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Deteriorating food security for pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in western Chad

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Chad
  • April - September 2015
Deteriorating food security for pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in western Chad

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • Boko Haram conflict has extended into Chad, and the number of refugees, displaced persons, and returnees now stands at more than 40,000. Food consumption and livelihoods have deteriorated due to the pressure from new arrivals. Households in host areas (Lac, Kanem, BEG, and Hadjer Lamis) are having difficulties generating income from farming, fishing, and trade due to insecurity.

    • In the west (Kanem, BEG, Lac, and Hadjer Lamis), household cereal stocks in southern Guera, and Wadi Fira have fallen below average. In general, household food consumption is down slightly, and the pastoral lean season has started two months early. The situation, however, will remain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) due to ongoing interventions.

    • Households in the Djourf Al-Ahmar Region (western Sila) and northern Guera have depleted their stocks early and are now facing an abnormal seasonal increase in cereal prices and an atypical decline in livestock prices. They will therefore remain in Stress (IPC Phase 2).

    • Refugees and returnees from the Central African Republic (nearly 150,000 people, according to OCHA estimates) are continuing to receive a range of humanitarian assistance, without which their food security situation would become concerning. Since the start of the year, WFP has continued to regularly provide food coupons to returnees from the Central African Republic, assisting more than 63,770 people in all returnee sites in the south.

    National Overview
    Current situation

    Agro-pastoral conditions

    According to recent surveys by the Bureau of Agricultural Production and Statistics (DPAS, February 2015), actual production of berbéré (flood-recession sorghum) is down in 7 out of 10 regions. The Hadjer Lamis region recorded the most significant decline (-77.7 percent), followed by Guera (-72.8 percent) and Chari Baguirmi (-62 percent). This is the result of reduced cropping area due to berbéré wilting in some regions.

    In regions bordering Lake Chad, harvests of cold off-season crops are ongoing, and maize production levels are average to above-average. Market garden crops are ripe and are also being harvested. The third growing season (the hot season) has started, with the first seeds being planted thanks to the irrigation of polder areas. Eggplants are still being planted in areas bordering Lake Chad. In the Ouaddaï region, more onions, garlic, and vegetables (okra, sorrel, tomatoes, and lettuce) are being harvested than last year due to an increase in the area planted.

    In the Sudanian zone, field clearing work began in early April, as usual, as did plowing with tractors, in preparation for the 2015 main rainy season. Berbéré yields are up in Mayo Kebbi Est (22.5 percent). Off-season rice has been transplanted in Mayo Kebbi Est and Tandjilé Est and is developing normally in the tillering and height growth phase.

    The pastoral situation has deteriorated in the western part of the Sahelian zone (Kanem, Barh El Gazel/BEG, Hadjer Lamis, and Wayi) due to below-average pasture and water availability following below-average rainfall in 2014. The lean season for animals in BEG, Kanem, and parts of the Hadjer Lamis and Lac regions started in late February (one to two months earlier than usual). Pastoralists are traveling long distances, from 5-10 km, searching for pasture, negatively impacting animal body conditions and leading to lower milk production levels. Transhumant migration from the north to the south took place earlier than usual due to the early onset of the lean season. Animals are concentrated in the Sudanian zone as they cannot move much further south beyond the Chadian border due to the closing of the border with Central African Republic (CAR), which has put significant pressure on scarce pasture, particularly in the Grande Sido Region. These weakened animals are less resistant to disease. Tree leaves, hay, feed cakes, and cotton seeds are being used as supplemental animal feed. To address this situation, the government has provided several tons of feed cakes, which are sold at subsidized prices to pastoralists in areas such as Maro (Grande Sido Region). CotonTchad is also selling cotton seeds to pastoralists in the same area.

    Markets and trade

    In the Sahelian zone, markets are well stocked with staple and manufactured foods. Staple foods (cereals, oils, legumes) come from stocks held by better-off farmers and the many traders in this area and elsewhere. Cereals are available in abundant supply, as in a normal year, due to above-average crop production during the 2014/2015 growing season. Cereal supplies have been boosted by off-season crops (berbéré, maize, wheat, and rice) and sales of cereals by the ONASA (the national food security agency). This has kept sorghum prices in line with the average and slightly below those of April 2014 in the Sahelian zone. Pearl millet prices are 16 percent lower than in April 2014 on the Abéché market and 8 percent lower than the five-year average. These lower prices are due to good cereal production levels in 2014 and low household demand. In Bol, thanks to the harvest of dry cold season crops, markets are beginning to have more supplies. This has helped lower maize prices, which are currently 16 percent lower than in March but relatively stable (+4 percent) compared to April 2014. This is also due to the fact that farm workers who are generally paid in kind are quickly selling the maize they receive on the market in order to pay their debts. Maize prices in Bol are still higher than the five-year average (+35 percent).

    In the Sudanian zone, the harvest of berbéré crops and subsidized cereal sales by the ONASA are improving cereal availability on the markets. Thanks to average household stock levels, rural markets are continuing to supply urban markets with cereals and other foods. For example, in Moundou, sorghum supplies are higher than at the same time last year. Farmers are selling some of their sorghum stocks to prepare for the new growing season (to buy new farm tools and maintain/repair old ones). This above-average availability has helped stabilize sorghum prices on the Sarh market (FCFA 200/kg compared to FCFA 204/kg in March 2015). The quantities of sorghum available on the markets in Bodo and Tapol (Logone Oriental), for example, are in line with the same time last year. Maize prices remain stable thanks to significant imports from Cameroon this year. However, rice prices are up in Tandjilé due to production shortfalls in 2014. Sesame prices are down as Nigerian and Cameroonian traders are arriving later than in a normal year.

    Demand for maize is up in Moundou due to institutions purchasing nearly 2,000 bags in March. In the other regions of the south, cereal demand is average given good household stock levels. In the Sudanian zone, demand for groundnuts and cowpeas is higher than last year because production was lower than last year, as more land was planted in sesame instead of groundnuts. Prices are therefore higher than in April 2014.

    As for trade flows, cereal trade volumes are higher than in a normal year, and new trade flows have been observed from the Sudanian zone to the Sahelian zone and vice-versa. Maize and sorghum trade has been observed between the Sarh and Mao/Moussoro markets. Normal cereal trade movements have also been observed from the Salamat region to Guera, Mangalmé, Ouaddai, Kanem, and Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti/BET. The Bokoro and Gama markets receive pearl millet from the Barh-Signaka Region. The Batha region receives fruits and vegetables from Mongo and Bitkine. Am-Timan continues to supply sesame to neighboring Sudan and in return imports pasta and other foods.

    The closing of borders with neighboring countries (Nigeria and CAR) continues to have a negative impact on livestock exports. Insecurity in Nigeria has slowed and nearly stopped the flow of livestock trade. Livestock supplies on local markets therefore remain above-average, and livestock prices are lower than in both 2014 and a normal year. With pasture levels currently low and animals in poor physical condition, livestock prices are continuing to fall. On the livestock market in Mao (Kanem), sheep prices in April were 32 percent lower than in April 2014 and 8 percent lower than the five-year average.

    Population movements

    According to the latest numbers from OCHA, the number of refugees, returnees, and displaced persons in the Lac region is estimated at 43,808. This number is steadily rising as people continue to flee the violence associated with Boko Haram in Nigeria and around Lake Chad. A mass exodus of able-bodied workers has been reported from the Sahel, particularly Ouaddai and Sila, to the gold-producing area in the far north of the country. However, workers present in the Moyen Chari region since December 2014 have started returning to their home bases.

    According to OCHA, the number of refugees and returnees from CAR is estimated at nearly 150,000. They are spread over three sites in the Grande Sido Region: two sites for returnees and one site for refugees. Cereals, legumes, oil, and salt are distributed to refugees once a month. Previously, they were distributed equally, but since the start of the year, refugees have been classified as very poor, poor, middle, and better-off, and distributions are now made according to this classification. Each returnee receives a coupon worth FCFA 6,000, valid for one month. These coupons allow beneficiaries to buy their food of choice from licensed traders.

    Nutritional situation

    On the whole, there were fewer admissions of cases of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) during the months of January and February 2015 than during the same period in 2014, probably due – at least in part – to improved food assistance and health coverage. A total of 8,831 cases of SAM were admitted for treatment in regions of the Sahelian strip during January 2015, and 11,461 were admitted during February, for a total of 20,292. This number is similar to the 20,800 admissions in January-February 2014.

    According to the report from the last restricted meeting of the Nutrition Cluster on April 29, there has been a significant increase in the number of admissions in the Kanem and Bahr El Gazal regions. The Kanem region had around 2,000 more admissions than in the first quarter of 2014, and the numbers were similar in the BEG region. While this may be related to better health center coverage by ACF (Action Contre la Faim) and screening in the region during the first quarter, other explanations were also given, such as the poor agro-pastoral situation in the regions in question, the inability of people in Kanem to continue farming in the Lac region, and higher cereal prices.

    Humanitarian assistance

    UNICEF and NGOs such as IMC, IRC, and the Support Center for International Health (CSSI) are providing health care to refugees and displaced persons in the Lac region. In response to the crisis in Nigeria, the WFP has provided food assistance to nearly 9,047 people since January 2015, including 3,468 refugees and 5,579 displaced persons, returnees, and members of host communities. New arrivals continue to receive High Energy Biscuits (HEBs).

    Since the start of 2015, the WFP has continued to regularly provide food coupons to returnees from CAR, assisting more than 63,770 people in all returnee sites in southern Chad. In January and February 2015, the WFP distributed 7,518 metric tons of food to around 450,000 Central African and Sudanese refugees. In March 2015, the European Union (EU) and five United Nations agencies, including the WFP, launched a joint project to support communities hosting returnees from CAR along the border between Chad and CAR. The project is being financed by an EU fund for peace and stability in Chad. MSF Switzerland is caring for malnourished children in Massakory, while the FAO is currently distributing seeds and market gardening kits in the Dababa and Dagana Regions.

    In the Wadi Fira and Ouaddaï regions, CRS, through funding from USAID/FFP, plans to provide assistance in the form of coupons (food-for-work coupons and unconditional coupons) to 12,515 households from June through September. In the Biltine and Arada Regions in Wadi Fira, assistance will be provided in the form of food-for-work coupons. Each household will receive a monthly coupon worth FCFA 25,000 for five months (May through September). In the Megri Region (Wadi Fira), each household will receive three unconditional food coupons over three months (June, July, and September). Each coupon will be worth FCFA 20,000 per household/month. The ONASA has cereal reserves (19,869 metric tons), mainly intended for sales at moderate prices. These sales could make it easier for poor households to access cereals and protect their livelihoods.

    Food security situation       

    The current situation in the Sahelian zone is relatively calm, except in the Lac, Hadjer Lamis, BEG, and Kanem regions, where food security conditions have deteriorated with the early depletion of food stocks and pressure from refugees and displaced persons on host populations. The situation in Guera is normal except for in the Melfi Region (Sorki and Gogmi cantons), which had below-average production levels, forcing poor households to sell more livestock than usual in order to access food. Subsidized cereal sales by the ONASA are allowing households who did not produce enough crops during the start of the rainy season to access cereals. In the southern part of Wadi Fira, food stocks were depleted in April, two months earlier than in a normal year, due to cereal production levels 25 percent lower than usual throughout the entire region of Wadi Fira. The Biltine Region and neighboring Mégri have confirmed that poor households have nearly depleted their stocks of pearl millet, groundnuts, and cowpeas and that there will be limited access to sufficient quantities of food from April through the end of the 2015 lean season. Seasonal migration of pastoralists from Biltine to southern Chad started earlier than normal this year (mid-October versus November/December).

    In the south, households' residual food stocks could cover their needs through at least June. Market garden produce is also available to households and on some markets, helping to diversify household diets. Wild foods, meat, fish, eggs, oil, etc. are also significant food sources and are helping to improve the food security of poor households.

    In flood-recession agriculture regions in the south, households' food access has improved thanks to above-average availability of off-season crops on all the markets, with prices remaining relatively affordable compared to the same time last year. Farmers' current stock levels are satisfactory due to good cereal production during the 2014/2015 growing season. Subsidized cereal sales by the ONASA, which have started in some regions such as Guera, Moyen Chari, and Logone Occidental, are helping boost household food stock levels.

    Based on the current context and the results of the acute food insecurity analysis, most of the country is facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity, with the exception of western regions (Kanem, BEG, Lac, and Hadjer Lamis) and isolated areas such as Sila, Wadi Fira, and Guera. Those areas are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to the early depletion of cereal stocks, the scarcity of pasture, the decline in livestock prices, and pressure on limited resources from refugees, returnees, and displaced persons.


    The most likely food security scenario for April through September 2015 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Agro-climatology: Currently, there are no indications that rainfall totals and temporal and spatial distributions should not be close to the average in most agricultural areas of Chad throughout the 2015 rainy season.
    • Outlook for off-season harvests: Dry season crops are currently being harvested, and production will be average, with the season for market garden crops ending as usual in March/April, depending on water availability. Food and income sources related to market gardening and flood-recession crops, including labor, will be average to above-average but will disappear in April, as usual. In the rice schemes in Bongor and Tandjilé Est (in Boumo), dry-season crops will be harvested in late July, as usual, and production levels will be slightly below average due to work beginning later than normal.
    • Pastoral conditions: Pasture production has been average nationally but well below average in western Chad (Kanem, BEG, Hadjer Lamis, and Lac) and in Moyen Chari. The availability of animal feed, which has been declining in BEG, Kanem, and Hadjer Lamis since late February, could continue to be much more concerning from April through June due to insecurity caused by Boko Haram, which is limiting animals' movement around Lake Chad. This has led to overgrazing in areas where livestock are concentrated. In areas that typically face pasture shortages, such as northeastern Chad (Kanem and BEG), transhumant migration to the far south will help ensure the availability of animal feed until at least September. With a normal onset of the rainy season, pasture regrowth is expected to begin in July.
    • Transhumance and livestock body conditions: As expected, the rainy season will start as usual in most of Chad, and pasture regrowth will also be normal. However, the level of available animal feed will be critical around Lake Chad and in Moyen Chari due to civil insecurity in northeastern Nigeria and the Central African Republic and an atypical concentration of livestock in more secure areas. This could lead to overgrazing or the early depletion of pasture resources. This situation will lead pastoralists to purchase more animal feed, the prices of which could rise to above-average levels due to high demand from April through June. In areas where livestock are concentrated, livestock supplies could be above average, resulting in lower prices through May. A normal start to the rainy season and the gradual regrowth of pasture will encourage transhumant pastoralists to return to their home bases as usual, increasing the availability of milk, which is a source of food and income for households.
    • Livestock markets: Markets are currently being affected by the conflict with Boko Haram. Demand from Nigeria will remain below average through June due to tensions related to the conflict. Livestock prices will fall from April through June due to low demand and the seasonal deterioration in livestock feeding conditions, which will be more severe than usual because of pasture deficits. Prices could rise beginning in late June with increased demand surrounding the month of Ramadan (June/July) and Tabaski (September). In major livestock-rearing areas in the west (Kanem, BEG, Hadjer Lamis, and Lac) where localized pasture deficits have been observed, livestock body conditions could begin deteriorating sooner, causing prices to fall to below-average levels in localized areas. Terms of trade will therefore fall below average, particularly around Lake Chad, due to the significant decline in livestock prices. They could improve starting in late June with decreased supply following the return of livestock to pastoral areas, improved animal body conditions thanks to the regrowth of grass cover after the first rains in the Sahel in June, and increased demand during Ramadan (June-July) and especially Tabaski (September). Throughout the period, prices will remain above the seasonal average due to high local demand in urban areas. However, demand from eastern Nigeria is already down and could fall to below-average levels with an escalation of the conflict with Boko Haram. Livestock prices will be below average from April through June but will be above average from July through September due to the seasonal decline in supply, with the return of livestock to pastoral areas and normal animal body conditions following pasture regrowth. Despite high cereal prices, terms of trade will therefore improve to around average levels from July through September.
    • Cereal markets and prices: Dry cereals will be available in sufficient quantities until the next harvest in 2015 to ensure normal supply levels on markets, given the production levels reported during the 2014/2015 growing season and supplies on markets observed in February 2015 by joint CILSS/FEWS NET/FAO/WFP/SISAAP missions. Furthermore, given the stability of rice prices on the international market, imports will be normal, despite the rise in the dollar against most regional currencies. This will help ensure normal market supply levels and stable rice and wheat prices, particularly in urban areas.
    • Closure of the border with Libya: The border will remain closed until at least September. Markets in BET will still receive supplies from Libya, but in lower quantities than what is normal for the season. Usual cereal trade flows from Ouaddaï will extend to Batha and Salamat to fill the gaps.
    • Demand: Household market demand will increase gradually beginning in April until peaking in July-August, as is usual. However, overall demand will be below average given above-average household food stocks in most regions, except in the west (Kanem, BEG, Hadjer Lamis, and Lac). Institutional purchases could continue until May, but such purchases will have a limited impact on prices, given above-average trader stock levels and high potential supply levels in major production areas in the central and southeastern parts of the country.
    • Cereal trade: Flows of imports and exports will be atypically low between Chad and both CAR and Nigeria because of the conflict in CAR and growing insecurity along the Nigerian border due to Boko Haram. Trade flows in Chad will be below average given the conflict with Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria and the conflict in CAR.
    • Cereal supplies: Supplies on the country's markets will be average due to the good cereal harvest in 2014. Supplies will be boosted by the harvest of flood-recession crops, such as berbéré, cold off-season maize, and irrigated rice. Markets will therefore remain well-stocked until July. Beginning in August, early crops and hot off-season maize from the Lac region will boost cereal availability for households and the markets. However, supplies will be below average in Kanem due to lower cereal production levels, which may not be sufficient to meet demand, especially with pressure from refugees. Groundnut supplies will remain below average from April through mid-June due to low production in 2014. Starting in mid-June, markets will be better supplied as traders sell off their groundnut stocks, with prices high due to demand during the month of Ramadan (as groundnuts are an important ingredient in porridge).

    Prices of staple food and cash crops will follow the trends described below:

    • Millet prices could remain above average through September thanks to above-average stock levels resulting from good 2014 harvests boosted by off-season crops harvested in March 2015.
    • Sorghum prices could rise slightly above current levels until June (lean season) before rising even more in July and peaking in August. With the harvest of early crops in August, prices will fall in September but will remain higher than those in September 2014 and the five-year average.
    • Maize prices will rise from April through July due to below-average market supplies. In August and September, prices could fall 10 to 18 percent below those of 2014 due to harvests of hot off-season maize (late July) but will remain above the five-year average through September.
    • Prices of sesame (a main cash crop) will remain stable due to increased market supplies and lower demand during the 2014 post-harvest period. Prices will remain below average on several markets through September.
    • Income and food sources: Household income and food sources will behave as they do in a typical year from April through June. In July and August, households will be slightly more market dependent than in a normal year in deficit areas of the Sudanian zone and the structurally-deficit part of the Sahelian zone (Kanem, Bahr El Gazel, and Batha-Est).
    • Locust situation: Given seasonal forecasts, the locust presence in Chad will be similar to a normal year. There is no indication of any significant desert locust growth until September.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    From April through June, the food security situation will remain calm in the Sudanian zone thanks to cotton payments, which began early this year (February/March, instead of April/May/June), allowing some very poor and poor households to build up their stocks during this period. Even in Tandjilé, where there were floods in 2014, production levels were good, and rice prices are currently lower than in April 2014 and the five-year average. The entire area is therefore currently facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.

    In the Sahelian zone, households will have less difficulty accessing food in April and May thanks to good rainfed cereal production in 2014 and good harvests of flood-recession crops (berbéré) and market garden produce. In the month of June, with the effective start to the agricultural lean season, household cereal stocks will reach minimum levels, and very poor and poor households will be entirely market dependent. The food security situation will therefore begin to deteriorate in the western Sahel (Kanem, BEG, Hadjer Lamis, and Lac), Sila, Guera, and Wadi Fira, where poor households will have to reduce their food consumption and will not be able to cover any non-food expenditures. As a result, these regions will remain under Stress (IPC Phase 2).

    From July through September, cereals will gradually become more difficult to access due to the agricultural lean season and rising food prices, which will peak between July and August. This situation suggests a difficult food security situation in certain regions of the Sahelian strip (Kanem, Barh-El-Gazal, Hadjer Lamis, Lac, northern and southern parts of Guera, Wadi Fira, and Sila) due to the depletion of household cereal stocks and falling livestock prices. All of these regions will experience Stress (IPC Phase 2) during this period. However, it is important to note that some areas (Kanem, Barh-El-Gazal, and Lac) could face a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) if food assistance is suspended.

    In southern Guera, pasture availability could improve starting in July, and temporary pools will be filled. Livestock body conditions will improve, as will the availability of milk. Early crops (basin-irrigated maize, groundnuts, and field-grown beans) will be available beginning in mid-August, when cereal prices will start to fall. Terms of trade will also improve. Even without food assistance, the situation will therefore remain stable and will continue to be one of Stress (IPC Phase 2) until September. Even if assistance is suspended in July, the situation may not deteriorate.

    Beginning in September, the food security situation in the Sudanian zone and part of the Sahelian zone will improve with the arrival of early crops and more available milk.


    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 in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes for April 2014

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes for April 2014

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Projected consumer prices for maize on the Bol market, in FCFA/kg

    Figure 3

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    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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