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Despite good agropastoral prospects, food insecurity will remain a concern in several parts of the Sahel

  • Food Security Outlook
  • West Africa
  • July 2020
Despite good agropastoral prospects, food insecurity will remain a concern in several parts of the Sahel

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  • Key Messages
  • Outlook by Country
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Agricultural activities in the region are proceeding on time and without major hindrances thanks to good rainfall. Some fall armyworm damage that was reported on tillering stage cereals in some areas is under control. The impact of disruption of agricultural input flows by COVID-19 restrictions appears to be small and is not expected to significantly affect the prospects for above average crops. However, below-average crops are expected in conflict zones where access to cropland remains a concern.

    • Except in the Greater Lake Chad Basin, the Liptako- Gourma region and the Tibesti region in Chad where markets remain disrupted due to insecurity, elsewhere markets are sufficiently supplied at below average levels but still sufficient to meet demand until the end of the lean season. In the Sahel, cereal prices are higher than last year but are generally below average except in areas where flows are disrupted. Demand for livestock is increasing compared to the previous month, especially for small ruminants in the run-up to Tabaski. Their prices are generally stable or lower than average but could rise. Intra-regional trade and the supply of imported products will continue to be affected by COVID-19, although government controls prevent significant price increases. Prices of local staple foods are likely to be below or close to the average, except in deficit areas.

    • Despite the gradual resumption of economic activities related to the gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions since April/May, the implementation of usual livelihood activities by most poor urban households remains at below-normal levels. The decline in income and purchasing power of poor households will continue, leading to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in the coming months and in some cases Crisis (IPC Phase 3) for some poor urban households.pauvres urbains.

    • Most of the region will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) until January 2021 and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for some, including many urban households severely affected by the COVID-19 restrictions. In areas affected by civil insecurity such as the center and north of the Tillabéry region, the north of Tahoua, the Diffa region and the extreme south of the Maradi region in Niger, in the provinces of Loroum, Soum and Sanmatenga in Burkina Faso, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) will remain until September thanks to planned and ongoing food assistance. The same will be true for poor households in the rainfed farming areas in Mauritania, who are more exposed to the cumulative effects of an early lean season and loss of income due to COVID-19 restrictions.

    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will prevail until September in Barh el Gazel (BEG) and Kanem provinces due to the erosion of household productive assets and consumption deficits. The same will be the case between October and January in the Central African Republic, the Liptako Gourma region in Mali, the Lac area in Chad, among IDPs in north-western and north-eastern Nigeria, and in the north-western and south-western regions of Cameroon due to the persistence of conflicts with their corollary of destruction of livelihoods further strained in places by COVID-19 restrictions. In Burkina Faso this level of food insecurity will continue until January in the provinces of Bam, Namentenga, Séno, Oudalan, Yagha, Gnagna and Komondjari.  In Nigeria, IDPs in camps located in inaccessible areas near the Lake Chad Basin are reported to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) where access to food and income is very limited.

    Outlook by Country


    • Cameroon is among the epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic in Central and West Africa, with 12,592 confirmed cases and 313 deaths as of June 29, 2020. Although some social-distancing restrictions (curfew, travel restrictions and gatherings) were lifted in April, depressed economic conditions are negatively impacting everyday income-generating opportunities for poor households.
    • COVID-19 continues to take the heaviest toll on poor households in the two largest cities (Yaoundé and Douala), where some food prices have risen above seasonal levels as a result of disruptions to local supply chains and speculative trading practices. Poor households in these cities are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while a percentage of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and urban refugees are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) on account of their reduced purchasing power. However, the Government has taken measures to contain price increases to below 10 percent.
    • As of late June, most poor households in the Northwest and Southwest regions have depleted their food stocks and staple food prices are 30 percent higher than they were in the same period prior to the onset of the conflict. Since the second week of June, however, some poor households have begun to harvest beans and potatoes. As the harvest progresses, prices should stabilize and poor households will have improved access to food. Despite this, these regions are projected to experience below-average harvests for the fourth consecutive year.

    For more information, please see the Cameroon Food Security Outlook for June 2020 to January 2021


    • The spread of COVID-19 to all regions of the country and the difficulties in tracing contacts are causes for concern in Mali, stretching the country’s health facilities which already had limited treatment capacity. The resulting restrictions and economic disruptions are increasing vulnerability to food insecurity in urban areas and in areas relying on migrant remittances.
    • The 2020–2021 agricultural growing season in Mali started thanks to the onset of rains at the end of May. Forecasts for normal to excess rainfall support average to above average agropastoral production. Production prospects are 6 percent higher than for 2020 and 18.5 percent higher than the five-year average (Planning and Statistics Unit/Rural Development), which will support good cereal supplies.
    • The early lean season in the western Sahel, Liptako-Gourma and some areas in the north of the country, as well as declining incomes, are leading poor households to resort to some degree of negative coping strategies to meet their food needs, depending on their area. As a result, these households will experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity in the Liptako-Gourma area and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in the western Sahel and north of the country, from June to September.
    • The average to above-average harvests expected in October 2020, as well as falling prices and improved terms of trade between livestock and cereals, will improve household access to food. As a result, most households in the country will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between October 2020 and January 2021. For Liptako-Gourma households, displaced persons and flood victims, the aftermath of the degradation of their livelihoods will continue to have an impact, leading to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity or worse.

    For more information, please see the Mali Food Security Outlook for June 2020 to January 2021


    • Security crises continue to affect the regions of Diffa, Tillabéry, Tahoua and Maradi. Between January and May, 347 security incidents were recorded in the Tahoua and Tillabéry regions. Some 540,045 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been identified, half of them in the Diffa, Tillabéry, Tahoua and Maradi regions.
    • COVID-19 persists, with an estimated 1,016 confirmed cases as at June 16, 2020. The measures taken to control its spread are negatively impacting food insecurity, including in urban centers.
    • The agricultural growing season started with sowing in 61 percent of agricultural villages. The forecasts suggest favorable conditions compared with the averages calculated over the past 30 years, but the positive effects of these climatic factors could be reduced as a result of the impact of COVID-19 measures on the availability of migrant labor, including border closures.
    • The rainy season has not yet begun in pastoral areas, where the combined effects of last year’s feed shortage, security crises and COVID-19 travel restrictions are resulting in limited access to pasture areas and places that offer better economic opportunities for selling livestock at profitable prices.
    • The majority of the population in the central and northern Tillabéry region and northern Tahoua are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The Diffa region and the far south of the Maradi region are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), thanks to the assistance already planned and implemented. People in other parts of the country are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) but could move toward Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity from October 2020 until January 2021.Confirmed cases of COVID-19 are on the decline, however measures to combat the spread of the virus are still in place, including border closures which are preventing migrant agricultural labor from returning to the country and reducing income for poor households. The social distancing measures in place continue to negatively impact demand for domestic work in urban centers, upon which many poor urban households depend.

    For more information, please see the Niger Food Security Outlook for June 2020 to January 2021


    • Confirmed cases of COVID-19 are on the decline, however measures to combat the spread of the virus are still in place, including border closures which are preventing migrant agricultural labor from returning to the country and reducing income for poor households. The social distancing measures in place continue to negatively impact demand for domestic work in urban centers, upon which many poor urban households depend.
    • The volatile security crisis continues to cause victims and displacement. Internally displaced people (IDPs) are estimated at more than 260,000 people in June 2020, according to UNHCR, compared to 180,000 in June 2019. The regions most affected by insecurity are Diffa, Tillabery, Tahoa, and Maradi. Livelihood activities and productive assets are disrupted, and distributions of humanitarian food assistance is limited, resulting in households experiencing a food deficit.
    • The agricultural season is ongoing in the agricultural areas of the country, where sowing has been completed in all agricultural villages. However, reductions in the areas sown following the reduction in the agricultural workforce has been observed in localized areas. In addition, the onset of rains has been late in the pastoral areas where the combined effects of the lack of pasture and the disruption of transhumance routes following COVID-19 and civil insecurity is leading to a longer and more difficult lean season for livestock and pastoral households.
    • Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) food insecurity is observed among poor households in urban areas and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are in the southern part of the region of Maradi and in the Diffa region, as ongoing humanitarian assistance is mitigating worse outcomes. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes prevail in the northern regions of Tillabery and Tahoa due to continued insecurity that disrupts access to key sources of food and income. Most pastoral zones are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity, with a minority of poor pastoral households are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) with the excessive sales of livestock, including females, as pastoralists cope with higher food prices. 

    For more information, please see the Nigeria Food Security Outlook for June 2020 to January 2021


    • The clashes between government forces and Boko Haram elements in March and April, combined with the state of emergency, curfew and government restrictions due to COVID-19, are exacerbating food insecurity in the Lac region despite household strategies. The livelihoods of host households in Lac continue to deteriorate due to pressure from newly displaced persons. As a result, consumption deficits are observed and the area is in Stressed (IPC Phase 2 !) with ongoing assistance.
    • Households in the provinces of Barh el Gazel and Kanem, who normally depend on the markets for their food at this time of year, are experiencing a severe lack of food accessibility due to the total depletion of their cereal stocks and high food prices in the markets. The loss of these households’ means of production and their resulting low incomes are restricting their market access, meaning that they are unable to meet their food consumption needs and find themselves in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
    • Market functioning is impacted by traffic restrictions and border closures, which are affecting supply volumes. Faced with declining supply, demand is sluggish in most areas of the country. However, there are localized increases in food demand in Tibesti province, the Abdi department of the Ouaddai province, and Goz Beida in the Sila region.
    • The nutritional situation among children aged 0-59 months is deteriorating in Barh el Gazel and Kanem due to the impact of COVID-19 on household food access coupled with poor sanitary conditions. In Lac, the influx of newly displaced persons has caused a deterioration in nutrition among children, despite the expansion of care interventions.

    For more information, please see the Chad Food Security Outlook for June 2020 to January 2021

    Remote Monitoring Countries[1]

    Burkina Faso

    • Market disruptions in the northern half of the country, with reduced inflows, fewer foreign buyers and limitations on physical access for households, are adversely affecting the terms of trade for livestock/cereals, which are 25 percent below average at markets in Dori and 11 percent below average in Djibo.
    • With their reduced purchasing power, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host households are reliant on humanitarian food assistance (HFA) as their main source of food. Households in the provinces of Loroum, Soum and Sanmatenga are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) as a result of the ongoing HFA program, coupled with the planned program through to September, which should reach 20–30 percent of the population and meet at least 80 percent of caloric needs.
    • However, the security situation is hindering the program in the provinces of Bam, Namentenga, Séno, Oudalan, Yagha, Gnagna and Komondjari, where insufficient food distribution means that households will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until September. Between October and January, households in the provinces of Soum, Oudalan, Loroum, Bam and Sanmatenga will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to poor harvests and high numbers of IDPs (over 20 percent of the population).
    • Despite seasonal forecasts pointing to favorable rainfall conditions, the worsening security situation in the provinces will disrupt agricultural activities. In the provinces on and around the northern and eastern borders, agricultural production may remain below average because of displacement and the fact that households will have limited access to their fields. In the western and southern production zones, where the situation is calmer, lower prices could dissuade producers from increasing their planting areas. Production in these zones is expected to be roughly in line with the five-year average.

    For more information, please see the Burkina Faso Remote Monitoring Update for June 2020 to January 2021


    • The government is maintaining restrictive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country. These measures are adversely affecting income opportunities of urban poor in the informal sector, as well as income and remittances linked to seasonal migration. Transhumant herders are also continuing to experience the negative effects of border closures, while the deterioration in resources along the border with Mali and Senegal is adversely impacting the physical condition of their animals.
    • Around 69 percent of poor households are expected to receive sufficient cash transfers to meet their basic needs between June and September and will therefore have improved access to food. Poor households in the rainfed agricultural zone most exposed to the combined effects of the early lean season and lost income due to COVID-19 restrictions will therefore experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) food insecurity.
    • Poor households in Nouakchott and other urban centers have seen their employment opportunities and income decline as a result of the restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19, including the closure of trade points and restaurants, the curfew, and travel restrictions. Although some restrictions were eased in June (reopening of shops and restaurants subject to compliance with protective measures), the economic slowdown continues to affect households, especially those working in the informal sector. These households are currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) food insecurity, due to in-kind distributions since April and ongoing cash transfers.
    • The timely arrival of rains in the country and normal seasonal progress will lead to average harvests and typical access to milk and animal products, supporting an improvement to household food security outcomes between October and January. However, the economic slowdown, below-average demand for labor, and job losses could continue to adversely affect the income of poor households, especially in urban centers and agricultural areas.

     For more information, please see the Mauritania Faso Remote Monitoring Update for June 2020 to January 2021

    Central African Republic

    • Since May, COVID-19 has been spreading in the country with the increase in community transmission. Border health controls and transport restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 are linked to slower trade flows. Reduced supply from local markets, seasonal factors and speculative behavior by traders result in abnormally high commodity prices.
    • Due to an overall calmer security situation and favorable rainfall forecasts over the country between June and September, agricultural production at the end of the season could be above the five-year average, but below the pre-crisis average. Nevertheless, insecurity, cassava disease, lack of improved seeds and recurrent field damage caused by transhumant herders could locally reduce harvests in the areas of concern.
    • Underfunding of aid, COVID-19 restrictions and abuses by armed groups are hampering the regular delivery of assistance to IDPs and host populations in conflict-affected and limited-access prefectures. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will remain until August and could persist in the post-harvest period in sub-prefectures with a high presence of IDPs, due to the limited access of population to the fields.
    • The increase in prices of basic staple foods is also negatively affecting the purchasing power of poor households in urban centers, particularly in the capital, where job losses are affecting the poor in the informal sector. They are forced to reduce the size and quality of the portions consumed and the number of meals eaten per day. Until January, the decline in their purchasing power will expose them to Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    For more information, please see the Central African Republic Remote Monitoring Update for June 2020 to January 2021


    [1] With remote monitoring, an analyst usually works from a nearby regional office, relying on a network of data partners. Compared to the above countries where FEWS NET has a local office, reports for countries monitored remotely may be less detailed. 


    Events that Might Change the Outlook


    EventImpact on food security outcomes
    Liptako Gourma Region (North and East Mali, North and East Burkina Faso, West Niger), North-East and North-West Nigeria, North-West and South-West Cameroon, Central African RepublicWorsening civil insecurity
    • Increase in the number of IDPs and refugees in neighbouring countries

    • Disruption of food and livestock flows with very low supply on local markets

    • Reduced grain flows from Nigeria to Niger, Chad and Northern Cameroon in addition to the decline observed with the closure of Nigeria's land borders since August 2019.

    • Severe deterioration of household livelihoods and food and nutrition security

    Sahel countries (Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso)Desert Locust Invasion
    • Severe crop damage in affected areas

    •  Significant drop in agricultural and pasture production

    • Precociousness and disturbance of transhumance

    • Premature price increases in the region


    COVID-19 pandemic resurgence

    • Disruption of internal and regional trade flows

    • Rising product prices

    • Decline in livelihood activities particularly in urban areas and lower household incomes

    • Declining exports and income losses leading to macroeconomic tensions

    RegionWidespread Fall Armyworm infestations on crops
    • Crop damage in affected areas

    • Decrease in production, especially in maize

    • Tensions on maize marketing

    • Premature price increases in the region


    Greater flooding of crops in production basins

    • Drop in local production and household stocks

    • Decreases in income from the usual sale of crops


    Figures West Africa seasonal calendar  In the North, Main season cultivation is from mid-May to mid-August. Main harvest is from mid-

    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    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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