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Early Harvests and Wild Food Collection Ease Lean Season Pressure on Households

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Liberia
  • August 2016
Early Harvests and Wild Food Collection Ease Lean Season Pressure on Households

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  • Key Messages
  • CURRENT SITUATION
  • PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH JANUARY 2017
  • Key Messages
    • Households are harvesting cassava and local vegetables as well as collecting wild foods including snail, yam, mushroom, and palm nut in order to access food during the lean season. These foods, along with imported rice, are allowing for seasonally normal consumption. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food security outcomes will continue across the country from August through January.

    • The main 2016/17 rice and cassava harvests will start on time in August/September in the southeastern region and in October/November in the northern and central areas. Production of local vegetables including peanuts, corn, cucumber, cabbage, eggplant, pepper and bitter balls is also continuing.  These harvests are expected to be at average levels and will mark the end of the lean season as household food availability fully recovers.

    • Livelihood and income earning opportunities will also improve with the harvests. Cash and in-kind payments from crops, the return of active fishing in October, land preparations for off-season crop cultivation in January and construction labor contracts during the dry season are expected to improve household income and market access through the outlook period. 

    • Certain households, particularly in Montserrado, Margibi, Bomi and Bong Counties, lost their jobs due to the decline of rubber and iron ore exports as international prices also declined. These households, which make up less than 20 percent of the population in affected areas, are meeting minimal food needs, through intensified charcoal production, migration for labor opportunities, remittances, and borrowing. They are expected to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity through January 2017. 


    CURRENT SITUATION

    Seasonal progress: Heavy downpours in many coastal and southeastern areas have caused atypically severe floods in the lowlands.  This rain has affected rice and vegetables planted in the swamps in certain areas across the country. Upland rice and tree crops such as cocoa, coffee, palm and rubber are growing normally.  There have been no reports of crop damage from seasonally typical caterpillar outbreaks in the northwestern and central areas including Gbarpolu, Lofa, Bong and Grand Bassa. The infestations have been suppressed by both heavy downpours and pest management measures supported by the government and partners. 

    Rural livelihood activities: Farmers are weeding and fencing upland rice and cassava across the country. In some areas, they are also preparing sites and planting lowland rice as well as rehabilitating cocoa, coffee and palm farms. Households are harvesting cassava and vegetables as well as collecting wild foods and labor contracts linked to these harvests are providing incomes at seasonally normal levels. Seasonally typical washed out road conditions have affected transportation, trade and commercial activities in Sinoe, Lofa, Nimba, Grand Gedeh and Gbarpolu Counties.

    There is growing concern about job losses in the rubber industry for hundreds of workers as Firestone, the largest employer in the sector, announced that it is reducing local operations and downsizing staff. Many small and medium plantations have also been downsizing due to low demand and prices of rubber on international markets.  The prices of rubber and iron ore, Liberia’s two major export commodities, are declining again following slight improvement during the past two months (Figure 2).

    Economic recovery: In a move by the Government to try to increase the use of local currency, reduce the outflow of USD and potentially improve local market activity, civil servants started receiving 50% of their allowances in Liberian Dollars as opposed to USD. Although there may be economic benefits in the long term, the switch means civil servants have lower purchasing power as business transactions are done mostly in USD which has a higher value. The Liberian Dollar has been depreciating (Figure 3), with the official exchange rate down to L$96/97 to 1 USD from 90 in February 2016. The Central Bank of Liberia attributed this depreciation to declining exports and poor circulation of both currencies. Some consumers and traders report that the deterioration is causing inflation of imported foods across the country. 


    PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH JANUARY 2017

    All areas of Liberia will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between August 2016 and January 2017 due to seasonally normal incomes and food sources. Households are harvesting cassava and local vegetables. These harvests, along with wild food collection and imported rice are enabling household food consumption at seasonally normal levels. However, households who have been affected by unemployment due to reduced international rubber prices which make up less than 20 percent of the total population in affected areas, are only meeting minimal food needs. They are intensifying charcoal production, migration, remittances, and borrowing but face difficulties in meeting their basic non-food expenditures, and are expected to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity through January 2017. 

    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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