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Food security is improving in the Far North region but deteriorating in the Northwest and Southwest regions

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Cameroon
  • October 2021 - May 2022
Food security is improving in the Far North region but deteriorating in the Northwest and Southwest regions

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  • Key Messages
  • NATIONAL OVERVIEW
  • Key Messages
    • Dry harvests in October in the Far North region are improving the food security of poor households, particularly in Mayo-Tsanaga, Mayo-Sava, and Logone-et-Chari, which are all places affected by insurgent activities. Poor households have access to sorghum, millet, and maize, and income from crop sales is improving their access to other food items purchased at markets. However, crop production was below average, as it has been for several years, resulting in lower stock levels and income from crop sales. As a result, these households are facing a Stressed (IPC Phase 2) situation until May 2022. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situations could emerge in March 2022 in Logone-et-Chari and Mayo-Sava, where production has been well below average.

    • Food security is deteriorating for most poor households in the Northwest and Southwest regions, as they have exhausted their below-average starting stocks earlier than usual. Humanitarian assistance is reaching some households, but in relatively small quantities compared with needs. Poor households are likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situations until May 2022 in the departments of Momo, Lebialem, Meme, and Menchum, where production has been relatively low compared with other departments and food assistance limited due to inaccessibility. However, thanks to a slight local improvement in production in other departments compared with last season, household stocks are expected to continue to support adequate food consumption and minimally adequate incomes until January 2022, keeping them in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) conditions, after which households will move into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until the peak of the lean season in May 2022.


    NATIONAL OVERVIEW

    Current Situation

    Conflict and insecurity: The main driver of acute food insecurity in Cameroon remains conflict, particularly incursions by extremist groups, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad (Boko Haram) and Islamic State – West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the Far North region, and the ongoing conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions. These conflicts continue to periodically displace households and disrupt trade and agricultural and pastoral activities. Compared with the period from January to September 2020, the conflict in the Northwest region has seen an increase in the number of clashes between government forces and separatists, resulting in a higher number of fatalities. English-speaking militant separatists have increased the use of improvised explosive devices in recent years, primarily targeting government armed forces, political opponents, and those who disobey the “dead city” days. Recent information from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR; September 2021) indicates that there are 711,056 conflict-related internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Northwest and Southwest regions, an increase of 5 percent compared with last year. In the Far North region, attacks against civilians and security forces by extremist groups were lower in the third quarter of 2021 than in the same period in 2019 and 2020, likely due to the intensification of the government army’s military offensive in July and August. At least 12 such incidents have been reported since July in Mayo-Sava, Mayo-Tsanaga, and Logone-et-Chari, with approximately 10,000 people displaced within these areas in August. In September 2021, UNHCR recorded 341,536 IDPs who had fled Boko Haram attacks, an increase of 13 percent compared with last year’s figures. The Far North region also recorded 114,371 Nigerian refugees, of whom 68,103 were in the Minawao camp and 46,268 in host communities. The Minawao camp has continued to receive approximately 150 new refugees per month since January 2021.

    In addition, 315,027 Central African refugees are settled in the East, North, and Adamawa regions, exerting increasing pressure on the resources and living conditions of host communities. Although 70 percent of these Central African refugees have been well integrated into host communities since 2013, 30 percent of them are settled in managed sites and depend entirely on humanitarian food assistance.

    The COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts: The change in the number of daily cases of COVID-19 has been volatile, although an upward trend was recorded in September. The country had recorded a total of 98,402 cases as of October 14, 2021. Vaccination rates remain low, with less than 1 percent of the population vaccinated. The preventive measures implemented by the government (including social distancing, mandatory wearing of masks, restrictions on gatherings and travel, and mandatory testing at points of entry) remain in place. These measures, combined with the fear of infection, continue to limit the opportunities for poor urban households to earn a daily income (through small-scale trade and casual work). Border restrictions also hinder trade, particularly the flow of agricultural products to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea and the movement of workers to Nigeria, thus limiting income-earning opportunities.

    Economic activity has increased compared with the period in early 2020 when the pandemic restrictions were first applied. Statistics from the Autonomous Port of Douala show a 29 percent increase in food imports between the third quarter of 2021 and the same period in 2020, but these are still lower than the same period in 2019, before the pandemic. Despite this, staple food supplies remain below average, particularly in cities, where the effects of the pandemic are more pronounced. This is due to global restrictions, including in major producing countries that have experienced supply chain disruptions. This has also led to increased transaction and import costs, with imported staple food prices remaining above pre-pandemic levels. Based on the price data collected by FEWS NET from the main markets in Yaoundé, the average price of imported rice is 33 percent higher than in 2019 and 2018, while wheat prices are 9 percent higher.

    Rainfall: Rainfall in the southern part of the country is bimodal for most of the central zone (East, Central, and South) and unimodal in the coastal zone, western highlands, and Adamawa plateau. The rainy season generally runs from March to October, but in areas with two rainy seasons, the first runs from March to July and the second from mid-September to November. The first and second rainy seasons started on time in most of the southern part of the country and cumulative rainfall was average. In northern Cameroon, there is one main rainy season from June to October. In the Far North region, the onset of rains was late and cumulative rainfall was generally below average.

    Agricultural production: With the onset of rains on time and average seasonal yields, production of the main staple foods in June, including maize, beans, potatoes, rice, coffee, and cocoa, was average in most parts in the south of the country except in the conflict-affected Northwest and Southwest regions, which experienced a reduction in agricultural production compared with the pre-conflict period, in terms of both the total area under cultivation and yields, for the fifth consecutive year. This below-average production is due to conflict and insecurity-related disruptions to agricultural activities, including reduced access to fields, and above-average prices for agricultural inputs and equipment. In the Far North region, where the rains arrived late, planting was delayed and crops suffered from below-average rainfall. This situation, combined with disruptions to agricultural activities due to insecurity, has led to a localized decline in production.

    Animal production: The normal onset of rains and cumulative average seasonal rainfall in the southern part of the country have resulted in adequate availability of pasture and water, thereby improving the physical condition of livestock. The current vegetation cover will decrease as the dry season approaches in November. According to the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) images produced by FEWS NET/United States Geological Survey (USGS), the overall vegetation cover in October is decreasing compared with August and September. With the exception of areas affected by conflict and insecurity, birth rates and beef and milk production remained within the seasonal average for all species. However, livestock conditions are generally below average in areas of the Far North region where cumulative rainfall is well below average, resulting in below-normal forage and water production. In the departments of Mayo-Tsanaga and Logone-et-Chari, animals are traveling twice as far as normal to find drinking water. In the Northwest and Southwest regions, production continues to be affected by limited access to veterinary services due to reduced supplies and high prices, compounded by the low incomes of livestock farmers. Prolonged auctions of small livestock by poor households as a coping strategy to earn money or for fear of theft or seizure by armed groups have kept livestock numbers below average compared with non-conflict years.

    Household income: Poor households are currently benefiting from income from ongoing cocoa and coffee sales and from the average demand for off-season labor in the country and in neighboring Nigeria, where the harvest is under way. The current fishing season is also improving the incomes of poor households in areas close to water. Current income levels are broadly average for most poor households, although there are some with below-average access to income, particularly those in conflict areas and those that rely heavily on cross-border labor. In conflict areas, below-average crop and livestock sales and reduced demand for agricultural and pastoral labor have resulted in below-average incomes. COVID-19 border restrictions and high transportation costs continue to hamper the rate of cross-border labor migration with neighboring Nigeria, Chad, and the Central African Republic, reducing access to income from this source. In addition, social distancing and the fear of COVID infection are limiting informal daily income-generating activities. Data collected by FEWS NET show that although wages for casual staff (construction workers and goods handlers) have remained largely unchanged in the cities of Yaoundé and Douala, demand for these jobs has declined since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. Overall, poor households have access to fewer days of work and wages are stagnant, resulting in below-average total income from these sources.

    Markets: Stocks of locally produced staple foods are in seasonal decline across the country, but are adequate, on average, to meet demand throughout the commercial growing season. Overall, prices of locally produced staple foods are increasing as the lean season approaches, but are close to average. However, imported food prices are above average, due to high global transaction costs. These trends are also being observed in the Far North region, where the harvest of the main staple foods is contributing to the decline in their prices, which are stabilizing at near-average levels after remaining above average for months. However, trends are different in the Northwest region, where even local staple food prices are above average, due to consistently low production.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    Current food security results indicate a Minimal (IPC Phase 1) level for most poor households in the country. The average production of the main season will allow for adequate food consumption, with poor households continuing to consume products from their own harvest until January 2022. A seasonal depletion of stocks will lead to a seasonal decline in food stocks in local markets and a normal increase in prices. In addition, the normal average access to usual sources of income will allow poor rural households to purchase food and non-food items from markets.

    While poor households in most Northwest and Southwest regions continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security conditions, results emerging since October for the relatively affected departments of Momo, Lebialem, Meme, and Menchum — which have significantly lower agricultural production and limited or no access to humanitarian food assistance — show mild to moderate food consumption deficits. Poor households in the insurgency-affected departments of Logone-et-Chari, Mayo-Tsanaga, and Mayo-Sava in the Far North region continue to be affected and find themselves in a Stressed (IPC Phase 2) situation. This is due to below-average access to their usual sources of income and food, which is limiting their ability to cover non-food needs such as clothing, school supplies, and medical care. The zonal results for the rest of the Far North region are Minimal (IPC Phase 1). In addition, the departments of Mbéré (Adamawa region), Kadey, Lom, and Djerem (East region), which have a high influx of refugees, will continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes due to increasing pressure on natural resources, which limits access to agricultural land and pastoral activities, thus reducing income opportunities for both refugees and poor host communities.

    Assumptions

    The most likely food security scenario for the period from October 2021 to May 2022 is based on the following key assumptions about how the national context will develop:

    • New cases of COVID-19 are expected throughout the scenario period. National immunization efforts will continue, but a small percentage of the population is likely to be immunized over the next eight months. Measures to prevent COVID-19 are therefore likely to remain unchanged and will continue to limit to some extent the daily income opportunities of poor urban households. Disruptions due to the pandemic will also keep imported commodity prices above pre-COVID-19 levels.
    • A normal rainy season is likely to start in March 2022 in the southern part of the country.
    • The onset of the rainy season in March 2022 is expected to support normal main growing season sowing activities in the south of the country. Supply constraints for agricultural inputs due to the ongoing conflict and COVID-19 restrictions will continue to result in above-average input prices, thereby maintaining below-normal yields, particularly in conflict areas.
    • According to recent transhumance monitoring reports, the combination of insecurity and movement restrictions related to COVID-19 is expected to delay the typical migration from the south to the Yaeré plains from December onward in the main cattle production areas of the north, western highlands, and Adamawa plateau. Large herd gatherings in limited spaces or atypical locations will likely increase the risk of disease outbreaks and accelerate the degradation of pasture and water during the dry season, resulting in degraded physical condition and below-normal milk and meat productivity.
    • Rural household incomes are expected to experience a seasonal decline due to reduced sales of their own crops as the lean season approaches in March 2022. Typical alternative income-generating activities, such as the sale of charcoal and firewood, artisanal fishing, small-scale trade, building work, and the sale of non-timber forest products are expected to improve household income, which will be average for most poor households. The sale of off-season rice and vegetable crops from November onward will also contribute to the income of poor households. However, the general slowdown in economic activities due to insecurity and the impacts of COVID-19 will likely keep income from these sources below normal levels in urban cities.
    • Continued insecurity and official border closures are expected to keep income from labor migration within the country and from neighboring countries (Chad, the Central African Republic and Nigeria) below average. The usual influx of plantation workers from November onward in the cocoa and coffee producing areas of the coastal and forest zones will likely be below average due to the socio-political conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions. As a result, most plantations in these areas will remain under-cultivated or abandoned, while the incomes of migrant workers will be lower than normal.
    • Market supplies of local agricultural products are currently average. In the coming months, as seasonal stocks are depleted, these market supplies will decline on a seasonal basis, but will remain sufficient to meet demand, except for conflict areas, where the premature depletion of stocks due to below-average production will result in below-average market supplies. Recent cereal harvests in the Far North region and the November rice harvests throughout the country will strengthen seasonal supplies at the country’s main markets.
    • Market functioning and access are expected to be below average in the Northwest and Southwest regions due to insecurity and protracted conflict, with more than 50 percent of markets already facing moderate disruptions due to roadblocks, violence, destruction of market infrastructure, and insecurity.
    • Overall, prices of locally produced staple foods will increase seasonally around the lean season between March and May 2022, but will remain close to average, except in the Northwest and Southwest regions where local prices are expected to remain above average. Although local prices will be broadly average, imported rice prices are expected to remain above normal. Rice harvests from November onward are not expected to reduce the price of imported rice, as domestic production will be insufficient to meet local demand.
    • The Nigerian naira has depreciated significantly in recent months following the decision by the Central Bank of Nigeria to stop the sale of foreign currencies to currency exchange operators. The Nigerian naira will remain depreciated, at least in the short term, which is expected to have a negative impact on exports. This is because the profit margin of Cameroonian traders will be significantly decreased when exporting from Cameroon to Nigeria, which could discourage many traders from doing so.
    • Cross-border trade flows with Gabon, Nigeria, and Equatorial Guinea will remain relatively disrupted by official border closures and high transport costs, and will generally operate at below-average levels. Although trade between Chad and Cameroon has improved since the reopening of the Ngueli bridge in June 2021 (the main supply route from Chad to N’Djamena), livestock flows from Lake Chad basins to destination markets in Yaoundé, Douala, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea will remain below average, mainly due to increasing insecurity and rising transport costs and customs controls.
    • Violence against civilians in the Northwest and Southwest regions and attacks on the military will likely follow typical seasonal patterns, with higher levels of violence expected from October 2021 to March 2022 and a peak between December 2021 and January 2022, when roads become more passable for non-state armed groups and government forces. In the Far North region, clashes between ISWAP and the Cameroonian army will likely continue to increase from November 2021 to May 2022, coinciding with the dry season. Recent changes in ISWAP leadership should reduce civilian casualties.
    • Humanitarian food assistance in the Northwest and Southwest regions is likely to continue throughout the outlook period, although it is unlikely to reach 20 percent of poor households in these regions as a whole, with the food ration unlikely to change by 50 percent. Similarly, in the Far North, East, and Adamawa regions, food assistance will likely continue throughout the outlook period to vulnerable Central African and Nigerian refugees, IDPs and host populations, with reduced food rations (50 to 70 percent).

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Minimal (IPC Phase 1) results are expected to persist throughout the outlook period for most poor households in the country. Average main season production is expected to allow for adequate food consumption, with poor households continuing to consume produce from their own harvest until January 2022. Average off-season production will supplement existing household stocks between January and February. Seasonal depletion of stocks is expected to lead to a seasonal decrease in supplies at local markets and a normal increase in prices. In addition, near-normal average access to usual sources of income will enable poor rural households to purchase food and non-food items from markets and fill food gaps during the lean season from March to May 2022. The indirect impact of COVID-19 is expected to continue to some extent, reducing access to food and non-food needs for refugees and IDPs residing in cities, who are already vulnerable, as daily incomes will be limited by reduced access to employment opportunities and a slower business climate.

    Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situations are expected to persist until May 2022 for some departments in the Northwest and Southwest regions, notably Momo, Lebialem, Meme, and Menchum, which are relatively more insecure and inaccessible, where production has been lower than in other departments, and where residents and displaced households are not receiving food assistance. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to persist in the rest of the two regions due to below-average production, high staple food prices, low incomes, and humanitarian food assistance that is expected to be below needs and reach less than 20 percent of the population. However, due to a slight localized improvement in production in these two areas compared with last season, sustainable household stocks should continue to support minimally adequate food consumption and incomes until January 2022. After this period, households will move into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until the peak of the lean season in May 2022, when market dependence and food prices are at their highest, forcing many poor households to maintain small to moderate food consumption deficits or engage in relatively more severe coping strategies to meet their staple food needs.

    Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely for poor households in the departments of Logone-et-Chari, Mayo-Tsanaga, and Mayo-Sava in the Far North region until February 2022, where below-average access to typical food and income sources is limiting the ability of poor households to purchase clothing and meet school and medical needs. According to data collected in September 2021, 23 percent of households in the departments of Logone-et-Chari and Mayo-Sava, where prolonged drought has resulted in low production (30 percent below the regional average), consumed cheaper and less preferred foods, and in smaller portions. In this area, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to begin in March 2022 and persist until May due to a relatively larger drop in production caused by the impact of flooding. However, in the Mayo-Tsanaga department, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes will continue due to relatively better production compared with other departments affected by insurgent activities.

    Nigerian refugees in the Minawao camp are likely to face Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes throughout the outlook period, as about 70 percent of food needs remain covered by humanitarian assistance. Although some Central African refugees in managed sites and host communities in the East and Adamawa regions are economically self-sufficient through small-scale trade and agropastoral activities, access to income and food is atypically low due to the difficulty of accessing land suitable for cultivation and pasture. Unemployment is a further factor. Humanitarian food assistance, which reaches about 30 percent of the refugee population and covers 50 percent of their food needs, is expected to keep most refugee households in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity conditions until May 2022.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

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

    areaEventimpact on food security outomces

    National

     

    Increased humanitarian assistance to conflict-affected householdsImproved food consumption and livelihoods through better access to food and income for conflict-affected households, an expected reduction in food consumption and income gaps during the next lean season, and an overall improvement in acute food security outcomes.

    National

     

     

    National

    Negative impacts of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus

     

    Opening of borders

    Reduced access to livelihood activities and income, as the government may implement more restrictive measures than those currently in place (such as air, sea, and land border closures, social distancing, and restrictions on gatherings), which will intensify the negative impact of the pandemic on the urban economy and on the livelihoods of poor households.

    Improved access to livelihood income through increased cross-border trade and labor migration.

    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

     

     
     
    Figures SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR, FAR NORTH

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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