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Increased market reliance amid high food prices will drive peak needs during the lean season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Cameroon
  • February - September 2023
Increased market reliance amid high food prices will drive peak needs during the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Seasonal calendar for a typical year for Far North
  • Areas of Concern
  • Key Messages
    • Fuel pump prices across the country have risen for the first time since the start of the Ukraine crisis, with a liter of premium petrol and diesel selling respectively 16 and 25 percent higher since February 1, 2023. The government envisages parallel measures such as maintaining kerosene and cooking gas prices and increasing the remuneration of state employees by 5.2 percent on average to protect the purchasing power of vulnerable households. However, the recent fuel price increase is already causing a corresponding increase in other costs, particularly in the transportation sector, with negative impacts on poor rural, poor urban, and internally displaced households, who are already spending a large share of their income on food.

    • Cameroon’s general inflation remains high, close to the 6.3 percent rate in 2022. According to FEWS NET price monitoring data collected in selected markets across the country, prices of imported and processed staple foods continue to rise moderately to significantly above the five-year average and 2022 levels, given constant below-average domestic supply stemming from globally high price trends and shipping costs due to a prolonged Russia-Ukraine war.

    • Prices of locally produced cereals such as maize, sorghum, and millet are also rising, following the typical seasonal trend as the lean season approaches. They remain significantly above average in conflict-affected areas due to consecutive seasons of below-average harvest and low carryover stocks. Cereal prices have remained exceptionally high through February 2023 across all FEWS NET monitored markets in the Far North region, supported by below-average production and strong export demand. This is compounded by insecurity and additional supply disruptions. Sorghum and maize prices increased month-to-month through 2022, and in January 2023 were 20 to 26 percent, respectively, above the 2022 average and 50 to 60 percent above the five-year average.

    • Overall, high inflation continues to limit household purchasing power and access to food, particularly among the urban poor households and those affected by conflict and insecurity. These households primarily rely on market purchases due to no harvests or already depleted stocks from limited own harvests. In the major cities of Yaoundé and Douala, urban poor households report reducing the number of meals and food portions, exhausting previous savings, or accruing debt to survive, resulting in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    • The purchasing power for households affected by conflict and flooding in the Northwest, Southwest, and Far North regions continues to be significantly hampered by reduced incomes, which, with increasing market reliance and high food prices, are maintaining food consumption gaps and necessitating negative coping strategies. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist through June, with assistance needs projected to peak around May/June. Improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is likely around July/August in the Northwest and Southwest regions due to improved household food consumption and income from the availability of own harvests. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to persist through September among insurgency-affected households in the Far North region despite the start of main harvests.


    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Conflict and insecurity: In the Northwest and Southwest regions (NWSW), threats, abduction, and killing of teachers and children, remain high and have surged since schools reopened in September 2022, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). OCHA has also reported an observed surge in abductions, kidnappings for ransom, and extortion of money from civilians, including humanitarian staff targeted at their homes, primarily mostly by separatists and criminal groups. ACLED conflict data and ACAPS severity scoring suggest decreasing trends in levels of violence in recent months compared to the same period in 2021 and 2020. In December 2022, conflict events occurred in the Manyu, Fako, and Meme divisions in the Southwest and in the Donga-Mantung, Mezam, Menchum, Bui, and Ngo-Ketunjia divisions in the Northwest, triggering the localized displacement of more than 7,930 people.

    In the Far North region, the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) increased attacks in Logone-et-Chari divisions from October to December 2022, primarily targeting fishermen. Repeated attacks by ISWAP in Mayo-Tsanaga, accentuated by the dismantling of the Tchika military post, have led to the displacement of more than 24,192 people since October 2022. In November and December 2022, armed groups are reported to have killed at least six people in Tourou, Kolofata, and Bonderi towns in the Mayo-Sava division (OCHA). The number of civilian casualties during this time matches levels observed in 2021, with the Mayo-Sava division accounting for most of the spike in incidents and fatalities. The number of civilian casualties has been decreasing as Islamist groups have been observed shifting their focus from mass-casualty attacks against civilian populations to assaulting military positions and ambushing the military, a change attributed to leadership changes within ISWAP.

    In the Central African Republic (CAR), conflict events between Wagner Group forces and CNLT (“Le Conseil National pour la Libération du Tchad”) have gradually declined from January 2021 to the present. However, the average number of civilian fatalities per event has increased significantly since September 2021, compared to 2020 and the first half of 2021. The voluntary repatriation exercise for Central African Republic (CAR) refugees is ongoing, with 1,998 persons repatriated from January to December 8, 2022. The more than 347,030 refugees remaining in Cameroon’s East, Adamawa, and North regions continue to exert pressure on host communities, increasing competition over natural resources and employment opportunities.

    Rainfall performance: The current period corresponds to the dry season in the country. First rains are expected in March across the unimodal and bimodal areas in the country’s southern zone and later in June in the unimodal northern zone. In the unimodal northern zone, the cumulative June to September 2022 rainfall is estimated to be overall above the 1991 to 2020 average. However, the rainy season was characterized by late onset, erratic and poorly distributed rains, and localized deficits. Heavy rains across most of the northern zone between August and September 2022 triggered seasonal flooding that persisted through December 2022, displacing about 11,3324 people and destroying about 10,566 livestock and 4,8000 hectares of crop fields (OCHA).

    Crop and livestock production: Main season land preparatory activities, mainly clearing and tilling, are underway across the country’s southern zone, with planting activities anticipated around March. In the northern zone, off-season sorghum, maize, onion, and vegetable harvests are underway until March ends. In the Northwest, Southwest, and Far North regions, access to fields remains constrained by persisting conflict and insecurity. Supply disruptions and high international prices stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis are maintaining seasonal prices of nitrogen fertilizers well above the five-year average across all cropping zones (Figures 3 and 4), driving reduced application rates and total areas cultivated and reduced crop yields, especially among smallholder families. The provision of subsidized fertilizers and improved seeds by the government is ongoing, but quantities remain insufficient for most poor households. Livestock production remains below average in livestock-producing areas in the Northwest and Far North regions as widespread insecurity continues, limiting access to grazing lands, veterinary drugs and services, feed supplements, and livestock markets. Premature seasonal livestock movements have been reported in part of the Logone-et-Chari division where pasture conditions are below-average due to poor rainfall distribution with long dry spells in 2022. The limited availability of pasture is increasing the dependence of households on animal feed, with currently high prices likely to further reduce livestock feeding, causing body conditions to deteriorate by March/April and livestock prices to increase even further. Also, these disruptions are negatively impacting local milk availability, which is a source of both food and income for pastoral families in affected areas.

    Figure 1

    Inflation trends in Cameroon from 2020 to September 2022
    Bar chart showing inflation trends in Cameroon from 2020 to September 2022. Described under the heading Current Situation.

    Source: National Institute of Statistics, Cameroon (INS)

    Commodity prices: Across the country, prices of food and non-food commodities remain significantly above average. Data from the National Institute of Statistics shows that the general inflation rate in 2022 was 6.3 percent, more than double that of 2021 and significantly above the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) regional threshold of 3 percent (Figure 1). Although mostly stable over the last three months, current prices of imported and processed staple food commodities remain moderately to significantly above the five-year average and 2021 levels across the country, given a persistent below-average domestic supply resulting from global high price trends and shipping costs stemming from the prolonged Russia-Ukraine war. As of January 2023, a kilogram of rice (5% broken) and wheat flour in monitored markets sold, respectively, between 550 and 700 FCFA and 580 and 800 FCFA, which is double the previous five-year average price.

    Prices of locally produced cereals such as maize, sorghum, and millet are also on the rise following the typical seasonal trend as the lean season approaches. However, they remain significantly above average in conflict-affected areas due to consecutive seasons of below-average harvest and low carryover stocks. From the start of 2022 until now, cereal prices in all FEWS NET monitored markets in the Far North region have remained exceptionally high, supported by below-average production and strong export demand (from Nigeria, Chad, and CAR), compounded by insecurity and supply disruptions in areas where roads remain impassable due to previous floods. Sorghum and maize prices increased month-to-month between January and October 2022 and, as of December 2022, were 20 to 26 percent above 2021 prices and 50 to 60 percent above the five-year average. Although off-season harvests that have begun in the unimodal rainfall northern areas result in slight seasonal price declines, cereal prices remain significantly above the five-year average. FEWS NET price monitoring data shows that goat and sheep prices in the Far North region have increased slightly since October 2022 due to increasing demand in preparation for the Ramadan feast and the fattening business. As of January 2023, goats and sheep without any physical defect sold 11 and 22 percent, respectively, compared to October 2022, but similar to the same period in 2022. Except for insecure areas where reduced market access has kept demand below seasonal levels, small ruminant prices are moderately above 2021. They average across the Far North due to improved export trade.

    For the first time since the start of the Ukraine crisis, the government announced fuel pump price increases across the nation. Beginning February 1, 2023, a liter of premium petrol sells at 730 FCFA, while gas oil sells at 720 FCFA, following an increase of 16 percent for premium petrol and 25 percent for gas oil. According to the government, the recent increase in consumer fuel prices is expected to reduce high fuel subsidy costs, which economic experts warned were unsustainable and detrimental to domestic investments and the country’s long-term growth and would cost the country 2.4 percent of its GDP in 2023 (IMF). Since 2016, large government fuel subsidies have kept fuel pump prices in the country unchanged despite internationally increasing crude oil prices. Accompanying measures have been put in place by the government to protect the purchasing power of vulnerable households, such as maintaining kerosene and cooking gas prices, increasing the remuneration of state employees by 5.2 percent on average, and dialogue with employers and trade union/consumer associations. However, the recent fuel cost increase is already causing a corresponding increase in cost, especially in the transportation sector. FEWS NET monitoring in February reveals that transportation costs have begun to increase in certain localities. For example, the transportation cost between Maroua and Kousseri in the Far North is currently 12,500 FCFA, compared to 11,000 FCFA in January 2023.

    Figure 2

    Goat-to-red sorghum terms of trade for the Far North region
    Bar chart showing goat-to-red sorghum terms of trade for the Far North region of Cameroon. Described under the heading Current Situation.

    Source: Estimations based on (DRADER) Far North data

    Poor households’ incomes: Pastoral and agropastoral households in conflict areas continue to face significant reductions in their income-earning capacity following lower-than-usual sales of crops and livestock. The marketing of staple and cash crops remains impacted by low production, high transportation costs, and disrupted market access and functioning (Figures 7 and 8), contributing to reduced incomes from crop and livestock sales. In Logone-et-Chari, Mayo-Danay, and Mayo-Tsanaga, where significant portions of crops and livestock were destroyed by flooding, households are reporting lower incomes compared to the same period in 2022. Increasing and significantly above-average cereal prices continue to drive unfavorable livestock-to-cereal terms of trade. In the Far North region, the goat-to-sorghum terms of trade show decreasing trends in most areas compared to last year, although still above the four-year average (Figure 2).

    Humanitarian food assistance (HFA): Food assistance, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), and nutrition interventions by the WFP and implementation partners are ongoing. They target displaced persons, host households, and refugees across the country with monthly in-kind, cash or voucher, and livelihood support. Despite ongoing HFA in the worst flood-affected divisions, such as Mayo-Tsanaga and Logone-et-Chari, food consumption gaps remain wide for most of the 24,000 persons that have been displaced since October 2022. Rations cover at least 25 percent of daily kilocalorie needs with cash distributions that range between XAF 5,000 to 9,300 per person per month. As of January 2023, the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan was 42.8 percent funded. In addition to funding shortfalls, access constraints driven mainly by the presence of armed groups and widespread insecurity continue to limit delivery in worst-affected areas.

    Figure 3

    Consumer price trends of Urea (46%) fertilizer in selected areas in the country
    Bar chart showing consumer price trends of Urea (46%) fertilizer in selected areas of Cameroon. 2022 prices are above the 2015, 5-year, and 2-year averages.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Consumer price trends of NPK 20:10:10 fertilizer in selected areas in the country
    Bar chart showing consumer price trends of NPK 20:10:10 fertilizer in selected areas of Cameroon. 2022 prices have exceeded 2015, 2-year, and 5-year averages.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    Most households in the Northwest and Southwest regions have run out of own-harvested food reserves and are almost entirely dependent on the market and HFA for basic grains. Purchasing power for poor households in these regions continues to be significantly hampered by a drop in incomes from low crop and livestock sales and agricultural labor. Low incomes are limiting expenditures on food and essential non-food needs such as medication, schooling, and clothing and driving borrowing across the zone. Most poor households in the zone have reported outstanding debts. Due to limited start-off capital and a poor business climate driven by insecurity, incomes currently earned from petty trade, poultry production, and other income-generating ventures are insufficient to settle debts or to help households recover from some assets atypically sold off to get income. Given above-average staple food prices and low income, the number of persons facing food consumption gaps is high, with households unable to meet basic food needs relying on less preferred and cheaper food, reducing meal portions and frequency, and borrowing food. Monthly food and cash distributions remain insufficient, reaching less than 20 percent of the population. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes that emerged in November 2022 persist for most poor households in the zone. The Lebialem, Menchum, and Momo divisions are seeing a somewhat higher number of persons in need compared to the rest of the zone given significantly lower harvests, less accessibility, and a higher number of incidents of violence. Although main harvests in October and November boosted household availability of own stocks across the Far North region, production stayed below average in areas affected by flooding and insecurity, causing most households in these areas to start buying most of their basic grains by January 2023 as stocks prematurely depleted, doing so about three months earlier than usual. Increasing market dependence amid above-average staple prices and low income is driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the Mayo-Sava, Mayo-Tsanaga, and Logone-et-Chari divisions, as poor households cannot meet basic food and are relying on less preferred and cheaper food, reducing meal portions and frequency, and borrowing food.

    In areas not affected by flooding or conflict, most poor households continue to engage in typical livelihood activities driven by near-average access to own-produced food and income and face overall Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes.

    However, in primarily market-dependent urban poor households, particularly those living in Yaoundé and Douala, food consumption remains moderately to severely impacted by high food prices, resulting in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Most poor households in these cities have been cutting back on the number of meals they eat, exhausting their previous savings, or accruing debt to survive. In the East and Adamawa regions, particularly in the Kadey, Mbere, and Lom-et-Djerem divisions, CAR refugees continue to put pressure on food prices, which is limiting food access in addition to reducing incomes from increased competition for employment opportunities, producing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    Although no recent SMART survey is available, UNICEF reports high levels of acute malnutrition among refugee populations across the country.. According to the preliminary result of the SMART-SENS conducted in 2021 by the Ministry of Public Health with technical and financial support from UNICEF and UNHCR, the global acute malnutrition rate (GAM) as of February 2021 was 12.5 percent in some refugee sites in the East, Adamawa, and North regions that host the majority of the 346,689 refugees from CAR.

    Recent floods across the northern zone of the country are reported to have increased the risk of water-borne diseases associated with precarious hygiene and sanitation conditions and inadequate access to safe drinking water among flood-affected populations. In December 2022, Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health announced a resurgence of cholera cases in three health districts in the livelihood zone, namely Fotokol, Mada, and Makary.

    While current GAM prevalence in the livelihood zone is unlikely to be above the WHO classification threshold of 10% (Serious), cases of severely malnourished children are likely high among refugees and IDPs unreached by assistance and with limited access to health services. According to OCHA, assistance through ready-to-use therapeutic food during the last quarter of 2022 was largely underfunded, leaving many children and pregnant and lactating women in the zone vulnerable to malnutrition. Partners also reported disruptions in the pipeline for the Blanket Supplementary Feeding Program throughout the second semester of 2022. The school feeding activities for the 2022/23 academic year by WFP are ongoing, with over 19,300 school children in 33 primary schools assisted across the Far North region.


    Seasonal calendar for a typical year for Far North
    Seasonal calendar for a typical year in Cameroon.

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario from February to September 2023 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Levels of conflict between government forces and separatist fighters in the Northwest and Southwest regions are expected to remain stable in the upcoming months. They will likely decrease to levels observed in the same period in 2021 and 2022 during the peak rainy season from May to August 2023 as military mobilization becomes increasingly hampered by impassable roadways.
    • The number of attacks perpetrated by ISWAP and associated fatalities in Mayo-Sava, Mayo-Tsanaga, and Logone-et-Chari divisions is likely to increase well above 2021 during the scenario period, more closely matching levels observed in 2019–2020 and 2020–2021, given the resurgence of violence in Kolofata. ISWAP is likely to continue assuming territorial control around Lake Chad and, given their tactics of avoiding mass-casualty attacks against civilian populations, reported incidents of violence are unlikely to reach the levels observed in 2021.
    • According to forecasts produced by FEWS NET’s Science partners at USGS, NOAA, and UCSB CHC, the 2023 rainy season is anticipated to begin on time, following a normal ascent of the intertropical convergence zone. Rainfall is expected to begin in late February/early March in the unimodal and bimodal areas of the country’s southern zone, with the March-May 2023 rainfall anticipated to be average. Rainfall is anticipated to begin on time in May 2023 in the northern part of the country.
    • The IMF projects a decline in Cameroon’s average annual inflation rate from 4.6 percent in 2022 to 2.8 percent in 2023 due to an anticipated boost in local production and GDP growth. However, this scenario faces uncertainties. While reduced fuel subsidies and increased consumer fuel prices are anticipated to preserve fiscal balances, the risks to consumer price inflation and purchasing power of poor households are mounting, given persistently high global and domestic prices of imported and processed commodities like rice, wheat, fish, and fertilizers, stemming mainly from the Ukraine crisis.
    • The government’s import-substitution policy and removal of tax exemptions expected to take effect in 2023 are likely to further constrain national import levels, including those of rice, wheat, and refined vegetable oil, with negative implications for retail prices of these commodities.

    Figure 5

    Observed and projected price of imported rice in Yaoundé-Mfoundi, Cameroon, in 2022/2023 compared to last year and the five-year average
    Combined bar/line chart showing observed and projected price of imported rice in Yaounde-Mfoundi, Cameroon in 2022/2023 compared to last year and the five-year average. Prices are expected to increase.

    Source: Source: FEWS NET estimates based on data from DRADER, Littoral

    • FEWS NET projections for imported rice in the Mfoundi market in Yaoundé indicate that retail prices will stay considerably above the five-year average and continue to rise moderately above 2022 levels between February and September 2023 (Figure 5) due to persisting general inflation, high transportation costs, persisting international market tensions, and an anticipated further limit to national import levels as a result of the removal of tax exemptions. Higher price increases are anticipated in areas where conflict and insecurity have already significantly disrupted local supplies.
    • Given households’ growing reliance on markets as their own food stocks deplete, in addition to increased demand due to Ramadan starting in March, cereal prices will likely continue to rise across the country until around July, when the main harvests in the country’s unimodal and bimodal southern zone begin supporting supplies and sufficient household stocks, diminishing household demand.
    • In September, seasonal prices of locally produced staples are anticipated to start declining across most surplus-producing areas but are likely to stay above seasonal averages throughout the scenario period. Projected seasonal price decreases are unlikely or will be less pronounced in the worst conflict-affected areas in the Northwest and Southwest regions, where below-average crop production is anticipated, with most households likely to continue relying on market purchases due to insufficient own-harvests.
    • In the unimodal northern zone of the country, high local and export demand, mainly towards Nigeria, will likely maintain pressure on local prices even through the start of the main harvest in September. FEWS NET price projections for February to September 2023 show the price of red sorghum in Kousseri and Yellow maize in Mora (Figure 10 and Figure 11) rising moderately above 2022 levels and considerably above the five-year average. Similar price trends are anticipated for other markets and staple crops across the Far North region.
    • In unimodal and bimodal cropping areas of the country’s southern zone, where the main cropping season has started, agricultural labor demand is projected to increase to average levels between February and May, especially for tilling, planting, and weeding. In the Northwest and Southwest regions, current daily wage rates of between 2,500 and 4,000 FCFA compared to 1,500 and 2,500 FCFA before the conflict will work to the advantage of poor households, although below-average labor supply will likely maintain farm labor incomes below average.
    • In the unimodal northern zone, the demand for daily farm labor, locally referred to as bariama, will peak between May and June and boost seasonal incomes for poor households, although daily wages have dropped by up to 50 percent in areas where insecurity has eroded the financial the capacity of well-off recruiters of labor. Due to persistent violence and fear of being kidnapped or attacked, total family labor supply hours will remain below average, with many expected to continue to recur to non-agricultural income activities such as petty trade, stone cracking, and weaving.
    • Disruptions in seasonal livestock movements are anticipated to persist in pastoral livelihood zones in the country’s Far North and Northwest regions due to persistent insecurity and farmer-herder conflict, which the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says has been rising due to increased pressure over natural resources. Due to fear of rustling or reprisals in some localities, departures to typical dry season destinations such as the Yaéré floodplain are likely to be delayed until April or May, instead of March as usual.
    • With increased import bills, high inflation, and supply chain disruptions, below-average fertilizer supplies and high local prices will likely persist through 2023, forcing poor households to continue to reduce their use with further negative implications for crop yields and total crop production in 2023 and beyond. Localized areas where conflict and insecurity have already limited supply and household incomes will be impacted more by fertilizer price increases.
    • Overall, national cereal production is projected to remain near the five-year average in 2023 regardless of localized deficits. According to FAO’s December 2022 Crop Prospects and Food Situation Quarterly Global Report No. 4, Cameroon’s cereal production in 2022 was estimated at 3.8 million tons, 3 percent above the 2021 level but similar to the five-year average. A similar production level is likely in 2023, given government and partner commitments to raise support for subsidized seeds and fertilizers and to boost local production and competitiveness.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Most poor households in the Northwest and Southwest and those affected by insurgent attacks and flooding in the Far North region will increase their reliance on market purchases for basic grains in the upcoming months, given already depleted or low own-produced reserves. With below-average incomes and record-high staple food prices, many will likely continue engaging in severe unsustainable coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3), such as borrowing, skipping meals, begging, sending children to eat elsewhere throughout the lean season from March to May in the southern zone and from June to August in the north. Assistance needs are expected to remain high and to peak around May or June.

    In the Northwest and Southwest regions, improvement in area-level outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is likely around July or August following improved household food consumption and incomes from the availability of own-harvested cereals and legumes for food and sale. However, worst-affected households in divisions such as Menchum, Momo, and Lebialem are likely to continue facing food consumption gaps and negative coping indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to anticipated significant below-average production. The start of harvests in early planted fields in September in the Far North will begin to boost food supplies and help conflict and flood-affected households in Mayo-Sava, Mayo-Tsanaga, and Logone-et-Chari divisions to recover from a harsh lean season, but Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely persist. With expected near-average access to own-produced food and income, poor households in the rest of the country are expected to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes.

    Typically, acute malnutrition is anticipated to increase during the lean season between March and May in the Northwest and Southwest regions, and June and August in the Far North regions, with prevalence likely to be high among the majority of displaced persons and refugees who have insufficient access to HFA. The SMART-SENS nutritional survey conducted in February and March 2021 reported a global acute malnutrition prevalence (GAM WHZ < 2Zscore*) of 5.9 percent among communities in the Far North. No SMART survey has been conducted in the Northwest and Southwest regions in the last four years. During the rainy season in the Far North region from June to September, extremely high cereal prices, poor WASH conditions, and the anticipated typical increase in the spread of infectious diseases such as cholera and diarrhea are likely to increase GAM prevalence across the region.

    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
    NationalA further increase in pump prices of fuels such as diesel and premium petrol and an increase in cooking gas and kerosene as the government considers gradually phasing out fuel subsidies in the medium term.Further upward pressure on transportation costs and food commodity prices will further limit food access, especially for primarily market-dependent households who may already be struggling to afford necessities. Higher food prices will limit their ability to access food. As a result, they will be forced to choose between buying food and other essentials.
    NationalSpillover of worsening economic situation to other CEMAC countriesSupply disruption in the CEMAC region would cast additional pressure on Cameroon’s domestic supply and the economy. This might cause food prices to rise further than projected, reducing availability and access for poor households. This would increase the number of persons facing acute food insecurity across the country.
    Northwest and Southwest RegionsPeace talks between parties to the conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regionsThis would likely improve overall security in the zone and drive improvements in agricultural and economic activities, boosting access to food and income for poor households. An increasing number of displaced persons would likely return to their original villages and begin re-engaging in typical livelihood activities.
    Livelihood Zone CM09Escalation in insurgent activities and intertribal clashesThis would increase the number of internally displaced persons and further disrupt livelihoods, affecting agriculture and livestock production, supply chains, market functioning, and prices of basic commodities. The number of persons with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and worse outcomes would likely increase.

     


    Areas of Concern

    Livelihood Zone CM09 – Western Highlands (Figure 6)

    Figure 6

    Livelihood zone CM09 reference map
    Livelihood zone CM09 reference map

    Source: FEWS NET

    Livelihood zone CM09 is located in the Western Highlands and comprises the Northwest region and part of the Southwest region, specifically, the Lebialem division and Bangem subdivision. Production in this zone is mainly rain-fed, with a unimodal rainy season that typically runs from March to October. The main harvest occurs between July and August, following the lean season months of March, April, and May. In a typical year, poor households meet their food needs by growing their maize, potatoes, rice, beans, and cowpea crops and obtain incomes through on-farm and off-farm labor, petty trade, and crop and poultry sales.

    Current Situation

    Clashes between government forces and separatist fighters persist across this livelihood zone, with attacks and violence against teachers and children and kidnappings of civilians for ransom on the rise (OCHA). Ongoing insecurity, regular no-work days, and frequent lockdowns continue to have a major negative impact on the local economy and agricultural production.

    Most poor households in the livelihood zone have run out of grain stock from their harvest. They primarily rely on market purchases and gifts from relations living in other regions. Before the crisis, poor households in this zone usually complemented main season stocks with off-season harvests in December, allowing them to have sufficient stocks that can carry them through the lean season. However, due to consecutive years of below-average harvests and carry-over stocks in both main and off-season due to the protracted conflict, seasonal levels of grain stocks (maize, beans, rice) have been 15 to 30 percent below pre-conflict averages. According to key informant reports, the few poor households with limited levels of own-produced maize and beans will likely run out before March ends.

    Figure 7

    Cameroon NWSW regions market functioning and access map (January 2023)
    Map showing market and trade route activity in January 2023 for Cameroon NWSW regions. Areas of disruption and reduced reduced or limited activity are noted.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 8

    Map of market and trade flow activity, Lake Chad basin (January 2023)
    Map of market and trade flow activity in Lake Chad basin for January 2023. While normal activity is primarily seen in northern Cameroon, other areas of the region indicate disruptions.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Access to major production basins during the ongoing cropping season remains limited by widespread insecurity, including frequent road blockages and lockdowns. Although some displaced persons have reportedly returned to their original settlements to cultivate their fields, key informants report that overall engagement in start-of-season activities remains lower than normal due to persisting insecurity. In addition, incomes are below average due to low seasonal demand for farm labor and a drop in the number of farm days. Despite government and partners’ efforts, including grants and subsidies, fertilizer prices remain well above average across the zone, with significant supply shortages reported in the worst conflict-afflicted areas.

    Farming and pastoral households in the zone continue to face significant income reductions, with many unable to afford minimum food and essential non-food needs. Agricultural sales, labor earnings, and record-high prices of food and non-food commodities have led to persistently low incomes from typical sources. To mitigate the financial burden, many more households are intensifying the hawking of non-food items, woodwork, and bricklaying, although incomes remain inadequate. Ongoing cash/voucher distributions and livelihood support from humanitarian partners support the incomes of some displaced persons and host communities. However, cash/voucher modalities could be more practicable in enclaved areas due to the bad or absent telephone networks. Also, the monthly cash amount of 5,000 FCFA (25,000 for a household of six persons) is below 1 USD/day and less than the national minimum wage of 36,270 FCFA set by law.

    As of January, the price of 50 kg of imported rice (5% broken) across the zone averaged 26,000 FCFA, 32 to 35 percent above pre-pandemic prices, after increasing by an additional 5 to 7 percent since the start of the Ukraine crisis. Prices of basic grains such as maize and beans have also been rising, in line with typical seasonal trends but higher than average. Between December 2022 and January 2023, maize prices in Nkambe, Ndop, and Bamenda rose by 31, 36, and 14 percent, respectively, staying close to 2022 levels but well above the five-year average. Increased demand for palm oil as a substitute for the more expensive refined vegetable oil has been driving high palm oil prices across the zone. As of January 2023, the average price of 20 liters of palm oil was 19,563 FCFA, 23 percent higher than at the same time in 2022. These high palm oil prices are driving increasing palm oil-to-maize terms of trade in favor of palm oil-producing households supplying to urban areas from rural areas. However, for poor urban households who buy and re-sell palm oil, above-average maize prices in urban markets exceed that of palm oil, producing lower terms of trade.

    Most urban markets in the zone are open for at least five days of the week except during lockdown days. The flow of goods from rural to urban markets remains disrupted by insecurity and by the poor state of roads, such as the Bamenda-Wum axis, Dschang-Fontem, and Ekondo titi-Mundembe roads, especially in the rainy season. There is improved access and trade flow in peri-urban and urban markets where government forces dominate. Such is the case with the Bamenda, Bambui, Babanki, and Santa Markets. Other markets, such as Ndop and Kumbo, suffered significant disruptions due to clashes between the separatists and government forces in the month of November and December. Overall, trade flow to national urban markets such as Bafoussam, Douala, and Yaoundé and regional markets in Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Nigeria are below average as 30 percent of trade routes connecting most areas within the livelihood zone are significantly disrupted, and some areas continue to remain poorly supplied with imported food and non-food commodities.

    According to officials of the Ministry of Livestock and Animal Husbandry working in the zone, current herd numbers of cattle, caprine, and ovine are about 30 to 40 percent lower than average due to insecurity, cattle rustling, and the relocation of herds to safer regions. More than half of the livestock markets in the zone are non-functional, maintaining overall below-average livestock trade and pastoral incomes. Currently decreasing pasture productivity due to the ongoing dry season is also driving declining body conditions, further limiting the availability of meat and meat. Seasonal in-migration of cattle herds in major livestock zones in Ngoketunjia, Donga Mantung, and Menchum toward the Tikar plains have also dropped, as many Mbororo pastoralist herders are said to have fled the zone to Adamawa and Nigeria as a result of persistent attacks and seizure of livestock by armed men. The number of displaced persons engaging in traditional backyard-based poultry production, an important source of income and food, has also dropped due to limited space and high feed prices.

    The latest data available at the level of the Food Security Cluster shows that, as of December 2022, WFP and its implementing partners collectively assisted about 174,255 persons in Bui, Mezam, Momo, Menchum, Ngoketunjia, Donga, Mantung, and Boyo divisions in the Northwest Region with 1,396 metric tons of food, while 44,755 people had cash modalities. Concerning livelihood and agriculture support, about 37,632 received in-kind and cash assistance for home gardening, grants for small businesses, and egg production. Current food rations cover about 25 percent of daily kilocalorie needs. Cash distribution of 5,000 to 9,300 FCFA per person per month covers more than 30 percent of daily kilocalorie needs. WFP has announced plans to scale up HFA in the Lebialem division.

    Assumptions

    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:

    • The projected 30 to 40 percent above-average cereal deficit in 2023 supported by below-average harvests in 2022 is expected to drive below-average market supplies. As household stocks prematurely deplete, household demand will remain higher than usual and continue to rise through June, with prices expected to stay at least 20 percent above the seasonal level. New harvests in July will increase household availability, although any seasonal price declines are anticipated to start only in August.
    • Given record high prices of imported staples and low purchasing power from the negative impact of the conflict, poor households in the zone are likely to increase their purchase of root and tubers crops like cocoyam, cassava, and plantain, as well as locally produced palm oil as a replacement for preferred imported food commodities. Palm oil prices will likely stay above average, with increased sales expected to favor palm oil-to-maize terms of trade for about 10 percent of poor households in the zone.
    • According to the NWSW-Food Security Cluster, WFP has begun the targeting process to select potential beneficiaries for humanitarian food assistance in 2023 across the Northwest and Southwest regions. Planned cash or in-kind assistance will cover approximately 27,000 households in the Southwest region with a scaling-up planned in the Lebialem division. Given the 57 percent funding gap recorded by the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan (OCHA), it is unlikely that funding in 2023 will meet projected needs.
    • Based on anticipated sustained levels of conflict across the zone and an observed surge in abductions, kidnappings for ransom, and extortion of money from civilians (OCHA), forceful displacements are likely to persist across the zone and drive high humanitarian needs from February to September 2023.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    With already depleted own-produced stocks, most poor households in the zone are expected to continue relying on the market to satisfy their food needs. Meanwhile, below-average incomes and record-high staple food prices will continue to reduce household purchasing power and limit food access. Wider food consumption gaps or more severe unsustainable coping indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3), including borrowing, skipping meals, begging, and sending children to eat elsewhere, will likely continue during the lean season from March to May. As such, assistance needs are expected to remain high and likely peak around May. The worst-affected households in divisions such as Menchum, Momo, and Lebialem face wider food consumption gaps. Humanitarian food distributions will target less than 20 percent of food-insecure populations, and those reached will have only half of their daily calorie needs met. With the main harvest starting in July, improvement in outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is likely around July or August for most poor households in the zone due to increased food availability. Between July and September, households will consume their own harvest and sell some to buy other foods such as imported rice, oils, and fish. However, improvement will be limited by the continued high prices of imported staple food and essential non-food items and short-lived given the anticipated below-average harvests. In the worst conflict-affected divisions, such as Menchum, Momo, and Lebialem, where production is anticipated to remain significantly low and where access to humanitarian food assistance is hampered by poor accessibility, households will continue to face significant limitations in accessing food and incomes. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will likely persist in these divisions.

    Livelihood Zone CM01 – River Logone Flood Plain (Figure 9)

    Livelihood Zone CM01 is located in the Sahelian ecological band and comprises the Logone-et-Chari division of the Far North region. Production in this zone is mainly rain-fed, and its unimodal rainy season typically runs from June to September. The lean season is typically from June to August, with the main harvest from September to November. The Logone River flood plain of about 8,000 square kilometers supports off-season crops of sorghum, maize, market gardening, and transhumant herds from within the Lake Chad Basin. In a typical year, poor households meet their food needs by growing sorghum, maize, and cowpea crops, fishing, and obtaining income through farm labor, charcoal production, and crop and fish sales.

    Figure 9

    Livelihood zone CM01 reference map
    Map showing livelihood zone CM01. Described under the heading Livelihood Zone CM01 – River Logone Flood Plain (Figure 9).

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Situation

    This livelihood zone remains characterized by frequent insurgent attacks, kidnapping, and looting by ISWAP, with increased attacks in Logone-et-Chari divisions from October to December 2022, mainly targeting fishermen (OCHA). The presence of insurgent groups and government military forces continues to create fear among the local population, triggering displacements.

    By December 2022, about 113,324 people had been displaced by flooding in the Far North, with the Logone-et-Chari division being the worst hit (OCHA). Flooding was prolonged until December 2022 in some localities in Logone-et-Chari, displacing an additional 296 persons (IOM’s Emergency Tracking Tool-ETT). Flooding in the zone occurred amid protracted insecurity, which has already caused significant displacements, crop and livestock production decline, and restricted market access and functioning. Many displaced by the floods are IDPs still living in protracted displacement following the insurgent attacks, and returnees still beginning to integrate locally fully. Flooding that occurred between September and November 2022 further restricted household food access, crop and livestock sales during main harvests in October and November, and humanitarian access in the worst-flood-affected areas. It is assessed that about 10,566 livestock and 4,8000 hectares of crop fields were destroyed by floods across the Far North region. FEWS NET estimates have further reduced cereal production in the zone by an additional 5 to 8 percent. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the cereal deficit in 2022 in Logone-et-Chari tripled that of 2020.

    Off-season production of sorghum, maize, onions, and vegetables is underway, with harvests anticipated to begin in February and March. Over the last six months, prices of urea and NPK (20:10:10) fertilizers stayed significantly above average, selling for an average of 4,2834 and 3,8429 FCFA, respectively compared to 16,000 and 14,000 FCFA in 2015. The total surface area planted with off-season crops and the number of households engaged in planting are estimated to decline relative to the average, due to insecurity and flooding that displaced many farming households and restricted access to floodplains. According to key informant sources, prolonged flooding through December 2022 in the districts of Fotokol, Makary, Blangoua, and Logone Birni hindered the nursing and transplanting of dry season sorghum on most fields, leading to a further drop in areas planted by an estimated 5 to 10 percent relative to last year.

    The demand for agricultural labor has decreased across the zone relative to a typical year due to a decrease in surface area under cultivation. Poor households in the zone have reported accessing fewer days of farm labor than in a typical year. In the worst flood-affected areas, tilling, planting, and weeding labor opportunities during the ongoing off-season have been further reduced relative to the same period in 2022. As a result, incomes from agricultural wage labor are below average. Compared to 2,000 to 3,000 FCFA in a typical year, the current daily wage ranges between 700 and 1,000 FCFA depending on the activity and the location.

    In October and November, markets in the livelihood zone were supplied with new harvests of sorghum, maize, millet, and legumes. As a result of increased household availability and diminished household market purchases, prices of these staples began to decline in October. However, they stayed significantly higher compared to 2021 and the five-year average due to below-average local production and lower-than-usual local supplies from flood-related trade flow disruptions. Unlike in other monitored markets in the Far North region, where sorghum prices began to increase again in November instead of January in a typical year associated with sustained export pressure, those in Kousseri have continued to decline. In January 2023, the average weekly price of 100 kg of red sorghum in the Kousseri market was 21,000 FCFA, 19 percent lower compared to October but slightly higher than in 2022. Although decreasing price trends between November and January are average, decreasing prices of sorghum in Logone-et-Chari have been more associated with an upsurge in insurgent attacks that sometimes disrupt market days and limit the number of wholesale buyers from Nigeria, Chad, and CAR. Also, many roads remain impassable due to prior flooding. Unverified information from the field suggests that increased humanitarian supplies targeting flood-affected populations in the zone may mitigate price increases.

    Poor rainfall distribution with long dry spells in 2022 across most of the livelihood zone is driving below-average biomass production levels, increasing the dependence of livestock on animal feed, with currently high prices likely to reduce livestock feeding further, causing body conditions to deteriorate faster than usual. As of January 2023, seasonal livestock movements remained disrupted in some areas as nomads still could not access their usual seasonal sites in the flood plains (yaérés) due to persisting flooding. They have converged in atypical locations, causing a faster dwindling of grazing and drinking water resources. This delay in herd movement increases the risk of agropastoral conflicts, animal weight loss, and reduction in milk, the primary source of income for pastoral families.

    Current income levels are below average, linked to a decline in agricultural labor opportunities, seasonally low fishing activities, and below-average sales of previous harvests. Deteriorating livestock body conditions, reduced herd sizes from rustling, high destocking and relocation, and limited market access are maintaining below-average pastoral incomes. In Fotokol, Goulfey, Blangoua, Kolofata, Hilé Alifa, and Darak districts, where insurgent attacks are more frequent, livestock sales have been significantly reduced due to lower opportunities for daily farm labor, locally referred to as bariama. Women and children are scaling up mat weaving, firewood harvesting sales, and charcoal sales, although incomes from these typical activities for the zone remain inadequate.

    Since October 2022, WFP has been providing food assistance to vulnerable persons in the Far North region. In October, 111,200 in-camp refugees, internally displaced persons, and residents received 988 mt of food and 195,500 USD as cash transfers. More than 11,500 people were assisted with 38 mt of specialized nutritious foods. Current food rations are covering about 25 percent of daily kilocalorie needs. Cash distribution of 5,000 to 9,300 FCFA per person per month cover 31 to 50 percent of daily kilocalorie needs. WFP also launched school feeding activities for the 2022/23 academic year with over 19,300 school children in 33 primary schools assisted. FEWS NET was not able to access distribution data for Logone-et-Chari. 

    Figure 10

    Observed and projected wholesale price of maize (yellow) in Mora, Cameroon, in 2023 compared to last year and the five-year average
    Combined bar/line chart showing observed and projected wholesale price of maize (yellow) in Mora, Cameroon, in 2023 compared to last year and the five-year average. Prices are expected to remain higher than 2021/2022, but a decline is expected between July and September.

    Source: FEWS NET estimates based on data from DRADER, Far North

    Figure 11

    Observed and projected wholesale prices in 2023 compared to last year and the five-year average
    Combined bar/line chart showing observed and projected wholesale price of figure, Cameroon, in 2023 compared to last year and the five-year average. Prices are expected to decline from July to September.

    Source: FEWS NET estimates based on data from DRADER, Far North

    Assumptions

     In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:

    • The characteristic late start of May rains in localized areas in Logone-et-Chari and Mayo-Sava is likely to delay the March to May pastoral lean season in these areas until around June, resulting in worsening livestock body conditions. Although recent flooding will benefit pastures along the Logone plain where livestock normally concentrate during the dry season, access to grazing lands will remain limited by insecurity and cattle rustling.
    • As typical, small livestock sales will increase during Ramadan in March and peak during the lean season from June to August as households struggle to get cash to buy basic grains. However, incomes from sales are likely to remain below average due to a reduction in average herd sizes from cattle rustling that has led to high destocking and relocation as well as limited market access, especially in Fotokol, Goulfey, and Blangoua districts where the September/October flooding destroyed some road infrastructure, further limiting access to the market.
    • Increased movement of herds from the northern areas toward the Logone flood plains during the ongoing dry season will drive a high likelihood of farmer-grazier conflicts, with greater risk anticipated in the Logone Birni district where Mousgoums fishers/farmers and Arab cattle herders continue to compete over limited land spaces.
    • Fishing activities along the Logone canals will continue to boom until the end of the official fishing season in May but will likely stay below average following the displacement of many local fishermen by last year’s resource-based intercommunal crisis and because of fear of reprisals. A shortfall in the supply of fish and fish products is anticipated.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The off-season cereal harvest is expected to boost food availability and incomes for some poor households in March and April. However, due to anticipated low harvests, income from sales of off-season crops in March and increasing household engagement in agricultural labor from February to May are expected to remain below average and inadequate to cover increasing staple food prices. On the other hand, incomes from firewood and charcoal sales are likely to increase but will be insufficient to compensate for income losses from below-average crop sales and farm labor.

    Between February and May, an increasing number of poor households are likely to see their food stocks exhausted, increasing their reliance on the market. However, high staple food prices and low purchasing power will limit their access to food. Poor households in the zone will likely continue to engage in negative coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3), such as borrowing food, relying on less preferred, less expensive food, or limited portions of food, and reducing the number of meals eaten in a day. Food consumption is anticipated to decline further with the lean season from June to August. The start of harvests in early planted fields in September will begin to boost households’ food supplies and support them in recovering from a harsh lean season, but Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely persist.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Cameroon Food Security Outlook February to September 2023: Increased market reliance amid high food prices will drive peak needs during the lean season, February 2023.

    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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