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Sahelian food security Crisis to peak between July and September

  • Alert
  • West Africa
  • March 27, 2012
Sahelian food security Crisis to peak between July and September

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  • Summary
  • Situation

  • Summary

    In areas of the Sahel most affected by poor crop production, high cereal prices, or conflict, some very poor and poor households will require targeted emergency assistance during the peak lean season (Jul‐Sep) to meet minimum food needs and prevent increases in already high background levels of acute malnutrition (Figure 1).


    Poor rainfall distribution in 2011 resulted in significant, localized crop production deficits in southern Mauritania, western Mali, western Niger, and parts of northern Burkina Faso. The irregular rainfall also delayed harvests across a much broader portion of the region. This delay, combined with earlier and larger than usual institutional demand for cereals by governments and humanitarian organizations and high production costs (multiple sowings, high wage rates), led to abnormal increases in cereal prices during the October‐December harvest period. End‐of‐season pest attacks in north‐central Guera in Chad, the eruption of active conflict in northern Mali, and the related displacement and market disruptions in Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Burkina Faso have exacerbated the impacts of a mediocre 2011 season.

    However, since December/January, market conditions have generally stabilized, though cereal prices remain high. Revised cereal harvest estimates from CILSS confirm a near average 2011/12 crop production for West Africa, including the Sahel, despite the poor rainfall. In general, regional cereal production and global imports are sufficient to meet regional food needs throughout the 2011/12 consumption year. Recent market assessments and January/February price stability also indicate that most cereal markets are sufficiently supplied and that trade is flowing normally in most areas, even if prices are relatively high (>20 percent above average). Important exceptions showing less favorable trends are: western Mali and Mauritania, where sorghum supply is insufficient; areas affected by conflict (e.g., northern Mali, and some markets affected by displacement) which have experienced moderate price increase (i.e., below 10‐13 percent/month); and supply markets in Sudanian zones facing competition due to unusually large institutional purchases from governments and humanitarian organizations. 

    In addition to the stabilization of prices, other factors have slowed the deterioration of food security in the region. Agricultural wages in most areas were 30 percent higher than last year’s rates due to high demand for labor (re‐sowing and a shorter than usual harvest). Prices for firewood, hay, and some wild foods, key sources of income for the poor, are also above last years’ prices in most areas. Very poor and poor households have also intensified labor migration. Finally, emergency assistance by governments and partners, particularly in Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, began in January instead of in April or June as is usual.

    Nonetheless, in March/April, typical seasonal decreases in income‐generating opportunities and increases in cereal prices will erode purchasing power throughout the region. Given localized crop production deficits and high prices, FEWS NET projects that IPC Phase 3: Crisis food security outcomes are likely between July‐September in parts of the Sahel. Emergency assistance is required in these areas between now and September to meet essential food and livelihoods protection needs and to prevent further increases in rates of acute malnutrition among affected households. However, effective response analysis and targeting are critical to ensuring resources are used appropriately.  

    Figures Figure 1. Map of most-likely food security outcomes, July-September 2012

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    FEWS NET will publish an Alert to highlight a current or anticipated shock expected to drive a sharp deterioration in food security, such that a humanitarian food assistance response is imminently needed.

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