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Upcoming harvests expected to mitigate localized Crisis-level food insecurity

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Madagascar
  • March 2014
Upcoming harvests expected to mitigate localized Crisis-level food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Context
  • Assessment findings - current conditions
  • Key assumptions through June 2014
  • Projected food security outcomes
  • Possible events that could change the most likely scenario over the next six months
  • Key Messages
    • Prospects for the 2013/2014 rainy season remain good, given the positive seasonal forecast from SARCOP, NOOA and IRI, which are forecasting increased chances of normal to above-normal rains in most parts of the country. In southwestern and central parts of the country visited by the FEWS NET team, these forecasts were corroborated by local stakeholders.
    • Much of the locust infestation currently affecting Madagascar has largely concentrated in western and southwestern areas of the country between Besalampy in Melaki and Toliara in Atsimo Andrefana, where ecological conditions are favorable for reproduction. Despite treatment efforts, local damage to maize and rice crops may have already been significant in areas of the west and southwest. However, impacts on total production are expected to be minimal, given good rainfall conditions and prospects for above-average yields.
    • Poor households in Menabe (Manja and Belo-Tsiribihina districts), Atsimo Andrefana (Morombe district), Melaky (Antsalova district), and Atsimo Atsinanana (Vaingaindrano district) will experience persistently high food prices, limited resources and low purchasing power, and are face difficulties meeting their food and non-food needs. In March, poor households are facing Stress (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity, and will improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in April-June, following the main harvest.
    • Poor households in the Atsimo-Andrefana region (Ampanihy and Betiocky districts) and Androy region (Tsihombe, Beloha, and Bekily districts) are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity in March. These households will improve to Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity in April-May, with a return to Stress (IPC Phase 2) by August.


    FEWS NET conducted a rapid assessment in Madagascar in September 2013 to better understand the impacts of the locust outbreak, cyclone Haruna, poor rainfall and other shocks. Following the assessment, FEWS NET identified key areas of concern for the 2014 consumption year and classified current and projected food security outcomes through March 2014.

    In February 2014, FEWS NET conducted a follow-up assessment during the peak of the lean season to verify projections from the September 2013 assessment. The mission evaluated areas of concern for the 2014 consumption year, especially the areas that faced the multiple shocks described above in early 2013. The FEWS NET Team met with key food security stakeholders in Antananarivo and collected food security-related information in Ihosy (Ihorombe), Sakaraha and Toliora (Atsimo Andrefana), Morondava (Menabe), and Antsirabe (Vakinankaratra). The team collected information through meetings and discussions with market traders, households in their villages and local technical staff of government services, NGOS and international organizations.

    Assessment findings - current conditions

    The recent month of February was marked, as usual, by the peak of the lean period and good progress of the 2013 growing season that started in October and November. In areas of the southwest, poor households’ access to food is constrained by high staple food prices, weak purchasing power and limited own stocks, particularly in areas previously affected by the multiple shocks of early 2013. The locust population is above average, with potential regional impact on maize and rice in the southwest where the bulk of the locust population is concentrated due to favorable ecological conditions.

    Seasonal Progress: The 2013/2014 rainy season started normally, in November, in most part of the visited areas. Rainfall was normal to above normal, reflecting the general trend across the country. Following sufficient rainfall and good distribution across space and time, most typical cropping areas are conducive to good crop development, including the north where some dryness has prevailed in previous months. Above-average rains are expected in March, compensating for the reduction in rainfall observed in February in some areas of Atsimo Andrefana. Field visits revealed that most crops are at advanced stages of development in the areas visited by the team.

    Locust infestation: Between September 2013 and February 2014, the Locust Control Center treated about 270,000 hectares, as part of the three-year control campaign aiming to reduce locusts to recession levels by September 2016. No assessment is planned to evaluate the impact of the locust infestation on crops and pastures until the end of harvest in June. According to local stakeholders in Morondava, up to 50 to 60 percent of maize and up to 20 to 30 percent of rice might have been destroyed in the most-affected western and the central parts of Morondava region, as of late February. However, the impact on total production is expected to be marginal. Damage to pasture and sugar were reportedly less substantial. Due to favorable ecological conditions (rainfall, temperature, vegetation), some of the locust population moved back to areas of the extreme south in February.

    The market and household impacts of locust damage will be limited prior to the harvest, which will begin in April. Some trader speculation has contributed to higher maize and rice prices, especially in the Manja district of Menabe region. Between June and August, however, households’ own production of rice and maize will be limited and rice and maize prices will be above normal, exposing households to an onset of the lean season two months earlier than usual.

    Rice Supply and Prices: Despite the multiple shocks of early 2013 that led to significant rice production deficits localized areas of the south and southwest, the major southwestern city of Toliara saw rice prices remain stable, increasing by less than 5 percent between April 2013 and February 2014. In a normal year, these prices typically increase by 8 to 10 percent between April and February.

    Increased rice imports have helped to limit price variations, with Asian rice imports reaching approximately 400,000 nationwide MT in 2013/2014, or about double the amount imported the previous year. Rice prices continue to be stable in March 2014 despite low rice price production and fears of rice price spikes. This stability is due to exceptionally high quantities of imported rice in markets, which was facilitated by stable global rice prices and the removal of Malagasy tariff duties. The release of imported rice stocks into urban and local improved supplies during the July-to-October period and made rice available in sufficient quantities to meet household demand. Following the second-season recent rice harvest in late November, local rice availability increased at the market and household levels. Local rice has regained its place as the staple food for the poor since December, and imported rice market stocks are low. Local rice supply remains high in all visited areas, as of February/March. 

    Additional contributors to diminishing prices are positive rainy season progress and weak demand due to significant reductions in household purchasing power as a result of early exhaustion of their own food and cash crops, earlier-than usual market food purchases, and high cassava prices. The reduction in household purchasing power is the result of early erosion of households’ livelihood assets such as livestock, low livestock prices, high cassava prices during the July 2013 to March 2014 period.

    Rice prices are much higher in areas affected by extensive locust infestation, insecurity and poor harvests, such as Manja district in the Menabe region, where rice prices are about 17 to 20 percent higher when compared to the national five-year average in March, when they are normally higher than the national average by 5 to 10 percent.  

    Cassava Supply and Prices: Last year’s poor cassava harvest and currently high household demand have driven cassava prices in rural areas of the southwestern cassava belt to 17 to 25 percent above last year’s levels since September 2013. This has limited household access to cassava, a preferred staple food for local households.

    In these areas, cassava supply has remained atypically low since the harvest in June, particularly between September and February. This is due to below-average cassava production in most parts of the region (as a result of poor rainfall and Cyclone Haruna), coupled with inadequate commercial transfers of cassava surpluses in urban areas to the local markets. Local traders, who have adequate storage capacities, purchased cassava at farmgate in May and June 2013 for speculative reasons. They supplied urban markets, such as Toliora, with dry cassava and maize between July and October, improving supplies and cushioning prices. However, the bulk of the dry cassava did not reach rural markets due to bad roads, rising insecurity, speculative trading and urban traders’ reluctance to move significant dried cassava quantities into areas where household purchasing power was and remains low.

    Livestock markets: Interviews with traders revealed that livestock prices, particularly for goats in some areas of the southwest, have been declining since the start of the lean season in October.  In some districts, such as Betioky in the Atsimo Andrefana region, poor households in need of cash oversold their livestock between the months of October and February, creating higher-than-typical market supply. Goat prices were 16,000 MGA/head in February 2014, compared to 25,000 MGA/head in February 2013.

    Household food and income sources: Interviews with village households in the Atsimo Andrefana region (Ampanihy and Betiocky districts) and Androy region (Tsihombe, Beloha, and Bekily districts) revealed that most poor households sold their usual livestock assets and cash crops a few months after the harvest and had to resort adopt negative copying mechanisms in order to meet food and non-food needs. In addition to working more hours for the better-off households to earn income and borrowing from family members, households oversold of their goats, cut more trees than usual for charcoal and went into debt by borrowing money from better-off households in exchange for the standing crops in their farms to access food and income.

    Humanitarian Assistance: Emergency assistance in the form of free distribution of food, agricultural inputs and soap were scaled up during the post-Haruna period last year. The intervention partially mitigated food insecurity, especially in the south and the southwest. Existing programs in the form of school feeding, support to health, education and farming will continue normally.

    Key assumptions through June 2014

    Key Drivers

    Locusts: With an additional airplane expected to be operational in March, the Locust Control Center will scale up control operations, covering wider geographical areas, improving treatment, limiting the expansion of the locust population and minimizing damage to maize, rice and pastures in rice-producing areas that are or will be heavily infested with locusts before the end of the rainy season in June. Though it is difficult to estimate the quantities involved without an assessment, maize and rice production are likely to fall below normal levels in some areas stretching from southern Melaky to southern and central Menabe as a result of damages already done.

    Rainfall and seasonal progress: Seasonal forecasts released by SARCOF, NOOA, IRI, ECMWF indicated increased chances of normal to above-normal rains in most parts of the country, including areas of the north that experienced dryness. These predictions were corroborated by field discussions with local stakeholders, including local meteorological services, in the southwestern and central parts of the country. The season will end normally in June in most parts of the country, enabling crops to reach maturity.

    Main Harvest: Given the current advanced stage of crop development in areas visited, predictions for normal to above-normal rainfall throughout the country, and ongoing locust treatment efforts expected to mitigate damage levels predicted in the absence of treatment, the harvest will be normal to above-normal in most parts of the country.

    Rice Supply and Price: Reductions in household market purchases and rising market supply, with the early harvest occurring in April/May and peaking in June, will result in a drop in rice prices during the April-to-June period. Household demand for rice will gradually drop as own production becomes gradually available at the household level  and market supplies increase from April to May as cassava, maize, fruits, and vegetables reach local markets, providing households with a diversity of food sources. In June, rice market purchases will decline in keeping with normal seasonal patterns in June. Good harvest prospects and rising rice supplies in local markets are the major contributors to such price drops.

    Livestock markets: Livestock supply on local markets will decline between the April to August period and prices will rise to 25,000 and 30,000 ariary for goats due to improved body conditions and significant reductions in livestock sales by households, who will at that point be able to access food and income from own production and sale of cash crops.  In areas that experience fodder deficits in June, livestock body conditions are expected to remain poor and the cost of maintaining livestock high. Market supplies are expected to remain high and prices will range from 20,000 to 25,000 MGA.
    Household food and Income sources: Both income and food sources will improve for all wealth groups between April-June, and possibly into August, as own cash and food crops become available at household levels, and local rice become widely available and affordable. Poor households in the southwest, who went into debt will have to pay back their debt with their own rice or cassava production and will have to work more than usual and sell a major part of their own cassava production only two months after the June harvest to earn more income to buy food. The early depletion of their livelihood assets will result in an early exhaustion of their food and income source exposing them to food insecurity before the normal start of the lean period in November.  According to local stakeholders in Toliara, it will take them at least two consecutive years of average harvests and income to return to their 2012 asset levels.

    Projected food security outcomes

    Multiple factors improved rice availability and stabilized rice prices from September 2013 to February 2014 in most parts of the country. The absence of a major cyclone as of February, a peaceful presidential election process, imported rice availability throughout the lean period and anti-locust treatment has resulted in more favorable food access than forecast during the lean period, when most stakeholders expected the lean period to be more difficult than usual following the devastating Cyclone Haruna, locust infestation and erratic rains in 2013. 

    During the March to May period, the gradual arrival of newly harvested crops will improve staple food and cash crop availability at household and market levels. The harvest will peak in June. Given current expectations for good rainfall conditions and a positive seasonal outlook, the main harvest is expected to be normal to above normal, facilitating access to food and cash. Most households in the country will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity in June 2014.

    Poor households in several districts of Menabe (Manja and Belo-Tsiribihina districts), Atsimo Andrefana (Morombe district), Melaky (Antsalova district), and Atsimo Atsinanana (Vaingaindrano district) are expected to face Stress (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity between March and May, due to continued effects from the multiple shocks in early 2013, as well as rising insecurity, increased locust infestation, a poor harvest in November, and  substantial rainfall that created very bad road conditions – all of which have reduced household access to food and non-food items. These surplus rice-producing areas of the country usually have access to a diversity of cash crops, agricultural and non agricultural labor opportunities and forest products, but this year will meet difficulties meeting their some of their food and non-food needs, such as accessing preferred food, basic items such as soap, school fees for their children, given persistent high food prices, limited resources and low purchasing power. These households will cope with higher-than-normal staple food prices by collecting wild foods and increasing agricultural labor during the prolonged lean period. However, they will be able to afford food needs without resorting to irreversible coping strategies. Improvements in road conditions, expected in June due to significant reductions in rainfall conditions, will allow intra-regional trade to fill the gap in these isolated areas. As a result, rice availability at market and household level will peak, making access to food and non-food items easier. Poor households will improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity in June.

    Several districts in Atsimo Andrefana (Ampanihy and Betiocky) and Androy (Tsihombe, Beloha and Bekily) are experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity in March-May due to the multiple shocks of early 2013, to which poor households even more vulnerable than other areas, due to their limited diversity of cash crops, a lack of irrigation schemes, and poor local economic and poor household resilience to shocks. Despite food assistance after Cyclone Haruna, poor households in this cassava based areas have never recovered from the impact of last year’s cyclone and poor rainfall conditions in 2013. Recovery was constrained by high prices of dry cassava, a late onset of the rainy season, local insecurity and an early exhaustion of households’ livelihood assets including their livelihood holdings, indebtedness and atypically low livestock prices. These households depleted most of their assets during the lean period, between September 2013 and February 2014, and are currently in debt. In June, Following the peak of the harvest in June, these households will improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity, but most household will use their own production to repay their debts and buy non-food households items, resulting in a return to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) by August.

    Possible events that could change the most likely scenario over the next six months



    Impact on Food Security Outcomes


    A violent cyclone that causes major damage to national and supplying roads/and/or major damages to rice crops in surplus rice producing areas of the country.

    Roads between surplus producing area and deficit producing areas damaged, hampering food flow and market supplies.

    Following flooding and violent winds, crops are damaged resulting in below-average crop production.

    Many households are displaced and are in need of emergency food aid

    Damage to infrastructure and services

    Extreme southwest             (Ampanihy, Betiocky)

    The 2014 rainy season ends earlier than usual in the South and the South West

    Below average food production in the South and the South West where the season started late, delaying household recovery from lat year shocks and maintaining them in IPC 2 or IPC 3 status

    Market supplies atypically low and price high at harvest.


    Following recent elections, the new authorities are widely accepted by the international community, leading to increase in foreign assistance.

    Increase in assistance improves poor household income and food sources



    Figure 2


    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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