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A delayed start to agricultural activities in the northwest and central areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Liberia
  • April 2016
A delayed start to agricultural activities in the northwest and central areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2016
  • Key Messages
    • Although rainfall started on time in March, irregular rainfall over northwestern and central areas of Liberia have slowed down agricultural activities. Though not yet a major source for concern given that the season has just begun, most farmers in these areas are still waiting for the rains to stabilize before planting upland rice and cassava. Meanwhile, in the Southeastern Region, the rains have been falling more regularly and most farmers have planted upland rice and cassava as usual. 

    • Markets will continue to be sufficiently supplied with local crops through June when the off-season harvests end and road conditions begin to deteriorate with the peak of the rainy season. Although the lean season will begin in July and continue through August, seasonally normal household consumption is expected as households access imported rice and locally grown cassava through normal livelihood activities. Consequently, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food security outcomes are expected in most areas through September.

    • However, certain poor households formerly employed in the rubber sector (making up less than 20 percent of the population in all counties) are currently facing atypically low incomes and poor purchasing power due to the effects of low international rubber prices. While these households will rely on atypical coping activities (migration, increased charcoal production, etc.) to minimally meet food needs, they will be unable to afford some essential non-food expenditures including transportation and school fees, and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September.


    Current Situation
    • Seasonal progress: Agricultural activities began across Liberia in March with the on-time start of the rains. Most farmers in the Southeastern Region took advantage of these rains to plant upland rice and cassava, and are currently beginning to clear sites for lowland rice cultivation in June/July. However, the planting of upland crops has been delayed in the northern and central areas because of infrequent rainfall, particularly in April. Farmers in these areas are proceeding with the clearing and preparations of land for upland rice and cassava, while some are planting corn, peanuts and other pulses in lowland areas. Upland rice planting is expected to be completed by mid-May before the rains intensify in June. Cassava and rice harvests are expected to start in July/August in the Southeastern Region and in September/October in the northern and central areas. 
    • Rural livelihood activities: A number of small, medium and large rubber plantations have shut down because of low international prices, and those who are still operating have decreased wages by 20 percent or more. Although local prices increased slightly in March to USD 500 per metric ton (including tax and transportation) compared to USD 400 in February, households who have lost wage labor incomes or jobs are currently facing reduced food access and are cutting non-food expenditures, including transportation and school fees. 
    • Economic recovery: With support from the African Development Bank, the Government and partners have introduced the Liberia Agriculture Transformation Agenda (LATA), a new agriculture sector development road map along with a strategy to increase food availability through improved agricultural inputs distribution system and new agro-technologies to improve production within the next year. The inputs distribution system involving agro-input dealers will primarily target rice, maize and cocoa farmers, though other crops such as rubber, palm, cassava and vegetables will be earmarked. An initial 150,000 farmers are presently being electronically registered by the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA).  With this information, MOA intends to also develop agro-value chain programs for ten major commodities, create marketing channels and improve agribusiness opportunities for women and youths.
    • Humanitarian Assistance: The World Food Program (WFP) is resuming nutrition support, expanding school feeding programs from 270,000 to 300,000 children, and providing community livelihoods support for the lean season. The community livelihood support program will target counties considered more chronically food insecure to facilities recovery from the impacts of the Ebola crisis. Meanwhile, the school feeding and nutrition programs are primary targeting the counties of Montserrado, Margibi, Bomi, Bong, Lofa, Cape Mount, Bassa, Rivercess, Gbarpolu and Nimba. Meanwhile, some 30,000 refugees out of 100,000 present in Liberia are receiving food assistance from WFP. Although refugees who have moved out of the three official camps to live in host communities are not receiving food support, most have rebuilt their livelihoods in Liberia and are engaged in agriculture and construction wage labor contracts, petty trade, and vegetable production to access food and income.   

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not affected the assumptions used in developing FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of February to September 2016 A full discussion of the scenario is available in FEWS NET’s  most recent Food Security Outlook


    Projected Outlook through September 2016

    All areas of Liberia will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between February and September 2015 due to seasonally normal incomes and food sources. Ongoing harvests and sales of palm oil, cassava and other tubers, corn, and vegetables will maintain food supplies and incomes until June. The lean season will run from July to September, although in the southeastern region, rice with cassava harvests will start in August. These harvests, along with sufficient imported rice on the market, are expected to maintain seasonally normal food availability and household consumption levels through September. However, certain poor rubber-tapping households (making up less than 20 percent of the population in all counties) will continue to rely on atypical coping activities (migration, increased charcoal production, etc.) to minimally meet food needs and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September. 

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source:

    Figure 1. 2016 rainfall for each 10-day period compared to the short-term average (RFE) for Margibi, Liberia

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. 2016 rainfall for each 10-day period compared to the short-term average (RFE) for Margibi, Liberia

    Source: USGS

    Figure 2. International TSR20 rubber prices ($/kg)

    Figure 3

    Figure 2. International TSR20 rubber prices ($/kg)

    Source: World Bank Pink Sheet

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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