been largely positive, with average to above-average seasonal accumulations across Madagascar, except in northeastern Madagascar, which reported early-season rainfall deficits. Meanwhile, southwestern Madagascar saw erratic rainfall with dry spells in both January and February, despite above-average cumulative seasonal rainfall. Forecast models suggest that normal to above-normal rainfall is likely for the entire island for the remainder of the season, improving cropping conditions in most areas and keeping soil moisture conditions near average through September.

    • The 2022/23 cyclone season brought two major systems to Madagascar: Tropical Storm Cheneso in January, which tracked across northern and northwestern parts of the country, and Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which followed a similar path to 2022 cyclones Batsirai and Emnati, hitting the Grand Southeast particularly hard. According to the National Office for Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC), more than 200,000 people were affected by the storms, with over 85,000 temporarily displaced and significant flooding reported across the worst-impacted areas. Informal reports of localized road and crop damage and reduced wild food availability are currently being confirmed through official assessments.

    • Most crops are developing well across the country; however, the January and February dry spells in the Grand Southwest are likely to have negatively impacted maize production. Cash crop production in the north, including coffee, cloves, and vanilla, will also likely be below-average this year due to erratic rainfall distribution, with early-season dryness and localized flooding during Cheneso. In areas impacted by cyclone-related flooding, rice and some tuber crop conditions have also deteriorated, with some crops lost. Throughout the Grand South, challenges in accessing seeds and vines have constrained cropped area. Although harvests are expected to be better than in recent years, they are still likely to be somewhat below normal, lasting between two and three months in most areas, but less in the Grand Southwest.


    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Rainfall performance: Through December 2022, the majority of the island received average to above-average rainfall, including drought-affected parts of the Grand South. However, during the same period, northeastern Madagascar received below-average rainfall, which negatively impacted non-irrigated rice for the second-season harvest and main-season planting in some areas. In January, rainfall increased across much of northern and central Madagascar, primarily due to Tropical Storm Cheneso. Meanwhile, in the Grand Southwest, both January and February brought dry spells, with little to no rainfall received during critical times for maize development (Figure 1). Tropical Cyclone Freddy increased cumulative rainfall totals to average for most of the island, but the erratic nature of rainfall this season is still likely to negatively impact localized areas.

    Figure 1

    RFE2 30-day total rainfall anomaly (mm), Dec. 30, 2022–Jan. 28, 2023 (left) and Jan. 28–Feb. 26, 2023 (right)
    Rainfall maps showing deficits in the Grand Southwest in January and across much of Madagascar in February.

    Source: NOAA

    Tropical storm and cyclone strikes: Between January and February, Madagascar was hit by Tropical Storm Cheneso and Tropical Cyclone Freddy (Figure 2). Cheneso landed in the district of Antalaha on January 19, 2023, crossed Madagascar following a south-southwest trajectory, and exited at Morondava on January 23, 2023. According to BNGRC, over 95,000 people were affected, with over 50,000 people temporarily displaced, nearly all of whom have now returned. Preliminary analysis by BNGRC and COPERNICUS showed close to 70,000 hectares of flooding across the rice-producing areas in the north and northwest. An intersectoral rapid needs assessment by the government and humanitarian partners is expected to be released in March.

    Tropical Cyclone Freddy made landfall on the eastern coast of Madagascar, near Mananjary, on February 21, 2023. At least seven people died, and BNGRC estimates the storm’s passage affected more than 116,000 people, temporarily displacing more than 37,000 people and damaging more than 25,000 homes across seven regions (Vatovavy, Fitovinany, Atsimo Atsinanana, Atsinanana, Haute Matsiatra, Menabe, and Amorin’I Mania). Ahead of Freddy’s arrival, BNGRC preemptively evacuated 7,000 people in the coastal region who were in the storm’s path, while schools and public transportation were suspended. Freddy followed a similar path to 2022 cyclones Batsirai and Emnati, which affected over 423,800 people and destroyed homes, infrastructure, and crops. There are informal reports of significant localized damage to roads and crops and a reduction in wild food availability; however, official assessments of the damage are ongoing and expected to be released in March.

    Figure 2

    Storm path of Tropical Cyclone Freddy (Cheneso shown in subset), with rainfall accumulations and flooded areas, February 2023
    Map showing the storm paths of Cheneso and Freddy across Madagascar.

    Source: ECHO

    Soil moisture and vegetation conditions: Although soil moisture conditions and vegetative health have rebounded across most of the Grand South and conditions are markedly improved compared to early 2022, below-average conditions persist in some areas, notably in the Grand Southwest. In addition, some negative conditions remain in the Alaotra Mangoro, Analamanga, Matsiatra Ambony, Amoron'i Mania, and Vakinankaratra regions, resulting from an irregular distribution of rainfall and below-average accumulations.

    Cropped area: Across most of the country, cropped area for main staple crops is near average, as farmers took advantage of the early onset of rainfall in some areas and anticipated average to above-average rainfall for the season. However, cropped area for rice is below normal in the northeast due to early-season rainfall deficits and high agricultural input costs. Cropped area for maize, cassava, and sweet potato is somewhat below normal in the Grand South and well below normal in the Grand Southwest, where limited availability and high prices of seeds and vines, combined with below-average income, have reduced smallholders’ ability to procure sufficient inputs. Following consecutive years of drought, households in the Grand South were forced to prioritize consumption, keeping little to no carryover stocks for the next season’s planting.

    Crop condition and stages: Most maize and legume crops are progressing well and are in varying stages of development depending on when they were planted (Figure 3). However, given favorable rainfall conditions, locusts and pests have reportedly deteriorated crop conditions in localized areas, and nutrient deficiencies in maize have also been noted in localized areas. In areas impacted by cyclone-related flooding, rice and some tuber crop conditions have also deteriorated, and some crops have been lost. In localized areas of the Grand Southwest, maize is stressed following the January and February dryness.

    Figure 3

    Positive cropping conditions observed in the Grand South, January 2023
    Photo of maize crops developing well.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Livestock body conditions, herd sizes, and prices: With the onset of rains, pasture and livestock body conditions have markedly improved across the Grand South. However, both pasture and livestock body conditions remain poor to fair in the Grand Southwest, due to protracted poor conditions combined with the January and February dry spells. Livestock herd sizes are average in most parts of the country, although multiple years of drought in the Grand South have significantly reduced herd sizes. Livestock sales, meanwhile, have been atypically high, with poorer households trying to reduce food consumption gaps by selling more. In addition, in areas of the Grand South where instances of dahalo banditry are high, households have chosen to sell most of their livestock to avoid being targeted by bandits, thus reducing herd sizes further. Livestock prices typically decline by half during the peak of the lean season in the Grand South. However, this year, livestock prices are below average due to desperate sales, limited disposable income, and relatively below-average body conditions. For example, in Toliara in January, goat prices were nearly 47 percent lower than average, while cattle prices were 27 percent below average.  

    Macroeconomic factors and market functionality: In January, annual inflation remained high at 11.4 percent, largely driven by above-average food and transportation costs, with atypically high imports of foodstuffs and global increases in oil prices. Although markets are mostly well supplied across the country, seasonal road deterioration—as well as localized road closures due to the passage of tropical storms Cheneso and Freddy—has led to disruptions in market functionality, delivery delays, and price spikes in remote and deficit-producing areas, particularly in the Grand South and Grand Southeast.

    Agricultural labor demand and wages: Demand for agricultural labor opportunities has increased year-on-year across the Grand South, given improved rainfall in the 2022/23 production season; however, demand remains below average as the middle and better-off households typically hiring this labor are less able to contract workers due to multiple consecutive years of shocks. In the more productive northern, central, and eastern areas of the country, above-average fertilizer prices and erratic rainfall have also limited demand, particularly for cash crops such as vanilla. Wage rates and overall income are therefore expected to be below average for most casual agricultural laborers.

    Staple food prices: During the lean season, prices of staple foods, including cassava, sweet potato, and maize, typically rise due to reductions in supplies as road conditions seasonally deteriorate, as well as increased market demand as households deplete their own-produced stocks. This lean season, price increases are greater than average due to significantly below-average harvests in recent years, coupled with inflationary pressures. The government has maintained a price ceiling for certain essential goods (rice, sugar, flour) to stabilize markets at the national level during the lean season; however, this policy tends to benefit poorer rural households in the Grand South relatively less, given their preferences for other foods. In January, prices of maize increased by 43 percent year-on-year in Bekily and 128 percent in Amboasary Sud, while prices of dried cassava increased in Ampanihy by 24 percent.

    Humanitarian assistance: Humanitarian assistance in the form of either general food distribution or cash transfers is currently ongoing across the entire Grand South, where nearly 1.5 million beneficiaries are being targeted. WFP is delivering half-rations across the Grand South but has significantly increased coverage, while other humanitarian actors are delivering full rations. In the Grand Southeast, cyclone-related assistance is also underway, where approximately 850,000 beneficiaries are being targeted with full rations, mainly via cash transfers. However, extremely poor road conditions in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Freddy have significantly reduced accessibility, necessitating delivery of assistance via helicopter in some areas.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    In southern Madagascar, the lean season is currently at its peak. With household food stocks exhausted following very poor maize and root and tuber harvests in 2021/22, households are heavily reliant on market purchases at a time when staple food prices are beyond even their typical seasonal highs. In this context, poorer households across the region are employing coping strategies, such as reducing the diversity, quality, and quantity of meals and intensifying engagement in a variety of livelihood activities, including water fetching and selling, firewood and charcoal sales, vegetable growing, petty trade, informal mining, wild food gathering, and local migration. In some communities, wild foods have been privatized, which can reduce access to this key food source for some but also provide a source of income for others. However, across the Grand South, the availability of wild foods is lower than average this year, given the impact of multiple consecutive droughts and an overreliance on, and depletion of, this resource in recent years. Rainfall has been near average for most of the region, bringing with it an increase in agricultural labor opportunities over the past year, as well as the ability to grow short-cycle vegetables, which are already being harvested and supporting household diets. In contrast, in the Grand Southwest, the severity of the drought in recent years and continued dryness during January and February 2023 have limited this year’s improvements. Poorer households in these affected areas face significantly limited access to food and have had to rely on markets since at least mid-2022, as they had no meaningful harvests during the 2021/22 agricultural seasons. In these areas, some poorer households are employing more extreme coping strategies, including skipping eating on some days, mixing ash with wild foods to extend meals, and liquidating productive assets. Large-scale assistance, however, is reaching significant populations across the entire Grand South, helping to mitigate worse outcomes for beneficiaries, resulting in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes in the Grand Southwest and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes in the rest of the region. While global acute malnutrition (GAM) rates in most parts of the Grand South are currently in “Acceptable” or “Alert” ranges according to WHO standards, GAM rates in some communities are at “Serious” and even “Critical” levels; overall, Ampanihy Ouest registered a GAM rate of 13.2 percent in January 2023, indicative of “Serious” acute malnutrition (GAM 10–14.9 percent).

    Along the coast of eastern Madagascar, the recent Tropical Cyclone Freddy made landfall in the same area as the 2022 tropical cyclones Batsirai and Emnati. Excess moisture and flooding destroyed some rice and cassava crops during the 2022 cyclone season, resulting in an early start to the lean season in late 2022. Damage to roads in 2022 has also limited market functionality, hampering the movement of food supplies to remote markets, thereby causing price spikes when households are atypically reliant on these markets. Although assessments of the damage caused by Freddy are yet to be released, there are unofficial reports of disrupted agricultural activities, reduced labor opportunities, destroyed roads, and damaged crops. Across the Grand Southeast, the number of households experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes has therefore increased with the passage of Tropical Cyclone Freddy. Humanitarian assistance focused on post-cyclone recovery is currently supporting Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes across most of the region, while less impacted districts are likely facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes at area levels, with pockets of households experiencing worse outcomes. In other tropical storm-impacted areas in the north and west of the country, as well as in areas in the north where rainfall has been below average, the proportion of households experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes has increased as income-generating assets have been damaged and labor opportunities declined. However, the broad diversity of crops, cropping seasons, wild foods, and livelihood options have allowed most households to cope in sustainable ways that are not putting their livelihoods or essential needs at risk, maintaining Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in these areas.

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Madagascar seasonal calendar; the lean season typically lasts from December to March in the South, maize harvests from March to June, cassava harvests from August and peak labor demand in the north will begin in July.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario from February to September 2023 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Rainfall: Based on forecast models, normal to above-normal rainfall is expected for the remainder of the rainy season, between February and April 2023, supporting improvements in cropping conditions in most areas and keeping soil moisture conditions near average through September. Flooding caused by recent tropical storms is expected to subside.
    • Seed availability and access: Seeds are expected to remain available in all markets across the country during the 2022/23 main agricultural season. In the Grand South, however, poor households' access to seeds is expected to be limited, given lower-than-normal supplies due to consecutive drought years and significantly above-average prices. Inadequate and low availability of planting materials for cassava and sweet potato will likely drive below-average cropped area for these crops, especially in the Grand South. Cassava cuttings and sweet potato vine distribution programs are not expected to be sufficient for households to produce enough to meet their own requirements throughout the consumption year.
    • Staple crop production: Overall, production is expected to be better than last year throughout the Grand South. Maize production is still expected to be below average this year, however, given reductions in cropped area due to limited access to seed, poor seed quality, and pest damage, resulting in harvests likely to last for between two and three months for most poorer households. In addition, the dry spells in early 2023 are likely to negatively affect crop development and limit year-on-year improvements for maize and other crops in impacted areas of the Grand Southwest, where harvests are likely to last for just one to two months. Root and tuber harvests are also expected to be below average in the Grand South, lasting up to two months, given limited access to vines and cuttings. In areas that flooded during Cyclone Freddy, the loss of these crops is likely. In the rest of the country, cassava and sweet potato production is likely to be near average. National rice production for the main season is expected to be below average due to the high cost of agricultural inputs, below-average rainfall in the northern and northeastern parts of the country, and some crop losses during Cheneso and Freddy.
    • Cash crop production: Most cash crops, including coffee, cloves, and vanilla, will likely experience below-average production this year, largely due to erratic rainfall distribution, with early season dryness and localized flooding during Cheneso and Freddy.
    • Livestock body conditions, herd sizes, and prices: Pasture availability and livestock body conditions are expected to continue improving across all of Madagascar with the progression of the rainy season. In the Grand Southwest, however, erratic rainfall is likely to slow and limit these improvements, and livestock body conditions are unlikely to improve beyond fair during the outlook period. Livestock herd sizes are not expected to recover, given households’ continued limited purchasing power and a preference for reducing herd sizes in areas impacted by banditry. After the peak of the lean season in March and April, livestock prices are expected to seasonally increase but remain below average. 
    • Agricultural and cash crop labor demand and seasonal migration: Agricultural labor demand is expected to seasonally increase but remain below average in the Grand South with the maize harvest around April, followed by the root and tuber harvest around July. Meanwhile, in the more productive areas of the country, cash crop labor demand will seasonally increase starting in July but remain below average given climatic and input price shocks. In addition, seasonal labor migration is expected to remain constrained, despite the relaxation of COVID-19 movement restrictions, as transportation costs remain prohibitively high for most poorer households to undertake long-distance journeys. Instead, seasonal migration is expected to take place largely within or to nearby regions.  
    • Macroeconomic factors, trade, and market functionality: Elevated international energy and food prices are expected to continue widening the trade and current account deficits. In this context, general inflation is expected to remain high and continue to weigh on the purchasing power of households, and the MGA is likely to continue to depreciate. Rice imports are expected to be below 2022 volumes due to higher prices and lower export availability from India, a main supplier to the island. Economic growth is projected to slow in 2023, due in part to the war in Ukraine and the general economic slowdown in Europe, which is likely to reduce demand for Madagascar’s exports to Europe, the top destination for Malagasy exports, including key agribusiness and manufactured products, textiles, and tourism services. However, markets are expected to remain well supplied and continue functioning as normal, with some seasonal delays and shortages due to poor road conditions through the end of the rainy season. In areas worst affected by Cheneso and Freddy, a return to normal market functionality will depend on the repair and/or re-establishment of roads. 
    • Staple food and livestock prices are expected to continue to rise through the peak of the lean season around March 2023, following seasonal trends due to declining stock-to-use ratios. With the onset of the harvest, food prices will see a relative decline but are expected to remain above last year’s prices throughout the outlook period due to depreciating domestic currency and smaller carryover stock into the 2023/24 marketing year. Prices for imported staples are likely to remain above average throughout the outlook period, given reductions in imports and the depreciation of the MGA.
    • Wild food availability is likely to continue improving significantly, given the largely positive rainfall season, but will likely remain below average. While wild trees can typically withstand long droughts, their productivity has been negatively affected by multiple consecutive droughts in recent years.
    • Humanitarian assistance: Humanitarian food assistance is expected to continue at current levels through at least April across the Grand South and Grand Southeast. Assistance plans for May to September are not yet finalized. Post-cyclone recovery supported by government and humanitarian assistance is expected to progress slowly but steadily throughout the Grand Southeast during the projection period.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    With the peak of the lean season, current conditions are expected to persist across the Grand South through March. Improvements in food availability and access, and thus consumption, are likely with the arrival of the 2022/23 main harvest in April. Further improvements are likely with the arrival of the sweet potato and cassava harvest around July. However, both harvests are anticipated to be below average due to seed access challenges that led to a reduction in cropped area, making food consumption improvements short-lived. As a result, although the maize harvest is broadly expected to be better than last year, reserves will only last households between two and three months in most areas and even less in the Grand Southwest. In the Grand Southwest, where dry spells impacted crops at key times for their development in early 2023, maize harvests are expected to last only around a month, forcing poorer households to prematurely harvest sweet potato and cassava crops, reducing root and tuber yields and anticipated reserves even further. By July or August, worst-affected households in the Grand Southwest will likely be market reliant once again, having exhausted this year’s crops. Household coping strategies are expected to remain severely limited, given the significant shocks to these areas in recent years, including drought, well below-average harvests, and prolonged market dependence amid atypically high prices. Once own-produced stocks deplete, households will begin relying again on unsustainable coping strategies to mitigate food consumption gaps. Therefore, ongoing humanitarian assistance is likely to continue mitigating worse food security outcomes throughout the Grand South, resulting in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes through April. Overall, the Grand South is expected to begin experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in May with the full release of the harvest, although households that were unable to sow or that lost significant crops to pests or other hazards are unlikely to be able to meaningfully improve their food security outcomes post-harvest. However, in the absence of humanitarian assistance, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to re-emerge in the worst-affected areas of the Grand Southwest once own production depletes in July or August. The population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes is likely to slowly increase starting in September as more and more households exhaust their reserves and begin prematurely relying on markets once again.  

    Meanwhile, in the Grand Southeast, some of the worst-affected and most isolated districts are likely to face increased food insecurity due to the negative impacts of Tropical Cyclone Freddy and the above-average 2022 cyclone season, including below-average crop production, high food prices, inflation, and limited livelihood opportunities. Post-cyclone humanitarian assistance plans are currently approved through April, resulting in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes where assistance is possible. Seasonal improvements in food availability and access are expected for much of the region with the arrival of the rice harvest in May and June and the cassava and sweet potato harvests between July and August. Despite anticipated below-average rice production following the cyclone strike, damage to cassava and sweet potato crops is not expected to be significant, broadly improving food security outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) by July. Most poorer households are likely to be able to meet their minimum food needs but will struggle to cover their non-essential food needs and recover livelihoods following multiple years of cyclone damage. However, pockets of households, particularly those with significant crop losses or those that remain only intermittently accessible, may see only marginal improvements and are likely to continue experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through the rest of the outlook period. Should post-cyclone assistance not continue past April, it is most likely that Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will re-emerge in Ikongo, Befotaka, and Midongy Atsimo, where extensive damage to roads has rendered them largely inaccessible.

    In the central and northern parts of the country, rainfall deficits early in the 2022/23 rainfall season, as well as localized flooding damage from Tropical Storm Cheneso, are likely to reduce harvest expectations and limit some income-generating opportunities, as agricultural labor demand will be muted by localized losses and high agricultural input and production costs for those who typically employ labor. Despite this, poorer households will be able to employ typical livelihood strategies such as crop and livestock sales, self-employment activities, non-agricultural labor activities, migratory labor, and the collection and sale of natural forest products. Although the number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or worse outcomes is expected to remain elevated throughout the outlook period, the increase will not be enough to change the classification of the area. Thus, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are most likely across central and northern parts of the country throughout the outlook period.

    Acute malnutrition is expected to be worst in the Grand South and Grand Southeast during the peak of the lean season between February and March. In addition, water-borne diseases, such as cholera and diarrhea, typically increase during the rainy season, which can worsen the prevalence of acute malnutrition; this year, this is especially likely in areas of the Grand Southeast that saw flooding from Tropical Cyclone Freddy. GAM rates are likely to remain within “Alert” levels across most of the Grand South and Grand Southeast, with the Grand Southwest and some impacted areas of the Grand Southeast seeing GAM rates within “Serious” levels (GAM 10–14.9 percent). From April onwards, the onset of the harvest and the end of the rainy season are expected to improve GAM rates across all areas.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1
    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.
    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    NationalBasic commodity prices rising above projected levelsSignificant price increases above those already projected would further reduce household purchasing power and limit access to food on the market for households in both urban and rural areas, increasing the population facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2), Crisis (IPC Phase 3), and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.
    Grand SouthIncrease in pest damage to crops beyond anticipated levels.A further spread of pests such as fall armyworm and locusts and associated damage to crops beyond anticipated levels would likely further reduce crop production, increasing households’ reliance on markets and forcing additional households to employ or intensify negative coping strategies, causing a rise in the number of households and possible areas facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes.
    Grand SoutheastImpediments to cyclone recovery, especially in reconnecting isolated areasShould cyclone recovery not move ahead as projected—particularly if roads are not repaired and connections re-established—the number of households and areas facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes would likely increase in parts of the Grand Southeast.
    Grand South and Grand SoutheastExtension or expansion of humanitarian assistance deliveryAn increase in humanitarian assistance delivery or an extension of current levels past April would mitigate worse outcomes in impacted areas, reducing food consumption gaps and the number of households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and improving anticipated outcomes from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) where applicable.

     


    Areas of Concern

    Anosy Cassava, Maize, and Livestock livelihood zone – Focus on Amboasary Sud District (Figure 4)

    Figure 4

    Area of concern reference map: Anosy Cassava, Maize, and Livestock livelihood zone
    Reference map of livelihood zone MG26 in southern Madagascar.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Situation

    The Anosy Cassava, Maize, and Livestock livelihood zone is a low-lying agropastoral area cutting across the communes of Behara, Ifotaka, Ebelo, Marotsiraka, Ranobe, Tranomaro, Tsivory, and Mahaly of southern Madagascar. This semi-arid to arid zone typically receives between 350 and 500 mm of rainfall a year and has a mixture of hills, valleys, and plains covered with dry tropical forests, scrub bushes, savannah grass, thorny thickets, baobab trees, and sand. The zone is sparsely populated and its ill-maintained roads, which can become less accessible during the rainy season, can pose transportation and market supply challenges in more remote areas. The Mandrare and smaller rivers support agriculture along riverbanks and in low-lying areas with recession flooding. The main crops cultivated in this area are cassava, maize, sweet potatoes, cowpeas, and various types of beans; groundnuts, pumpkin, and watermelon are also cultivated to a lesser extent. However, this zone is considered a deficit-producing area, and households typically rely heavily on abundant wild foods to meet their kilocalorie needs. Very poor households, the focus of this analysis, comprise approximately 29 percent of the population in this zone. Additional information on the major characteristics of the zone can be found in the Madagascar Grand South Livelihood Baseline Profiles.

    Across Amboasary Sud, rainfall has been largely average since October, with some localized erratic distribution reported during December and January. Planting has progressed normally, and crops have been developing well, although several hazards have impacted localized areas. Some evidence of nutrient deficiencies and damage caused by fall armyworm and African armyworm have been observed in the field, in addition to localized crop losses along riverbanks where erratic rainfall caused flash floods. Cropped area is slightly below normal in the district, as access to seed has been a major challenge for poorer households. Cassava and sweet potato vine availability has been limited, as supplies from the typical source market of Ambovombe have not arrived this year. While maize seeds are available on the market, prices are significantly above average. As poorer households had little seed stock from previous years, they have had to rely heavily on input schemes this year. As is typical, available seeds, both through the market and often through assistance programs, are not certified, and significant quality concerns limit overall yields. Meanwhile, the positive rainfall has supported significant regeneration of pasture and improvements in livestock body conditions to broadly fair to good for goats, sheep, cattle, and other livestock (Figure 5).

    Figure 5

    Significant improvements in livestock body conditions observed in Amboasary Sud, January 2023
    Photo of fair to good livestock body conditions in the MG26 livelihood zone.

    Source: FEWS NET

    However, in terms of income, the price of livestock remains well below average given depressed income and demand and desperate sales during the lean season. In addition, Amboasary Sud has seen an increase in instances of dahalo banditry in recent years. As attacks have become more brazen, households of all wealth groups are selling off livestock—which are typically held as savings—at atypically high rates in an effort to avoid being targeted by the bandits. In effect, the increased supply and reduced demand has further diminished sale prices. Following multiple drought years, middle and better-off households have been constrained in their ability to hire labor, which has depressed agricultural labor demand to below average across the district. A small proportion of the population in this zone typically relies on sisal production to generate income; however, demand for sisal has been declining since the onset of the pandemic, and sisal production companies in the region are no longer hiring on plantations at previous levels, if at all. Poorer households are therefore employing a variety of livelihood coping strategies, including fetching and selling water, fetching and selling firewood or charcoal in areas where there are fewer government restrictions, and local migration. It is typical for one member of the household to employ migration as a coping strategy, attempting to find work in nearby Amboasary town, Ambovombe, or as far as Fort Dauphin. Now, however, additional members are beginning to undertake migration, and sometimes the whole household will choose to permanently migrate. For poorer households, long-distance seasonal migration for agricultural labor is not possible due to extremely high transportation costs; this livelihood and coping strategy is more likely to be undertaken by middle and better-off households.

    The collection of wild food, such as cactus fruits, is a typical coping strategy for households and constitutes an important food source during the lean season. However, multiple years of drought have caused a significant increase in competition for these resources. In some cases, overconsumption has also reduced their availability. These shocks have resulted in the domestication and privatization of wild foods in some communities in the district (Figure 6). This shift not only reduces overconsumption and protects the fruits from being eaten prematurely but is also providing a source of income for households with access to these plants. However, households without cacti on their land are now forced to purchase them at the market or walk significant distances to areas that have not yet been privatized to gather cactus fruits for sale or consumption. Although privatization of wild foods is not yet widespread across the district, it is becoming more and more common given the increased competition for cactus fruits. Otherwise, markets throughout Amboasary Sud were well supplied and operating normally, with little disruption due to dahalo attacks or poor road conditions. As is the case throughout the Grand South, staple food prices remain well above average, as demand has risen with the peak of the lean season and household stocks have now depleted. For example, recent price data for Amboasarry Sud from WFP shows that dried cassava prices increased by 23 percent year-on-year, thereby continuing to limit households’ access to food.

    Figure 6

    Privatization of wild foods observed in Amboasary Sud, January 2023
    Photo of a woman selling wild cactus fruit.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Assumptions

    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:

    • Dahalo banditry: Instances of dahalo banditry are expected to seasonally increase through the peak of the lean season before moderating for the remainder of the outlook period. However, banditry has been increasing in these areas in recent years and is likely to remain at atypically high levels during the analysis period, forcing households to consider liquidating threatened assets, such as livestock.
    • Wild food availability and access: In areas where wild foods have been privatized, availability for poorer households will be limited to market purchases. Although prices at the market remain significantly lower than for staple foods, privatization is expected to reduce poorer households’ overall access to these foods to cover consumption gaps. For those with wild foods growing on their land, however, privatization will provide an additional, atypical income source throughout the outlook period.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Through the remainder of the lean season, very poor households in this district are expected to continue resorting to reducing the quantity and quality of food eaten, given long-depleted stocks from the 2021/22 cropping season and below-average income from labor activities and self-employment activities amid above-average food prices. In addition, households are switching to less-preferred foods, more wild food consumption (even if they must be purchased, as they are relatively less expensive than other staples), and reducing the number of meals per day. Many poorer households are also growing and consuming more vegetables, given that these seeds are relatively more affordable and have a short production cycle. Humanitarian assistance is currently ongoing in this area, and targeted households are heavily reliant on this food source.

    In March, food consumption gaps will decrease as access to green maize begins, and poorer households will become less reliant on markets to cover their food needs. Although the hazards observed in this district are expected to slightly reduce cropped area and likely yields, these reductions are not likely to be significant. Thus, the main maize and legume harvests in April and May are expected to last very poor households for two to three months, which represents an improvement over recent years but remains below average. Sweet potato and cassava harvests will also likely be below average due to constraints in supply but will be able to replenish household stocks for up to two months. Therefore, humanitarian assistance is expected to mitigate worse outcomes, resulting in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes until the end of the lean season in April. Starting in May, improved access to, and availability of, food following the maize and legume harvests will support Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes until September, when root and tuber harvests are likely to deplete. During this time, most very poor households will be able to meet their minimum food needs from own production but will remain unable to afford other basic non-food expenditures. Although some households will likely continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes earlier, area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are not expected to emerge until September, when households become reliant again on markets and begin employing unsustainable food consumption and livelihood coping strategies.

     

    Mahafaly Plain: Cassava, Goats, and Cattle livelihood zone – Focus on Ampanihy District (Figure 7)

    Figure 7

    Area of concern reference map: Mahafaly Plain: Cassava, Goats, and Cattle livelihood zone
    Reference map of livelihood zone MG23 in southwestern Madagascar.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Situation

    The Mahafaly Plain (Cassava, Goats, and Cattle) livelihood zone is located in southwestern Madagascar and is characterized by low annual rainfall and very low crop production in most years. Wealth status is primarily determined by livestock and land ownership, which allow better-off and middle households to employ poorer households. Very poor households comprise approximately 45 percent of the population, and both the poor and very poor typically own less than 0.5 ha of land. Household Economy Analysis (HEA) baseline data suggests that poor and very poor households are able to meet between about 16 and 24 percent of annual household food needs through own production, while food purchases account for between 31 and 45 percent, wild foods between 8 and 20 percent, and food aid around 21 percent of total food needs. Additional information on the major characteristics of the zone can be found in the Madagascar Grand South Livelihood Baseline Profiles.

    In Ampanihy district, the 2022/23 rainfall season started earlier than normal, with largely average rainfall, a welcome improvement over the last several years. Localized areas began planting as early as October, but planting began more broadly across the district in November and continued through December. Between January 7 and February 5, the area experienced a 30-day rainfall deficit of up to 100 mm below normal, which likely negatively impacted maize and legume crop development during a critical period. While there were some improvements by mid-February, 30-day rainfall deficits had built up again across much of the Grand South by late February. Plants are in various stages of development based on when they were planted but range from reproduction to early maturity. Across the district, plant conditions range from fair to stressed to wilting. Access to seed has been a major challenge for households in the zone following consecutive years of drought. Households faced significant challenges in accessing cassava cuttings and sweet potato vines, as they are not readily available on the market. While maize seed was available in markets, prices were significantly above average and beyond reach for most of the very poor households who are facing significantly below-average purchasing power. Households largely depend on input schemes for cassava cuttings and sweet potato vines that the government and many non-state actors implement in the livelihood zone. Available seeds, both through the market and often through assistance programs, are not certified, and significant quality concerns limit yield expectations.

    While there has been positive rainfall this season, improving pasture regeneration, livestock body conditions remain poor to fair. Given prolonged periods of significantly below-average pasture due to consecutive years of drought, body conditions will take more time to improve. Livestock herd sizes are below average, as households have sold more livestock to cover food consumption gaps. With the current lean season, desperate sales of livestock have continued, although livestock deaths have reduced with improvements in pasture conditions.

    Agricultural labor opportunities have improved compared to last year with the enhanced rainfall. However, they remain below average due to below-average cropped areas and the significantly reduced hiring power of better-off households. These include increasing inflation and continued reduction in herd sizes due to overselling (destocking) and mortality. Furthermore, labor migration has been declining in recent years, especially at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, labor migration continues to be severely constrained by below-average demand for agricultural labor, below-average wage rates, and above-average transportation costs. Households that are undertaking migration are therefore traveling only short distances to nearby urban areas. To earn income, households are turning to water fetching and selling, increased collection and selling of wild food, firewood, and charcoal, and local mining. However, households’ ability to earn income from these activities has fallen due to over-supply. An above-average number of people are engaged in these activities this year as they attempt to earn income to support market purchases. Given the significant increase in the number of people looking for such opportunities, along with depressed demand, income levels from these activities are extremely low. These strategies are therefore insufficient to cover consumption gaps, as household income has remained well below average.

    Supplies of most food commodities are seasonally low in most markets due to poor road conditions limiting more traders from bringing in commodities. Typical source areas, including Antsirabe, Fort Dauphin, Ambovombe, Tsihombe, and Beloha, are also experiencing reduced supplies due to below-average production in recent years, resulting in delays in resupply and below-average supply in some markets. Recent WFP price monitoring data shows that dried cassava prices in Ampanihy remained stable at 1,977 MGA between December and January but increased by 24 percent year-on-year and are nearly 80 percent above the five-year average. The elevated prices are limiting household access to this main staple.

    Assumptions

    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:

    • Staple crop production: The January and February dry spells are likely to negatively impact the growth of maize and legumes during the main agricultural season. Along with significant seed access challenges, this is likely to keep this year's production well below average, with only slight improvements over last year. With maize and legume production likely to last only a month for most households in this region, households are expected to prematurely harvest cassava and sweet potato to avoid large consumption gaps, resulting in significant decreases in these crop’s yields as well. Cassava and sweet potato harvests are similarly expected to last for just slightly over a month, representing a small improvement over last year.
    • Wild food availability: Given the significant soil moisture deficits going into this rainy season, along with multiple years of drought and overexploitation of wild foods in the region, wild food availability is expected to take multiple seasons to recover. Wild food availability will therefore likely remain below average throughout the outlook period, albeit with some improvements over last year.
    • Staple food prices: Staple food prices are expected to continue to rise for the remainder of the lean season following seasonal trends, before falling somewhat with the release of the harvest but remaining atypically high. Based on FEWS NET price projections, dried cassava prices are likely to remain between 70 and 80 percent above average through September (Figure 8).

    Figure 8

    Observed and projected dried cassava prices in Ampanihy, November 2022 – October 2023
    Chart showing observed and projected prices above last year's prices and well above the five year average.

    Source: FEWS NET estimates based on data from WFP

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Across this livelihood zone, households have long exhausted their 2021/22 production and have been market dependent for many more months than normal amid above-average food prices, rising inflation, and below-average household income. In this context, poorer households are likely to continue experiencing significant limitations in access to food through at least March. To cope with food consumption gaps, very poor households are likely to continue resorting to mixing ash with wild foods such as red cactus, eating less-preferred foods, sometimes consuming just one meal a day instead of the normal two to three meals, and skipping all meals up to two days per week. In addition, they will continue to intensify both sustainable and unsustainable livelihood coping strategies to the extent possible. Although humanitarian assistance is being provided at half ration, its delivery is widespread in the district and expected to continue mitigating worse outcomes, resulting in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes through April.

    The beginning of green maize consumption in March will gradually improve food consumption, and the arrival of the main maize and legume harvests in April and May will likely reduce pressure on market demand and prices as households begin to consume their own-produced food. However, earlier reliance on green maize will further reduce main harvest yields and limit own-food consumption from the main harvest to around one month for very poor households. Similarly, although further improvements are expected with the arrival of the cassava and sweet potato harvests in June and July, yields will be severely reduced by the anticipated premature harvesting of these crops to help cover household consumption gaps once maize and legume harvests run out. Harvests of these crops were already anticipated to be below average due to the challenges in accessing planting materials last year. Given the premature harvest, own production is likely to last only through the month of July. With significant improvements over last year in rainfall and own production, it is likely this district will be able to sustain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes for two to three months following the harvest, although some households with limited planting ability or crop losses from this year’s dry spells are still expected to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) even post-harvest. With the end of the cassava and sweet potato harvests, food consumption for very poor households will likely deteriorate rapidly as these stocks are exhausted and households begin employing consumption-based coping strategies again. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are therefore likely to re-emerge at the area level across Ampanihy beginning in August.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Madagascar Food Security Outlook February to September 2023: Seasonal improvements expected, but likely limited in some areas by erratic rainfall and cyclone strikes, 2023.

    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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