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Crisis levels of food insecurity expected in localized areas of the Sahel

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Chad
  • January - June 2014
Crisis levels of food insecurity expected in localized areas of the Sahel

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  • Key Messages
  • National overview
  • Areas of concern
  • Events that might change the outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Due to rainfall anomalies, 2013/14 cereal production in Wadi Fira and Barh-El-Ghazel was approximately 50 percent below average. These production deficits, along with poor pastoral conditions and atypically large food price increases, will reduce food access over the coming months.
    • Currently, poor households in these areas are only minimally meeting their food consumption needs and facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity. However, between April and the start of the next harvests in October, food security outcomes will deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels with consumption gaps expected.
    • In localized areas of Hadjer Lamis, northern Guerra, and northern Batha, below-average cumulative rainfall totals during the 2013 rainy season caused an earlier than normal drying of forage and temporary watering holes, and early transhumant movements. Poor livestock body conditions are also causing unfavorable livestock-to-cereal terms of trade and below-average milk availability. Affected pastoral households will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity between January and October.
    • In the Sudanian zone, 2013/14 crop production was 35 percent above average and household incomes from other sources are currently normal. Poor household will continue to access food without any major difficulties through the end of the consumption year (October 2014) and will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.

    National overview

    Current situation

    Off-season crops

    The growing season for rainfed crops is winding down with most farmers currently occupied with harvesting the last of these crops and, in certain localized areas, with threshing and storing their cereals. The main agricultural activities ongoing at this time are the growing of off-season berbéré (flood recession sorghum) and market gardening crops in areas of the country suitable for these cropping systems. Cotton harvesting is also in full swing in cotton-producing areas. The growing season for cold off-season wheat in polder systems in the Lake Chad area is continuing normally. Most crops are in their tillering stage of growth in these areas and weeding is the main agricultural activity. These irrigated crops are not vulnerable to rainfall shortages and production volumes are expected to be normal. In Mayo Boneye and East Tandjilé, field clean-up and the planting of seedling beds for the cultivation of dry-season rice are underway in irrigation schemes.

    Status of pastoral resources

    Due to below-average rainfall between August and September 2013 over most parts of the country, water levels of reservoirs used for watering livestock failed to refill normally and are down significantly compared to last year’s levels. These water supplies are currently being used for multiple purposes and are subject to rapid evaporation. In the Sahelian zone, seasonal lakes and ponds are drying up approximately two months earlier than normal and livestock water needs are already a source of concern.

    In general, livestock body conditions are still satisfactory with no major livestock disease outbreaks anywhere in the country. Crop residues are ensuring adequate food availability for livestock in the Sudanian zone. However, forage resources are below average due to poor rainfall conditions and the effects of brush fires in Sahelian areas. Watering needs and the poor quality of pastures in livestock-receiving areas (Salamat and Moyen Chari) triggered early transhumant movements as early as September, instead of November/December as in a normal year.

    Population movements

    In the Sahelian zone, particularly in Wadi Fira, Bahr El Gazal, Hadjer Lamis, and Kanem, labor migration movements towards large urban centers started sometime around October, which compares to December in a normal year. These early movements were due to a limited number of post-harvest agricultural labor opportunities in rural areas with this year’s below-average crop production.

    According to certain sources, there are an estimated 52,000 returnees and refugees in Chad from the Central African Republic. Food security among these refugees and returnees is currently good due to food and nonfood assistance furnished by all segments of the country’s population.

    Household cereal stocks

    Staple food availability currently varies from poor to average, depending on the area. The situation of households in northern Sahelian areas is critical as food stocks depleted about two months earlier than usual and households are starting to rely on local markets to meet needs. However, trader inventories in these areas, though lower than levels at the same time last year, are still generally adequate due to the bumper 2012 harvest. Household food stocks in the Sudanian zone are average despite above-average production levels in the zone, as household had above-normal levels of debt this year that they repaid with their cereal production. 


    Major markets have fairly good supplies of local cereal crops from ongoing harvests. Cereal prices were generally stable or slightly declining throughout the month of December, although there were certain regional variations depending on supply levels. The steepest drop in prices was in Sarh where the price of pearl millet fell 27 percent. Meanwhile, the most atypical price increase was seen in Abéché where the price of sorghum increased seven percent. Compared to last year’s levels, maize prices are 23 percent lower than at the same time last year in N’Djamena and 69 percent higher in Bol, due to the effects of this year’s rainfall deficits on rainfed crop production. 

    Strong demand on livestock markets, fueled by the end-of-the-year holiday season, drove up prices in December. Prices for goats and sheep in Moundou, for example, were up from November by 59 percent and 19 percent, respectively. However, livestock prices in the Sudanian zone are generally lower than at the same time last year. 

    Current food security situation

    Currently, at the beginning of the year, household food security in all parts of the country is generally satisfactory with food availability closely tied to the recent harvests and trader inventory levels. Off-season activities and fishing are also helping to improve food security conditions in some areas. However, food security in certain areas (Wadi–Fira, Kanem, Barh-El-Ghazel, Hadjer Lamis, northern Guerra, and northern Batha) is already becoming difficult, marked by an above-normal cereal demand, an unusually sharp deterioration in livestock body conditions, and eroding terms of trade. Food consumption for households in these areas is reduced and only minimally adequate and local households are currently facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity. In contrast, the rest of the country is currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.


    The most likely food security scenario for January to June 2014 is based on the following assumptions on national-level conditions:

    • Pastoral conditions: Forage resources in certain areas of the Sahel will be limited throughout the outlook period. Except for a few eastern and southern areas, the lean season in pastoral areas will begin in March, compared to May in a normal year, when livestock body conditions begin to deteriorate due to problems with pasture and water availability. These issues will be most severe in the Kanem, Hadjer-Lamis, Wadi-Fira, and northern Batha areas. Then, with the expected start of the next rainy season in May/June spurring new grass growth and improving water availability in animal watering holes, the food situation for livestock will improve.  There will be normal rates of soil-borne diseases throughout the outlook period.
    • Migration: Generally, internal migration patterns will be near normal. However, there will larger than normal number of migrants from areas of the Sahelian belt that experienced crop production deficits to urban centers. In general, the monthly incomes of these migrant workers will be close to normal.
    • Market garden activities: Despite below-normal levels of seasonal lakes and ponds in localized areas of the Sahelian zone, market gardening activities will generally continue through February and there will be a good availability of market garden crops during January and February. These activities will provide normal levels of income for certain households, including very poor and poor households, and will help diversify their diets.
    • Cereal stocks: Households in the Sudanian zone will rebuild their cereal stocks between January and February from their generally average harvests. Likewise, as of February, cereal availability in flood-recession farming areas will be bolstered by harvests of berbéré (flood recession sorghum) crops. However, household cereal stocks in certain parts of the Sahelian belt (the BEG, Wadi Fira, and northern Ouaddaï areas) will be depleted two months earlier than usual due to the below-average harvests in these areas. Accordingly, local households will have no cereal stocks by the end of January or the beginning of February.
    • Household cereal demand: Household food stocks in the Sudanian zone will begin to be depleted normally by May, making households more dependent on market purchases starting in June. This will heighten seasonal household demand on local markets. However, households in areas with below-average 2013/14 crop production and in areas receiving refugees and/or returnees from the Central African Republic (Moyen Chari, Logone Oriental, and Sila) will be dependent on market purchasing earlier than usual, creating above-average household demand on area markets.
    • Cross-border trade: There will be no significant abatement of the conflicts in northern Nigeria and the CAR, which will continue to limit trade between these countries and Chad. Likewise, there will be no change in the security situation in Libya, with lingering security threats posed by the presence of armed groups preventing the restoration of a normal trade flows with Chad.
    • Cereal markets, trade, and prices: Trade flows between the Sudanian and Sahelian zones will intensify as household food stocks in the Sahelian zone dwindle, heightening local demand during the outlook period. This strong demand and rising prices in the Sahelian zone could drive a larger than normal flow of trade between these two zones. Trade flows within the Sahelian zone will be normal and unrestricted. Unusually sharp price increases can be expected on most markets in the Sahelian zone through the end of June 2014 due to the earlier than usual dependence of local households on market purchases and a seasonal decline in market supply. Harvests of cold-season crops in February/March will bring down prices in the Lake Chad area.
    • Livestock markets: Demand for small ruminants, which was strong during the end-of-the-year holiday season, will be weaker during the outlook period. Livestock trade flows will also be below normal seasonal trends due to below-average foreign demand from Libya, Nigeria, and the Central African Republic. This reduction in demand is due to security issues in these three countries. Meanwhile, livestock supply will be larger than the previous quarter (October-December 2013) as pastoralists proceed to thin their animal herds due to poor livestock food availability and a fear of losing their animals. As a result, livestock prices will be below normal throughout the outlook period and terms of trade will be unfavorable to pastoralists. 
    • Rainy season: The rainy season will start normally, with the first rains beginning in May or June, depending on the area. Cumulative rainfall totals and distribution will be normal during the 2014 rainy season.
    • Agricultural labor: Agricultural activities will begin on-time in June/July, according to the normal seasonal calendar, providing agricultural labor employment opportunities. Demand will be normal but supply will be smaller than usual in certain parts of the Sahelian zone (Ouaddaï, Wadi-Fira, Batha, etc.) due to competition with gold mining operations. This could increase labor rates in these areas compared with last year’s levels, benefiting poor households who are most reliant on this income source.
    • Refugee situation: With the difficulty restoring order in the Central African Republic and the problems faced by the governments of South Sudan and Darfur in bringing peace between different ethnic groups, tensions continue and are expected to cause an increase in refugee numbers. Assistance programs mounted by the humanitarian community for Sudanese and Central African refugees will be extended and will continue to provide recipients with full food rations throughout the outlook period.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    January to March

    Good harvests and the resulting improvement in household cereal availability will stabilize food security conditions in the Sudanian zone between January and March. In addition, the availability of market garden produce, fish, and fish products will bolster food security conditions by improving food access for very poor and poor households. During this time period, the entire Sudanian zone will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.

    On the other hand, food availability in certain production-deficit areas of the Sahelian belt will fail to meet household needs. Food stocks will be depleted sooner than usual due to cereal production shortfalls, leaving households dependent on market purchases. Food prices on local markets in these areas are already on the rise and cereal-to-livestock terms of trade are unfavorable to pastoralists. The steady and unusually sharp increase in cereal prices throughout the outlook period could threaten cereal access for very poor and poor households which, in reaction to this situation, will scale up their regular livelihood strategies (labor migration, small ruminant sales, the gathering of wild fruits, artisanal activities, etc.) to atypical levels in an attempt to fill the gap. However, such strategies will not completely offset the effects of the poor crop production and high prices on this household group. Accordingly, very poor and poor households in the Wadi–Fira, Kanem, Bar-El-Ghazal, Hadjer Lamis, northern Guerra, northern Ouaddaï, and northern Batha areas will reduce their essential non-food expenditures and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 1) through the end of March.

    April to June

    The food security outlook for this period in the Sudanian zone will still be satisfactory, with adequate food availability and normal seasonal fluctuations in prices. Poor households will maintain their food access without any major difficulties and will continue to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.

    In most parts of the Sahelian zone, food security will deteriorate during this time period compared to the first quarter of the year. This deterioration will be especially noticeable in the Barh-El-Ghazel and Wadi-Fira areas, where household food stocks will be virtually nonexistent and household food access will become more difficult due to rising food prices and the associated erosion in purchasing power. This could also have a negative effect on the status of household nutrition. To cope, households in these areas will sell additional small ruminants, intensify their labor migration (which already began earlier than normal this year), and sell wild plant products. However, despite these strategies, households in Barh-El-Ghazel and Wadi-Fira will barely be able to meet minimal food needs and will face food consumption deficits. As a result, they will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during this time. However, with the dependence of Kanem and Hadjer Lamis on cereal supplies from the Lake Chad area, which has three growing seasons throughout the year (the rainy season, the cold season, and the hot season), and output from flood-recession (berbéré) and off-season crops (tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, watermelons, etc.) in Batha and Guera, food security of very poor and poor households in these areas will be less affected. Food consumption by households in these areas will be reduced but minimally adequate, keeping them in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity.

    Areas of concern

    Wadi-Fira area

    Crop production and food balance sheet

    In this zone, cereal production fell 49 percent short of the five-year average. The main factor in this production shortfall was the late start-of-season (by one to two months in certain localized areas), compounded by the abrupt, earlier than usual end of the rainy season (in early September instead of early October). According to the local National Rural Development Agency (ONDR) office in Biltine, the food balance sheet shows a 10,890 metric ton deficit. This area faces food deficits in close to three out of every five years.

    Market gardening activities

    Farmers began market gardening activities in wadis (dry riverbeds) as soon as the growing season for rainfed crops was over. However, cropping rates in these areas are below-normal this year due to lower than usual water levels in seasonal lakes and ponds. 

    Animal health conditions

    The shortened rainy season caused pastures to rapidly dry out and, thus, to lose a large part of their nutritional value. In addition, brush fires are steadily destroying grazing lands. While this is a recurring phenomenon, this year’s brush fires are particularly severe in certain localized areas. Seasonal watering holes are practically dry, creating serious animal watering problems in this area. However, the stems and stalks of abandoned crops are maintaining good forage availability, keeping livestock in adequate physical condition.

    Markets and prices

    Trading on local markets is slower than usual with the shortfall in harvests affecting supply levels. In addition, supply levels are generally down from the same time last year. Meanwhile, household demand is growing with the depletion of cereal stocks approximately two months earlier than usual. December prices are higher than at the same time last year (41 percent higher in the case of sorghum and 45 percent higher in the case of pearl millet) and are well above the five-year average (by 44 percent in the case of sorghum and 22 percent in the case of pearl millet).

    Unlike in the case of cereal markets, supplies of animals on livestock markets are large due to fears of losing animals to the pasture shortage in this area. These large supplies have significantly affected prices, systematically driving down livestock prices in this area (by 14 percent for cattle, 25 percent for sheep, and 61 percent for goats compared with the same time last year). Prices on area markets are also well below the five-year average (by 23 percent for cattle, 15 percent for sheep, and 42 percent for goats). The falling prices of livestock and rising price of cereals are creating unfavorable terms of trade for poor pastoral households.


    The most likely food security scenario for January to June 2014 in the Wadi-Fira Department was established based on the following assumptions:

    • Trade: Urban cereal market supplies in this area will come from carry-over household cereal stocks from surrounding villages, as well as trade flows from surplus areas like Abéché that will compensate for the effects of below-average cereal production. 
    • Cereal prices: There will be unusually sharp cereal prices increases for sorghum and millet due to the cereal deficits and its effects on market cereal supplies. As a result, cereal prices will be more than 30 percent above seasonal averages.
    • Market garden crops: There will be below-average harvests of these crops due to the water shortages in this area.
    • Wild plant products: The low levels of rainfall and truncated rainy season have also significantly affected supplies of wild plant products, which will be below-normal for the entire outlook period (January through June).
    • Pastoral conditions: With the pasture deficit in this area, the lean season for pastoral populations will begin earlier than usual (in March instead of May) and there will be a deterioration in the livestock body conditions between March and June. The resulting weight loss will trigger an unusually sharp decline in prices for small ruminants and in milk production.
    • Crop sales: There will be a much smaller than usual volume of crop sales (from both cereals and market garden crops) by very poor and poor households during the outlook period.
    • Food sources: Due to the effects of production shortfalls, particularly on poor households, household food stocks will only last through January/February this year, compared to May/June in a normal year. As a result, these households will be less reliant on on-farm production and wild plant foods and more dependent on market purchase.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    The premature depletion of household food stocks between January and March, combined with falling livestock prices and unusually high food prices, will erode household purchasing power and limit food access. While market gardening activities will help mitigate these effects, food production and income levels from these activities will also be below-average due to the premature drying up of seasonal lakes and ponds. As a result, households will reduce their nonfood spending and scale up certain activities such as livestock sales, petty trade, and labor migration to above average levels. However, this will not completely compensate for the negative effects of the rainfed cereal production shortfall. With their reduced food consumption, poor households in this area will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Between April and June, households will have increased problems with food insecurity due to a lack of household food availability and households’ total dependence on market purchasing. Coping strategies, such as the thinning herds and labor migration, will continue to bolster household purchasing power, but the unusually sharp rise in cereal prices and falling livestock prices during this period will significantly curtail household cereal access and, thus, prevent them from filling their food gaps. Households will face food consumption deficits and will be barely able to meet their minimum food needs during this period, putting them in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Barh-El-Ghazal area

    Crop production

    Cereal production fell 53 percent short of the five-year average due to the late start-of-season in this area which, in turn, reduced cropping levels. To compound the problem, the abrupt, early end of the rains by the third dekad of September prevented crops from maturing normally, causing certain farmers to abandon their fields.

    Growing season for off-season crops

    At present, the main off-season farming activities are market gardening, with the first crops already on the market (particularly tomatoes and lettuce).  On the whole, the size of cropped areas is below-average this year due to atypically low water levels in seasonal lakes and ponds.

    Pastoral conditions

    Even with the earlier than usual departure of transhumant herds in September, instead of December/January as in a normal year, pastoral conditions have begun to deteriorate due to a heavy concentration of animals from the northern reaches of livelihood zone 7 (transhumance) and the southern reaches of the BEG area. Animal watering holes, consisting of seasonal lakes and ponds, have dried up.

    Markets and prices

    In general, the level of market supplies of coarse grains from the Lake Chad area, Hadjer Lamis, and Batha is below seasonal norms due to the large shortfall in local crop production. In addition, with the depletion of household cereal stocks, demand is atypically strong and increasing. The interplay of supply and demand has driven up prices to levels well above last year and the five-year average for the same time of the year. December prices for millet and sorghum on the Moussoro market, for example, were up from last year by 19 percent and 10 percent, respectively, and above the five-year average (for December) by 30 percent in the case of millet and 10 percent in the case of sorghum.

    In general, prices on livestock markets have fallen since November of last year. This decline in prices is attributable to a larger supply and lower demand. The increase in supply is a reaction by pastoralists to rising cereal prices and their fear of losing animals as a result of the poor grazing and watering conditions for livestock. Livestock exports to neighboring countries like Nigeria and Libya are normally an important source of income in this area but, with the security situation in both countries, their volumes are well below-normal. An examination of livestock prices in Moussoro shows a decline in the price of a sheep from 40,500 XAF in November 2013 to 37,500 XAF.


    The most likely food security scenario for January to June 2014 in Barh-El-Ghazel Department was established based on the following assumptions:

    • Cereal markets and prices (for sorghum and millet): Market cereal supplies will gradually tighten as a result of the cereal deficit and earlier than usual depletion of household cereal stocks and trader inventories. On the other hand, there is already a higher than usual market demand for cereal, which will continue to increase as the lean season approaches. The interplay of these factors will drive cereal prices up by more than 30 percent above seasonal averages during the outlook period.
    • Rural-urban migration: Poor households will resort to labor migration to large southern cities earlier than usual, by December or January (and returning in May/June), due to the limited post-harvest employment opportunities for laborers in the area. Migrant laborers will generate near normal incomes during their migration.  
    • Local labor: Daily incomes from farm labor during the off-season will be approximately 25 percent lower than usual due to the below-normal output. With the poor cereal production and ensuing reduction in labor opportunities relating to weeding and harvesting activities, there will also be below-average levels of in-kind wage income. On the other hand, daily incomes from construction work will be normal.   
    • Remittance income: Monthly income from migrant remittances will be cut nearly in half due to the situation in Libya, which has forced a number of workers to return home to Chad due to the faltering demand for labor and cuts in wage rates in that country.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    The food security situation between January and March will be marked by a heightened demand for local cereals (millet and sorghum) but, on the whole, will still be satisfactory. To strengthen their purchasing power, poor households will engage in income-generating activities, such as petty trade, construction work, and firewood sales, at more intense levels than usual. However, cereal price increases will make it difficult for very poor and poor households to maintain their cereal access. Households will manage to meet their basic food needs during this period, but will be unable to engage in any nonessential food spending and, thus, will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Household cereal access in this area, which was already problematic in the first quarter of the year, will become increasingly limited between April and June with the earlier than usual start of the lean season, making the food security situation very precarious. Very poor and poor households will be completely dependent on market purchasing during this period. In addition, with the deterioration in livestock-to-cereal terms of trade and the sharp erosion in their purchasing power, very poor and poor households will have difficulty maintaining their staple food access and will face food consumption deficits. This is consistent with the results of the household economy analysis  (HEA) conducted by FEWS NET in Moussoro in January 2014, which found that, even with their coping strategies, very poor households will face a small survival deficit during the 2013/14 consumption year, put them in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Events that might change the outlook

    Table 1: Possible events in the next six months that could change the outlook



    Impact on food security conditions


    Late start of the 2014-2015 growing season

    Fewer wage-earning opportunities for farm labor 

    Extended lean season

    Government restrictions on cereal shipments from the Sudanian to the Sahelian zone and/or disruptions in trade between Chad and neighboring countries such as Nigeria and Libya

    Higher cereal prices


    BEG and Wadi Fira areas

    Scaling up of humanitarian assistance, including distributions of free food rations, cereal sales at subsidized prices, and cash/vouchers

    These programs would help improve household food access and prevent the depletion of their livelihoods.


    Larger than usual cereal transfers from the Sudanian to the Sahelian zone.

    This would help stabilize market prices for food products.



    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4. Résultats de l’analyse HEA pour l’année de consommation de 2013/14 – Revenus total (y inclut la nourriture et l’arg

    Figure 2

    Figure 4. Résultats de l’analyse HEA pour l’année de consommation de 2013/14 – Revenus total (y inclut la nourriture et l’argent) pour les ménages très pauvres - Moussoro

    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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