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Atypical rainfall conditions, conflict, and the Ebola outbreak increase food insecurity across West Africa

  • Food Security Outlook
  • West Africa
  • November 2014 - March 2015
Atypical rainfall conditions, conflict, and the Ebola outbreak increase food insecurity across West Africa

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  • Key Messages
  • Outlook by country
  • Events that could change the outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Ongoing harvests are improving household and market stock levels. Despite the late start to the season in several areas, overall crop production levels are expected to be average to above average throughout the region. However, below-average production is expected in Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, northeastern Nigeria, the Central African Republic, and localized areas of other Sahelian countries.

    • Overall, the pastoral situation in the Sahel is satisfactory. However, livestock production could be below average for the second year in a row in several pastoral zones, particularly in eastern Niger, Mauritania, and Senegal. This will cause transhumant livestock in these areas to migrate earlier than usual.

    • With lower production levels and delayed harvests, food insecurity will remain at Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels until January 2015 in southeastern Niger, as well as the Senegal River Valley and the agropastoral zone of Mauritania. In Mauritania, the 2015 lean season will also arrive early, contributing to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity between February and March 2015.

    • Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity will persist in northeastern Nigeria and the Central African Republic through March 2015 due to the effects of the conflict and poor crop production in these areas.

    • For market-dependent households in areas worst affected by the Ebola outbreak, below-average incomes and market disruptions have caused them to begin relying on unseasonal coping strategies to meet basic food needs and consequently, these households are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In addition, households with family members infected by Ebola who are not currently receiving humanitarian assistance are likely facing small to moderate food consumption gaps, equivalent to Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    Outlook by country
    Burkina Faso
    • Crop production could be below-average in the country’s northern agropastoral zone due to recurrent dry spells and infestations of grain-eating birds. These infestations, which are having a more severe than usual impact on local harvests, will expose more than 1,400 households to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of acute food insecurity. Moreover, for the second consecutive year, pasture deficits will lead to early seasonal migration by transhumant herds and the start of the lean season for pastoral populations, beginning in December instead of February.
    • Elsewhere, poor households will have normal food access, mainly from household harvests and through market purchases. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity is expected for most of the country between October 2014 and March 2015.

    To learn more, see the complete October 2014 through March 2015 Food Security Outlook for Burkina Faso.

    Chad
    • Harvest levels are generally average to above average but vary widely from one region to another. Pockets of production deficits have been reported in some departments in the regions of Wadi Fira (Arada), Guera (Melfi, Abtouyour, and Mangalmé), Batha Est (Oum Hadjer), Kanem, and Bahr El Ghazel (BEG).
    • With the arrival of newly harvested crops, cereal markets are better supplied than during the lean season (June-September). Prices are also beginning to fall compared to September levels, improving access to cereals.
    • Beginning in October, newly harvested crops helped improve the food security of poor households in the regions of Wadi Fira and Bahr El Ghazel. The availability of newly harvested crops, combined with milk in certain places, will allow households to diversify their food sources from October to December 2014. During this period, the entire country will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.
    • In Kanem, Batha Est, Grande Sido, Guera, Wadi Fira and Bahr El Ghazel, cereal stocks levels will begin to be exhausted in February, as in a normal year. Beginning in January/February and March, very poor and poor households will become market dependent and will experience Stress (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity conditions until June. This will cause them to reduce their food consumption to minimally adequate levels. As a result, they will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) food security outcomes from July to September. 

    To learn more, see the complete October 2014 through March 2015 Food Security Outlook for Chad.

    Mali
    • Overall, cereal production is expected to be average to above average, which will ensure average levels of food availability throughout the country. However, localized production shortfalls due to insufficient rainfall will cause households in the departments of Gao, Bourem, Goundam, and Niafunké and some areas in the northern parts of Koulikoro and Kayes and the Douentza department to deplete their food stocks earlier than usual.
    • The availability of newly harvested crops and the decline in prices that typically results will improve household food access from October through March. In addition, crop sales, market gardening activities, and 20 percent above-average livestock prices will result in average to above-average income levels through at least March.
    • With the availability of food from the October harvest and average to slightly above-average cereal prices, poor households in agropastoral and pastoral zones will have average access to food, enabling them to cover their food needs. The entire country will, therefore, experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity from October 2014 through March 2015.
    • However, the food security situation is likely to deteriorate to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels in April in rice-producing riverine areas of the Gao and Bourem departments, the lake region of the Goundam department, and the Haoussa area of Niafunké due to decreased crop production following insufficient rainfall during the rainy season.

    To learn more, see the complete October 2014 through March 2015 Food Security Outlook for Mali.

    Mauritania
    • With the rains in September failing to spur farming activities in the Senegal River Valley and Agropastoral Zone, poor households are facing large shortfalls in their harvest production and seasonal incomes. Even with the favorable terms of trade for sheep to cereals, they are having difficulty meeting their basic nonfood needs and, thus, will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through the end of January.
    • The reduction in cropping (both for flood recession and rainfed cropping) and income-generating activities in both livelihood zones are expected to hasten the start of the lean season (which will begin three months earlier than usual) and lead to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions in these areas between February and March.
    • Conditions in other livelihood zones are currently evolving to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity after the rainy season, bolstered by average seasonal incomes, the availability of fresh crops from recent harvests (in the Rainfed Cultivation Zone and eastern reaches of the Agropastoral Zone), and/or the improvement in pastoral conditions (in pastoral zones).

    To learn more, see the complete October 2014 through March 2015 Food Security Outlook for Mauritania.

    Niger
    • Good rainfall accumulation and distribution from late July to late September 2014 combined with a generally calm crop pest situation will lead to average to above-average cereal and pasture production during the main growing season.
    • From December 2014 to March 2015, the availability of irrigated crops will help strengthen and diversify food access and consumption for households currently consuming their own cereal stocks. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity conditions will prevail in October and continue through March 2015 in most parts of the country.
    • However, with poor households earning less income from labor and livestock sales, the department of Nguigmi (Diffa) will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from October 2014 through March 2015, despite cash-for-work programs planned for and funded by the government. Beginning in March, agropastoral areas of Ouallam and pastoral areas of Tchintabaraden will also experience Stress (IPC Phase 2) as poor households face difficulties meeting their non-food needs.

    To learn more, see the complete October 2014 through March 2015 Food Security Outlook for Niger.

    Nigeria
    • A favorable cultivation season continues in most parts of the country, likely leading to an average to above-average main harvest and increased income for poor households who engage in agriculture labor work. Most households will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity during the October 2014 to March 2015 period.
    • For the second year in a row, poor households most affected by the conflict in central parts of Borno and Yobe and northern Adamawa have been unable to engage in typical cultivation and agricultural labor activities. Even in the post-harvest period, these households will face difficulty meeting their nonfood needs. Although some dry season activities will begin in early 2015, households will still face food consumption gaps. This area will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through March.
    • Poor households in northern Borno and Yobe and southern Adamawa States that are somewhat less affected by Boko Haram conflict will still have below-average harvest stocks and pastoral resources compared to a typical year. As these households continue to face difficulty in meeting their essential nonfood needs, they will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity through March.

    To learn more, see the complete October 2014 through March 2015 Food Security Outlook for Nigeria.

    Remote Monitoring Countries1

    Central African Republic
    • Ongoing and widespread harvests of millet, sorghum, and rice will continue through December. These harvests mark the end of the lean season and are easing food security conditions for poor households. However, below-average crop production levels and persistent civil insecurity are continuing to disrupt normal livelihood strategies.
    • Despite the typical harvest period, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity will continue through March 2015 in areas worst affected by conflict (Ouham and Ouham Pende) due to households’ difficult access to normal food and income sources, as well as reduced food consumption levels.
    • On the other hand, areas less impacted by the conflict (Sangha and lower Kotto) will continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes through March, with local households unable to generate sufficient income to meet their nonfood needs. In these areas, household food consumption will be reduced but minimally adequate.

    To learn more, see the complete October 2014 Remote Monitoring Report for the Central African Republic.

    Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone
    • On October 29, the number of Ebola cases reported in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone was estimated at 13,703 cases. Reports from the three countries indicate that official and unofficial restrictions on population movements due to the disease outbreak have led to market and price anomalies for both staple and cash crops. Household incomes from certain sources are also below average.
    • The main rice harvest is ongoing and is expected to be average to slightly below-average. Rural farming households will meet the majority of their staple food needs through their own production in the short-term and will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.
    • For market-dependent households in areas worst affected by the Ebola outbreak, below-average incomes and market disruptions have caused them to begin relying on unseasonal coping strategies to meet basic food needs and consequently, they are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In addition, households with family members infected by Ebola who are not currently receiving humanitarian assistance are likely facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
    • Given the nature of the Ebola outbreak, projected impacts of the disease on markets, livelihoods, and food security outcomes are uncertain. However, a drastic increase in the number of Ebola cases could result in the deterioration of food security outcomes. Under this scenario, households with family members who are ill or have died from Ebola, along with poor market dependent households, would likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity by March 2015.
    • A Household Economy Approach (HEA) outcome analysis for a rural, Ebola-affected livelihood zone in Bomi Country, Liberia suggested that under the scenario described above, food security outcomes would be less severe for poor agricultural households due to a reliance on their own crop production and wild foods. However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity would still be likely by late September 2015.

    To learn more, see the complete November 2014 Remote Monitoring Report for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

    Senegal
    • Though below-average, ongoing harvests of green crops in farming areas are bringing relief to rural households after the long lean season, providing them with food and income during the period from October 2014 through March 2015. They will therefore experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.
    • Expected shortfalls in cereal and peanut production will adversely affect food availability and the farm incomes of poor households, particularly in the northeastern and central reaches of the country. The good food availability for poor households in October, which normally extends through June, will not last beyond the end of March. Thus, these households will be facing an escalation in food insecurity to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels.
    • Border closures in border areas with Guinea are interfering with the free circulation of persons and goods, which is hurting the local economy and heightening household vulnerability to food insecurity. The resulting rise in prices is curtailing the market access of poor households to some extent.

    To learn more, see the complete October 2014 Remote Monitoring Report for Senegal.

     

    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, reporting 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

    Area

    Event

    Impact on food security conditions

    Central Basin (Mali and Burkina Faso)

    Large-scale commercial purchases of millet, sorghum, and maize by Mauritania and Senegal beginning in January

    • Significant rise in demand
    • Early than normal increase in prices for locally produced cereals

    Northern Mali, Northeastern Nigeria, Central African Republic, and border areas

    Escalation of civil insecurity

    • Growing numbers of IDPs and refugees in border areas
    • Closure of borders with neighboring countries
    • Halt to trade and low supplies on local markets
    • Severe deterioration in household livelihoods
    • Localized humanitarian crises

    West Africa

    New Ebola outbreaks in countries and areas not currently affected

    • Significant disruptions to markets and regional and domestic trade flows
    • Disruptions to household livelihoods and income sources
    • Localized food shortages due to a lack of spatial market arbitrage
    • Higher food prices in deficit producing zones; lower prices and income levels in surplus producing areas
    • Inability to conduct normal activities for the next growing season, starting in March 2015

    Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone

    Stabilization of the Ebola epidemic

     

    • Gradual return to normal market functioning
    • Improved household food access
    • Improved capacity for many households to engage in farming activities beginning in March/April 2015
    Figures

    Figure 1

    Source:

    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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