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Good Production Outlook for the Sahel and West Africa

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • West Africa
  • September 2012
Good Production Outlook for the Sahel and West Africa

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Food Security Conditions
  • Key Messages
    • Overall, food security in the region is improving due to a smooth progression of the growing season and the resumption of seasonal economic activities. However, high prices and the depletion of cereal stocks among poor households will keep food insecurity at IPC Phase 2 (Stressed) levels throughout the Sahel in September, and may persist locally through October and beyond, especially in Mali, western Niger, and Mauritania.

    • The agricultural season is drawing to a normal close in the Sahel and West Africa. Initial CILSS evaluations estimate that cereal production may be between 57,000,000 MT and 64,000,000 MT, or five to seventeen percent higher than 2011. A formal evaluation of regional agricultural production will begin in September and conclude in early November 2012.

    • Confirmation of a good agricultural outlook supports the most likely food security scenario through December, with the return of normal seasonal trends leading to IPC Phase 1 (minimal) food insecurity between October and November in most of the region.

    • The regional outlook depends on the continuation of the rains through the end of September and the containment of the desert locust threat, which remains a major concern in the region.

    • Local flooding in the region, caused by heavy rains, destroyed household food stocks and crops, and created favorable conditions for disease outbreaks, such as malaria, cholera, and other diarrheal diseases, that can aggravate malnutrition in the Sahel.

    Current Food Security Conditions

    Seasonal Progress

    Rainfall was favorable in August in all of the countries throughout the region, allowing for good crop development. In the Sahel countries and the northern sections of the Gulf of Guinea countries, August rainfall levels were generally sufficient, allowing for good crop and pasture growth despite local flooding damage. Good rainfall activity is forecast for the region in September. The two or three good rains needed to meet crop and pasture water needs are very likely to occur, and then crop water needs for the entire month of September would be met. This would allow crops that are currently maturing to finish their growth cycle, bringing the region's good harvest outlook closer to fruition.

    However, heavy rains have caused flooding in the region, especially in Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Chad. This flooding has led to health issues, and has destroyed infrastructure and damaged planted fields, particularly in rice-growing areas along the Niger River and in Senegal, Chad, Benin, and Nigeria. There is a concern that the flooding will cause an increase in the number of diarrhea, cholera, and malaria cases, which could aggravate the nutritional situation in flood-affected areas, especially in Niger’s Tillabéry region along the Niger River valley.

    Regarding pasture and grazing conditions, herbaceous cover is growing well, water holes are sufficiently full, and the livestock health situation is stable. The only areas where vegetation indices indicate less favorable performance (end of August 2012) are in Senegal’s Matam region, certain parts of southeast Mauritania, the Mopti area in Mali, eastern Burkina Faso, northwestern Nigeria, and Niger’s Tillabéry, Dosso and Tahoua regions.


    The desert locust situation remains a concern as second generation reproduction continues in central and northern Niger, in Mauritania and in the BET region, Ouaddaï and Batha in Chad, where ecological conditions remain favorable for breeding. Immature winged locusts have also been seen and may transition to the egg-laying stage beginning in mid-September. Despite insecurity in the north of Mali, a team was mobilized in suspected outbreak areas in the Kidal region. The team found that the infested areas in Tamesna had reached the threshold for treatment, but control operations in the Kidal region are not planned at this time. In Chad, a field mission reported a significant presence of mature and immature solitary winged adults, as well as larvae in all stages, in biotopes favorable for locust development. Local reproduction can be expected to continue, increasing the number of locusts present. As the rains become less frequent, vegetation will start drying out and this could cause small swarms to form and attack crops. Thus, the locust situation is still a concern should be continually monitored until the end of the season in November.

    Changes in Food Security

    As part of the regional monitoring mechanism, CILSS held its annual regional meeting on the agricultural and food outlook for the Sahel and West Africa on September 4-6, 2012 in Dakar. Regarding the progression of the current agricultural season, the regional meeting concluded that harvest outlooks are good overall. In the Sahel and West Africa, the national early warning systems estimated total cereal production to be between 57,000,000 MT and 64,000,000 MT for the 2012-2013 season, a 5 to 17 percent increase in production compared to 2011 figures. Still, it is important to note that these preliminary qualitative estimates have not yet been confirmed. Although these rough estimates must be confirmed by the results of agricultural surveys that will be available in October/November 2012, these projections do support the most likely food security scenario for July through December (Figures 1 and 2). However, production losses are still a risk if there is a widespread or local cessation of the rains in September and/or if crops are attacked by pests. The rains will be a decisive factor in obtaining the yields mentioned above, given the slower start of the farming and grazing season in western Niger, southeastern Burkina Faso, western Mali, Mauritania, and central and northern Senegal. The continuing locust threat is another important risk factor in harvest losses for the entire region. Food security in the coming months will depend on the following factors: the continuation of the rains beyond mid-September, the control of locust and parasitic infections that increase as rainfall diminishes, and the evolution of the security situation in Mali, Libya, and Nigeria.

    For the moment, food security within the region continues to improve due to the fact that livestock production has fully recovered, harvests have begun locally, and work opportunities for poor households are still available. Markets are currently well supplied but prices are in general very high, yet stable, despite some localized reductions. Between July and August, average cereal prices remained above the seasonal five-year average, except for rice, which dropped by 2 percent in Parakou, Benin; 7 percent in Kaolack, Senegal; and 1 percent in Ndjamena, Chad. Maize prices also fell in areas where the harvest had begun, such as Parakou and Bohicon, Benin, where prices were 34 percent and 3 percent below seasonal averages, respectively. The same was true on some wholesale markets, such as Malanville, Benin (30 percent decrease); Bouake, Cote d’Ivoire and Sikasso, Mali (20 percent); Dawanu, Nigeria and Tamale, Ghana (3 percent); and Bol, Chad (23 percent). However, price increases between 1 and 10 percent continue to be seen on other markets, such as Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso and Ziguinchor, Senegal.

    July and August millet prices also decreased in areas where the growing season has been satisfactory. This is the case in Dawanu, Nigeria (17 percent decrease); Saint Louis, Senegal (6 percent); Maradi, Niger (1 percent); and Ndjamena, Chad (1 percent). In contrast, in areas where millet has yet to be harvested, millet prices were rising moderately at the end of August 2012. This was the case in Tambacounda and Kaolack, Senegal, where prices increased by 6 and 5 percent, respectively.

    Generally high prices continue to be a limiting factor for household food security in the region, which to-date has hindered a return to minimal food insecurity  (IPC Phase 1) across much of the region. Furthermore, high food prices may limit access to a diversified diet, contributing to the continuation of a nutritional situation that remains  of concern, particularly in the Sahel, despite aid measures taken by governments, donors, and NGOs. However, as harvest activities become more widespread in the coming weeks, prices should fall as already demonstrated in the eastern Sahel, especially  in Chad, Nigeria, and Niger. Such price reductions are likely to continue from east to west as the rainy season ends, which would gradually cause food insecurity to drop to a minimal level in most regions of the Sahel and West Africa.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Source: FEWS NET

    Cumulative RFE anomaly  – first dekad of April – third dekad of August, compared to 2007-2011 average

    Figure 2

    Cumulative RFE anomaly – first dekad of April – third dekad of August, compared to 2007-2011 average

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    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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