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Localized food insecurity due to declines in crop production and civil insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook
  • West Africa
  • November 2015 - March 2016
Localized food insecurity due to declines in crop production and civil insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Outlook by Country
  • Events that Could Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Harvests are continuing normally and average to above-average cereal availability is observed across the region. However, production will be below average in Chad, as well as locally in Niger, Benin, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and northern Burkina Faso. This localized below-average production is due to a late start of the rainy season, dry spells, an early end of the rains, flooding, and/or conflicts, depending on the area.

    • Market are currently active with supply levels exceeding demand, as usual, due to the ongoing harvests. This, in turn, is maintaining prices at levels that are either close to, or in certain localized areas below, the five-year average. This price stability and favorable livestock-to-cereal terms of trade are improving food access for poor households across the region.

    • In general, food consumption is normalizing and diversifying, even amongst poor households, with the ongoing harvests, seasonally normal availability of milk and vegetables, and incomes from crop sales and agricultural labor. As a result, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity is observed across most of the region and will continue through the end of March 2016.

    • Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes could exist locally in Niger and Mauritania, however, until the end of December due to the residual effects of the poor season last year and civil insecurity in the eastern parts of Niger. Between January and March 2016, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes will be present in these countries, as well as in areas of Chad with below-average production due to flooding or an early end of the rains and in Mali amongst pastoral households whose herd sizes are at below-average levels.

    • Insecurity in northeastern Nigeria and neighboring areas of Niger and Chad is reducing activities and food access despite the ongoing harvests. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity will exist in these zones through March 2016 due to a deterioration in livelihoods and poor market functioning. The same level of food insecurity is also expected in the Central African Republic with the resurgence of violence which is reducing the coverage of humanitarian assistance programs.

    • In Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, the Ebola outbreak is coming to an end. Livelihood activities are normalizing and with recent above-average harvests, these countries are expected to generally face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity through March 2016. However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes will exist locally in Sierra Leone where livelihoods have not yet returned to their typical levels.

    Outlook by Country
    Burkina Faso             
    • Despite a poor start of the agricultural season, the increase in rainfall starting in mid-July and the normal and in some cases later than usual end-of-season rains have allowed most crops to properly mature and have increased expectations for near-average crop production across the country.
    • Household access to new harvests is helping to promote normal food consumption, resulting in reducing demand on markets and staple food prices close to the five-year average.
    • The improvement in food consumption with ongoing harvests, labor opportunities for farm labor, and expected normal price levels will translate into Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity in all parts of the country between October 2015 and March 2016.

    To learn more, see the October 2015 to March 2016 Food Security Outlook for Burkina Faso.

    • Harvests of rainfed cereal crops for the 2015-2016 growing season are average to slightly below average due to the late start-of-season, mid-season dry spells, the locally reduced-area planted, and the early end of rains in certain areas. There were reports of deficits in certain departments in the Lac, Kanem, Bahr el Ghazel, Batha, Wadi-Fira, and North Guera regions.
    • Supplies on cereal markets have improved since the lean season (between June and September) with the arrival of new crops from ongoing harvests. The seasonal decline in prices since September is improving household cereal access.
    • The current availability of new crops from ongoing harvests has improved the food security situation of poor households in all parts of the country. These new crops, together with wild plant foods and local milk availability, will give households more diversified sources of food between October and December 2015. As such, there will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity in all parts of the country during this three-month period.
    • The levels of cereal stocks and milk availability in Lac, Kanem, Bahr El Ghazel, Batha, North Guera, and Wadi-Fira will become limited as of January, earlier than in a normal year. As a result, poor households in these areas will be dependent on market purchase earlier than normal and face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes. Displaced populations from Nigeria and the Central African Republic receiving humanitarian assistance will continue to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) food security outcomes with the help of ongoing assistance.

    To learn more, see the October 2015 to March 2016 Food Security Outlook for Chad.

    • The expanding harvests of rainfed and off-season market gardening crops between October 2015 and March 2016 will strengthen household food access by replenishing food stocks and generating income from crop sales and farm labor. These harvests will help promote adequate food availability across the country during the 2015/2016 consumption year.
    • Better-than-average plant biomass production and good water levels at watering holes are contributing to generally average to good pastoral conditions for livestock. These favorable conditions and above-average livestock prices are enabling good milk availability and favorable livestock-to-cereal terms of trade for households. Thus, most agropastoral households will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between October and March.
    • However in flood-affected areas, there are localized pockets of below-average crop production, which could prematurely deplete household food stocks. Due to these crop production shortfalls and flood-related losses to livelihoods, an estimated 15,000 poor flood-affected households in Kita, Macina, Nara, Tominian, San, Mopti, Nioro, Gao, Ménaka, and Douentza departments will face a deterioration of their food security outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels starting in March 2016.
    • Similarly, poor pastoral households in the Gao and Timbuktu regions whose livestock herds have shrunken and, in some cases, been decimated over the past three years will face an escalation in their food insecurity to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels starting in April 2016 due to a reduction in their income levels and a harsher than usual pastoral lean season.

    To learn more, see the October 2015 to March 2016 Food Security Outlook for Mali.

    • After a late start to the rainy season, the adequate levels and good temporal distribution of rainfall since the end of August have fostered good pasture and rainfed crop growth and development. The national cereal production will be average to above-average levels, and pastures across the country will be in visibly better condition than in 2014. The food access of poor households will therefore improve.
    • Access to fresh agricultural products and milk, stable food prices, and wage income from farm labor will facilitate normal household food consumption in most rural areas of the country, and consequently most households will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. Their food security will be strengthened by harvests of late-season rainfed and flood recession crops and the rising price of livestock between January and March.
    • Amourj and Diguent departments in the rainfed farming zone have been severely affected by the irregularity of rainfall. Short-cycle crop yields are noticeably smaller and the two-month delay in their harvests has extended the lean season into November. A significant part of this seasonal production deficit will be offset by yields of long-cycle crops (harvested in December this year), but poor households will continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes through January.
    • Despite average harvests and good pastoral conditions, smaller herd sizes and the impact of debt repayment obligations following several previously difficult years as well as significantly below-average seasonal incomes will keep poor households in the agropastoral areas of Tagant (Moudjéria department) and Gorgol (Monguel department and northern Kaédi department) in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) situations of food insecurity through March.

    To learn more, see the October 2015 to March 2016 Food Security Outlook for Mauritania.

    • The average to above-average levels of cumulative rainfall in August-September helped compensate for the late start of the growing season, creating good soil water conditions for what is expected to be near-average crop and pasture production. However, there are localized areas with production deficits, particularly in Tera, Ouallam, Tanout, Abalak, Bermo, and Aderbissinat.
    • There will be good water availability for irrigated crops grown between December 2015 and March 2016 from the heavy rains in August-September 2015. These irrigated crops, harvested between January and March 2015, will bolster household food availability and diversify household diets while, at the same time, boosting household income.
    • Trends in market supplies and prices are in line with the norm, except on markets in conflict zones in the Diffa region. Barring any large local procurements, these favorable market conditions should extend into March 2016, with prices even liable to come down in December-January-February once all crops have been brought in.
    • Driven by these generally positive factors, there will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity in most areas of the country between October 2015 and March 2016. However, conditions in certain pastoral areas of Abalak and Bermo and certain agropastoral areas of Téra, Ouallam, and Tanout will begin to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between February and March 2016. Displaced populations and poor local populations in the Diffa region will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by January 2016, for as long as they are largely market-dependent for their food access.

    To learn more, see the October 2015 to March 2016 Food Security Outlook for Niger.

    • In addition to causing human deaths, the ongoing conflict in northeastern Nigeria continues to restrict livelihoods, commercial activities, and provoke significant population displacements. Rural resident households living in regions worst affected by the conflict and IDPs in informal quarters continue to be worst-affected by food insecurity.
    • Although the ongoing harvests between October and December 2015 will continue to improve food availability and access, production will be again below-average this year in northern Nigeria. The western parts of Yobe, the northern parts of Adamawa, and the majority of Borno State, as well as zones with IDP populations surrounding Maiduguri, will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between October 2015 and March 2016.
    • Households in localized areas across the country (certain parts of Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Kaduna, Jigawa, Kebbi and Niger states) affected by severe flooding during the main growing season experienced below-average staple and cash crop production. Affected households in these zones will probably resort to market purchases earlier than usual this year because their own stocks will last for a shorter period of time than in a typical year.
    • For most other areas of the country, the main harvests that are ongoing with generally average production levels are improving both household and market stocks. Between October 2015 and March 2016, agricultural households will have access to staple foods from their own production, as well as from good market access as prices remain average to below-average. As a result, the majority of the country will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between November 2015 and March 2016.

    To learn more, see the October 2015 to March 2016 Food Security Outlook for Nigeria.

    Remote Monitoring Countries[1]

    Central African Republic
    • The perceptible surge in increasingly widespread violence across the country is fueling new population displacements, further disrupting marketing systems, and threatening food security in many areas of the country.
    • With the deterioration in the security situation, the number of returnees is declining and there are reports of new population displacements in Ouaka, Ouham, and Bangui in particular. These new population movements are growing the size of the internally displaced population and fueling the increasingly large projected needs for assistance since the new flare-up in violence.
    • A persistent decline in food availability and incomes is preventing the growing population of IDPs from maintaining their food access and keeping them in the Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity. This could continue to be the case for displaced populations and affect more local households facing food production deficits between now and March 2016 due to the effects of the ongoing violence.

    To learn more, see the October 2015 Remote Monitoring Update for the Central African Republic.

    • According to the October 21st World Health Organization’s Ebola Situation Report, there were a total of three new confirmed cases of Ebola during the last 21 days in Forécariah prefecture and in Conakry. The number of new Ebola cases will continue to decline between now and March 2015, spurring the renewal of economic activity.
    • Initially localized harvests of rice, maize, sorghum, groundnuts, and cowpeas in late September gave way to widespread harvests across the country in October. This is generating regular market supplies and is rebuilding normal food stocks levels. Stable prices are also currently ensuring easy food access for poor non-farming households.
    • In general, households in all parts of the country are experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. Regular imports of rice (the most popular food source), good harvest prospects, and normal livelihood strategies should help maintain food insecurity at this level through March 2015.
    • However, political tensions following the presidential elections in early October could lead to civil protests and temporarily shut down markets and other social services in localized areas. Nevertheless, it should not significantly affect the operation of local markets or disrupt domestic trade flows. Households will continue to have normal and regular food access.

    To learn more, see the October 2015 Special Report for Guinea.

    • According to the World Health Organization, as of October 21, 2015, Liberia continues to be free of Ebola. This is contributing to the recovery of certain livelihood activities, such as labor work and petty trade, and is strengthening household purchasing power compared to last year’s levels.
    • October harvests of rice, maize, vegetables and other crops are increasing food availability at the household and market levels and are reducing household demand on local markets. Food prices remain relatively stable which is also helping to maintain food access for poor households.
    • Most households are expected to be able to meet essential food and non-food needs due to ongoing average harvests, the gradual recovery of economic activities, regular rice imports from international markets, and stable food prices. Consequently, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity is expected in all counties through at least March 2016.

    To learn more, see the October 2015 Special Report for Liberia.

    Sierra Leone
    • According to the World Health Organization’s October 21st Ebola situation report, there have been no new confirmed Ebola cases over the past 21 days in Sierra Leone. The absence of new Ebola cases, along with the removal of internal movement restrictions, is favoring a slow economic recovery and improved household income levels.
    • Harvesting began in October and will continue until the end of December for rice, sweet potatoes, cassava, maize, groundnuts, and vegetables. These average to above-average harvests mark the end of the lean season (June-August) as they reduce the need for market purchases and are strengthening poor households' food access.
    • Food security will significantly improve in the next three months compared to previous months with average availability of food at the household level, higher market stock levels, stable food prices, and increased income opportunities through farm labor and the sale of farm products. Consequently, many areas are expected to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through at least March.
    • However, due to a slower recovery from Ebola-related shocks, poor households in Kenema, Kailahun, Kambia, Pujenhun, Port Loko, Tonkolili, and Kono continue to face reduced purchasing power, which is preventing them from fully meeting their non-food needs, such as education and healthcare costs. These seven districts, therefore, are projected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through March 2016.

    To learn more, see the October 2015 Special Report for Sierra Leone.

    • The average ongoing green harvests in crop-producing areas are improving food availability and have marked the end to the prolonged 2015 lean season (April through September 2015). Average levels of income from the sale of green maize and groundnut crops and average in-kind wage payments for harvest-related labor work are also improving household food access.
    • The increasingly widespread harvests over the coming months will improve cereal availability on markets, triggering a seasonal decline in prices and, thus, improving the market access of poor households. These positive factors will help keep most households in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels of food insecurity between October 2015 and March 2016.
    • During the upcoming 2015/16 consumption year, household food stocks will likely deplete one to two months earlier than normal (by May-June this year compared to June in a typical year) in certain parts of the Northeast and in localized areas of the groundnut basin, due to cereal and groundnut production shortfalls. In order to meet their food needs, households will likely resort to negative coping strategies that will undermine their livelihoods, resulting in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity starting in June 2016.
    • Poor flood-affected households in the Dakar, Fatick, Kaolack, Saint Louis, and Matam areas have above-average financial needs this year for the purchase of food supplies and to replace assets lost during the floods. This will likely prompting them to resort to negative coping strategies to obtain food, as well as rebuild their weakened livelihoods. As a result, these households will also face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity starting in March 2016.

    To learn more, see the October 2015 Remote Monitoring Update 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, 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

    Northern Mali, northeastern Nigeria, Central African Republic and neighboring areas

    Increase in civil insecurity

    • Increase in the number of IDPs and refugees in neighboring areas
    • The closing of borders with neighboring countries
    • Trade flows stop; weak supply levels on local markets
    • Significant deterioration in household livelihoods, food security, and nutrition
    • Important decline in fishing levels and agricultural production in the Lake Chad basin of Niger, Nigeria, and Chad.

    Northern Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad

    Above-average levels of locusts

    • Destruction of pastures in terms of both quality and quantity
    • Localized decline in the availability of food for livestock
    • Localized destruction of flood-recession crops during the off-season

    Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia

    Resurgence of the Ebola outbreak or a spread to new areas


    • Isolation of affected areas
    • Local market disruptions
    • Disruptions in the normal seasonal calendar
    • Reduction in labor availability for agricultural work

    Across the region

    Significant increase in the price of rice due to a significant appreciation of the US dollar

    • Decline in rice imports
    • Increase in local cereal prices due to a substitution effect
    • Reduction or ban on trade flows between countries
    • Decline in food access for poor households

    Figure 1


    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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