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Adequate market supply despite the start of the lean season

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Liberia
  • June 2015
Adequate market supply despite the start of the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Projected Outlook through September 2015
  • Key Messages
    • The lean season has fully installed in Liberia. This, along with the residual economic and market impacts of the Ebola outbreak, will drive Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food security outcomes for many poor households between now and September 2015.

    • Meanwhile, the agricultural cropping season continues with land preparation, planting, and weeding activities in a context of average to above-average rainfall. Related labor opportunities are providing certain households with incomes to help maintain their food access through market purchases.

    ZONE

    CURRENT ANOMALIES

    PROJECTED ANOMALIES

    National

    • Below-average incomes from many typical sources, including agricultural labor, charcoal sales, hunting and trapping, petty trade, handicrafts, export of palm oil to neighboring countries, and casual labor work on rubber plantations.
    • Atypical decline in cross-border trade flows due to residual fears related to the Ebola epidemic.
    • Household incomes will continue to be below average, limiting purchasing power and food access for many poor households.

    Projected Outlook through September 2015

    According to World Health Organization as of July 8, 2015, Liberia recorded three new Ebola cases after being declared Ebola free in May 2015. However, there are no restrictions on population movements in place at this time. However, all of the precautionary measures put in place late last year to stop the spread of EVD are still been adhered to as EVD is still present in Guinea and Sierra Leone.

    At a national level, humanitarian interventions by various actors (government, international organizations, NGOs, religious groups/organizations) are ongoing and include cash transfers and food assistance to direct and indirect victims of EVD, as well as seed provisions to vulnerable farmers. These interventions are contributing to enhanced agricultural productivity and are improving food access for beneficiary households.

    Satellite-derived imagery shows that cumulative rainfall totals in June were average to above average across much of the country with some slight deficits in the south-east (Figure 1) which has had no major impacts on crop production. Looking forward, seasonal forecasts from major meteorological agencies are showing mixed results for the remainder of the season with certain models (IRI, UK MET) showing an increased probability of average to above-average rainfall while others (NOAA/CPC, ECMWF) suggest an increased likelihood of below-average rains. However, given the large amounts of precipitation that Liberia receives in a normal year, rainfall deficits would not necessarily result in poor crop performance throughout the country.

    Given currently favorable soil moisture conditions, a variety of agricultural activities are ongoing, including land preparation, planting (rice, cassava and local vegetables), weeding, tree maintenance, and harvesting (cassava) activities. Moreover, according to FEWS NET’s most recent SMS-based trader survey conducted in late May 2015, almost 80 percent of interviewed traders reported that current rice cultivation activities in their local communities were occurring at normal levels with the highest proportion of traders reporting average activities in Grand Bassa, Grand Gedeh, River Cess and River Gee. However, despite reporting seasonally normal agricultural activities, one-third of these respondents stated that the availability of current agricultural labor opportunities was at below-average levels for this time of the year.

    Key informant reports indicate that other typical livelihood activities, such as cassava harvests, charcoal sales, petty trade and handicrafts, are also providing households with seasonal incomes. However, incomes from hunting and trapping, export of palm oil to neighboring countries, and casual labor work on rubber plantations still remain at below-average levels due to residual market disruptions and low household purchasing power. Similarly, a cell-phone based survey conducted by the World Bank, LISGIS, and the Gallup Organization found that about 40 percent of respondents who reported being employed during a HIES baseline survey (January-August 2014) were no longer employed in March 2015. Although these national-level findings were similar to the results of the survey’s previous round in January 2015, the World Bank and partners did find that populations active in the wage employment and rural non-agricultural self-employment sectors were increasingly returning to work. While the economic situation within Liberia will likely continue to improve as Ebola-related fears wane, total household incomes are still expected to remain below average throughout the scenario period (May to September 2015), limiting food access through market purchase for poor households.

    The results from FEWS NET’s most recent SMS-based trader surveys found that 75 to 80 percent of respondents reported that daily and weekly markets in their communities were open and operating normally (Table 1). In addition, 72 percent of respondents reported adequate food availability on these local markets. Recent food price data is limited although WFP’s mVAM results from April 2015 suggest that the national averages for local and imported rice prices, as well as palm oil prices, have been relatively stable between February and April 2015.

    Acute food security outcomes within Liberia are currently mixed. Some poor households who were worst affected by the impacts of Ebola on the local economy experienced an early depletion of household food stocks (one to two months earlier than normal) and/or atypical weak household purchasing power. As a result, these households are currently reducing their essential non-food expenditures and will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity through at least September 2015. Meanwhile, other households who were less impacted will use normal livelihood strategies in a context of stable market prices to meet essential food and non-food needs through the remainder of the consumption year, and will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Cumulative rainfall estimate (RFE) anomaly (percentage of short-term average) – June 10 – 20, 2015

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. Cumulative rainfall estimate (RFE) anomaly (percentage of short-term average) – June 10 – 20, 2015

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Table 1. Status of daily and weekly markets, as reported by traders in late May 2015

    Figure 3

    Table 1. Status of daily and weekly markets, as reported by traders in late May 2015

    Source: FEWS NET SMS-based surveys

    Figure 4

    Source:

    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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