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Food insecurity increases in northern Mali and localized areas of Nigeria

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • West Africa
  • March 2013
Food insecurity increases in northern Mali and localized areas of Nigeria

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Projected Outlook through June 2013
  • Key Messages
    • There is Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity across most of the region, except for pockets of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in areas affected by flooding, market disruptions, weak purchasing power, and poor agropastoral performance. In the hardest hit conflict-affected areas of northern Mali and northeastern Nigeria, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity is expected in the upcoming months. 

    • In areas of Niger, northern Nigeria, and northern Mali, poor access to food due to rising food prices could cause nutritional indicators to decline well before the start of the lean season (mid-June to mid-September).

    • Staple food crop losses (primarily to tubers) in Nigeria could cause a consumer substitution effect which, in turn, could tighten the supply of cereals across the region. Close monitoring of seasonal trade flows from of Nigeria is needed, particularly starting in March/April, to determine the magnitude of this effect on regional demand and prices.

    Current Situation

    Food security situation: There is minimal food insecurity across the region as a whole. However conditions in northern Mali and areas affected by flooding and civil insecurity in Nigeria are continuing to be a source of concern. In general, the food security situation is as follows:

    • Regional situation: There has been Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity in most of the Sahel and in bimodal and Sudanian areas in March due to the ongoing harvests of off-season crops, lucrative livestock prices, and stable cereal prices. However, faced with the gradual seasonal depletion of food stocks, more and more poor households are turning to the market to buy food in order to meet their food consumption needs.   
    • Nigeria: Flooding and continued civil insecurity are causing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity in the central and far northern areas of the country. There are already high rates of malnutrition in the Katsina state, where UNICEF found GAM rates of 11 percent in November 2012, at the height of the post-harvest period.
    • Northern Mali:The depletion of household food stocks, a decline in livestock sales (due to low demand), and the lack of income-generating opportunities for most residents of conflict-affected areas in northern Mali are severely curtailing household food access. The Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity in northern Mali will continue for agropastoral populations and will worsen for pastoralists with the beginning of their lean season in March. 

    Household income: The main sources of income for poor household are unskilled labor opportunities and migrant remittances. Wage rates are up from previous months but migrant remittances are down despite current migration flows to Nigeria (from central and eastern Niger), Libya (from Niger and Chad), and/or western Algeria (from northern Mali). Elsewhere, levels of economic activity and migrant remittances are generally normal (with the exception of northern Mali and northeastern Nigeria) due to sustained labor demand in rural areas for activities relating to market gardening and rice growing, as well as the rebuilding of homes and storage facilities. Jobs in the construction, public works, and small-scale retail trade sectors are the most common sources of income for seasonal migrant workers in urban areas.

    Agrometeorological conditions: Significant amounts of rainfall have been reported in bimodal areas along the coast. According to medium-range forecasts from NOAA, additional rainfall is expected in this area over the next two weeks. Based on the various seasonal forecasts by different centers (NOAA-NCEP, IRI, and ECMWF) and given the trend of warming SSTs (sea surface temperatures) over the Gulf of Guinea and the weak south-north SST gradients over the Atlantic, there should be a normal start-of-season in southern unimodal areas, particularly in the Guinean and Sudanian zones between March and May, although the reliability of these forecasts for this future period is still poor.

    Pastoral conditions: There are still adequate supplies of water and pasture across the region. This is enabling pastoral households to engage in their normal activities, such as seasonal transhumant movements (an important source of income for poor households). Livestock price trends are in line with seasonal trends (except in northern Mali and east-central Chad). However due to atypical levels of current cereal prices in general, and millet prices in particular, terms of trade are less favorable than usual and are below the seasonal average.

    Markets: Markets in all trade basins are adequately supplied with cereals and tubers and are sufficient to meet current market demand. However, there are large differences in price trends from one area to another. Normal levels of institutional demand are currently putting less pressure on supply because last year's good harvests are keeping household and trader demand relatively low compared with the same time last year and the average. However, there could be an unusually large increase in demand beginning in March/April as consumers in Nigeria substitute away from tubers and to cereals.

    Prices: In general, prices for maize, rice, and sorghum are stable or slowly declining, and are close to the five-year averages. However, millet prices are still unusually high compared with the prices of other cereals, particularly on markets in Gao in Mali, west-central and east-central Burkina Faso, Dawanau in Nigeria, and Zinder and Maradi in Niger. Millet prices on the Maradi market in Niger and the Dawanau market in Nigeria are as much as 37 percent above-average. These high prices are partly due to low market supplies and, in certain cases, to institutional procurements (in Burkina Faso). 

    Projected Outlook through June 2013
    • Food supplies at markets in northern Mali are inadequate, below-normal, and lower than last year's levels, particularly in agropastoral areas of Gao. This is compounded by poor households' low food stock levels which, even under normal circumstances, last no more than five months. As a result, there may be localized food shortages in this area. Local agropastoral populations, who are unable to sell their animals at prices high enough to enable them to adequately access cereals, are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Without food assistance and an improvement in food supplies, these populations could decline into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by next month.
    • In Nigeria, last year's production shortfalls, high food prices, continuing civil insecurity in the northeast, market disruptions, low levels of seasonal income, irregular supplies of food, and a predisposition to high malnutrition rates could produce Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity for at least 20 percent of the population in the states of Yobe and Borno by April.
    • Throughout the rest of the region, poor households in all livelihood zones are able to protect their livelihoods and over 80 percent of households will continue to experience only Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity through the end of June. However with the normal depletion of household food stocks and an increasing reliance on market purchases, expected price increases could propel food insecurity levels into Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in certain areas with poor agropastoral performance, particularly in eastern, south-central, and western Mauritania, western Chad, and pastoral, eastern and northwestern areas of Niger (Tahoua and Tillabéry).
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Food prices in February 2013 on the Dawanau regional market in Kano, Nigeria, compared with February 2012 prices

    Figure 2

    Food prices in February 2013 on the Dawanau regional market in Kano, Nigeria, compared with February 2012 prices

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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