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Extended pastoral lean season and fewer labor opportunities likely in Mauritania and Senegal if rainy season is poor

  • Alert
  • West Africa
  • May 4, 2015
Extended pastoral lean season and fewer labor opportunities likely in Mauritania and Senegal if rainy season is poor

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  • Summary

  • Summary

    Below-average 2014/15 crop production levels and poor pastoral conditions are contributing to reduced food access for poor households in the agropastoral zones of south-central Mauritania and in northern and central Senegal. Under current conditions, approximately 1.25 million people are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or higher food insecurity between May and September 2015, with additional households experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Several meteorological centers (ECMWF, IRI, UK MET) are currently projecting a poor June to September 2015 rainy season which, if it were to occur, could negatively impact income generating opportunities for pastoral and agropastoral households and contribute to worsening food security outcomes. While rainfall projections are still uncertain, early contingency planning is needed in order to mitigate higher assistance needs between now and September 2015 under this scenario.

    In areas of Mauritania and Senegal that experienced poor rainfall last year, 2014/15 crop production was between 30 and 80 percent below average, causing household food stocks to deplete earlier than normal and prolonging the period of time that households depend on market purchases to meet their food needs. Below-average incomes from crop sales and reduced milk availability are also limiting food access. To cope, households are selling additional livestock, increasing debt levels, engaging in increased levels of wage labor, migration, fishing, and forestry product sales (charcoal, wood, etc.), and reducing the quantity and quality of their meals. Even if the coming June to September rainy season is relatively normal, affected areas will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity between now and the start of new pasture growth in July in pastoral areas or early crop harvests in September in agropastoral areas. A small number of very poor households will also face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity, particularly in Mauritania.

    Projected food security outcomes are, however, partially dependent on the performance of the next rainy season and medium-range seasonal rainfall models are currently showing mixed forecasts. More specifically, the April 2015 North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) forecast is showing no anomalies, while the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), the UK Met Office, and Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) are all indicating an increased probability of below-average rains. The UK Met and ECMWF, in particular, are indicating a more than 50 percent probability of well below-average rainfall in certain localities (Figure 1).

    Though forecasts are still uncertain, a poor start of season could lead to a fairly immediate deterioration in food security outcomes between June and September 2015. For households that rely on livestock products for food and income, the pastoral lean season could be prolonged if pastures and water points do not regenerate normally. Likewise, labor opportunities could be atypically low if poor rainfall disrupts cropping activities, providing less income for poor agropastoral households to purchase food. Under this scenario, a significantly larger number of households in the agropastoral and pastoral zones of south-central Mauritania and northern and central Senegal could decline into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or higher food insecurity between July and September compared to current estimates.

    Free or subsidized food and animal feed distributions, and malnutrition prevention and treatment programs are planned but are not expected to adequately meet projected needs between May and September, even under a scenario of normal rainfall. Given the possibility of a below-average rainy season, response agencies should begin to develop contingency plans to mitigate the potential impacts on livestock mortality, food security and nutrition. The reliability of seasonal forecasts will also improve with the approach of the rainy season so updates to current climate models should be closely monitored.

    Figures Figure 1. Probability of atypical dryness (lowest rainfall quartile) between July and September 2015

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Probability of atypical dryness (lowest rainfall quartile) between July and September 2015

    Source: UK MET

    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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