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Stable food prices and normal income levels facilitate food access during the lean season

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Liberia
  • August 2013
Stable food prices and normal income levels facilitate food access during the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Projected Outlook through December 2013
  • Key Messages
    • Currently, at the peak of the lean season, the majority of poor households in Liberia are able to meet essential food and non-food needs through their typical livelihood strategies. As a result, households are expected to face Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through at least December 2013.

    • Due to regular and adequate rainfall levels, the main agricultural season (April – October) is continuing with cereals, legumes, and tubers progressing normally. Consequently, an average harvest is expected between September and December.

    • The majority of Ivorian refugees living within Liberia will continue to be active in income-generating activities and/or crop production over the upcoming months. However, households living within refugee camps will remain partially dependent on food assistance through the remainder of the outlook period (August – December).

    ZONE

    CURRENT ANOMALIES

    PROJECTED ANOMALIES

    Southeast

    • 58,000 Ivorian refugees are living within Liberia. Of this refugee population, approximately 21,000 are residing in camps and remain partially dependant on food assistance.
    • Starting in August 2013, UNHCR and LRRRC began the process of decommissioning the Solo refugee camp in Grand Gedeh. The 6,000 refugees residing in this camp have been given the choice to either relocate to another camp or voluntary repatriate to Cote d’Ivoire.
    • The majority of refugees will continue to improve their living conditions by participating in cropping and/or income-generating activities. However, those in camps will continue to partially rely on food assistance.
    • The process of closing the Solo camp will continue through December 2013.

    Projected Outlook through December 2013

    Although rainfall levels during the first ten days in August were below average, cumulative rainfall estimates between early April and August 10th indicate that rainfall for the season as a whole has been near normal (Figure 2). In addition, satellite imagery and field reports from FEWS NET’s partners indicate that crops are developing normally. Given current conditions and a seasonal forecast from PRESAO predicting relatively normal rainfall levels for the remainder of the season, an average and on-time harvest is expected between September and December.

    Currently, at the peak of the lean season, household food stocks in most areas of the country are either in the process of depleting or have already been exhausted. Low stock levels will continue until early green harvests become available in

     September, ending the lean season. The only exception to this is in Liberia’s southeastern countries, where harvesting activities for cowpeas, plantains, and eddoe have already begun, improving the availability of food and ending the lean season in August. Cassava, a staple food crop that is harvested year-round, is also widely available at the household level and is currently serving as a substitute for rice during the lean season.

    Household income levels are currently average to slightly above-average. Despite the near-completion of labor intensive weeding activities, agricultural labor wages in July have remained stable compared to the June 2013 levels. In addition, palm oil prices are, on average, 6 percent higher than last year’s July levels, due to a seasonally normal decline in supply and strong demand from local sources, as well as from Guinea. Consequently, palm oil sales are proving above-average incomes for traders who still have stocks of this commodity. Other typical livelihood activities at this time of the year include the production and sales of charcoal, petty trade, and labor activities related to the rubber and mining sectors.

    Market supplies of imported rice, the primary staple food in Liberia, are generally normal across regional markets with the Ministry of Commerce reporting in July that stock levels are sufficient to meet population needs through October 2013. Imported rice prices are following international market trends and have remained relatively similar to or slightly below July 2012 levels. These stable prices, coupled with average to slightly above-average household incomes, are causing favorable labor-to-rice terms of trade and are facilitating household food access to this important staple food.

    According to the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) and UNHCR, the Ivorian refugee population was approximately 58,848 at the beginning of July. This population continues to remain stable compared to September 2012 (58,965) and includes some 20,458 refugees living within camps who remain partially dependent on food assistance. Starting in August 2013, LRRRC and UNHCR began the process of decommissioning the Solo refugee camp in Grand Gedeh with the goal of closing the camp by December 2013. The 6,000 refugees residing in this camp have been given the choice to either relocate to another camp or voluntary repatriate to Cote d’Ivoire. This closure is part of a larger plan to reduce the number of refugee camps in the country from six at the peak of the refugee influx down to three (with two camps already closed), in order to facilitate the management of these camps.

    The majority of Ivorian refugees, who are residing outside of camps and within local communities, are active in crop production, as well as other income-generating activities such as petty trade, casual labor, skilled work, mining, and hunting. Many refugees in camps are also earning incomes from some of these sources as many camps are located near major towns and markets. However, refugees residing in camps will, in general, continue to rely partially on food assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP) through the upcoming months.

    Stable imported rice prices, normal cash income levels, and an average 2013 harvest starting in September will enable poor households to meet their essential food and non-food needs through the coming months without difficulties. As a result, poor households throughout the country are expected to face Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) during the entire outlook period (August to December 2013). 

    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Cumulative rainfall estimate anomaly, April 1 – August 10, 2013

    Figure 2

    Cumulative rainfall estimate anomaly, April 1 – August 10, 2013

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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