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Persistent food insecurity in conflict zones, as well as localized areas of newer food insecurity in pastoral zones

  • Food Security Outlook
  • West Africa
  • March - September 2016
Persistent food insecurity in conflict zones, as well as localized areas of newer food insecurity in pastoral zones

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  • Key Messages
  • Outlook by Country
  • Events that could Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Food availability continues to be good in the region due to above-average 2015/16 cereal production, reinforced by flood-recession and market gardening crops starting in January. In the zones where crop production was below average, particularly in Chad and in localized areas of Niger, Benin, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and the extreme north of Burkina Faso, the slightly earlier than normal depletion of poor households’ food stocks will need to be compensated by trade flows. 

    • In agricultural and agropastoral zones, market supplies are average to above average while demand remains globally average. As a result, food prices are stable. Household food consumption remains satisfactory despite the seasonal decline in household stocks as incomes generated from typical livelihoods strategies enable households to access food. As a result, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity will continue for the majority of households. 

    • In pastoral zones, local food availability is depleting normally and households are becoming increasingly market dependent. Prices in many areas of Mauritania, Mali, Nigeria, and Chad are at above-average levels while incomes from pastoral production are atypically low. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity is ongoing in many of these zones. Meanwhile, in Chad, trade flows are at below-average levels due to poor internal production and limited trade flows with Nigeria. In localized areas of the country, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity will continue until September. 

    • In conflict zones in northeastern Nigeria and in the Lake Chad basin, civil insecurity continues to drive the displacement of populations and disrupt agricultural production, cereal and livestock trade flows. This is negatively impacting household incomes and food consumption. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity will continue until September 2016 due to the continued deterioration of livelihoods and poor market functioning. 

    • New Ebola cases have been confirmed in Guinea but are not expected to disruption the normalization of livelihoods activities, particularly those related to agriculture and markets. Liberia and Guinea continue to be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity which will continue until September 2016. However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) will persist locally in Sierra Leone where livelihoods have been more significantly disrupted. 

    Outlook by Country

    Burkina Faso             

    • Near-average crop production across the country, adequate food availability on markets, and generally stable cereal prices are providing most rural households with normal food access for this time of year. These households will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between February and September 2016. 
    • The main sources of income for poor households are gold mining and market gardening activities, sales of small ruminants, and non-agricultural wage labor, which are generating near-normal levels of income.
    • Demand on livestock markets has slowed since last year. The smaller volume of livestock exports to Ghana and Nigeria with the lower exchange rates for the Naira and Cedi against the CFA Franc will cause livestock prices to fall and reduce the expected positive effects of the demand for animals during Tabaski in September. 
    • Most surface watering points in the far northern areas of the country are dry and pasture availability is low, with reports of seasonal migration by transhumant herds towards the border with Mali. After two years with worse than normal lean seasons, the outlook for this year’s lean season for pastoral populations suggests it will be only slightly harsher than usual between June and September, when certain very poor households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes. However, the number of households will not exceed the 20 percent threshold required to classify an entire area in this phase. 

    To learn more, see the February to September 2016 Food Security Outlook for Burkina Faso.


    • The increased rice production during the 2015/2016 season, an estimated 11.75 percent above the five-year average, indicates that poor households have larger than normal available food stocks. The nationwide growth in crop production and good market supplies will promote good food availability and maintain food prices in line with normal seasonal trends.
    • The post-Ebola recovery in agriculture, livestock-raising, and fishing activities and the resuming of trade on local and export markets will generate normal income levels for poor households. With good food access, most of the country’s population will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between now and September 2016.
    • However, certain households who lost family members or who are still coping with the residual effects of Ebola (stigmatism surrounding affected households and affected areas, rebuilding livelihoods disrupted by the Ebola outbreak such as the sale of bush meat, etc.) risk being in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity during the lean season (June to the beginning of September). However, their numbers will not reach the 20 percent threshold in any area.

    To learn more, see the February to September 2016 Food Security Outlook for Guinea.


    • Finalized national cereal production figures are 9 percent below average. The most affected regions are in the Sahel: Wadi Fira (-57 percent), Kanem (-54 percent), Batha (-53 percent), BEG (-27 percent), Guera (-26 percent), and Sila (-24 percent). Following early depletion of stocks, certain Sahelian departments will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until September. Certain Sudanian regions that have also been affected will be in Stress (IPC Phase 2) in September.
    • In the Sahelian zone, pastoral and agricultural lean seasons have begun early in the end of February/beginning of March instead of April and June respectively in a normal year. Agricultural households are also experiencing early depletion of their stocks (March instead of June). Livestock are traveling long distances to access pastureland and water, degrading their physical conditions. Accordingly, revenues of pastoral households are decreasing, which is causing consumption deficits.
    • Poor households in the northern departments of Kanem, BEG, and Batha, which are in the transhumance zone, currently have limited food access that will persist until June. However, food availability will improve with green harvests in August/September and wild foods growing near “ouadis” (wetland areas). Additionally, milk availability will improve food consumption, and these areas will be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes starting in July.
    • The poor 2015 rainfall and inferior levels of pasturelands in the Biltine and Dar Tama Departments (Wadi Fira) have caused early stock depletion (end of March instead of April) and decreased revenues from livestock sales. Households are becoming market-dependent and face slight price increases. Consequently, these households have limited food consumption and are in Stress (IPC Phase 2).
    • Cereal prices (millet, sorghum, and rice), except for maize, are stable compared to the five-year average in the majority of markets. Despite a below-average national production, good levels of residual stocks and importations of rice and wheat flour are maintaining food availability at an adequate level, with the exception of areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). This is sustaining the majority of zones in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.

    To learn more, see the February to September 2016 Food Security Outlook for Chad.


    • Off-season harvests of maize, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, cassava, and palm oil will improve the quantity and quality of food in household diets between March and May. These harvests, coupled with average to above-average rice stocks from the recent 2015/16 main season harvest and imports, will ensure adequate food availability between February and September 2016.
    • As the economy continues to strengthen, household livelihoods and incomes are returning to levels seen before the Ebola crisis, which in turn is improving food access. Most households will maintain seasonally normal food consumption levels, in line with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity, through at least September 2016.
    • International rubber prices have fallen sharply over the past several years, reducing incomes from labor work and rubber sales, particularly in Bomi, Montserrado, Margibi, and far eastern Bong counties. To cope, affected households are increasing charcoal production, migration, remittances, and borrowing but are still facing difficulties meeting their basic non-food expenditures. While they make up less than 20 percent of the total population in the affected counties, pockets of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity amongst these populations are expected between February and September.

    To learn more, see the February to September 2016 Food Security Outlook for Liberia.


    • Poor households in the lake area of Goundam are facing a drop in cereal production to approximately 40 percent below the five-year average, a poor harvest outlook for off-season crops in June, and a reduction in income-earning opportunities due to insecurity. As a result, they will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food security between February and September.
    • Atypical livestock deaths and high livestock sales over the past two years has reduced the livestock assets of many poor pastoral households in the Gourma area of Timbuktu and Gao in the Northern Livestock livelihood zone, reducing income and purchasing capacity. Poor pastoral households will engage in coping strategies including migration and cutbacks in nonfood spending and will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through at least September.
    • Approximately 500,000 poor, previously displaced people, and an estimated 15,000 people impacted by floods between July and September will need to rebuild their livelihoods and will not be able to meet both their food and nonfood needs. They are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September.
    • National cereal production was more than 25 percent above-average, providing markets across the country with adequate supplies and households with adequate stocks. Cereal prices are expected to reamin near average and favorable livestock-to-cereal terms of trade are supporting household food access. Most of the country will maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between now and September.

    To learn more, see the February to September 2016 Food Security Outlook for Mali.


    • Average cereal harvests, adequate market supplies from a normal flow of cross-border cereal trade and imports, and the rising prices of livestock between now and September are creating good food security conditions across the country. Thus, most poor households have regular food access and will continue to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity through September 2016.
    • The good pastoral conditions will shorten the lean season for pastoral populations and improve the physical conditions of livestock. They are also helping to improve animal birth rates in pastoral and agropastoral areas and to facilitate the rebuilding of animal herds that were diminished by livestock losses and sales during the past three difficult years in pastoral areas. The improvement in milk availability between July and September will help promote better food consumption by pastoral households.
    • Agropastoral households in Akjoujt department in Inchiri, Aoujeft department in Adrar, and the western reaches of the agropastoral zone (Moudjeria and Monguel departments) have been affected by shortfalls in their crop production that have depleted their cereal stocks. These households are forced to purchase their food supplies with incomes sharply reduced by their smaller herd sizes since 2013. Consequently, they are currently experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions and will continue to do so through September 2016.
    • Households in agropastoral areas of Brakna and the central portion of the oasis zone affected by pasture deficits in 2014 and 2015 will continue to rely on livestock sales due to this year’s limited crop production. These production deficits have reduced the farm income of poor households and will keep them in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between February and June. Yields from livestock-raising activities will reduce food insecurity outcomes to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) as of July.

    To learn more, see the February to September 2016 Food Security Outlook for Mauritania.


    • Staple food markets are well stocked following a good 2015/16 cereal harvest. Most farming households across the country should maintain adequate food access through September 2016 and should experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.
    • Limited pasture availability due to reduced pasture production during the 2015 rainy season will put pressure on pastoral household incomes as they purchase animal feed earlier than normal. This will lead to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes through at least July 2016.
    • The Diffa region will experience the highest levels of acute food insecurity, with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions driven by the continuing Boko Haram conflict disrupting livelihoods and limiting household market access.

    To learn more, see the February to September 2016 Food Security Outlook for Niger.


    • The value of the Nigerian naira has depreciated by more than 30 percent between December 2015 and February 2016 due primarily to reductions in oil sector revenues in 2015. This depreciation will reduce Nigeria’s purchasing power for imported products, such as rice, wheat, and manufactured goods from international markets and livestock and cash crops from the Sahel. 
    • Agricultural households in most parts of the country are consuming their own food production and are engaging in income-generating activities, such as dry-season agriculture, land preparations, cash crop sales, and migration. Pastoralists and agro-pastoralists are also selling livestock to earn income and access food normally through market purchases. Between February and September, these households will continue to have seasonally normal food consumption and will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.
    • Boko Haram conflict continues to negatively affect livelihood activities in the Lake Chad region. Affected households have had consecutive years of substantially below-average harvests, restricted income levels, and reduced food access. Poor households in these areas will continue to have difficulties meeting their minimal food needs through September 2016 and will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity, depending on the zone. 

    Sierra Leone

    • The volume of cross-border trade flows and transactions are below-average across most of the country. Rice and cash crop production for the 2015/16 season was lower than the 2014/15 season, and prices are currently above average. Poor households are facing diminished purchasing power and many are incapable of meeting their livelihood protection needs. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity or higher is expected for at least 20 percent of rural district populations.
    • A normal start to the next cropping season is expected and international forecasts indicate that there are high chances of average to below-average rainfall. Households are currently engaged in land preparation activities for rice and off-season crops. Employment opportunities for weeding and harvesting of minor crops is expected to improve household income and food access during the lean season.
    • Most poor households are still likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until the start of the harvest in September. Acute food insecurity among a small portion of these households could deteriorate into Crisis (IPC Phase 3), as they start to face slight food gaps due to higher food prices once the lean season starts in May. Labor availability in the form of weeding and other activities is expected to be normal or above normal for the remainder of the year due to the end of several bans around public gathering. This should increase household incomes and improve food access for poor households

    To learn more, see the February to September 2016 Food Security Outlook for Sierra Leone.

    Remote Monitoring Countries [1]

    Central African Republic

    • Around 600,000 people continued to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity outcomes in February, including 435,000 displaced people. The majority are IDPs, returnees, and host families in the country’s Southwestern, Central, and Northwestern prefectures. In spite of the presidential and legislative elections held in February 2016, the significant deterioration of household livelihoods and poor households’ minimal food stocks will maintain these food insecurity outcomes until at least September.
    • According to preliminary figures from the FAO crop production assessment, food production for 2015 has declined approximately 58 percent from pre-crisis levels in 2013 and is comparable to 2014 production levels. This production decline affects the 75 percent of the population dependent on agriculture, reducing income from the crop sales and farm labor.
    • According to FAO market monitoring data, prices on the Bangui market for the staples maize and cassava have declined. They are currently comparable to price levels prior to the security crisis following the decline in demand due to disruptions in domestic trade and exports. However, beef and fish prices are more than double their pre-crisis levels, fueled by poor supply problems as a result of animal thefts.  

    To learn more, see the February 2016 Remote Monitoring Report for the Central African Republic.


    • Markets across the country still have adequate cereal supplies from the 65 percent above-average cereal production for 2015/16. The availability of stocks of own-produced foods is providing households with average food access, reducing their market dependence during the current post-harvest period.
    • The major government effort to significantly boost off-season rice production through its program promoting rice self-sufficiency between now and 2017 will help ensure a better than average availability of this preferred food. This is creating better food and income-generating opportunities for poor households through farm labor, and even through crop sales.
    • The earlier than usual start of the lean season with the depletion of food stocks following below-average production is causing poor households in Matam, Kanel, Raneyrou, Linguère, and Louga Departments to resort to atypical coping strategies to improve their market access. There will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity in these areas between June and the next harvest, with some households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), although they represent less than 20 percent of households at the department level. 
    • Poor flood-affected households, or an estimated 70,000 people according to the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan, are in need of assistance in order to rebuild their livelihoods and meet their food needs. These households will be in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity from March until the next harvest. 

    To learn more, see the February 2016 Remote Monitoring Report for Senegal.


    [1] [1] With remote monitoring, an analyst typically works from a nearby regional office, relying on a network of partners for data. Compared to the previous series of countries in which FEWS NET has a local office, reports on remote monitoring countries may offer less detail.  

    Events that could Change the Outlook

    Table 1: Possible events over the next six months that could change the most likely scenario 



    Impact on Food Security Outcomes

    Sahelian countries

    Significant delay in the start of the season 

    • Reduction in the area planted

    • Atypical decline in labor demand and incomes from agricultural work

    • Delayed recovery of pastoral production

    • Prolonged pastoral lean season

    • Atypical decline in pastoral incomes 

    Northern Mali, northeastern Nigeria, the Central African Republic, and neighboring countries


    Increased civil insecurity

    • Increase in the number of IDPs and refugees in neighboring countries

    • Border closures with neighboring countries

    • Halt of trade flows, significantly weak supplies on local markets

    • Serious deterioration in household livelihoods, food security, and the nutritional situation 

    Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone

    Resurgence in the Ebola outbreak or Ebola cases in new areas

    • Isolation of affected zones

    • Disruption in the functioning of local markets

    • Localized disruptions in the seasonal calendar

    • Decline in labor for agricultural work  

    Sahel and Nigeria

    Significant depreciation in the naira 

    • Decline in livestock demand

    • Drop in the price of livestock in the Sahel

    • Decrease in the purchasing power of pastoral households in the Sahel

    • Decline in household purchasing power in Nigeria

    • Deterioration of the dietary quality of households in Nigeria

    • Increase in acute malnutrition in Nigeria


    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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