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Persistent food insecurity in conflict areas despite ongoing harvests

  • Food Security Outlook
  • West Africa
  • November 2019 - May 2020
Persistent food insecurity in conflict areas despite ongoing harvests

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  • Key Messages
  • Outlook by Country
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Harvests are ongoing and are improving household food availability. According to the regional monitoring system, the 2019/20 harvests could be average overall or even higher than the average by 12 to 20 percent. However, in several areas affected by insecurity and conflict (Liptako-Gourma region and the Lake Chad basin), production is reported to be below average, partly due to the displacement of rural poor households and land losses. As a result, livestock movements and access to fodder resources continue to be significantly hampered by insecurity. Grazing land is considered fair in places in the Sahel, with the most worrying being in western Mauritania and northern Senegal for a third consecutive year.

    • Food supply is beginning to increase seasonally as a result of ongoing harvests, while demand is decreasing with large stocks on hold. Prices are stable or decreasing compared to the previous month but still below average. They remain high in conflict areas. Local and imported rice prices remain above average in most coastal countries. The closure of Nigeria's land borders hinders trade and has affected the prices of imported goods on the rise. With ongoing harvests, supply will continue to increase, and prices will be below average throughout the harvest and post-harvest periods.

    • Most areas will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity until May 2020 and some will remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, continued insecurity in northern Burkina Faso, central and northern Mali, western Niger, north-western Nigeria and the Lake Chad basin will continue to increase the number of internally displaced persons and refugees. Humanitarian aid will help to maintain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) in the regions of Mopti and Gao in Mali, Diffa in Niger and Lake Chad.

    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity continue to prevail in the regions of Tillabéry in Niger, Tibesti in Chad, Soum and surrounding provinces in Burkina Faso, eastern CAR and English-speaking regions of Cameroon due to armed conflicts and/or civil insecurity that significantly disrupt household livelihoods and severely reduce the distribution of humanitarian aid. Households in northeastern Nigeria affected by the Boko Haram conflict continue to depend on humanitarian aid for access to food and remain food insecure and remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) particularly in Borno State and incidentally Yobé State. In adjacent areas that remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors, the food security situation could be similar or worse.         

    Outlook by Country


    • The increase in cereal production of about 17 percent above the average is favorable to overall satisfactory food availability in the country during the 2019–2020 food year. Average-to-good current harvests and cereal prices ranging from below average to near average mean that the majority of households are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.
    • Average-to-good livestock conditions in the country bode well for a normal pastoral lean season for livestock from April, except in the western Sahel in Kayes, where it will be early due to the rapid deterioration of livestock conditions linked to the pasture deficit. The anticipated average animal production and the maintenance of their average physical condition will generate average incomes that should help improve the purchasing power of livestock farming households.
    • Household access to cereals is generally average due to the average to above-average availability of domestic production (although this is low in places), payments in kind and below-average to near-average food prices. Improving the terms of trade for goat/cereals to levels similar to or above average favors adequate market access among livestock farming households.
    • Early stock depletion as a result of declining agricultural production in the western Sahel and Liptako Gourma, in addition to declining livelihoods due to conflict and flooding, will lead poor households affected to make atypical use of labor and migration, reduce their non-food expenditure and rely on humanitarian assistance or relatives to meet their food needs. As a result, they will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in March, requiring assistance from April to avoid the situation worsening.

    For more information, see the Mali Food Security Outlook for October 2019 to May 2020.


    • The security crises in the sub-region and their effects constitute the most serious threats to Niger's food security and household livelihoods. There is an increase in the number of security incidents that continue to cause population movements in the Diffa, Tillabéry, Tahoua and Tuesday regions. The poorest and most displaced households will have difficulty meeting their food needs without assistance and will experience situations of Stress and Crisis (IPC Phases 2! and 3).
    • Cumulative average to above average rains recorded between July and September made it possible to catch up on the delay observed in the establishment of the agricultural season. However, cereal and fodder deficits are expected in Maradi, Zinder, Tillabéry and Diffa due to phytosanitary attacks, seasonal delays and conflicts. Livelihoods will be disrupted as a result of early declines in animal overweight, early stock depletion, and stress situations (IPC Phase 2) will appear from March 2019 onwards in pastoral areas.
    • In agriculture and agro-pastoral, in addition to the harvest products of rainfed crops, irrigated crops from December 2019 to March 2020 will benefit from the good water availability favoured by the heavy rainfall recorded in August-September 2019. These irrigated crop products will increase household food availability and diversify food consumption while improving incomes.
    • Markets are well supplied, and prices are below last year's prices and the average, with the exception of markets in conflict areas in the Diffa, Tillabéry and Tahoua regions. However, this generally favorable situation will be disrupted by the closure of the border with Nigeria, whose markets are important sources for the supply of cereals to markets and for the destination of Nigerien producers' cash crops.
    • For more information, see the Niger Food Security Outlook for October 2019 to May 2020.


    • Most populations in parts of Borno, northern Adamawa and southern Yobe states that are the worst affected by the insurgency are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Outcomes in inaccessible areas are likely similar or may be worse than neighboring accessible areas, and there remains a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in these areas. Extreme levels of acute food insecurity, including Famine (IPC Phase 5) are also possible in a worst-case scenario in which conflict shifts and significantly restricts humanitarian access and household movement.
    • The 2019 main harvest is underway across the country. Preliminary results from the annual production survey led by the National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaison Services (NAERLS) revealed that maize, millet, rice, and sorghum production will be relatively stable compared to the previous year, and higher than the five-year average. Yam production is greater than in the previous year and the five-year average.
    • Displaced persons residing in camps within Greater Maiduguri and environs remain accessible to humanitarian actors and are dependent on humanitarian assistance and some income earning opportunities such as agricultural labor, petty trading, construction labor work, and local crafts. Some others are engaged in water hawking, begging, and domestic labor to earn limited income and are unable to meet non-food needs and will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes until at least May 2020.
    • Currently, households affected by farmer/pastoralist conflict, communal conflict, banditry, kidnapping, and cattle rustling in the northwest and central parts of Nigeria are facing limited food access in localized areas and are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Flood affected households who remain displaced across the country are similarly facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. However, other households across the country are engaged in the main harvest and have access to their usual income earning opportunities and are experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes.

    For more information, see the Nigeria Food Security Outlook for October 2019 to May 2020.


    • Nearly two hundred thousand people would currently be in a food crisis situation (IPC Phase 3) if no assistance were provided. The most vulnerable people are those displaced from Lake Chad. The situation in Tibesti may deteriorate at any time. Food insecurity in these areas is mainly the result of conflicts that have led to limited availability of food products and limited employment opportunities. However, assistance to the Lake region helps to alleviate this situation.
    • The 2019/20 agropastoral season was marked by a slightly early start in Chad. However, the western Sahel regions experienced dry sequences of 10 to 15 days. Preliminary results of the agricultural survey estimate cereal production at around 3 000 000 tons. It is higher than the average of the last five years (+8.7 percent).
    • The new harvests strengthen residual stocks and will allow poor households to hold until May 2020, except in some areas affected by dry periods such as Kanem, Bahr El Gazal, Wadi Fira, Moyen Chari, Mandoul and Western Logone. These areas have recorded low per capita cereal production and stocks can only cover an average of between 3 and 8 months.
    • The results of the SMART 2019 survey show that the situation remains worrying at the national level and in some provinces. Of the 23 provinces at the national level, 18 are in alarming situations, including 9 in emergency situations with global acute malnutrition exceeding 15 percent, according to the WHO classification. The results also show that the nutritional situation has deteriorated in the southern provinces.

    For more information, see the Chad Food Security Outlook for October 2019 to May 2020.


    Pays suivis à distance[1]

    Burkina Faso

    • Security incidents against security forces and civilians have occurred almost daily in recent months, forcing people to abandon their fields in and around the Sahelian area. Despite this harvest period and ongoing assistance, areas in which internally displaced persons (IDPs) account for more than 20 percent of the population (Soum, Oudalan, Sanmatenga, Bam, Loroum provinces) will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) acute food insecurity until January, which at worst could become Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and May.
    • Insecurity caused less areas to be cultivated during the season and continues to deprive households of new harvests. In the north and northeast of the country, the longer dry spells in September have severely impacted crop yields and pastureland. Elsewhere, the prolonged rains in October have damaged grains, resulting in crop losses.  The combined effects of these factors will result in below-average agricultural production in the north of the country. 
    • In the more stable regions of the central, southern and western parts of the country, households have access to new harvests. In these regions, markets are functioning with an above-average level of supplies, due to significant stocks among traders. Cereal prices fell overall by about 30 percent compared with the previous year and by 20 percent compared with the five-year average.

    For more information, see the Burkina Faso Remote Monitoring Update for October 2019


    • Apart from sporadic attacks by Boko Haram that are limiting agricultural activities in districts of Extreme Nord region bordering Nigeria, the agricultural season has generally performed well. Localized floods in September-October have caused more damage to houses than to crops, which were already at mature stages of growth. Agricultural harvests currently underway are expected to be above the five-year average.
    • In Nord-Ouest and Sud-Ouest regions, the security situation remains concerning three weeks after the national dialogue. Roadblocks, harassment, deterioration of road networks, as well as closures of business days continue to limit trade flows between production basins and urban centers. As a result, maize prices have dropped Ndop and in the urban center of Bamenda have dropped by 50 percent and 33 percent, respectively, compared to the pre-conflict period.
    • Emergency food assistance delivered in August and concentrated in the most accessible areas reached approximately 11 percent and 50 percent of IDPs, respectively, in Nord-Ouest and Sud-Ouest regions. However, at these levels, assistance only covers approximately five percent of the population in these regions. In rural areas, households are resorting to sales of crops at low prices in order to pay fees for their children's schooling outside the conflict zone, while in urban areas, IDPs and poor households are engaging in strategies negatively affecting their food access and are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity.

    For more information, see the Cameroon Remote Monitoring Update for October 2019

    Central African Republic

    • The prefectures of Vakaga, Haute-Kotto, Basse-Kotto, Mbomou and Haute-Mbomou are expected to experience a crisis (IPC Phase 3) until May due to low agricultural production in conflict-affected areas, insecurity that restricts household movements and high food prices. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in these areas are most likely to face food shortages, given limited access to livelihood activities and limited access by humanitarian organizations.
    • Domestic agricultural production is expected to be above the average of the last five years, but heavy rains in October prevented the drying out and conservation of the current main crop. As a result, the availability of cereals for households and the market remains low, leading to high cereal prices that limit access to food. Cassava and maize prices in the main reference markets of Bangui, Bambari, Bria and Bangassou are on average 60 percent and 50 percent higher, respectively, than in October 2018.
    • The activities of armed groups continue to restrict humanitarian access and food aid in the east and south-east. Limited access is exacerbated by deteriorating roads and logistical difficulties in accessing remote areas, particularly during the rainy season. Attacks on humanitarian workers took place an average of 30 times a month from July to September, mainly in Kaga-Bandoro, Bambari and Batangafo.

    For more information, see the Central African Republic Remote Monitoring Update for October 2019


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


    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Impact on food security outcomes

     Atypical institutional purchases (or shifting in the procurement schedule) for national and/or regional reserves from March 2020
    • Significant increase in demand
    • Early seasonal increase in local cereal prices
    Central Basin (Mali and Burkina Faso)   

    North Mali, North-East Nigeria, Lake Chad Basin, Liptako Gourma region, Central African Republic, Cameroon

    Increased civil insecurity
    • Increase in the number of internally displaced persons and refugees in neighbouring countries
    • Serious disruption of trade flows
    • Very low supply to local markets
    • Serious deterioration in household livelihoods
    • Reduction in humanitarian access to areas for assistance
    • Significant deterioration in household consumption
    East and Central Basin (Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali)Extension of the closure of Nigeria's land borders
    • Significant decrease in trade flows

    • Decrease in income from the sale of livestock and other cash crops from Sahelian countries usually sold in Nigeria

    • Rising prices of imported products in Nigeria


    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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