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Assumptions for quarterly food security analysis

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • West Africa
  • April 2015
Assumptions for quarterly food security analysis

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  • Key Messages
  • Summary
  • Seasonal Performance
  • Cross-Border Conflicts and Displacement
  • Regional Impact of the Ebola Epidemic
  • Regional Trade and Price Dynamics
  • Avertissement
  • Key Messages
    • Population displacements, poor market functioning, disrupted livelihoods, and increased pressures on host community resources are reducing food access for 3.5 to 4 million resident and displaced people in northern Nigeria, the Diffa region of Niger, western Chad, and northern Cameroon. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food security outcomes are expected during the next six months for worst affected households. Violence in the Central African Republic will also drive similar food security outcomes.

    • In Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, below-average incomes due to a general economic slowdown are limiting food access for certain poor households. Although off-season harvesting activities and land preparations for the next season are ongoing and are providing households with a certain level of additional food and income, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes are still expected in worst-affected zones.

    • In localized areas of the Sahel, below-average agricultural and pastoral production will contribute to an early start to the lean season this year. Deficit households will reduce their food consumption, limit expenditures and/or engage in atypical coping strategies. In these zones, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes are possible between April and the end of the lean season (July in pastoral areas; September/October in agropastoral zones).

    • In the rest of the region, average to above-average food stocks, ongoing off-season agricultural activities, typical livelihoods activities, and normal market functioning are enabling households to meet their basic food and nonfood needs without engaging in atypical coping strategies. For these households, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) is expected through the end of the consumption year.


    FEWS NET’s Food Security Outlook reports for the Sahel and West Africa for April to September 2015 are based on the following regional assumptions established in March 2015:

    Seasonal Performance

    El Niño will have no major impact on the start/end of the 2015 rainy season or rainfall totals and distribution in West Africa. In most areas, therefore, the 2015 rainy season will start on time, in late February/early March in the bimodal zone and later in northern regions as the Inter-Tropical Front (ITF) moves northward. Rainfall totals and distributions should be close to the average in most areas throughout the 2015 rainy season. However, in Senegal, southern Mauritania, and northern Guinea, the rainy season will begin on time in May/June, but rainfall totals will be below-average (particularly during the first half of the season).

    Desert locusts

    The presence of desert locusts has so far remained low and limited to northern Mauritania, according to the FAO. No significant development of desert locusts is therefore expected in the region through September.

    Outlook for off-season harvests

    Cool temperatures will end in late March in the Sahel. Dry season crop production will be average in the region, 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 rice-growing areas along the Niger River, dry season harvests will take place as usual in June/July and will be at least average.

    Pasture availability, transhumant migration, and livestock body conditions

    Pasture production in the region has been average overall but well below average in the western Sahel (western and central Mauritania and central and northern Senegal). The availability of animal forage in that area could be concerning from April to June, with risks of physiological stress. The same is true of the Lake Chad region, where civil insecurity is limiting the movement of animals and leading to overgrazing in areas where livestock is concentrated. In several localized pasture deficit areas in Gambia, northwestern and eastern Niger, northeastern and eastern Burkina Faso, northeastern Chad, and western Timbuktu and the Gao and Bourem regions of Mali, transhumant migration will provide animals with enough pasture throughout the outlook period. With a normal onset of the rainy season, pasture regrowth is expected to begin in July.

    However, in Senegal and Mauritania, where pasture availability is already limited, pasture regrowth will be low for the second year in a row throughout the rainy season given the below-average rainfall totals expected in 2015. Consequently, pasture availability will be critical, leading pastoralists to purchase more animal feed than usual during the outlook period. This high demand could also cause prices to rise to above-average levels. Above-average mortality rates are also likely.

    Given uneven pasture availability, livestock prices will remain close to the average in areas with more pasture but will be below average in pasture deficit areas until May. However, prices could rise beginning in June with increased demand surrounding the month of Ramadan (June/July) and Tabaski (August/September).

    Cross-Border Conflicts and Displacement
    Northeastern Nigeria

    The conflict with Boko Haram, which began in northeastern Nigeria and has expanded to Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, will remain intense with the continuation of the armed offensive launched by forces from Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon. People in this area (the Kanem and Lac regions in Chad, the Diffa region in Niger, and the Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa regions in Nigeria) will continue to face poor market functioning and a serious deterioration in their livelihoods, as households will be unable to produce crops and generate income in a highly insecure environment. The number of refugees and persons displaced by this conflict will continue to rise given its extreme violence. Pressure from refugees and displaced persons on host area populations could therefore rise, particularly in neighboring areas in Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.

    Central African Republic (CAR)

    The current disarmament process and transition are helping to calm the situation, even though there are still tensions and periodic localized clashes. The announcement of elections later this year could increase insecurity in the country. This situation is likely to impact the gradual resumption of crop production and sales activities during the outlook period. Trade with Chad will remain limited due to the closure of the border. The departure of certain groups (Chadians, refugees, etc.) will keep local demand and purchasing power below average, although they will rise to above-average levels in hosting areas, as prices in these areas also rise above the average.


    The recent resurgence in attacks in the north and even in the capital is hindering the economic recovery, which began after the north was reconquered by the coalition of the Malian army, Operation Serval, and MINUSMA forces. Refugees still living in Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mauritania will remain there and will continue to depend, in part, on humanitarian assistance.

    Regional Impact of the Ebola Epidemic

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of April 1, 2015, a total of 25,178 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of Ebola were reported in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The number of weekly cases will stabilize or fall during the outlook period.

    Official restrictions and fears related to the Ebola virus led to below-average rice production levels in 2014/15 for certain households in areas most affected by the epidemic. However, in some areas less affected by Ebola, harvests were average to above-average. Therefore, the depletion of household food stocks over the next few months will vary greatly from one household to another, even within a given livelihood zone. However, other than in the areas worst affected by the disease or quarantines during the last harvest, most households will deplete their food stocks around the same time as in previous years.

    Despite the recovery of many economic activities, households' incomes will remain below average, limiting household food access. This problem will be more accentuated in Sierra Leone with the continuation of certain official restrictions (such as curfews and weekly market closures).

    Regional Trade and Price Dynamics

    General trends


    FEWS NET estimates that dry cereals will be available in sufficient quantities until the next harvest in 2015 to ensure normal supply levels on regional markets, given the production levels reported during the 2014/2015 growing season in West Africa and supplies on markets observed in February 2015 by joint CILSS/FEWS NET/FAO/WFP missions and information systems on markets in different countries. 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.


    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 the western Sahel (Mauritania and Senegal). Institutional purchases could continue until May in atypical cases (delays in mobilizing funds), 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, particularly in the Central Basin.

    Livestock markets

    Livestock markets are currently experiencing three different dynamics, depending on the context:

    • In the Eastern Basin (except areas around Lake Chad) and the eastern Central Basin:

    Markets are currently being affected by low demand in Nigeria. Demand there has fallen considerably since January 2015 because of fear and uncertainty around the elections, keeping traders from traveling to markets in southern Nigeria. Livestock prices have remained average, but cattle prices are lower than last year in certain areas. Demand will remain below average until May with the swearing in of the new president, which will lower tensions related to post-election uncertainties. Demand for meat will rise in June with the start of Ramadan and in August/September during the lead-up to Tabaski.

    Livestock prices will remain below or in line with the five-year average in April and May due to low demand and the seasonal deterioration in livestock feeding conditions, which will be more severe than usual because of pasture deficits. Prices will be below average in major livestock-rearing areas in Niger, Chad, eastern Burkina Faso, and Mali, where localized pasture deficits have been observed and livestock body conditions could begin deteriorating earlier than usual. However, prices will being rising gradually in June and will remain above average from Ramadan (mid-June) through Tabaski, in late September/early October.

    • In areas around Lake Chad (northeastern Nigeria, the Diffa region in Niger, and the Lac, Kanem, and BEG regions in Chad):

    Markets in these areas have been seriously affected by the conflict with Boko Haram. Demand is well below average, and livestock sales are currently unusually low. In addition, the atypical trade routes developed in the direction of southern Cameroon and central-eastern Niger are too long and too expensive. Because of this, livestock prices in these areas will remain below average, especially until June, as pasture becomes scarcer. Prices could rise from July through September due to pasture regrowth, better supply management by pastoralists (who will no longer be forced to sell their livestock), and a possible rise in local demand surrounding Ramadan and Tabaski. However, despite increased demand, prices will remain below average. Terms of trade will therefore also be below average.

    • In the central and western parts of the Central Basin and Western Basin:

    In this part of West Africa, livestock markets are currently being affected by the severe pasture deficits in Senegal and Mauritania and the Ebola epidemic, which is hindering the free movement of people and animals. In pastoral areas of Senegal and Mauritania, supply is considerably higher than demand, particularly for small ruminants. Prices are below average and could remain so until July-September, when they could rise to average levels thanks to pasture regrowth and increased demand surrounding Tabaski. In other areas of southern Senegal, Mali, and Burkina Faso, demand from urban centers in these countries and coastal countries such as Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire will remain normal from April through May and will rise from June through September with increased demand surrounding Ramadan and Tabaski. Prices for livestock, particularly cattle, will remain average from April through June and above the seasonal average due to high local demand in urban areas and coastal countries and the gradual recovery of markets in countries affected by Ebola.

    Breakdown by Basin

    Eastern Basin (Niger, Nigeria, Benin, and Chad)
    Cereal trade

    The usual trade flows between Niger, Nigeria, and Chad which start in April and normally ensure regular supplies on deficit markets in Niger and Chad will be disturbed by the Boko Haram conflict. This could result in increased trade flows from Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Mali to Niger thanks to a price differential favoring regular transfers of cereals from surplus to deficit areas. However, trade flows between Chad and the CAR will be atypically low due to the conflict in the CAR and the closing of the border.

    Supply and demand

    Cereal supplies will be average on most countries' markets. However, supplies will be below average in northeastern Nigeria, the Kanem region of Chad, and the Diffa region due to lower production levels and an influx of refugees. Demand will rise beginning in April and will peak in July-August as more and more households deplete their food stocks. In general, demand will remain below average in most areas of the basin, except northeastern Nigeria and eastern Niger, where it will be above average due to poor 2014 production levels, an influx of refugees, and the massive destruction of food stocks during attacks by Boko Haram. In Chad, demand will be average.


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

    • Millet prices could remain below average until July, when they could rise close to the average and to last year's levels due to increased demand from households having depleted their food stocks, the depletion of off-season crops in April, and increased demand surrounding Ramadan in June. This rise in prices could end in August with the harvest of early crops.
    • Sorghum prices could remain stable until July, when they could rise due to the substitution effect with millet. Prices will remain close to or slightly below the five-year average throughout the period.
    • Maize prices will remain stable and below average, with a very slight rise possible from April through September due to good market supply levels and low average prices.
    • Cowpea prices will be above average due to lower supplies on the markets and increased demand during periods of farm labor. Prices will remain above average on most markets.

    Central Basin (Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Burkina Faso, and Mali)


    Cereal supplies in the basin will be above average, with harvests 15 percent above average and significant, above-average carry-over trader stocks.


    Overall, household and institutional demand will be below average given generally good production levels throughout the basin and the weak outlook for spatial and temporal market arbitration this year.

    Trade flows

    Cereal flows from coastal countries (particularly Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire) to Burkina Faso and Mali will be normal given average to above-average 2014/2015 harvests in these countries. However, with lower production levels in Senegal and Mauritania, exports from the Central Basin to these areas could rise significantly above the average. Trade flows between Burkina Faso and Niger will rise to above-average levels to provide supplies to deficit areas in western Niger given lower prices in Burkina Faso, which have led to a price differential favorable to such trade.


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

    • Millet prices could inch upwards through June 2015, but will stay close to the five-year average. They will rise higher in July with the widespread start to the lean season in the region and increased demand for millet during Ramadan in mid-June/July.
    • Sorghum price trends will follow the same pattern as in the case of millet but will remain below average, even with the pressure of demand from Senegal and Mauritania.
    • Maize prices could rise in line with normal seasonal trends and remain close to the five-year average until September 2015 given good stock levels in the Central Basin and very low prices.
    • Cowpea prices will remain above average, driven by high urban demand in the Central and Western Basins and supplies exceeding demand in both basins.
    Western Basin (Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Senegal, and Sierra Leone)
    Supply and demand

    With cereal production levels in the basin projected to be 10 percent below average, supply is expected to fall on markets. Demand will also rise on different markets due to the depletion of household food stocks, which will make households more market dependent, particularly during the peak of the lean season in July-August. In areas in this basin affected by Ebola, there will be additional pressure on tubers, such as cassava, from poor households beginning in April as they begin to use them as a substitute for rice, given low rice production levels in areas worst affected by the epidemic and the weakened purchasing power of poor households.

    Trade flows

    Trade flows from the Central Basin to the Western Basin is expected to be above average in order to meet demand for dry cereals, namely maize and sorghum, in deficit areas in Senegal and Mauritania. This increase will depend on the quantity of maize imported by Senegal, but millet trade as a whole will intensify with the approach of Ramadan. Despite the appreciation of the US dollar against all currencies and this basin's high dependence on the international market, rice and wheat imports from the global market will increase to compensate for local deficits and pressure on demand for local products on all markets in the Western Basin. In Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, trade flows with neighboring countries will continue to improve but will remain below average, despite the opening of the borders.


    Prices of staple food crops in the basin will follow the trends described below:

    • Millet, sorghum, and maize prices could rise from April through July/August. They will remain above average, as demand will be higher than supply given this year's poor harvests. However, the rise in prices will be somewhat curbed by the possibility of low-cost supplies from the Central Basin and imports of rice, maize, and wheat from international markets.
    • Prices for imported rice and wheat in Senegal and Mauritania could remain stable barring any unforeseen pressure on international market prices for these crops. Elsewhere, in areas affected by the Ebola epidemic, prices could remain close to or above the average, depending on the area, due to market disturbances, particularly in Sierra Leone and Liberia.


    Afin de fournir les perspectives de sécurité alimentaire, FEWS NET prépare divers scénarios. La méthodologie permet à l’analyste de préparer une série d’hypothèses informées sur le futur et de comparer les effets qu’elles pourraient avoir. Bien que la préparation de divers scénarios ne permette pas de prédire des résultats exacts, cette méthode permet de structurer l’analyse et, finalement, elle aide à minimiser l’incertitude. Le rapport qui suit, préparé par les analystes de FEWS NET en se basant sur les faits actuels, souligne les hypothèses au niveau de la région. Il présente aussi des hypothèses au niveau des pays, qui sont probablement plus détaillées. Prises ensemble, hypothèses régionales et nationales constituent la base de l’analyse intégrée présentée dans les Perspectives de la sécurité alimentaire qui sont mises à jour par FEWS NET. Pour plus d’information sur FEWS NET et la préparation des scénarios veuillez consulter notre site

    Figures Figure 1. Projected wholesale millet prices on the Kano market in Nigeria from April to September, in N/100Kg

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Projected wholesale millet prices on the Kano market in Nigeria from April to September, in N/100Kg

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Projected maize prices in Bobo Dioulasso between April and September 2015, in FCFA/Kg

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. Projected maize prices in Bobo Dioulasso between April and September 2015, in FCFA/Kg

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3. Projected millet prices in Kaolack between April and September 2015, in FCFA/Kg

    Figure 3

    Figure 3. Projected millet prices in Kaolack between April and September 2015, in FCFA/Kg

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4


    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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