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Food Security Outlook for April to September

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Chad
  • April - September 2012
Food Security Outlook for April to September

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  • Key Messages
  • Current food security conditions in April 2012
  • Most likely food security scenario for April through September 2012
  • Key Messages
    • Food insecurity levels are rising in the country’s Sahelian zone with the depletion of the food reserves among very poor and poor households, the end of off-season farming activities in late March,  the rising price of grain on local markets, and fewer job prospects for very poor and poor household members. 

    • Thanks to assistance programs mounted by the government and its partners, in general, food insecurity levels are still in Phase 2 (stressed) of IPC version 2.0, except in northern Guéra, where very poor households with no livestock to sell to make up for their loss of income from farm work are in IPC Phase 3 (crisis).

    • As the depletion of most household food reserves continues to drive up demand over the next few months, markets will have difficulty meeting this growing demand due to the distances involved, the isolation of certain areas, and the low levels of trader inventories. Pearl millet prices, which are already over 300 francs/kg in some local areas, could be as high as 400 francs/kg.

    • However, in spite of the food access gaps created by high prices, in general, food insecurity levels should stay in Phase 2 (stressed) of IPC 2.0 with the extension of ongoing assistance programs, the carefully planned positioning of 95,000 to 100,000 metric tons of grain from ONASA reserves in high-risk areas of the Sahel, the end of the lean season in pastoral areas, and the improvement in on-farm employment opportunities as the growing season gets off to a normal start in July.


    Current food security conditions in April 2012

    In general, gross national grain production for the 2011/2012 growing season was 22 percent below the five-year average. Household reserves in the Sahelian zone were depleted by February/March (instead of May, as is normally the case in an average year).

    In spite of the announcement of an expected larger than usual grain deficit in the country’s Sahelian zone back in October of last year, grain markets are still getting normal shipments of supplies from surplus-producing southern areas, where the levels of current commercial inventories are normal and, in some cases, even better than in 2009/10.

    However, there has been an atypical, earlier than usual upward trend in prices since last October, ever since the poor harvest. This trend, evident throughout West Africa, is attributable to the delay in harvests, the late start of the growing season, and the larger and earlier than usual institutional procurements. The combined effects of these factors triggered unusual hikes in grain prices between October and December, putting them 20 to 40 percent above-average.

    Current status of markets and trade

    Market supplies in the Sahelian zone improved in March/April with the harvest of berbéré (flood-irrigated sorghum) crops. According to FEWS NET monitors covering nine markets in the Sahelian zone, weekly markets are still getting regular shipments of supplies from local farmers and grain supplies on wholesale markets like Moundou, Sarh, Doba, Lai, Kelo, and Bongor are average.

    The first signs of long-distance trade (Moundou-Kanem and Moundou-Moussoro/BEG) out of Moundou to improve supplies on western markets (Mao and Moussoro) were reported in March. Normally, there is no trade between Moundou and Moussoro except in a poor crop year for the Sahel. Any grain trade out of the Sudanian zone at this time of year involves relatively short-distance trade.

    Cross-border grain trade between Nigeria and Chad had been suspended since Nigeria’s unilateral closing of its border in December of last year (as a civil security measure against attacks by Boko Haram). Livestock trade is not affected by the new federal government measures implemented in Nigeria and, thus, should continue to flow as usual, though the volume of trade is smaller than normal. However, there was a visible improvement in civil security conditions in northern Nigeria between February and April and trading activities are gradually returning to normal, though trade flows are still not entirely back up to their pre-closure level.

    These measures have seriously impeded the regular flow of supplies to Chad. However, Nigeria has authorized institutional procurements and exports of 20,000 metric tons of coarse grain from that country beginning as of April. These out-of-season procurements in Nigeria triggered a sharp jump in grain prices, fueling the steady rise in market prices. The same sack of millet selling for 6,000 to 6,200 NGN in February of this year cost as much as 7,500 NGN in April, following the announcement of these institutional procurements.

    There was a steep rise in the price of pearl millet (by 13 to 19 percent) between March and the middle of April in Moussoro and N’Djamena. It is currently around 320-340 XAF/kg, 30 percent higher than last year and 45 percent above-average.

    Pastoral conditions and sources of income

    The poor pasture availability in the eastern reaches of Chari Baguirmi between N’Djamena and Bokoro as of March of this year will meet grazing needs for no more than six to eight weeks. The other areas visited in March (East and West Batha, Ouaddai, Wadi Fira, Sila, and Guera) were all covered with lush pastures. Distances between animal watering holes and the closest grazing lands are increasing with the shortages of pasture in areas surrounding local villages. Livestock are in normal physical condition and better shape than in 2009/10, except for animals in the Massaguet-Bokoro (Chari-Baguirmi)-Kanem triangle, which are in worse physical shape then usual.

    The drop in the level of the water table and the earlier than usual drying up of seasonal lakes and ponds halted harvests of market garden crops and brick-making activities by the end of April. These activities usually extend into May.

    Normally, losses of income from cash crops and brick-making activities as of April would heighten the food insecurity of the poorest households. However, ongoing assistance programs in many parts of the Sahel, though inadequate, should slow this deterioration in food security conditions.

    Current assistance and food security outcomes

    Since December of last year, 8,981 malnourished children between the ages of six and 59 months have been treated by the WFP in Moussoro, out of a total of 123,797 targeted program beneficiaries. The NGO AIDE reported 12,466 malnourished children and 9,038 malnourished breast-feeding women in the 32 health centers served by its program. Distributions of free food aid started up slowly in Batha and Guéra in March of this year. The total volume of scheduled assistance is unknown, but there are plans for the distribution of food aid to a total of 25,000 beneficiaries in West Batha alone beginning in April, including 20,000 children and 5,000 breast-feeding women. There were also distributions of food aid in East Batha in early April.  

    More than 30,000 cases of acute malnutrition in the Sahelian zone were treated between January and March of this year, compared with 12,512 over the same period last year, a 140 percent increase. There is not enough data to attribute this increase to food insecurity, given the large improvements in treatment and reporting capacity since last year.  

    According to the findings by food security assessments conducted in November/December of last year, close to 1.5 million people are at risk for food insecurity in Chad as a result of the poor 2011/2012 growing season and rising prices. Virtually all parts of the central agropastoral zone are currently in IPC Phase 2 (stressed), with no change expected anytime between now and the end of June. At the local level, at least 20 percent of very poor households in northern Guera and eastern and southern Batha were having problems meeting their basic food needs as of the beginning of April due to the grain shortfall for the 2011/2012 season, low incomes from wage labor, high market prices for grain, and inadequate distributions of food aid between January and March.


    Most likely food security scenario for April through September 2012

    The following assumptions by FEWS NET underpinning the most likely scenario for April through September 2012 are based on a study of current conditions, historical data, and programs of the country’s different food security partners.

    • Seasonal forecasts for the period between now and September released by the ECMWF in March and April call for average to good rainfall conditions in most of the central and eastern reaches of the Sahelian region of West Africa. However, right now, the technical accuracy and consistency of these different medium-range forecasts are somewhat lacking. Thus, in general, FEWS NET is assuming average rainfall conditions for 2012 from the standpoint of the spatial/temporal distribution of rainfall.
    • With the rainy season getting off to a normal start in May/June, there should be a normal demand for local farm labor (for land preparation activities) for the 2012/13 growing season. Wage rates for farm labor will remain stable, at 2000-2500 XOF/day in the Sahel, where they have been holding steady since October/November of last year, above figures for the 2011 lean season.
    • With the rainy season getting off to a normal start in May, transhumant animal herds will return to the pastoral zone. Livestock prices will move steadily downwards through the end of June, in line with seasonal trends and local conditions. Terms of trade will continue to fall through the end of May, gradually stabilizing in June and rebounding beginning in July, as livestock prices rally.
    • With the growing demand for live animals for Ramadan (between mid-July and mid-August) and the expected large demand from Nigeria during this period, given the low supplies on Nigerian markets between November of last year and May of this year, prices for livestock will steadily improve beginning as of the end of May, which could, first, stabilize the deterioration in terms of trade in June and then improve terms of trade beginning in July. There will be a visible improvement in prices for livestock and pastoral income from the sale of milk and cheese as of this same point.
    • CNA (Outpatient Nutritional Center) operations will start back up during the lean season. The Red Cross will mount blanket feeding program activities in the Lac and Mao areas beginning in May. The WFP and UNICEF also scheduled blanket feeding program activities for 15,000 children between the ages of six and 23 months for April of this year in three health districts in Lac. Together, these preventive assistance programs scheduled to be implemented between April and September should improve the nutritional situation in the Sahelian zone.
    • The Government of Sudan recently donated 5,000 metric tons of grain to the Chadian government (including shipping from Sudan at least as far as Abéché). The grain must already be in Abéché and will be officially delivered to the ONASA in the first week of May. The government of China has donated another 5,000 metric tons of grain. The level of ONASA reserves is currently at around 20,000 MT. ONASA, itself, has embarked on procurements of close to 70,000 MT of grain to build up its reserves. These procurements are currently being made by traders scouring neighboring countries for grain. With these ongoing procurement operations, in total, the level of ONASA reserves could be as high as 95,000 to 100,000 MT by the end of May.
    • These ONASA reserves built with domestic and international procurements will be used for government-subsidized sales programs in practically all parts of the Sahelian zone between May and September and for distributions of free food aid to very poor and poor households, mainly in the Mangalmé and Bitkine areas, also between May and September. In general, these supplies should suffice to ease hardship conditions for food-insecure populations between July and September and prevent food insecurity from reaching crisis levels (Phase 3 of IPC 2.0) in the Sahel.
    • Given the fraudulent nature of trade with Nigeria, the volume of grain trade will not suffice to meet the country’s needs for imports.
    • Even with a normal start-of-season and the release of trader inventories in June/July, market supplies in the Sahelian zone will still be inadequate, with a possibility of localized shortages between May and August/September in remote areas in which there is insufficient effective demand to attract supplies.
    • Domestic procurements for the rebuilding of ONASA reserves on markets in the South and in Abéché continued throughout March and April and are still in progress. Such procurements at this time of year will disrupt domestic grain markets and trigger even steeper hikes in prices in this area.
    • Thus, the larger than usual hikes in grain prices between February and March, driven by institutional demand, will continue through September, peaking in August in the Sahelian zone. Even with normal start-of-season conditions, price levels during the lean season in the country’s Sahelian zone will be higher than previously projected by FEWS NET and could be prohibitively high (400 XAF/kg), particularly in central agropastoral and grain-farming/market gardening areas in the eastern part of the country.
    • Distributions of food aid are scheduled to be made in Kanem between the end of April and September of this year in conjunction with AAH, the FAO, UNICEF, the IFRC, and the WFP.
    • There are also plans for the distribution of small animals (animal pairs) to at-risk households in this area, with 100 households having already benefited from this program.
    • Unlike the case last year, in the face of reports of the mass destruction of nests in Batha and Sila, there should be no major damage from grain-eating birds.

    The low levels of grain production at the country level and, in particular, in the Sahel, recent barriers to grain imports and livestock exports to Nigeria, and high grain prices, fueled by institutional procurements, are responsible for the rapid deterioration in the food security situation of very poor and poor households in the Sahelian zone. With the expected deterioration in terms of trade, the most likely scenario for the period from April through June shows no signs of an improvement in food security conditions (Figure 2). The most likely scenario for July through September suggests limited improvements in food security during this three-month period thanks to the different interventions by humanitarian organizations, normal start-of-season conditions improving milk availability, and harvests of short-cycle grain crops (Figure 3).

    However, the inadequacy of household reserves and food aid programs will preclude the full and complete elimination of gaps in the food access of very poor and poor households, particularly in the Sahel and, more specifically, in northern Guéra. With these food access and food consumption gaps the deterioration in the nutritional situation will exceed seasonal norms through the end of September. In general, monthly increases in admissions of patients suffering from acute malnutrition will be in line with normal seasonal upward trends between April and September/October. FEWS NET is assuming that assistance programs will help keep food insecurity levels in Phase 2 (stressed) of IPC 2.0 in most of the Sahel. However, this aid will not suffice to prevent moderate gaps in the coverage of basic food needs in certain localized areas, particularly in northern Guera and southern Batha, resulting in asset stripping and steep rises in global acute malnutrition rates compared with background levels characteristic of Phase 3 (crisis) of IPC 2.0.

    Central agropastoral zone in northern Guera and eastern and southern Batha

    Until the end of April, household food needs were being met by the market and by in-kind payments for farm labor in fields of berbéré (flood-irrigated sorghum) crops. Harvesting and threshing activities for berbéré crops, which had been helping to boost food availability and household income since February, were completed by the end of April. The main sources of income are currently sales of firewood, migration, and sales of small animals and poultry.

    Market supplies are normal, but prices are 30 percent above-average. The grain reserves of poor households in this area will be depleted by the end of May. Households will be forced to sell off some of their small animals to meet their basic food needs beginning in May. Those without any small animals will cover the cost of their grain purchases with proceeds from wage labor, sales of firewood, or loans.

    Assistance programs and sales of animals will enable poor households with a few head of livestock to maintain a normal level of food consumption.  However, very poor households without enough animals to sell will have difficulty meeting their needs between April and June due to shortfalls in income with the seasonal decline in demand for farm labor, high prices, and the inadequacy of food aid programs. Very poor households in Phase 3 (crisis) of IPC 2.0 will remain at that level through the end of June. With the growing season getting off to a normal start at the end of June, there will be a rebound in demand for labor, which is expected to be strong. There should also be a larger supply of labor from very poor and poor households. Wage rates could hold steady, but rising prices will weaken terms of trade, eroding the total value of earned income. Food consumption will improve between July and September and households will have a greater coping capacity with the increase in job opportunities afforded by farming activities and the already planned and funded food aid programs scheduled to be implemented during that period.

    Thus, with the different programs mounted by humanitarian organizations, projected average levels of rainfall, seasonal milk availability, and harvests of short-cycle grain crops, it is highly likely that food security conditions will improve between July and September to Phase 2 (stressed) of the IPC scale, compared with conditions in April/May (IPC Phase 3 (crisis)), even with the expected high spikes in grain prices in July/August.

    Table 1. Less likely events liable to change the above scenario

    Focus area

    Possible Events

    Impact on food security conditions

    Nationwide

    Start-of-season anomalies/late start-of-season or poor distribution of rainfall for the 2012/13 growing season

    -Holdup in milk production and corresponding income

    -Deterioration in terms of trade as livestock prices begin to fall

    -Limited local gainful employment opportunities for farm labor

    Sahel

    Poor market performance (very little trade to structurally deficit areas of the Sahel)

    -Low market supplies

    -Increase in grain prices to over 400 CFAF/kg

    -Deterioration in terms of trade for livestock/grain and labor/grain

    Sahel

    Poor targeting or delay in the implementation of assistance programs

    -Delay in the pre-positioning of ONASA reserves

    -Inadequate coverage of the consumption needs of all very poor and poor households

    -Reduction in household work capacity

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Timeline of Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Timeline of Critical Events

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, April 2012

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, April 2012

    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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