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- Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are ongoing across much of Cameroon as dry harvesting continues in its second month across the southern zones of the country. This has resulted in improved household access to own-produced foods. Moreover, the market supply of newly harvested crops is near average, leading to a typical seasonal price decrease and increased purchasing power for poor households. However, recent data collected by FEWS NET indicates that prices of harvested crops have not seasonally decreased as expected in Yaoundé and Douala markets, as well as conflict hotspots in the Northwest and Southwest regions.
- Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to persist in Yaoundé and Douala through January 2024 as staple prices remain atypically high due to high transportation costs and the impacts of high international prices. The prices of maize, beans, cassava, and plantains in the third week of August were similar to those recorded in pre-harvest in June despite markets being increasingly supplied from rural areas. Additionally, imported rice and wheat flour prices in these cities continue to be approximately 30 percent higher than in 2020 and twice the five-year average. Although some poor households in these cities receive food donations from their relatives in rural areas, many will still rely on the markets to meet their food needs.
- Areas most intensely affected by conflict in the Northwest (NW) and Southwest (SW) regions are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) throughout the rest of the scenario period. Lockdowns and road blockages in July and August prevented trade between rural and urban areas, limiting poor households’ ability to earn income from crop sales and preventing seasonal price declines in urban and rural markets. Due to persistent conflict and high input prices, food availability and access to primary staples such as maize, beans, and potatoes remain significantly below typical levels. In the rest of the NW and SW, below-average household food stocks and incomes are expected to sustain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes until September. In October, widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely emerge as food stocks prematurely deplete and households begin relying on market purchases. Amid low purchasing power and high staple food prices, many poor households are expected to face food consumption gaps and re-adopt negative coping strategies.
- Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are ongoing, where conflict levels are highest in the Far North. Food access remains poor for many households during the ongoing lean season, and frequent insurgent activities continue to displace households and limit livelihood activities. In July, over 1,500 people were displaced to Mokolo in the Mayo Tsanaga division after multiple attacks and increased insecurity along the border with Nigeria. As seasonal flooding progresses, a small but increasing number of worst-off households in the region will likely face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Due to scarce grain stocks, excessive market dependence, and high food prices, many households will continue to face significant food shortages and resort to begging, borrowing, and consuming just one meal a day until the start of dry harvesting in September. In secure areas of the region, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected through September, though some very poor households are likely to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or worse outcomes due to the impacts of seasonal flooding and high food prices.
- In the East and Adamawa regions, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected throughout the harvest and post-harvest periods, with some households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Maize and legume harvests are almost complete, while the harvests of cassava and cocoyam are expected to continue until December. Dry harvest is improving household availability and market supply in these areas. However, in Mbere (Adamawa), Kadey, and Lom et Djerem (East) divisions, where many refugees from the Central African Republic reside, the prices of recently harvested food are higher than their five-year average. Moreover, market dependency on basic foods remains high, particularly among refugee households with limited agricultural opportunities. Despite receiving some cash assistance, refugee households have limited economic capacity to meet non-food needs and spend a significant portion of their income on food.
- Based on historical trends, El Niño years are not correlated with notable anomalies in rainfall performance in Cameroon, and the moderate EN observed over previous months likely did not have a significant impact on the 2023/24 season, which is progressing well in northern zones. Avg to above average rainfall between July and August has favored the growth of most maize and sorghum crops, which are now preparing to fill grain. However, field information gathered by FEWS NET in August suggested delayed flowering occurred in some localities that experienced a delay in the arrival of the June rains and overall erratic rainfall throughout July in Mayo Tsanaga, Logone-et-Chari, Diamaré, and Mayo Sava divisions. In Mayo Sava and Mayo Tsanaga, there have been reports of maize and sorghum fields wilting irreversibly or failing to flower. Though localized production deficits are likely, improved access to subsidized fertilizers is anticipated to benefit overall production in the Far North region through improvements in application rates and doses, contributing to near-average regional cereal crop production projections.
Conflict, insecurity, and displacement: According to ACLED, there was approximately 16 percent decrease in the number of security incidents in June and July of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. However, there was an increase of 52 percent in the number of violent events during this time. The highest number of attacks and abductions were recorded in Tourou, Dingding, Kolofata, Amchide, Hile-Alifa, Darak, and Goulfey. The IOM reported that in July, insurgents forcefully displaced nearly 1,560 people in these areas to Ldoubam, Ldamang, Wandai-Djamboutou, Segoulé, Sirak-Gorai, Zamalva, Mokolo Centre, Grédé et Mikilik localities in Mokolo sub-division. The Northwest and Southwest regions experienced continued instability during July. Although there was a decrease in the frequency and severity of conflicts between June and July, the overall level of conflict remained similar to the same period in 2022. Most incidents occurred in the Ngoketunjia, Menchum, and Mezam divisions in the Northwest and Meme division in the Southwest. In July and August, some areas of the Northwest were under lockdown and experienced road blockages, significantly impacting trade flows. This made it difficult for rural farmers to sell their crops and earn income, preventing typical seasonal price declines in rural and urban markets.
Rainfall and cropping conditions: Currently, the rainy season is ongoing in both the northern (Far North and North) and southern (Adamawa, NW, SW, West, and Littoral) unimodal rainfall zones. The bimodal zones (East, Center, and South regions) are expected to experience a second rainy season from September to November. In the northern unimodal zone, the June to August seasonal rainfall has been average overall, which is conducive to normal crop growth and development. Seasonal flooding along the Logone and Chari rivers has started in nearby villages around the Logone River. So far, there have been no reports of heavy rains causing flooding like in the past.
In the northern zone, the main season is progressing well, with most maize and sorghum crops in the flowering and grain development stages due to above-average rainfall from July to August. Delayed and erratic rainfall in June and July in parts of the zone, particularly in Mayo Tsanaga, Logone-et-Chari, Diamaré, and Mayo Sava divisions, delayed planting and caused poor germination of maize and sorghum crops in some fields. However, some fields were replanted after rains resumed in July. Information gathered by FEWS NET during a field visit in August suggests that some maize fields have failed to flower or form kernels in Zouelva, Malika, Mémé, Mehé, and Tokombéré localities in Mayo Sava and Tourou districts in Mayo Tsanaga.
Off-season activities have begun across the whole country, with the start of land and nursery preparation for onion and dry season sorghum crops in the northern zone and land preparation for planting off-season garden crops, maize, and beans in the unimodal and bimodal zones of the southern zone. On the other hand, main season rice production is underway in growing areas across the southern zone, with transplantation of rice fields mostly completed across key rice growing areas in the Western Highlands (Northwest and West regions). Large areas of rice fields in the Menchum and Ngoketunjia divisions of the Northwest region remain uncultivated due to insecurity.
Staple food prices: In the southern zone, markets are well-supplied by ongoing harvests. High market supplies coupled with reduced demand due to households consuming their own produce is resulting in seasonal price declines for locally produced foods. However, data collected by FEWS NET shows that prices for harvested crops have not seasonally decreased as expected in Yaoundé and Douala. The prices of maize, beans, cassava, and plantains in the third week of August were similar to those recorded pre-harvest in June. In hard-to-reach conflict hotspots in the Northwest and Southwest region, staple food prices either increased or failed to decline seasonally. For example, maize and bean prices increased atypically by 10 to 14 percent in Buea, Kumba, Limbe, and Mamfe of the Southwest region and Fundong in the Northwest region. On the other hand, the prices of these staples have not changed since July in most markets in the Northwest region despite improved supplies of fresh, locally harvested produce. Overall, the market supply of local produce remains below average in areas affected by conflict following consecutive years of below-average production, maintaining prices in all reference markets above last year and the five-year average.
Cereal prices in the Far North region remain high and have increased as the lean season progresses. Although the government’s ban on cereal export remains active, large quantities of sorghum and maize remain in demand by Nigerian wholesale traders, with this demand pressure exacerbating local price increases. In the second week of August, maize and sorghum prices in most urban markets saw a significant surge, ranging from 30 to 40 percent. Between July and August, sorghum prices rose by an average of 10-17 percent in Kaele, Maroua, Mokolo, Mora, and Yagoua. These prices were, on average, 23 percent higher than the same period last year and 27 to 64 percent above the five-year average. During the same period, maize prices were, on average, 15-20 percent higher than the previous month in Kaele, Kousseri, and Maroua. Maize prices were also 19 to 35.31 percent higher than last year, staying 45 percent above the five-year average. The recent removal of fuel subsidies in Nigeria and the resulting 50 to 60 percent increase in the price of petrol sourced from Nigeria has been fueling high transportation costs across most of the northern region, putting additional pressure on cereal prices. For example, maize weighing 100kg sourced from production areas in the Mogodé district was recently sold at a 7,000 to 10,000 FCFA markup in urban markets like Maroua and Mokolo. This is due to the increased transportation costs of bringing maize from the production area to the urban markets.
Livestock situation: The northern zone has experienced average and well-distributed rainfall in July and August, which has helped improve pasture and water availability. This, in turn, has contributed to the improvement of livestock body conditions, productivity, and values. Despite the overall improvement in access to grazing pasture and water resources, many herds from Niger, Chad, and Nigeria remain stuck in the northern zone due to insecurity in their home countries. This has led to their concentration in grazing lands across the region, resulting in early exhaustion of pastures and competition over pastures and drinking water. In the Far North region, particularly in Mayo Tsanaga, Mayo Sava, and Logone et Chari divisions, local livestock herd sizes have remained lower than normal and declined recently due to conflict, insecurity, and flooding. Although livestock prices in most monitored markets have slightly increased between July and August, they have remained higher than 2022 levels due to the increased cost of transportation from rural areas to the market. Despite poor households selling their animals to earn income for staple food purchases, seasonal declines in goat and sheep prices have not been observed due to high transportation costs.
Humanitarian food assistance: According to the latest report from the Northwest Southwest Food Security Cluster (NWSW-FSC), humanitarian partners assisted an average of 218,338 people in June in these two regions through in-kind donations, cash/vouchers, and livelihood support. Since January 2023, an average of 230,000 people have been reached every month in these regions. However, this number only represents less than 10 percent of the total population in the NW-SW region. FEWS NET could not gather information on food distributions in the Far North, East, Adamawa, and North regions.
Source: FEWS NET
The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Cameroon Food Security Outlook from June 2023 to January 2024 remain unchanged except for the following:
- Improved access to fertilizers through government subsidies in the northern zones is expected to increase crop productivity and availability beyond 2022 levels. Although poor households may struggle to afford fertilizers due to high market prices and low subsidy amounts, better-off farmers have benefited from subsidized fertilizers even at these high prices. This has led to an overall improvement in application rates and doses, contributing to near-average regional cereal crop production projections. Nevertheless, prospects of localized declines in food production and availability below average levels persist in conflict-affected areas such as Mayo Tsanaga, Mayo Sava, and Logone et Chari due to substantial decreases in planted areas. In addition, many poor households in these areas have limited access to fertilizers due to low incomes and savings, with some unable to benefit from the government subsidy.
- The fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria initially brought supply reductions and increases in the price of highly demanded, informally imported gasoline and diesel in some border towns. Although transportation costs have slightly increased, the prices of food and non-food commodities have yet to be significantly affected in Cameroon. However, a rise in inflation in Nigeria is expected to increase the demand for basic food and non-food commodity exports from Cameroon, which are currently banned, and this will likely lead to illicit exports and drive up their prices when road conditions seasonally improve between November and December.
- A two-week lockdown in the Northwest and Southwest regions has been announced in protest of the re-opening of schools after the summer holiday. This is anticipated to further disrupt trade flows, household income-earning opportunities, and distributions of humanitarian assistance during the first half of September. Such disruptions are anticipated to be temporary and are unlikely to significantly impact acute food insecurity outcomes, given existing trade disruptions and humanitarian access challenges resulting from the separatist conflict.
Many households in Cameroon are currently benefiting from an average supply of fresh harvest, increasing the availability and diversity of food at the household level. This has also resulted in improved earnings from crop sales. As a result, food security outcomes remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) across much of the country and are expected to remain so through the rest of the scenario period.
Most of the Northwest and Southwest regions have also seen improvements in food security outcomes, moving from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) around July. However, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist in conflict hotspots in Menchum, Lebialem, and Momo, where access to key staples such as maize, beans, and potatoes remains severely constrained by significant production declines, which have continued for the seventh consecutive year. This has resulted in elevated prices compared to last year and the five-year average. Additionally, low food stocks, disrupted trade, and poor market functioning limited households’ ability to generate income from crop sales and labor, restricting their purchasing power. Due to limited harvested stocks depleting quicker than usual, many poor households in the Northwest and Southwest regions are expected to experience a decline in their food consumption. Starting in October, they will have to purchase most of their food, but with high prices and low incomes, they will struggle to bridge the growing gap in their food consumption. As a result, widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are anticipated to emerge across both regions from November through January 2024. Households will likely resort to severe negative coping strategies such as purchasing food on credit, limiting portions and number of meals eaten in a day, and borrowing cash to buy food to try and mitigate their consumption gaps.
Many poor households in parts of the Far North, specifically in the Mayo-Tsanaga, Logone-et-Chari, and Mayo-Sava divisions, still face significant challenges in accessing food. These households are experiencing major gaps in their food consumption as their own-produced grain stocks are depleted, forcing them to rely on market purchases. However, with low purchasing power and atypically high food prices, many are resorting to borrowing and begging and are experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Until dry harvesting begins in September, many conflict-affected households will continue facing wide food consumption gaps due to depleted own-produced grain stocks, high market reliance amid low purchasing power, and atypically high food prices. They may resort to unsustainable borrowing and begging, indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The arrival of the main harvest season between October and November in the Far North region is expected to improve households’ access to food and income for many households. In secure areas of the Far North, outcomes are expected to be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) during and after the harvest season. In divisions most affected by conflict, namely Mayo-Tsanaga, Logone-et-Chari, and Mayo-Sava, outcomes will likely improve from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for many households starting around October. Nevertheless, some very poor households will likely continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes due to the impact of seasonal flooding and rising staple food prices. As floods progress, a small but increasing number of worst-off households in the region will likely face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.
In the East and Adamawa regions, where most refugees from the Central African Republic reside, many are experiencing improved outcomes from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as increasing market supplies boost household availability. However, refugee households facing higher competition for land and labor opportunities depend more on purchasing food at markets than members of the host community. Despite receiving some cash assistance, refugee households have limited economic capacities to meet non-food needs and spend a significant portion of their incomes on food.
Recommended Citation: FEWS NET. Cameroon Food Security Outlook Update, August 2023: Persistently high staple prices to limit household food access during and after the harvests, 2023.
This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.