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Ongoing rice harvests improving food access in cyclone-impacted areas

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Madagascar
  • June 2023 - January 2024
Ongoing rice harvests improving food access in cyclone-impacted areas

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Areas of Concern: Mahafaly Plain: Cassava, Goats, and Cattle livelihood zone (MG23) – Focus on Ampanihy District (Figure 3)
  • Areas of Concern: The Corridor: Forest products and banana livelihood zone (MG18) – Focus on Ikongo District, Vatovavy region (Figure 5)
  • Key Messages
    • The 2023 main harvest of staple crops was nationally average to above average, with localized deficits in the Grand South and Grand Southeast. However, cash crop production will remain below average overall, with especially large deficits in the Grand Southeast due to damage from cyclones. Significant improvements in cereal and tubers production compared to last year, though still below-average, improved household food access, supporting widespread Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in the Grand South and Grand Southeast. However, area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely re-emerge when food stocks are exhausted, driven by atypically early market reliance and decreasing household purchasing power. Beyond September, even with normal market supplies, above-average and seasonally increasing staple food prices coupled with below-average incomes will continue to erode household purchasing power. Poor and very poor households will likely adopt negative coping strategies to mitigate food consumption deficits, with slight improvements in the Grand Southeast when the off-season rice harvest arrives in December. 

    • Cumulatively above-average rainfall for the Grand South will support good soil moisture through September 2023, favoring the production of cassava and sweet potatoes between June and August. However, production is expected to be below average due to a lack of cuttings and vine carryover from the previous season, which limited the cropped area. Poor and very poor households will both consume and likely sell some of their cassava and sweet potatoes to purchase other household needs and pay back debts incurred over the last several years of drought, reducing household food availability and limiting improvements in dietary diversity. Additionally, despite the expected normal onset of the rainy season between November and December, casual labor opportunities will likely remain below-average due to lower liquidity among  middle and better-off households following several consecutive years of drought. Cattle and small ruminants' prices are expected to increase due to improvements in pasture and body conditions. 

    • The main rice crop was in its vegetative stage in the Grand Southeast when cyclones and floods occurred, which protected it from major damage. Accordingly, households have been able to improve their food consumption through their own rice production. Nevertheless, cash crops production is likely to be significantly below average following damages to various cash crops, including but not limited to vanilla, coffee, pepper, cloves, and lychees. This will particularly impact households during the lean season when they most need income for food purchases. However, good soil moisture allowed for the production of off-season crops like sweet potatoes, cassava, and yams, which will likely improve household food consumption for one to two months. As food stocks decline, very poor and poor households are likely to increase their consumption of wild foods to fill food consumption gaps until off-season rice arrives in December.


    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Rainfall performance:  The October 2022 to May 2023 rainy season in the Grand South and Grand Southeast concluded with cumulatively average to above average precipitation. Coastal regions of the Grand Southeast received between 300 to 500 mm of rainfall, roughly average to 150 percent of the 1981 to 2020 average. Rainfall distribution was reportedly erratic in the East and Grand Southeast, with dry spells in January and February and heavy rainfall during Tropical Cyclone Cheneso's passage in January and Cyclone Freddy in February. This heavy rainfall particularly impacted the Central, Northern, and Grand Southeast regions. Central Madagascar primarily experienced average to slightly above average rainfall, with localized deficits on the western coast. In the northern part of the country, rainfall was mainly average to below average, with the most significant anomalies in the northeast. In the northeast, localized areas recorded the third or second driest rainy season on record; however, rainfall still ranged from 750 to 1500 mm.

    Crop conditions: June marks the last month of the main harvest season for rice, beans, and peanuts across Madagascar. Average to above-average rainfall across most of the country contributed to better soil moisture and harvests than last year. Recent heavy rainfall in the east has been particularly favorable for the main rice crop harvested between April and June in the Grand Southeast. However, production in the Grand South and Grand Southeast is still below average, given multiple consecutive years of drought, limited seed availability, and high prices of agricultural inputs, as well as cyclone damage across the Grand Southeast. The 2023 maize harvest in the Grand South occurred in March and April but was below normal due to lack of access to seeds and high costs of agricultural inputs. According to USDA FAS estimates, the national maize harvest was similar to the five-year average. In contrast, the national rice harvest is estimated to be around 5 percent higher than the five-year average. 

    In the southwest, key informants indicate that households are likely harvesting root and tuber crops early to minimize food consumption gaps. In the Grand Southeast, key informants report that cassava, one of the main staple crops, was particularly impacted by the 2022/23 cyclone season as cassava is susceptible to damage from strong winds. As a result, the current cassava harvest is below average in the Grand South and Grand Southeast due to the impact of strong winds in the Grand Southeast and severely limited stocks in the Grand South. By contrast, the sweet potato crop was unaffected by the cyclones in the Grand Southeast. However, due to the low carryover of planting material from the previous season, sweet potato production is also below average across the Grand South and the Grand Southeast.

    Cropped areas and access to seeds: Total cropped area improved compared to last year but was below average because of low access to seeds and planting material in the Grand South and Grand Southeast. Due to multiple years of drought reducing seed availability and increasing input prices to well above average, farmers had little carryover from the previous harvest to plant. Farmers who purchase seeds in local markets only have access to uncertified seeds, which are often of lower quality and less productive. Only a few services in Antananarivo and Antsirabe can sell certified seeds, and in the absence of external support, these services are out of reach for most farmers. Short-cycle seeds were distributed by humanitarian organizations in the south and southeast at the start of 2023 for the next off-season planting season in July in the Grand Southeast. 

    Pasture and livestock conditions: Average to above-average rainfall during the past rainy season led to improvements in pasture conditions and livestock body conditions compared to last year. Pasture conditions are average, and livestock body conditions are fair to good in most of the country. In the Grand South, pasture conditions have improved but remain below average in the Grand South compared to before the drought. Livestock body conditions have improved but likely still range from poor to fair, with herd sizes remaining below average. Livestock prices, particularly for goats and sheep, are rising and increasing household purchasing power. Livestock banditry, locally known as Dahalo, is seasonally low across southern Madagascar, as is typical of the post-harvest period.

    Cash crops production: The vanilla harvest starts in June, and the pepper harvest is ongoing. In the central and northern parts of the country, the humidity level has been sufficient, and vanilla production is average. In the east and Grand Southeast, rainfall was irregular but sufficient for the flowering of cash crops. However, many vanilla plantations in these regions have been damaged by the previous two cyclone seasons, so despite comparatively favorable agroclimatic conditions in the last several months, production is below average. As such, vanilla production is below average at the national level. For the same reason, pepper production is also below average in the Grand Southeast.

    Agricultural labor demand:  Labor demand is declining from its seasonal peak in the Grand South as harvesting activities have concluded. In the Grand Southeast, labor demand is still at its peak as harvests have yet to conclude. In the central zone, soil preparation activities for market gardening have begun. Demand is better than the previous year but remains below normal, especially in the Grand South. Better-off households have below-normal hiring power because of the impacts of consecutive years of drought and inflationary challenges; this negatively affects poorer households that supply agricultural labor to better-off households. 

    Figure 1

    Local rice price trends in selected markets
    Bar chart showing local rice price trends

    Source: FEWS NET

    Inflation and commodity prices: High inflation continues to significantly undercut household purchasing power in Madagascar, driven by high food, transportation, and fuel costs. As of April 2023, annual inflation was at 12.11 percent, double last year's inflation rate, with food inflation declining from an annual inflation rate of 15.5 in March to 14.8 in April. Price ceilings imposed by the government on certain goods seem to have done little to alleviate inflationary pressures, and prices of imported and domestic goods remain high. Amid recent decreases in international oil prices, inflation has remained stubbornly high in part driven by the ongoing depreciation of the Malagasy Ariary (MGA), whose value as of June 30th has fallen around 11 percent relative to the USD in the last year. Cyclone-related damage to infrastructure and production is also exacerbating inflationary pressure on transportation costs and domestic products.

    Prices of staple foods, such as rice and dried cassava are also high, given ongoing depreciation of the MGA and overall inflationary pressures. FEWS NET price data suggests that local rice prices in Antananarivo, Fianarantsoa, and Toamasina markets rose between 3 and 33 percent compared to June of last year and 26 to 69 percent from the five-year average (Figure 1). Imported rice prices in those same markets have risen between 9 and 39 percent compared to last year and between 24 and 75 percent compared to the five-year average, largely driven by currency depreciation and high global rice prices. Compared to last year, dried cassava prices are up between 5 and 39 percent. 

    Wild Food Availability: Wild foods such as cactus fruit, tamarind, jujube, wild mango, bangy, fangisty, and sosa contribute between 8 and 35 percent of very poor and poor households' annual minimum food needs in the Grand South and Grand Southeast. While these foods are mostly consumed during the lean season, households continue to access wild foods throughout the year. Availability of wild foods is below average due to multiple years of drought and resulting overexploitation but higher than last year because of improved rainfall performance.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    In the post-harvest period, households rely heavily on their own production, and food prices decline as market demand declines and the harvest reaches the market. Many of the most productive areas and urban centers of Madagascar are experiencing Minimum (IPC Phase 1) outcomes, where most households can sustainably meet their food and non-food needs through well-diversified food and income sources.

    Household food stocks have improved significantly in the Grand South and Grand Southeast, especially in rural areas. Households are mostly dependent on their recently harvested rice, maize, and legumes, and incomes from temporary agricultural labor opportunities to meet their consumption needs. Very poor households and those facing more binding liquidity constraints following the cumulative impact of the past few years of drought are likely selling at least half of their harvests to cover other needs, such as non-food household items, school fees, and school uniforms, then consuming the rest. Households with inadequate storage capacities are also likely to sell a large part of their harvests to maximize income and reduce post-harvest losses. For middle and better-off households with greater storage capacities, production is likely being stored as a food reserve for the household until it can be sold at a higher price during the lean season. The sale of cash crops is also contributing to household incomes, in addition to income from agricultural labor opportunities during the harvest. However, incomes are likely below average due to limited liquidity among better-off households and competition for labor opportunities.

    Additionally, the need to repay past debts and the high cost of living are keeping households Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while the worst-off households who either did not cultivate crops or have meaningful harvests due to significantly reduced access to seed are likely to be facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. 
     


    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Graphic showing yearly seasonal calendar for Madagascar

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario from June to January 2024 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Rainfall: Forecast models indicate that rainfall is expected to be seasonally average during the June to September dry season. However, the rainy season starting in the late November to January period will likely be mixed, with average to above-average rainfall in most regions and below-average rainfall in the Grand Southeast. The forecast El Nino is likely to result in a delayed start of the season and erratic or below-average rainfall. However, there is uncertainty given the long-range nature of the forecast.
    • Cash crops: National cash crop production, except for vanilla, is expected to be near average with localized deficits. Crops have largely recovered from last year's cyclone season; however, clove and pepper production remains below average in the Grand Southeast. Vanilla production is expected to be below average across Madagascar, as plantations have yet to fully recover from the cyclone season. In addition to below-average production, increased vanilla production outside the country will also contribute to decreased exportation of Madagascan vanilla. 
    • Off-season cultivation: Apart from onions, off-season crops are strictly grown for household consumption. Off-season rice production begins in July and ends in December in the Grand Southeast. Off-season rice and cassava are likely to have a favorable season in the Grand Southeast. At the national level, off-season rice production is expected to be average, and harvests will likely last one month. Off-season legume and vegetable production will likely be average in the Grand South. In the central highlands, legumes will continue to be planted until the arrival of the rains in October or November.
    • Roots and tubers production: Roots and tuber production is expected to be below average due to limited household access to seeds and vines. 
    • Cropped area: Cropped area is expected to be higher than last year, but below-average in the Grand South and Grand Southeast.
    • Pastureland and Livestock conditions: Pasture conditions will likely be average to above average in most of the country, leading to improvements in livestock body conditions. Improved rainfall this year favored pasture regeneration, even in the Grand South following multiple years of drought. Livestock prices, particularly for goats, will seasonally increase in June with the start of the post-harvest period and preparations for the Independence Day celebration. After multiple years of drought and Dahalo attacks on livestock in the Grand South, herd sizes remain below average. 
    • Agricultural labor demand and job opportunities: Labor demand is expected to be seasonally low in August and increase during land preparation and planting activities between September and December. In the Grand South, labor opportunities are expected to be slightly higher than last year following improved 2023 harvests but will remain below average due to reduced hiring power by better-off households. Hiring capacity will be below normal because of the worsening macroeconomic situation and consecutive years of drought. 
    • Cash crop labor demand and supply: Outside of the Grand Southeast, labor demand will likely be average for most cash crops. Below-average production of vanilla will result in below-average demand for labor on vanilla farms and plantations across the country but most notably in the North. In the Grand Southeast, labor demand will be better than last year but below normal due to decreased production. Labor supply in the Grand Southeast is also expected to be below normal due to atypically high transportation costs. Laborers, most of whom are poor, will be unable to migrate far distances for seasonal labor opportunities and will have to find work within their livelihood zone or in a neighboring livelihood zone. 
    • Non-ag labor: Non-agricultural labor opportunities will seasonally decrease during the post-harvest period as households rely more on own production for food and income. Some households will sell some crops at the market at normal or below-normal levels, given below-average harvest expectations. As stocks deplete and households rely more on other sources of income to purchase food, engagement in non-agricultural labor activities will seasonally increase. In the worst affected areas of the Grand Southeast, this will increase to atypically high levels starting at the beginning of the lean season and will include activities such as petty trade, charcoal selling, and mining. 
    • Macroeconomy: Madagascar's economic performance will likely be mixed during the scenario period. Inflation will likely remain high because of high international prices and continued devaluation of the Madagascar Ariary (MGA). In response, Madagascar is expected to implement tighter monetary policies to avoid further inflation increases and allow greater exchange rate flexibility to deal with international price shocks. Decreased demand and nickel, cobalt, and vanilla prices will likely reduce export revenues and foreign exchange inflows and exacerbate the current account deficit. Despite inflationary challenges, the economy is expected to benefit from improvements in the tourism and mining sectors during the scenario period.

    Figure 2

    Observed and projected rice prices for Antananarivo, Madagascar.
    Bar chart showing observed and projected rice prices

    Source: FEWS NET

    • Market supplies and commodity prices: Domestic market supplies are expected to be dynamic and normal during the outlook period in most parts of the country. However, prices are expected to continue increasing well above average levels due to high international food and energy prices. During the post-harvest period, prices of local staples, such as rice, maize, and cassava, will seasonally decline but are expected to remain high, given the estimated below-average 2022-2023 harvests. The supply of local staples is expected to be average. With generally high inflation compounding price increases during the lean season, food prices will increase between October and January, negatively impacting household purchasing power. As the rainy season begins, some markets will experience increased accessibility challenges that seasonally limit market supplies. Prices will be the highest in the most remote parts of the Grand Southeast. Despite seasonally increasing and above-average prices, markets will be well-supplied in most areas. 
    • Wild Food Availability: The availability of wild foods is expected to improve this year due to improved rainfall performance, especially in the Grand South. However, it will remain below normal due to multiple years of drought and overexploitation. From June to September, availability will be elevated but below normal as households rely primarily on their own production in this period. During the October to January period, reliance on wild foods will gradually increase as household food stocks decline and availability will be below normal.
    • Acute malnutrition: From June to September 2023, households will benefit from below-average but significantly improved harvests of cereals, legumes, sweet potatoes, and cassava compared to the last several years of drought. Most areas will see improvements to Acceptable levels (<5 percent GAM) or Alert (5-9.9 percent GAM). Worst-affected districts, especially those with the most significant difficulties accessing seed or those hardest hit by crop losses resulting from cyclone-related flooding, are expected to remain at Alert (5 to 9.9 percent GAM) or Serious (10 to 14.9 percent GAM) malnutrition levels. Between October to January, the lean season begins, and households will likely experience a gradual depletion of household food stocks and depend more on market purchases. The malnutrition rate is expected to rise in many districts as rising staple food prices outpace seasonal increases in incomes. As the rainy season begins in October, malaria, diarrhea, and ARI prevalence will seasonally increase, especially threatening the health of children and pregnant and breastfeeding women. Due to a general deterioration in access to food and an increased prevalence of diseases, malnutrition is also expected to increase to Alert (5 to 10 percent GAM) or Serious (10 to 14.9 percent GAM) levels across the Grand South and some areas of the Grand Southeast. 
       

    Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes

    Between June and September, households will still be heavily reliant on their own production from the main harvest season and will continue consuming their remaining food stocks until they are exhausted. Households will also access their cassava and sweet potato harvests from mid-July to September alongside their food stocks from the main harvest. While harvests have significantly improved compared to the last several years, they are still expected to be below average. Food prices will seasonally decline during this period due to increased food supplies but remain above average, decreasing household purchasing power. Despite below-average cash crop production, access to recent harvests and cash crop incomes will maintain widespread Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in much of the Grand Southeast. Poor households may also earn incomes from harvesting cash crops for better-off households, though this income will be below normal. In less productive and more isolated areas, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will occur once household stocks are exhausted. Households in these areas will likely use negative coping strategies such as reducing portion sizes and meal frequencies and consuming atypically high amounts of wild foods to reduce their consumption gaps. 

    The Grand South has minimal cash crop production, and agricultural and non-agricultural labor opportunities will be seasonally low. Many households will have access to income from livestock product sales to fund food and non-food purchases. However, this will be below normal as livestock body conditions will be fair at best. Those with better cassava and sweet potato harvests or greater access to incomes from livestock will likely experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. These households will likely have to reduce spending on educational expenses and eat less-preferred foods to meet their consumption requirements and service their debts. The least-productive areas without meaningful cassava and sweet-potato harvests will likely be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) once cereal stocks run out. To mitigate their consumption gaps, households will likely use negative coping strategies such as reducing meal portions and frequencies, increasing their consumption of wild foods, and selling any remaining marketable assets. 

    From October 2023 to January 2024, Households will become increasingly reliant on market food purchases as household stocks are depleted. Those who stored crops for sale during the lean season will likely take advantage of seasonal price increases. Such seasonal price increases for poor households will significantly erode their purchasing power, most notably in remote areas of the Grand Southeast. 

    In the Grand Southeast, food stocks will temporarily increase in December with the harvesting of off-season rice but will only last a month for poor households and two months for better-off households. Household access to incomes from agricultural labor opportunities will increase with the start of land preparation activities in November. However, labor demand is expected to be below normal due to the reduced hiring power of better-off households. Households with better harvests, access to cash crop income, and access to markets in the Grand Southeast will likely be able to maintain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. In worst-off areas, such as Ikongo and Vondrozo, and remote areas facing the highest prices, households will likely be experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. These households will likely engage in petty trade, charcoal selling, and mining to earn income, but increased competition will limit household access to income.

    Agricultural labor opportunities will remain limited in the Grand South until the rains arrive between November and December, reducing households' capacity to cope with below-average harvests and high food prices. Households with better access to markets and more affordable food prices in coastal areas of the Grand South will likely be able to maintain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely occur in remote, landlocked areas with low market access, such as Midongy du Sud and Befotaka. Despite decreased prices, these households will sell atypically high numbers of poultry and livestock to reduce their consumption gaps. Those with no remaining livestock will likely resort to selling any remaining marketable assets. 

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1

    Table 1. Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario

    Area Event Impact on food security outcomes
    National Higher than anticipated depreciation of the MGA If the MGA depreciates further than anticipated, overall inflation, which is already very elevated, would rise even higher. This would negatively impact household purchasing power, particularly once the lean season starts and households are seasonally reliant on market food purchases. A sharp depreciation of the MGA, particularly from October 2023 to January 2024, would likely increase the number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2), Crisis (IPC Phase 3), or worse outcomes.
    Cyclone strike While there is always at least some risk of a cyclone strike, this risk is particularly elevated in the October to January period once the cyclone season begins in November. A cyclone strike would result in crop losses and reduced agricultural labor opportunities, disproportionately affecting poor households. Damage to essential infrastructure would result in supply chain disruptions. Impacts on food prices would also disproportionately affect poor households, increasing the number of households in Stressed (IPC Phase 2), Crisis (IPC Phase 3), or worse outcomes. 
    Grand South Below-average rainfall performance during the upcoming rainy season  Depending on the severity, below-average rains during October 2023 to January 2024 could significantly decrease crop yields and reverse recent gains in pasture regeneration. With deteriorations in livestock body conditions and crop yields, access to food and incomes would be reduced, resulting in an increased number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2), Crisis (IPC Phase 3), or worse outcomes. 
    Grand South and Grand Southeast  Increased humanitarian aid Since April, humanitarian support has been scaled back because of the harvest period, and distribution plans are unavailable. If the distribution of humanitarian aid starts again or is expanded beyond previous levels in response to below-average harvests and the lingering impacts of several consecutive years of drought, household access to food would improve. This would reduce the number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes and improve area-level outcomes in the Grand South and Southeast to Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) from June to September and Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) from October to January.


     


    Areas of Concern: Mahafaly Plain: Cassava, Goats, and Cattle livelihood zone (MG23) – Focus on Ampanihy District (Figure 3)

    Figure 3

    Area of concern reference map: Mahafaly Plain - Cassava, Goats, and Cattle livelihood zone
    Area of concern reference map showing the Mahafaly Plain - Cassava, Goats, and Cattle livelihood zone

    Source: FEWS NET

    The Mahafaly Plain (Cassava, Goats, and Cattle) livelihood zone spans two districts of the Atsimo Andrefana region (Betioky and Ampanihy) in the southwestern portion of the Grand South. The zone is characterized by low annual rainfall and very low crop production. It borders the Androy region, which is the most arid zone in Madagascar. Cumulative rainfall in the Mahafaly Plain averages 300 to 400 mm annually. This zone's highest and most predictable rainfall is from late December to March. The rainy season used to arrive as early as October but in recent years, the rains begin between November and December. The rainfall received during the 2022/23 season in Ampanihy was above average, totaling around 600 mm between November 2022 and May 2023.

    Very poor households represent around 45 percent of the area's population, whose livelihoods depend on cassava, goat, and poultry production. Household wealth status is primarily determined by livestock ownership and land ownership, with better-off households owning between 2 to 4 hectares of land, middle-income households owning between 0.5 to 1.5 hectares, and poor and very poor households owning less than 0.5 a hectare. Livestock ownership and larger land holdings allow better-off and middle households to earn an important part of their income from livestock sales, land rental, and crop production. Own production typically provides around 15 to 25 percent of annual household food needs for very poor and poor households, with food purchases providing around 30-45 percent of household needs and wild foods fulfilling around  8 to 20 percent of food needs. 

    Crops Production: Following the end of the main rainy season, good soil moisture conditions allowed households to plant and harvest vegetables that can be used for their own consumption or sold for income. Additionally, the soil moisture conditions support cassava and sweet potato production. Between June and August 2023, households will likely have a better harvest than last year of off-season crops such as beans, sweet potatoes, and cassava.

    Labor opportunity: Despite the good rainfall, agricultural labor opportunities are lower than normal as better-off households' income sources were heavily impacted by consecutive years of drought, reducing their ability to hire as many casual laborers from very poor households. During the harvest period, labor supply is also seasonally reduced as households are more engaged in their own harvesting activities. 

    Livestock conditions and pasture availability: Significant pasture regeneration occurred during the last rainy season leading to better pasture and livestock body conditions than in recent years. However, pasture and livestock body conditions are still poorer than before the drought. Herd sizes remain below average, but dahalo attacks are seasonally low. 

    Staple Prices: During the national rice harvest in May, rice prices at the local markets decreased by 9 percent month-on-month as market supply increased and local market demand declined. The maize harvest also improved household food access, with prices around 15 percent lower than six months ago. Cassava prices were stable during the first quarter of 2023 and decreased by 4 percent between April and May. However, the May cassava prices were 59 percent higher than the five-year average and 19 percent higher than in May 2022. According to FEWS NET price projections, a decrease in staple food prices is expected as demand for food purchases falls with the cassava and sweet potato harvests between June and July 2023.

    Assumptions

    Figure 4

    Observed and projected dried cassava prices in Ampanihy, Dec 2022-Apr 2024
    Bar and line charts of Observed and projected dried cassava prices in Ampanihy, Dec 2022-Apr 2024

    Source: FEWS NET estimates based on data from WFP

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

    • Production of beans, sweet potatoes, and cassava from June to September will be below average due to reduced access to seeds and limited cropped area.
    • The cassava and sweet potato harvest between July and September is expected to improve household food access and consumption for around one month for very poor and poor households and two months for middle and better-off households.
    • Very poor and poor households are expected to use organic fertilizers but will have limited access to improved seeds and chemical fertilizers due to high prices. 
    • Wild food availability is expected to be similar to last year and below typical levels due to multiple consecutive droughts and overexploitation of forests. Wild tubers collection will peak between November and January. 
    • Migration will remain below normal as high transportation costs limit poor and poor households' ability to migrate to other districts or regions. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From June to September 2023: Households will consume and sell their production from the 2022/23 harvest along with cassava, sweet potatoes, and beans to purchase other household food and non-food needs. Although the cultivated area is limited, production has been better this year than last year due to sufficient moisture. Moreover, the impacts of the cyclone season this year were no worse than last year. With below-average harvests, very poor households will rely on markets for food purchases much earlier than normal. Fresh cassava, sweet potatoes, and peanuts are available, and while prices have not reached their annual peak, food inflation is eroding household purchasing power. Many households in Ampanihy have not produced enough and are expected to exhaust their food stocks by the end of July. For these households, the lean season will start earlier than normal. Until the hot season begins in August, poor households will rely on markets for fresh sweet potatoes and cassava. From August, households that have depleted their food stocks will have to buy dried cassava at the market to meet their consumption needs. 

    To cope with below-average harvests, high food prices, and minimal agricultural labor opportunities, poor and very poor households are expected to continue to search for daily job opportunities such as fetching or selling water and informal mining activities. The prices of livestock such as cattle, goats, and sheep will increase with the good harvests and pasture conditions, limiting opportunities for poor and very poor households to purchase livestock and rebuild their herds. However, those who sell livestock will benefit from higher prices. Small ruminants and poultry sales will enable poor households to earn additional income and reduce their consumption gaps. Amidst these conditions, households will have to pay off debts incurred during the last several years of drought and likely experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

    From October 2023 to January 2024: October is the start of the hot and dry season in the Grand South. The root and tuber harvest has been completed, and crop production will not resume until after the rains arrive. Households will likely be consuming the last of their food stocks, selling livestock products, and becoming progressively reliant on market purchases of dried cassava. In the coastal communes of Itampolo and Androka, households will also supplement their food consumption and income through ongoing fishing activities, but fish prices are likely to be low due to seasonally increased supplies.

    To cope with below-average incomes from agricultural labor, the need to service debts and higher food prices, households will likely increase their reliance on charcoal and firewood sales, informal mining activities, and the fetching and selling of water for income. However, increased competition is expected to keep earnings low. Some households will sell off poultry at low prices to raise income for food, non-food, and agricultural input purchases. Very poor and poor households are expected to increase their consumption of wild foods such as wild roots/tubers, red or yellow cactus fruits, cooking unripe mangoes, cactus leaves, and tamarind mixed with ash to minimize food consumption gaps. Additionally, households will likely reduce the frequency and size of meals, with the worst affected households likely to begin consuming their seed stocks. As household dependence on market purchases increases through the projection period, along with the start of the lean season, at least one in five households will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.  


    Areas of Concern: The Corridor: Forest products and banana livelihood zone (MG18) – Focus on Ikongo District, Vatovavy region (Figure 5)

    Figure 5

    Area of concern reference map: The Corridor – Forest products and banana livelihood zone
    Area of concern reference map: The Corridor – Forest products and banana livelihood zone

    Source: FEWS NET

    The Corridor (Forest products and banana) livelihood zone (MG18) is located in the Grand Southeast of Madagascar and covers Ifanadiana, Ikongo (or Fort Carnot), Vondrozo, Midongy Atsimo, and Befotaka districts. The rainy season occurs between November and May, with annual rainfall varying between 1,000 and 2,000 mm. During the winter, rainfall is sporadic between June and July, and the dry season occurs from August to October. Household wealth status is primarily determined by livestock and land ownership, with better-off households owning more than 1 hectare of land, whereas the poor and very poor own less than 0.5 hectares. The rugged topography with small valleys limits the size of the rice fields, driving the population to use slash-and-burn cultivation techniques. Such small rice fields constrain poor households' income-earning potential from crop production, and households must supplement their incomes through poultry production and fishing. The roads that connect the main district of Ikongo with its communes are mostly in bad condition and are difficult to access, particularly during the rainy season. Ikongo is an isolated district that depends on the Fianarantsoa-Cote-Est (FCE) railway line for trade. The line connects Ikongo to Fianarantsoa and Manakara but has been out of operation since 2021. The railway line is expected to reopen in June 2023, facilitating trade and tourism for the district.

    Crops Production: The vast majority (about 95 percent) of the population of Ikongo District are farmers. Various crops are grown, including rice (rainfed and irrigated), cassava, sweet potatoes, ginger, and coffee. Ikongo also produces fruits such as bananas, jackfruit, and lychees. Eels and crayfish are also caught in the Sandrantana and Matatana rivers and tributaries. Households can also access forest products, including honey, medicinal plants, and firewood. However, according to MINAE estimates, during the passage of the two cyclones in 2022, almost 90 percent of cash crops were lost, including coffee and vanilla plants and fruit trees (banana, mandarins, jackfruits, and lychees). Most households had yet to fully recover from the effects of Batsirai and Emnati in 2022 when Cheneso and Freddy hit in 2023 and caused even further damage to cash crops. The loss of cash crops is of particular concern given how long it takes for these crops to reach maturity and begin producing fruit and how dependent households are on cash crop production for their livelihoods. 

    Labor opportunity: Decreased cash crop production due to cyclone damage, erratic rainfall, and limited access to seeds limits better-off and middle households' hiring capacity and labor opportunities, on which very poor and poor households depend to earn income throughout the year. 

    Staple Prices: Rice prices at the local market have seasonally decreased by 19 percent compared to January and February, given the ongoing harvest. 

    Assumptions

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

    • Cassava and sweet potato harvests will occur between July and August. Coffee, clove, wild honey, jackfruit, banana, and lychee production will be marginal due to past damage from cyclones.
    • The resumption of the FCE railway line will facilitate the flow of production and the normal supply of local markets. This will also help mitigate seasonal food price increases between December and January and increase opportunities for households to earn income from selling fruits, honey, and medicinal plants. Food prices are still expected to remain higher than last year and significantly above the five-year average. 
    • Middle and better-off households will have a limited capacity to hire laborers during preparations for the main agricultural season from October to January, reducing job opportunities for poor and very poor households.
    • The low purchasing power of poor and very poor households will likely limit their access to agricultural inputs (including seeds and natural fertilizers) for the main agricultural season. Prices of agricultural inputs are also expected to remain high.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From June to September 2023, households will rely on their own production of rice, cassava, and sweet potatoes until August but slowly increase their reliance on market purchases as food stocks deplete. The current rice harvest will likely last one month for poor households and two months for middle and better-off households. Poor and very poor households are expected to sell some of their crops to afford other household needs, such as cooking oil or non-food items like clothes or candles. To avoid an even quicker depletion of food stocks, households will likely reduce the diversity of foods consumed. Very poor and poor households are likely to increase their dependence on income from selling forest products. Households are also likely to resort to selling poultry, given the decreased availability of wild honey and other forest products. Facing significantly below-average cash crop production, below-average agricultural labor opportunities, and increasingly expensive staple food prices, households will likely increase their engagement in coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3), such as eating less preferred foods, reducing meal portions, and skipping meals to minimize food consumption gaps. 

    From October 2023 to January 2024, households will rely on market purchases for food and income until the harvest of off-season rice in December. This harvest is only expected to last for up to one month. Rice prices will increase during the lean season and peak in November. Poor households will continue to sell forest products and lychees (starting in November) to purchase other household needs. However, this earned income is expected to be significantly below average due to decreased cash crop production and decreased availability of forest products. Facing high prices and significantly below-average income-generating opportunities, very poor households will likely begin eating more wild foods, some varieties of which can be dangerous to consume if not well prepared. Given these conditions, households will likely be experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. As the rains arrive around November, the prevalence of diseases such as malaria and diarrhea will also seasonally increase.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Madagascar Food Security Outlook June 2023 to January 2024:  Ongoing rice harvests improving food access in cyclone-impacted areas, 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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