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Deterioration in food security conditions in the Sahelian zone during the lean season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Chad
  • February 2018
Deterioration in food security conditions in the Sahelian zone during the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Food insecurity levels in the Sahelian zone are rising, driven by the dwindling food reserves, the end of off-season activities, the relatively high prices of cereals, and the limited employment opportunities. There are Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity in the Lac region as a result of the poor local harvests, the relatively low prices of livestock, and the ongoing conflicts disrupting household livelihoods.

    • The steadily falling levels of most household food stocks will continue to fuel demand over the coming months and markets will have difficulty meeting this growing demand with the hike in fuel prices (on January 4, 2018) prompting carriers to go on strike, with the risk of this resulting in low trader inventories in food-short areas.

    • Pastoral conditions have sharply deteriorated as a result of the pasture deficits in most parts of the transhumance zone (in 15 out of 21 regions). The premature drying up of semi-permanent lakes and ponds forced transhumant pastoralists to leave these areas earlier than usual. The lean season in pastoral areas could start to affect the physical condition of livestock by as early as the end of March and trigger disputes between farmers and pastoralists. 


    Current situation

    Farming conditions

    Preliminary data for the 2017-2018 growing season estimates cereal production at 2,862,610 metric tons, which puts it 3.2 percent above the five-year average (Source: National Rural Development Agency, ANADER). Millet, sorghum, and maize production is up slightly. On the other hand, there was a slight decline in rice production due to flooding problems. There were large shortfalls in cereal production in certain regions such as Kanem (27.7 percent), Wadi Fira (27.2 percent), Barh El Ghazal (20.5 percent), Lac (7.6 percent), Moyen Chari (5 percent), and Batha (4.9 percent). Cereal production levels were slightly above-average by four percent in the Sila region and below-average in Djourf Al Ahmar department.

    The production forecast for berbéré crops from November 2017 put it 11 percent above the five-year average (ANADER), though yields from ongoing harvests are below-average in many locations such as Ouaddaï, Guera, Sila, Salamat, and Chari Baguirmi due to caterpillar infestations, water stress, and the earlier than usual end of the rains in 2017.

    Oilseed production, estimated at 1,095,691 metric tons in 2017, is close to the five-year average.

    The estimated 142,087 metric tons of pulses is 11 percent above the five-year average for this type of crop production.

    In general, yields of market garden crops are above-average as a result of the larger area planted in these crops with the assistance furnished by NGOs. However, crop yields in Guera and Batha are down due to the lack of groundwater recharge in these areas.

    Pastoral conditions

    Pastoral conditions are marked by large biomass deficits in 15 of the 21 regions within the Sahelian zone. The regions most affected by pasture deficits are Guera, Wadi Fira, Lac, Salamat, Hadjer Lamis, and Ouaddaï. This prompted transhumant pastoralists in most of these regions to leave the area earlier than usual (beginning at the end of September instead of in October – November). These earlier than usual herd movements have moved up the start of the lean season for pastoral populations to as early as February, instead of April, which is the norm.

    Markets and trade

    Markets are functioning normally in practically all regions of the country with the exception of the Lac region, where business is slow as a result of the unstable security situation due to the ongoing conflicts in that area. The Bagassola market (in Lac), for example, is operating at only 20 percent of its normal capacity. Market supplies have been bolstered by harvests of berbéré crops, which are almost over. There are average levels of cereal supplies on most cereal markets owing to the good 2017 harvests. Imports of processed foods (food pastes, oil, sugar, etc.) from Libya and cereal (rice) imports from Sudan are helping to keep markets in the Sahel (Guera, Wadi Fira, etc.) stocked with supplies in spite of the security problems slowing the flow of trade with Libya. There is a normal flow of domestic trade in just about all regions.

    Prices on most cereal markets are trending downwards. However, prices on certain markets such as Mangalmé are moving in the opposite direction, where sorghum prices are 18 percent above-average with the withering of berbéré crops. The large demand for cereals from Sudanese refugees in Ouaddaï and Sila has driven up cereal prices.

    Population movements

    There are reports of population movements in Mangalmé department triggered by the poor rainfed crop production, withering of berbéré crops, and stem-boring caterpillar infestations in that area. The main destinations are Abéché, Mongo, Salamat, or N’Djamena. In general, these migratory movements are made by heads of household, with or without their wives, and youths of 18 years of age and over.  

    There are reports of an unusual presence of Bororo pastoralists in the cities of Mongo and Melfi due to the situation in the CAR. The resumption of hostilities by armed groups in the Central African Republic triggered a flow of close to 20,000 people into Nya Pendé and Monts de Lam departments (in the East Logone region). The UNHCR puts the actual number of people at 18,000.

    Humanitarian assistance

    The humanitarian community has operations in different areas. The WFP is currently providing food assistance in the form of « Food for Assets » to 4,375 recipients in Kobé department (in the Wadi Fira region). In the Lac region, close to 90,000 people are receiving food assistance through blanket distributions of food rations and 48,310 are receiving food assistance in the form of cash payments. The extension of this assistance through the end of March is contingent on the delivery of ordered food supplies currently in transit.

    Emergency operations by the WFP in East Logone in the Sudanian zone for new refugees from the Central African Republic are furnishing food vouchers and nutritional supplements (protein biscuits) to 4,000 children.  

    Household cereal stocks

    There are signs of the beginning of the seasonal decline in the levels of cereal stocks in most regions. Cereal stocks in food-short regions of the Sahel (BEG, Kanem, Wadi Fira, and Lac) are reportedly unusually low. Most households are starting to rely on market purchases to meet their basic food needs.

    Trader and institutional cereal inventories 

    Trader inventories are being replenished as usual. Residual ONASA (National Food Security Agency) inventories are running low and new procurements are lagging behind schedule compared with previous years for lack of funding. The country’s current economic woes are expected to keep the volume of procurements below their usual level of 25,000 metric tons

    Current food security situation

    According to the assessments conducted by FEWS NET back in October 2017, close to 1.5 million people in Chad, mostly in the country’s Sahelian zone, are at risk for food insecurity due to the poor harvests for 2017/2018, pasture deficits, and weak household purchasing power. The pasture and cereal deficits in Kanem, BEG, Batha, Wadi Fira, Ouaddai, and Sila are disrupting the livelihoods of many pastoral households and hastening the depletion of household cereal stocks. Food security conditions in these areas are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and are not expected to change anytime between now and the end of May. Close to 175,000 people in the Lac region are currently having difficulty meeting their basic food needs due to the low levels of their food stocks, the ongoing conflicts, and their low incomes from wage labor.


    The most likely scenario for February through September 2018 is based on the following assumptions with respect to nationwide conditions:

    • Trends in agro-climatic conditions for the 2018–2019 season: There should be a normal 2018 rainy season in all agropastoral areas, with near-average levels of rainfall.
    • Outlook for harvests of off-season crops: Yields of flood recession/berbéré crops (between February and March) in crop-growing areas of Guera, Ouaddaï, Sila, Salamat (Aboudeia), Chari Baguirmi, and Batha will fall short of production forecasts. In contrast, there will be larger than average harvests of market garden crops with the larger areas planted in these crops with the assistance furnished by different NGOs.
    • Pastoral conditions: The reported large shortfalls in biomass production and severe shortages of surface water in pastoral and agropastoral areas will continue to trigger atypical movements by transhumant pastoralists into the Sudanian zone, creating tension between farming and pastoral communities. These deficits will translate into an earlier than usual, extended, severe lean season for pastoral populations by February 2018.
    • Household cereal stocks: Cereal stocks in certain food-short regions (BEG, Kanem, Wadi Fira, and Lac) will be prematurely depleted by the end of February.
    • Supply and demand:
      • Food supply: With the reportedly good levels of crop production, as usual, cereal, oilseed, and tuber crops are generally available in sufficient quantities. However, there will be poorer than average food availability in areas with production deficits.
      • Food demand – including institutional demand and demand for livestock from Nigeria via Niger: There will be low demand in areas with good harvests, where there will be larger than usual household food stocks. There will also be low demand in food-short areas with the decline in purchasing power. There will be a high demand for cereal crops from wholesale traders. There will be a lower than usual institutional demand on account of the country’s financial problems.
    • Farm labor: There will be a sustained demand for farm labor for land preparation work, the planting of crops, and crop maintenance work with the normal start of the 2018-2019 growing season and the elimination of subsidies for mechanized plowing services. As a result, wage rates for farm labor will stay at or above the average, to the advantage of poor households.
    • Sources of nonfarm income: With many construction and prospecting sites shut down, massive numbers of workers will turn to brick-laying, materials handling services (using carry-alls and carts), and panning for gold.

    Price trends

    • Millet prices: January 2018 prices for millet on the Sarh market were around 190 CFAF/kg, 11 percent below the five-year average. Millet prices will peak in August (at 285 CFAF/kg).
    • Sorghum prices: The unit price of sorghum on the Amtiman market in January 2018 was 133 CFAF/kg, 22 percent above the five-year average. However, sorghum prices are expected to come down to near-average levels in February (+4 percent) and March (+6 percent) before bouncing back up to 13 percent and 18 percent above-average in August and September, respectively.
    • Maize prices: January prices for maize on the Bol market were reportedly relatively close to the five-year average (-9 percent) and are expected to remain stable through the month of March before coming down by 14 percent with the harvest of cold off-season crops. The subsequent stabilization of maize prices in May and June will be followed by moderate rises in prices in July (+14 percent) and August (+20 percent) during the lean season.
    • Sesame prices: Sesame prices on the N’Djamena market dropped from 520 to 510 CFAF between December 2017 and January 2018. They will peak in the month of April (+21 percent) with the expected arrival of Sudanese wholesalers.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    Between February and May: With the reportedly smaller than average harvests in most Sahelian regions and southern floodplain areas, household food stocks will be depleted by February/March instead of May, as usual. This will create Stressed (IPC Phase 2) household food security conditions in Kanem, BEG, Batha, Guera, Wadi Fira, Ouaddaï, Sila, Moyen Chari, and Tandjilé. On the other hand, households in the Lac region will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to the small food reserves and conflicts in that area. The expected deterioration in terms of trade could weaken food security conditions in most parts of the Sahelian zone. There will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity in all other parts of the country.

    Between June and September: While there should be no change in the food security situation in certain departments between the first and second half of the outlook period with the good harvests of market garden crops in these areas, the low levels of food stocks and weak purchasing power of very poor and poor households in Lac, Kanem, BEG, Batha, Guera, and Wadi Fira due mainly to the low price of livestock and high price of cereals will create gaps in food access. As a result, food security conditions could deteriorate into a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situation between June and September. Households in the Mandoul, Moyen Chari, East Tandjilé, Ouaddai, and Sila regions will face food shortages during the lean season putting them in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity. There will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity in all other areas of the country.

    Figures Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    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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