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Continuation of rainfall in the Sahel through October confirming good harvest outlook

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • West Africa
  • October 2012
Continuation of rainfall in the Sahel through October confirming good harvest outlook

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  • Key Messages
  • Overview
  • Key Messages
    • Steady general improvement in food security continues in the Sahel and West Africa,  due to the expansion of harvesting activities, the downward trend in prices, and increased income-generating opportunities afforded by sales of cash crops and animal products.

    • In general, most of the region is in IPC Phase 1: Minimal acute food insecurity with the exception of north-central Mali, western Niger, and localized areas of southern Mauritania, where very poor and poor households are in IPC Phase 2: Stress. There is a continuing need for well-targeted humanitarian aid to prevent conditions from deteriorating, particularly in agropastoral and rice-growing areas of Mali.

    • Continued rainfall in the Sahel through October is supporting the favorable harvest outlook announced by CILSS/PREGEC in September. Pending official results of the regional harvest assessment in November, current seasonal conditions marked by steady rainfall into October point to an at least average if not above-average harvest in most Sahelian countries, also confirming projections made in the August regional outlook report.

    • With the end of the rainy season in the Sahel, a second generation of locusts already in the swarm-formation stage in Chad, Niger, and most likely northern Mali is expected to migrate northwards into North Africa beginning in October in search of more favorable ecological conditions. No major damage to grain crops is expected anywhere in the region.


    Overview

    The month of September marks the end of the lean season in West Africa and the beginning of the seasonal retreat of the Inter-Tropical Front (ITF). In spite of the uneven and, in some cases, late start of the rainy season in localized areas of the Sahel, particularly in western Niger, eastern Burkina Faso, and the western reaches of the region, in general, an analysis of rainfall estimates (Figure 2) shows good levels of precipitation and a balanced spatial-temporal distribution of rainfall in July, August, and September all across the region, except in bimodal areas of southeastern Nigeria, southern Benin, and eastern Liberia,   where the period from July through September coincides with the short dry season. The growing season is winding down in many parts of West Africa, where conditions are better than expected and crop water requirements have been fully satisfied. With the large-scale flooding in Chad, Niger, Senegal, and Mali causing localized damage to crops, certain governments (Niger) are mobilizing rapid preparations for the growing season for off-season crops, not only to mitigate crop losses, but also to take advantage of the good farming opportunities afforded this year by the high levels of seasonal lakes and ponds and the high underground water levels.

    Excess rainfall in the Sahelien zone has created conducive conditions for the proliferation of locust populations, particularly in habitats and gregarization areas for desert locusts in Tamesna, Aïr, and Adrar, which have had two breeding cycles since May of this year. So far, the few reported cases of locust infestations in Chad, Mauritania, and Niger have been contained by front-line country surveillance teams. In Chad, some swarm formation has been observed and control efforts are already underway. Locusts in Niger and Mali are also likely to begin forming swarms in the next few weeks.  However, with the retreat of the ITF, the end of the rainy season, and the drying up of pasturelands in the northern Sahel, the locusts should be starting to migrate northwards, to North Africa and, in particular, to central and western Libya, south-central Algeria, and northwestern Mauritania in search of more propitious breeding conditions. The risk of a locust infestation is steadily diminishing with the expansion in harvesting activities throughout the region and the southern retreat of the Inter-Tropical Front marking the end of favorable ecological conditions for locust activity in the Sahel.

    Regarding pastoral conditions, NDVI satellite imagery (Figure 3) shows high levels of natural vegetation extending into pastoral areas of the Sahelian countries. Production levels and income from livestock production have fully recovered, stabilizing household food consumption and income in pastoral areas. Commercial activity in livestock markets around the region has been extremely high in the weeks leading up to the celebration of Tabaski and terms of trade for pastoral households are steadily improving.

    Supplies of crops on markets across the region have been steadily improving since the first harvests in the Gulf of Guinea area at the end of August and since September in the Sahelian zone. Grain prices as of the beginning of the harvesting season are generally stable and, in some cases, are falling in crop-producing areas where the growing season stayed on track, particularly prices for corn. This is precisely the case in Kano (Nigeria), where millet and corn prices fell by 16 and 20 percent, respectively, between August and September of this year, as well as in Bol (Chad) reporting a 44 percent drop in corn prices during this same period.

    However, this downward trend in prices on production markets has still not reached retail markets in urban areas or food-short areas like western Niger and north-central Mali due to the diminishing flow or absence of trade between surplus areas and high-consumption areas with the crop harvest process just starting to get underway. In general, prices on these markets are stable or up slightly from last month, which is normal for this time of year. Nonetheless, price levels are still very high compared with seasonal averages (nine to 54 percent above-average in the case of corn and 25 to 82 percent above-average in the case of millet on certain markets), undercutting market access amongst poor households. September prices for millet in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), for example, were up by four percent, which puts the price of millet 58 percent above the seasonal average.

    Food security

    There have been steady sharp improvements in food availability since September of this year. In turn, the availability of different types of foods ranging from grains to pulses and including tubers, milk, and other dairy products has improved both the quantity and the quality of food consumption in most areas.  Some households have even started to rebuild their food reserves from recent harvests, while employment opportunities afforded by the high demand for labor for the harvest and sales of cash crops such as cowpeas, whose price, though coming down in high-production areas, is still well above the average for the region (by anywhere from 42 to 165 percent on markets tracked by Fews Net), are diversifying and strengthening their sources of income.

    The market-dependence of poor households in rural crop-growing areas has been diminishing since September. This trend will continue for the next few months with the expansion of harvesting activities. However, this will not be the case in food-short areas like western Niger, north-central Mali, and southern Mauritania, where markets have not fully recovered.  Most of the assistance programs in some of these deficit areas have already ended or are scheduled to shut down in December, if they did not already do so in September, though prices in some of these areas remain high. As a result, the restoration of  food security among poor households is likely to take longer than in  agricultural production areas. There is a continuing need for well-targeted humanitarian aid to prevent conditions from deteriorating, particularly in agropastoral and rice-growing areas of Mali. These areas could remain food-insecure through December of this year, particularly north-central Mali, western Niger, and localized areas of southern Mauritania, where very poor and poor household continue to face  IPC Phase 2:  Stress levels of food insecurity.

    Figures Standard Seasonal Calendar

    Figure 1

    Standard Seasonal Calendar

    Source: FEWS NET

    Rainfall anomalies as of the end of the third dekad of September 2012

    Figure 2

    Rainfall anomalies as of the end of the third dekad of September 2012

    Source: FEWS NET

    NDVI anomalies as of the end of the third dekad of September 2012

    Figure 3

    NDVI anomalies as of the end of the third dekad of September 2012

    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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