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Emergency (IPC Phase 4) expected in the Grand South if food assistance is not sustained

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Madagascar
  • October 2022 - May 2023
Emergency (IPC Phase 4) expected in the Grand South if food assistance is not sustained

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In southern Madagascar, a third consecutive season of drought and below-average harvests continue to drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. In several areas, significant levels of humanitarian food assistance are expected to prevent worse outcomes through January 2023, indicative of Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!). Currently, however, humanitarian assistance plans are funded only through January, even though February and March are the peak of the lean season period when market prices are typically at their highest and income levels are at their lowest. If assistance levels are not sustained, then households in these areas will most likely face widening food consumption gaps and consequently engage in unsustainable coping strategies. In the absence of assistance, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC phase 3) outcomes are expected across the Grand South from February to mid-April, when access to food will improve with the harvest.

    • Along the coast of eastern Madagascar, where cassava production was negatively impacted by excess moisture and flooding during the 2022 cyclone season, households are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, with pockets of households experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) given the lengthy nature of recovery. These outcomes are anticipated to persist throughout the outlook period. In the rest of the country, near-average crop production and near-normal household incomes will continue to drive Minimal (IPC Phase 1) area-level outcomes through May 2023; however, an increase in the number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes is likely given the negative effects of high inflation on access to food.

    • Following a deceleration in inflation from July 2021 to June 2022, headline inflation has been rising again since July, climbing to 9.7 percent year-on-year in September 2022, which is the highest inflation rate recorded since January 2018. The increase in inflation is driven by high fuel and transportation costs as well as high food prices, reflecting international prices as well as domestic damage to crops caused by weather events, such as cyclones and drought. The increasing inflation is eroding households’ purchasing power and limiting access to food. In addition, these trends are limiting economic recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and reducing middle and better-off households’ ability to hire labor.

    • The beginning of the agricultural season is expected to improve labor opportunities starting in November as households begin land preparation and planting activities. Initial rainfall data for October indicate an average start to the rainy season in southern Madagascar, with projections for a continuation of average rainfall for the remainder of the agricultural season. While this is expected to facilitate an increase in cultivation as compared to last year, labor opportunities and harvests are likely to remain below average following consecutive years of drought, limited seed stock and access to agricultural inputs, as well as soaring inflation eroding middle and better-off households’ hiring power.


    Current Situation

    Weather shocks: Southwestern Madagascar has faced three consecutive seasons of drought due to late-onset, erratic, and below-average rainfall, resulting in poor cultivation and limited pasture in heavily agro-pastoralist areas. Meanwhile, in southeastern Madagascar, a heavy 2022 cyclone season led to flooding and excess moisture, alleviating some of the drought conditions but also damaging some crops. Madagascar is highly prone to severe tropical storms and cyclones, particularly from January to March. According to FAO’s March 2022 assessment of cyclone-impacted areas, the cost of damages in the 2022 cyclone season exceeded an estimated 140 million USD in the southeastern region alone, including 61 million USD in food crops, 78 million USD in cash crops, and nearly 1.5 million USD in livestock. Recovery activities are still ongoing in these areas, in large part due to the compounding effect on the pre-existing vulnerabilities of households in these communities – including limited sources of food and income – prior to the atypically severe cyclone season.   

    Household food stocks: Following the third consecutive severe drought in the Grand South, households in this area have significantly below-average food stocks going into the annual lean season, which typically starts in December and runs through March, when the harvest for the main agricultural season begins. This year, the production of maize and legumes was between 60 and 70 percent below average, with the southwestern areas most heavily impacted. In addition, poor soil moisture across the southwest negatively impacted the development of roots and tubers, resulting in below-average production of cassava and sweet potato, with some areas having little to no stocks following the seasonal harvest from August to October. Consequently, many households have been prematurely market-dependent for most staple foods. Given low to nonexistent stocks, poorer households are increasing consumption of wild foods. In the Grand South, households are consuming cactus fruits, wild mangoes, tamarindus indica, and others, while in the Grand Southeast, households are increasing consumption of breadfruit, yams, and – in extreme cases – vihy, an aquatic plant with an edible fruit that can cause sickness. However, across both areas, the impacts of the drought and increasing reliance on wild foods to meet basic consumption needs are depleting the availability of wild foods.

    Meanwhile, in areas worst affected by the above-average 2022 cyclone season in the southeast, household food stocks are also beginning to deplete earlier than usual, given crop losses earlier in the year. In the rest of the country, household food stocks are at near-normal levels, given near-average production from the 2021/22 production.

    Household income sources: After seasonal labor migration for cash crops was constrained in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19-related movement restrictions, the easing of policies this year has allowed for an increase in seasonal labor migration, particularly in northern and central Madagascar. For households in the Grand South, however, seasonal migration continues to be significantly constrained by below-average incomes and transportation costs, which are averaging nearly 20 percent above last year’s prices. According to the Système d'information sur la Sécurité Alimentaire et la Vulnérabilité (SISAV), the average wage is about 4,200 MGA/day in the South and 3,500 MGA/day in the eastern part of the country, significantly below both the minimum wage and cash-for-work allowances. Cash crop labor demand in the eastern part of the country, which Grand South households often rely on, is also below normal as these areas continue to recover from the impacts of cyclone strikes earlier this year.

    As a result, poor households in the South are therefore relying more on local income-generating activities, such as firewood and charcoal sales, fetching and selling water, making and selling rope and other products from the sisal plant, and local mining activities. In addition, given that wild foods have high water-stress resilience, engaging in the gathering and selling of wild foods is also increasing across the Grand South. However, the consecutive years of drought have negatively impacted the availability of wild fruits and leaves amid increased competition for access. Some households in the Grand South are starting to earn income from land preparation activities in the lead-up to the main agricultural season, but this income source is below average as consecutive years of drought, high inflation, and economic decline have reduced better-off households’ hiring power. In contrast, most other parts of the country are seeing near-normal engagement in typical livelihood strategies, leading to average household income levels.

    Livestock production: While pasture conditions are near average across most parts of the country, they are well below average in the Grand South due to consecutive years of drought and low soil moisture in the southwest since the end of the last rainfall season. As a result, livestock body conditions are poor (Figure 1), leading to lower-than-average livestock prices. Pastoralists are prematurely selling their livestock in fear that their herds will die in the coming months due to drought or disease, preferring to receive income from their sales, even at depressed prices. Although this destocking can serve as a productive coping strategy in certain situations, it is leading to below-average livestock prices from distressed sales and has contributed to a significant reduction in livestock herd sizes.

    Macroeconomic conditions: The macroeconomic situation in the country has been deteriorating in recent months as pressure from international prices and a negative trade balance, combined with tighter financial conditions and elevated uncertainty, are weighing on economic activity and contributing to rising inflation (Figure 2).  After a deceleration in inflation from July 2021 to June 2022, headline inflation has been rising again since July, climbing to 9.7 percent in September 2022, with the highest increases in food and transportation, likely due to weather events and global prices alike. To contain the surge in inflation, the central bank has been tightening monetary policies, and the government imposed price ceilings on three basic products in April 2022: rice, sugar, and cement. VAT on fuel was reduced from 20 to 15 percent in July; however, current VAT exemptions on cereals (rice, wheat, maize) and agricultural products tend to benefit middle and better-off households more than poorer consumers, who typically purchase from small retailers not registered for VAT. Overall, rising inflationary pressures are weighing on household incomes, reducing purchasing power, and affecting the ability of better-off households to hire labor, constraining labor opportunities for poorer households.

    Staple food prices:  The primary crop-producing areas of Madagascar are in the central and northern regions, where production has been near average for most crops. As a result, national market supplies for staple foods are at near-normal levels across most parts of the country. However, prices of most commodities are above last year’s levels and the five-year average due to general inflation, above average transportation costs, and high global prices for imported goods. FEWS NET data shows price increases across all commodities and markets. For example, in September in Antananarivo, local and imported rice prices were 16 and 12 percent higher than last year, respectively, and 27 and 22 percent above the five-year average, respectively. In Fianarantsoa, cassava prices showed an increase of 30 percent in September compared to last year and 106 percent compared to the five-year average. Meanwhile, in Ampanihy in October, dried cassava prices rose 8 percent month-on-month due to the significantly below-average cassava harvests this year. The October prices were also 18 percent above last year and 51 percent above the five-year average.

    Acute Malnutrition:  The latest SMART nutrition survey, carried out in July 2022, indicated that Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence ranged from 4.4 to 14.5 percent across the Grand Southeast – where poor water and sanitation conditions and limited access to health facilities following cyclones were elevating acute malnutrition rates. GAM rates in the Grand South were recorded from 3.9 to 9.4 percent; while significant humanitarian food assistance in recent years has improved GAM rates in the Grand South, levels remained high for the post-harvest period given very poor maize and root and tuber harvests. Although most districts were in the “Alert” (GAM 5–9.9 percent) category in July, according to World Health Organization (WHO) thresholds, seasonal deterioration is likely, with the worst-impacted districts expected to be in the “Serious” range (GAM 10–14.9 percent) by October.

    Humanitarian assistance: Reports from the field indicate that earlier delays in delivery between March and May 2022 resulted in food assistance which slated to end in June actually continuing through August. Once this assistance dropped off, food consumption gaps began to increase in affected districts. By early to mid-October planned humanitarian food and cash assistance by WFP and partners had resumed and is currently mitigating worse outcomes in areas where assistance delivery is highest in parts of Bekily, Amboasary, Ampanihy, and Betioky. However, some areas remain hard to access due to damaged roads.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    With this year’s hazards leading to a significant reduction in harvests and an atypically early start to the lean season, households across the Grand South are struggling to meet their food needs. Although relatively better 2021/22 rainfall supported near-normal root and tuber harvests in southeastern parts of the region, these stocks are beginning to deplete, and maize stocks have been exhausted for several months. In the southwest, below-average soil moisture conditions negatively impacted crop development such that total production for roots and tubers was significantly below average, with some households reporting total crop failure. To cope with this situation, worst-affected households are resorting to reducing the quantity of food eaten per meal or the number of meals per day. In some cases, household members skip multiple meals two to three times per week. Given the above-average staple food prices, continuously rising inflation, below-average income, and severely limited livelihood coping strategies, household purchasing power has been significantly eroded, limiting access to food on the markets. Households are resorting to consuming wild foods such as cactus fruits and leaves, raw mangoes, or tamarind fruits mixed with ash to reduce widening consumption gaps.

    The worst-affected households in the southwestern areas are facing Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes as humanitarian food assistance continues to prevent worse acute food insecurity outcomes from materializing in these areas. In the majority of the Grand South, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are currently persisting. Some of the less-affected areas in the Grand South that are receiving assistance are experiencing Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes, and in the relatively better-off parts of the region, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) conditions are ongoing. Meanwhile, in the cyclone-impacted southeastern areas, excess moisture and flooding during the 2022 cyclone season negatively impacted cassava and rice production by rotting roots and damaging crops, resulting in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes as cyclone recovery continues. Elsewhere in Madagascar, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are driven by near-average crop production as households consume their own-produced food while earning seasonally average incomes.


    The most likely scenario from October 2022 to May 2023 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • 2022/23 rainfall and cyclone seasons: In western parts of the Grand South of Madagascar, the ongoing effects of multiple consecutive droughts are likely to continue negatively impacting soil moisture and, consequently, the establishment of maize and other cereals at the outset of the main agricultural season. However, average rainfall from November to April will likely improve soil moisture conditions to normal by January 2023 and allow normal crop development for the remainder of the growing season. Eastern parts of the Grand South may experience below-average rainfall in the second half of the season, while the rest of the Grand South is expected to experience average soil moisture conditions and rainfall throughout the rainy season. In eastern and northern Madagascar, below-average rainfall is expected, likely resulting in a slow start to the season for rice and some below-average yields for rain-fed crops. In addition, an average number of cyclones are expected to hit Madagascar in early 2023.
    • Maize production: In the southwest, poor soil moisture during the planting period may negatively impact the establishment of maize and other cereals. Additionally, across the Grand South, limited access to seeds due to above-average prices and below-average incomes will contribute to below-average cropped area and production. National 2022/23 maize production will therefore likely be below average.
    • Cassava production: National cassava production is likely to be average in most parts of the country due to positive growing conditions this year. However, in the Grand South, limited access to planting materials due to consecutive years of drought and limited household incomes will likely lead to below-average cropped area and production.
    • Rice production: Average cropped area for rice is expected in the 2022/23 production season, despite increased agricultural input prices. Additionally, even with the anticipated slow start of the planting season, average production for local rice is expected as most of the rice grown in the central and northern areas of the country is irrigated.
    • Cash crop production: In eastern and some northern parts of the country, below-average production of cash crops, including vanilla, coffee, and cloves, is expected due to atypically high cyclone activity in early 2022. Although some recovery of the sectors is expected in 2023, below-average rainfall forecasts for northern Madagascar and high input prices are likely to constrain investment and recovery, keeping 2023 harvest expectations somewhat below average.   
    • Markets and trade: National market supplies for staple foods are expected to be normal throughout the outlook period across most of the country. However, in the Grand South, supplies are expected to be below average, especially during the overlapping months of the rainy season and the lean season. During this time, regional supplies of staples will begin to seasonally reduce, and road conditions will deteriorate with the rains, temporarily severing linkages to markets in highly vulnerable areas. Given seasonal climatic conditions and high transportation prices, the number of traders is expected to decrease through March, resulting in delivery delays, supply shortages, and additional price spikes.
    • Macroeconomic conditions: The MGA is expected to continue depreciating during the outlook period, due to high global prices and reduced demand for Malagasy exports, resulting in a negative trade balance. The government has reduced subsidies and increased fuel prices, as these subsidies had put pressure on public finance, but these developments are expected to further increase the cost of imported goods, such as fuel and rice, and exacerbate already high food prices. In addition, annual average inflation is projected to accelerate and could reach double digits during the peak of the lean season, further limiting purchasing power for households.
    • Staple food prices: Prices of locally produced staples, such as rice and cassava, are expected to remain above average in markets across the country, due to increased production costs in 2022 and crop losses due to cyclone strikes. In the Grand South, prices for maize, cassava, and sweet potato are expected to remain significantly above average through the peak of the lean season, given poor 2022 harvests and above-average input prices. Imported rice is also likely to see price increases throughout the outlook period due to macroeconomic trends, global prices, and export bans. The government is likely to maintain price ceilings on rice, sugar, and cement, which they introduced in April 2022. However, the government is considering eliminating VAT exemptions on cereals (rice, wheat, maize) and agricultural products, which would likely keep upward pressure on food prices.
    • Labor demand and income: Non-agricultural labor demand, particularly in urban areas, is expected to slowly increase, in line with general economic recovery, but remain below pre-pandemic levels. Given the significant losses of cash crops in eastern and some parts of northern Madagascar during the 2021/22 cyclone season, agricultural labor demand for these crops will likely be below average at the end of 2022, before declining seasonally in early 2023. Local agricultural labor opportunities, especially across the Grand South, are likely to increase with the beginning of the main agricultural season but remain well below average as households continue to struggle with high input prices and limited seed stock after years of reduced harvests and associated income, reducing better-off households’ capacity to hire labor. Both agricultural and non-agricultural labor wage rates are expected to remain below average throughout the outlook period, given lingering economic impacts from the pandemic and recent climatic shocks.
    • Livestock conditions: Pasture availability and quality are expected to be fair to good in most parts of the country except for in the Grand South — particularly the southwest, where pasture and vegetation has been severely negatively impacted by the continuous drought and below-average soil moisture conditions, which are expected to persist until the end of the year. Livestock body conditions are likely to further deteriorate, and livestock deaths are expected to increase until early 2023, when the rains can begin to regenerate enough pasture. Both pasture availability and livestock body conditions will improve from early 2023 but remain at below-normal levels given the severity of conditions going into the rainy season. In addition, livestock herd sizes are expected to remain below average in southern Madagascar for the duration of the outlook period due to livestock deaths in the heavily drought-affected areas as well as households continuing to prematurely sell their livestock to raise income for market purchases. Due to these below-average body conditions and early sales, livestock prices and income from livestock sales are expected to be below average, with only marginal improvements after the lean season ends.
    • Wild food availability is expected to be below average in the Grand South, following multiple consecutive droughts and the resulting overexploitation of forests as poor households continue to rely on wild foods to reduce food consumption deficits.
    • Humanitarian assistance: Humanitarian assistance across the Grand South is expected to expand in some areas and  continue in others, mitigating acute food insecurity outcomes in those areas where assistance is highest, including Bekily, Beloha, Tsihombe, Ampanihy, and Midongy Atsimo. These levels of assistance are currently funded through January. Without adequate funding, food assistance is unlikely to be delivered for the remainder of the lean season between February and early April.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Three consecutive severe droughts and limited access to agricultural inputs led to extremely low maize harvests and poor soil moisture, severely impacting cassava and sweet potato production in southwestern Madagascar and resulting in high household reliance on humanitarian assistance to prevent the spread of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Poor and very poor households in the region are currently facing an early onset of the lean season, which will likely deepen in the coming months, despite the anticipated average rains, due to high competition for agricultural labor, low wages, and anticipated below-average cropped area, amid increasingly high market prices. The multiple consecutive shocks of the past two years have limited household coping capacity, resulting in continued deterioration of food access. Worst-affected households are expected to employ unsustainable consumption-based coping strategies, such as reducing the frequency and quantity of meals and skipping meals for multiple days in a week, as well as livelihood coping strategies, such as increasing reliance on water fetching and selling, informal mining, atypical migration, charcoal and wild food selling, and sales of productive and non-productive assets. Consequently, at the peak of the lean season between February and March, and in the absence of humanitarian assistance, very poor and poor households in the southwest will likely face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.

    Meanwhile, in the Grand Southeast, the negative impacts of the above-average 2022 cyclone season, including below-average crop production, high food prices, inflation, and limited livelihood opportunities, will continue to be partially mitigated in some areas by the inflow of humanitarian food assistance through January. Through the lean season, from October to January, many households will likely be highly dependent on markets and humanitarian assistance to access food and will be experiencing Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes. Further, below-average incomes and above-average prices will result in households being unable to meet other non-food expenditures. From February to May, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are anticipated, driven by continued above-average food prices, rising inflation, and below-average household income, resulting in reduced purchasing power in the absence of humanitarian assistance. In other parts of the Grand Southeast, which were less affected by cyclones, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected throughout the outlook period.

    In the central and northern parts of the country, where households realized near-average crop production and are earning near-normal income from 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, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes will continue throughout the outlook period. However, due to soaring inflation, above-average food prices, and economic downturn, the number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes will be relatively higher than average but remain below 20 percent of the total population.

    For the duration of the lean season, acute malnutrition is expected to increase across both the Grand South and Grand Southeast. In the worst-affected areas, particularly the southwest, GAM prevalence will likely deteriorate to “Serious” (> 10–14.9 percent) levels. The worsening acute malnutrition outcomes are primarily due to the deterioration of food consumption during the lean season as food availability and access decline, in conjunction with reductions in access to healthcare amid the seasonal increase in waterborne diseases, such as diarrhea, associated with the onset of the rains.

    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
    Grand SouthDisruption of delivery of humanitarian assistanceLarge-scale humanitarian assistance is necessary to mitigate worse outcomes across the Grand South. Any delay or disruption in delivery for an extended period is likely to result in drastic increases in food consumption gaps during the peak of the lean season and large increases in the proportion of households experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes for as long as the disruption lasts.
    Grand SouthErratic, poorly distributed and/or below-average rainfallThis would be the fourth consecutive drought season, triggering worsening outcomes in the Grand South by negatively impacting casual labor opportunities and income, livestock and pasture conditions, livestock prices, and harvest expectations into 2023. This would likely lead to an increase in the proportion of the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) 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.
    NationalCyclone or tropical storm strikeDespite a likely average cyclone season, a strike or the passage of a large storm system may bring significant rainfall and cause infrastructure damage, thereby disrupting the movement of food commodities from surplus- to deficit-producing areas. This may lead to supply shortages, further disruptions of assistance delivery, and additional price increases, deepening food consumption gaps and increasing the proportion of the population in the affected area facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2), Crisis (IPC Phase 3), or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. In addition, flooding would likely cause crop damages to food or cash crops (depending on the location of the strike), putting at risk 2023 harvests and agricultural labor opportunities.



    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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