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Household food insecurity in the Sahel is accentuated by COVID-19

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Chad
  • February - September 2021
Household food insecurity in the Sahel is accentuated by COVID-19

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Supply to the grain markets is still being disrupted by the price increase on transport costs, particularly in western Sahel. This is reflected in the upward trend, compared to the five-year average, of millet prices in Ngouri (18 percent), Guereda (+17 percent), and Abdi (+12 percent) at the end of January 2021. This trend has also been observed for maize prices in Bol (+18 percent).

    • The off-season agropastoral campaign is proceeding normally thanks to the excellent output of the rainy season. The berberé production is expected to be slightly above the five-year average, owing to adequate residual moisture levels and the increase in cultivated land. The pastoral situation is stable due to the availability of natural pasture lands, bolstered by crop residues and adequate water source levels.

    • The pandemic continues to exacerbate the precarious conditions faced by poor and very poor households due to governmental restrictions. This is reflected in the decline in income, of which the primary sources are undergoing continual deterioration. This has affected the food situation in most deficit areas, and even around major urban centers.

    • The food situation of the host and displaced households in the Lac is likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the absence of humanitarian assistance. In Tibesti, food access is limited by declining incomes, and the households are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In the rest of the country, most households' food consumption levels are minimal, thanks to the availability of agricultural products, supported by off-season harvests (IPC Phase 1).


    Current situation

    COVID-19 and restrictive measures: The pandemic continues to hamper the functioning of the national economy. According to the national health response coordination, as of February 25, 2021, with a prevalence of 3,934 cases accumulated since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, including 3,420 patients cured, 353 infected people receiving treatment, and 137 deaths, COVID-19 has heightened the precarious conditions faced by poor and very households due to measures taken to contain the pandemic, including border closures, restrictions on road traffic and night-time curfews.

    Macroeconomics and oil prices: The Chadian economy is highly dependent on oil resources and has been significantly impacted by the decline crude oil prices since 2015. This has resulted in an economic crisis, which has been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, with serious economic and social repercussions on Chad. This has affected the households' food situation due to the decrease in income.

    Off-season campaign: The expected overall production of berberé, Lac maize and market garden produce in the various areas of the country is estimated to be slightly above normal due to adequate residual moisture levels and the increase in cultivated land in the producing provinces. However, the labor supply is well above normal in most provinces of the country due to fewer employment opportunities because of COVID-19.

    Household grain stocks: In most areas of the country, household grain stocks are average, thanks to the good production levels of the last rain-fed campaign. The new berberé harvests supplement household grain stock levels in producing areas such as Guera and Salamat. They also supply the markets in the other areas of the country.

    In Mayo Kebbi East and Tandjilé, berberé harvest volumes are smaller due to delays caused by flooding and caterpillar attacks.

    Institutional stocks, potential purchases and stock levels: The warehouses of the National Food Security Office (ONASA) have a residual stock of 8,900 tons.

    Agricultural revenues: The daily wage is below normal throughout the entire country because of financial difficulties faced by farmers due to the effects of the economic crisis, as well as restrictions related to COVID-19. The labor employed during this period, however, is still mainly family-based.

    Non-agricultural revenues: As a result of the restrictive measures related to COVID-19 and the economic crisis which the country is undergoing, many sources of income for the poor and very poor households are being disrupted. Some activities remain accessible, particularly transport the sale of water, the manufacture and sale of bricks, and domestic work. However, the daily wages are below normal. For illustrative purposes, according to key observers, the average daily wages in Bongor have decreased from 3,000 CFA francs in a normal year, before the pandemic, to 2,000 or even 1,500 CFA francs. Elsewhere, in Abéché, wages from brick-making have decreased from 5,000 CFA francs per day, before COVID-19, to 3,000 or 2,500 CFA francs currently.

    Money transfers: Income from remittances from seasonal and permanent migrants has fallen from 50 to 60 percent due to the impact of COVID-19 measures and insecurity in the Libyan and Sudanese territories. For instance, according to key observers in the area, poor and very poor households in Ouaddaï who used to earn 45,000 to 50,000 CFA francs per month, in a normal year, now only receive 25,000 to 20,000 CFA francs per month.

    Pastoral situation: In the majority of agropastoral areas, and even in livestock migratory areas, animals consume fodder grasses and crop residues from the rain-fed campaign. These crop residues are supplemented by those from the off-season campaign, particularly berberé, currently being harvested. Current levels of water sources are sufficient to meet the livestock's needs. However, there has been a reduction in fodder grasses in the transition zone (Hadjer Lamis and Chari Baguirmi) of West Sahel, where some migratory herds extended their stay until early November, due to high moisture levels in the host areas. Most migratory herds are currently located in the southern area, as in a normal year.

    Market operations: The food markets are supplied by the harvests of the rain-fed campaign and recession sorghum corps currently being harvested, which supports supply despite the auctions on transport costs. In the Lac, supply disruptions due to civil insecurity have been exacerbated by these auctions. Demand is still normal, or even declining in most areas of the country due to reduced purchasing power caused by the economic downturn. Nevertheless, a spike in demand is reported in the east of the country (Ouaddaï, Sila, and Wadi Fira), in response to a rise in demand from the northern BET provinces (Borkou, Ennedi, and Tibesti) and increased trade flows. In the country's agricultural areas, millet prices remain stable, compared to the five-year average, as in Moundou (+6 percent), whereas price drops have been reported in Doba (-15 eprcent) and Goré (-21 percent), due to low demand. Conversely, as a result of increased demand for the BET provinces, and exports to border areas in the Sudanese territory, through informal corridors, millet prices have increased in Abdi (12 percent) and Guereda (17 percent).

    Conflict and population movements:

    Inter-communal conflict and conflict in Darfur are dormant and continue to spark population movements in some areas:

    • Displaced populations from Darfur: A total of 4,482 refugees from the Darfur in Sudan were registered between January 17 and February 11, 2021, according to data provided by the HCR (the UN refugee agency).
    • Security crisis and post-election conflict in the Central African Republic: Post-election insecurity has led to an increase in the number of refugees entering southern Chad since December 2020.
    • Farmer/breeder conflict: Apart from clashes that occurred in Doulbarid, in the Ouaddaï province, which claimed the lives of 11 people in January, a relative calm now reigns over the various hotbeds of internal conflict (Mayo Kebbi East, Sila, Tandjilé, Wadi Fira). Over 7,000 people who fled the inter-communal conflict are still in their host localities.
    • Security situation in Tibesti: Given the governmental decision relative to the cessation of small-scale mining and the closure of the gold mines in October 2020, a relative calm has been achieved as a result of securing the sites, leading to a reduction in the number of small-scale miners coming from other provinces in the country. However, altercations between security forces and small-scale miners occasionally occur.

    Current food situation: The food situation of the displaced and host households in the Lac is likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the absence of humanitarian assistance. However, it is likely that the assistance currently being provided will have a significant effect on food security. However, FEWS NET lacked sufficient data to confirm this when this report was being published. The food situation of the poor and very poor households in Tibesti, BEG, Kanem, Wad Fira, and Ouaddaï is Stressed (IPC Phase 2), due to the hike in food prices on the markets in the face of a decline in incomes as a result of the negative impact of restrictions related to COVID-19, thus limiting their market access. Consequently, essential non-food expenses would not be an option without engaging in coping strategies such as atypically resorting to small-scale trade, increasing labor or the sale of wood. In the country's agricultural and agropastoral areas, despite the health emergency context, food consumption is stable, owing to good grain stock levels, being supplemented by the current harvesting of recession sorghum crops (berberé). Households in these areas are not currently facing food insecurity (IPC Phase 1).


    The most likely scenario from February to September 2021 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • The agropastoral campaign will begin with a start and end to the rainy season, identical to a normal year. Based on the forecasts updated by scientific partners of the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), average to above-average rainfall is expected in most areas of the country during the 2021 rainy season. This would facilitate a good agropastoral campaign.
    • Despite the berbéré harvests currently underway, poor and very poor households in Mayo Kebbi East and the Tandjilé region will likely see their stocks depleted from as early as March instead of June or July as in a normal year, due to poor harvests. The households in these areas will be prematurely reliant on the markets for their food consumption, as well as in BEG, Kanem, Batha, Ouaddaï, and Wadi Fira, where there will be premature depletion of stocks. Elsewhere, household grain stocks are likely to be at levels identical to a normal year.
    • Failing any improvement in the health situation, measures related to COVID-19 will be maintained until September 2021.
    • The economic crisis related to oil prices on the market, further exacerbated by the COVID-19 health crisis, will continue to impact the livelihoods of poor and very poor households, particularly their income, which will remain at low levels in most areas of the country. Seasonal migrant remittances will remain at inadequate levels during the entire assessment period.
    • Efforts to combat illegal gold mining in Tibesti and Borkou are likely to gain momentum during the projection period, which will lead to an overall increase in conflict, compared to current levels. Disruptions in trade and movements attributed to banditry on the roads, the closure of the border with Libya and restrictions linked to COVID-19 are likely to maintain current levels, while incidents between the security forces and small-scale miners are occurring more frequently. Despite the spike in black market activity, the supply of food products imported from Libya to the markets will remain below the levels of a normal year; trade flow volumes will remain small during the entire assessment period.
    • Central African refugee flows in the localities in southern Chad should maintain their current pace until mediation efforts between the government and rebel groups begin in March 2021, after which a decline in the number of refugees is expected, compared to the period from December 2020 to February 2021.
    • The growing inter-communal violence in the Sudanese province, Darfur, could lead to additional population movements towards Chad, above 2020 levels, due to distrust regarding the announced withdrawal of the United Nations peace-keeping forces (MINUAD) and their replacement with Sudanese governmental forces.
    • Election demonstrations in Chad, which would involve demonstrations by opposition forces and civil society, would lead to clashes in N'Djamena and in pro-opposition towns such as Moundou, Doba, Sarh and Abéché, in the south throughout the entire period before and immediately after the election period, and beyond. However, massive deployment of security forces and repressive measures would prevent the demonstrations from escalating. Between February and June, scheduled election activities could lead to demonstrations in the capital and major towns in the country, disrupting inter-urban traffic, and therefore, grain flows. Supply to markets could be affected; grain availability on the markets would temporarily decrease.
    • Given the adequate availability of pastoral resources in livestock migratory areas and agropastoral areas, coverage of livestock food needs will be provided for until the end of March, or even mid-April 2021.
    • Altercations relative to the control and management of water sources in Batha are to be expected. This could lead to escalation of the conflict between indigenous farmers and livestock breeders, towards the end of May 2020, when the migratory herds are returning to their areas of origin.
    • Replenishment of state institutional stocks will commence towards March or April, in accordance with the budgetary availability of the National Food Security Office's (ONASA) services. A procurement volume of 34,900 tons is planned, including 26,000 tons in direct purchases from targeted producers in the amount of 6,912,774 CFA francs.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    Between February and May 2021: In the absence of food assistance, Lac households will have to rely on negative coping strategies, such as limiting the number of meals, thus food consumption for some will be insufficient, and they will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Given the decline in household incomes after the spike in food prices due to a decrease in trade flow volumes with Libya as a result of border closures in the wake of conflict, and the negative impact of measures implemented to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, poor and very poor households in Tibesti will have limited access to the markets. In BEG, Kanem, Wadi Fira, and Ouaddaï, the drop in income, coupled with rising food prices on the markets will also limit the households' food access. Their food consumption will be minimal, but will be unable to afford essential non-food expenditures; they will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    In the other areas of the country, household food consumption will be stable, thanks to adequate stock levels, supplemented by off-season products (berberé, market garden produce). Households will be able to meet their essential food and non-food needs, without relying on coping strategies. They will not be in an insecure food situation (IPC Phase 1).

    Between June and September 2021, displaced and host households in the Lac will remain in a similar situation, failing the provision of food assistance, and will be forced to rely on negative coping strategies to gain access to the market, in addition to the winter vegetables harvested. They will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Households in Tibesti, BEG, Kanem, Ennedi East and West, Wadi Fira, Ouaddaï, and Sila will be highly dependent on the markets for their food consumption as a result of the depletion or decline in their grain stocks. They will have limited access to the markets because of the drop in their incomes due to the negative impact of COVID-19 measures. Households in these areas will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) because their food consumption will be minimal, but they will be unable to afford certain essential non-food expenditures without engaging in coping strategies.


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



    Impact on food security conditions


    Lifting of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions

    • Tentative resumption of economic activities (livestock trade, non-agricultural labor and more)
    • Improvement in the cross-border flow of imported food products, particularly from Libya, bolstering availability on the local markets, especially in Tibesti, Borkou, BEG, and Kanem.
    • This could result in a decline in prices on the markets, facilitating the access of poor and very poor households in these areas.
    • A large number of households would be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), instead of in Crisis (IPC Phase 3)

    Tightening of governmental restrictions

    An even sharper decline in economic activities would induce a decrease in or a loss of income for a large number of households, and an even larger number of households would be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3)

    Deterioration of the security situation in Libya

    Reduced food product flows leading to price increases on the markets in Tibesti This would limit food access for a large number of poor and very poor households, which would thus find themselves in Crisis (IPC Phase 3)

    A lull in security incidents in the Libyan territory could allow for an improvement in cross-border trade flows between Libya and Chad

    Recovery of imported product flows could lead to a larger number of households facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security

    Figures Le prix du mil est légèrement au-dessus de la moyenne, notamment en début de projection

    Figure 1

    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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