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Insecurity and high prices reduce poor households' access to food

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mali
  • April 2023
Insecurity and high prices reduce poor households' access to food

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Outlook up to September 2023
  • Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance
  • Key Messages
    • Poor households in insecure areas in the center and north of the country will likely experience worsening food insecurity outcomes. The situation is expected to shift from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) starting in May/June. Challenges in accessing food are contributing to this deterioration, including the depletion of available food stocks, steep prices for staple grains, and persistent insecurity resulting in ongoing decline in livelihoods. In the Ménaka region, almost 40 percent of the population is displaced. A probable deterioration to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is expected between June and September 2023 in inaccessible areas of this region due to recent disruptions, and where access to sources of income and food, or even access to humanitarian assistance, is very limited.

    • The increase in clashes between armed groups, particularly in the Gao and Ménaka regions, is impeding the already weakened market supply in these areas due to the reduction in trade flows. Populations in these areas are being further exposed to high levels of food insecurity because of livestock theft and the reduction in economic activities and humanitarian access to people in inaccessible areas. 

    • Poor households' access to food is reduced across the country because of the more than 30 percent above the five-year average for grain prices in various markets monitored by FEWS NET. In addition, the 25 percent drop at the end of March compared to the five-year average in the terms of trade for livestock and grains is reducing pastoral households’ ability to access markets. 

    • The pastoral lean season is progressing normally in the country given the average availability of pasture and water. However, the atypical concentrations of livestock in the more secure areas due to insecurity in the regions of Mopti, Ségou, Ménaka, and Gao are causing damage to early grazing, which will adversely affect livestock feed, and subsequently reduce livestock production and pastoral household incomes.

    Current Situation

    Security situation: Security incidents and their resurgence persist in the regions of Ménaka and Gao, in parts of Mopti and Timbuktu, and in the north of Ségou, Koulikoro and Kidal. This continues to cause population displacement, disrupting economic activities and households’ ability to access their usual sources of income and food. According to ACLED data, there was an overall 18 percent drop in the number of security incidents across the country between February and March 2023, although fatalities rose by 58.9 percent between the two periods. However, there has been a 65 percent increase in the number of incidents in the Ménaka region, making access to certain parts of the region extremely difficult. Livestock theft, destruction of productive assets, and difficulties with humanitarian access are reducing the ability of households to meet their food needs without resorting to unusual coping strategies. Atypical population movements, particularly in the town of Ménaka where IDPs represent nearly 40 percent of its population, further contribute to food consumption gaps. The continuing displacement of people to the more secure towns of Gao, Ansongo, Kidal, and Ménaka following the numerous clashes between armed groups in the Gao and Ménaka regions, is putting further pressure on the scarce resources available to these host areas. In addition, robberies on the main supply routes in the area have reduced trade flows. At the end of March 2023, almost 9,000 newly displaced people had been counted in Ménaka, according to OCHA

    Agropastoral production: The current off-season market garden harvests are generally average, improving food consumption and household income. However, these activities are severely disrupted in certain insecure areas in the center and north of the country, where population displacements and abandonment of fields due to insecurity are frequent. The trend for off-season rice is average overall, but insecurity and the high price of agricultural inputs have reduced area planted in traditional growing areas in the Office du Niger and the Niger River valley from Mopti to Gao. The cultivating and maintenance of off-season crops currently underway is providing income opportunities and food for poor households in irrigated perimeter areas. Although the harvests starting in May are expected to be below average, they will improve grain availability in markets.

    The availability of pasture and water sources is average overall and favorable to a normal pastoral lean season in the country. However, in the insecure areas of Gao, Ménaka, and Mopti, access to certain pastures is disrupted due to insecurity, leading to unusual concentrations of herds in the more accessible areas of the river valley and in parts of the Kidal region. The resulting atypical degradation of pastures will make it difficult to feed livestock and will have a negative impact on the production of animal products (milk, butter, cheese), as well as on the weight of the animals. Currently, the herds are in the dry season pastures along the river by permanent water points. However, the supply of adequate feed for livestock will be challenging due to the increase in the price of livestock feed by more than 30 percent compared to the average, the drop in income due to the fall in cotton production, and the reduction in available pasture from damage caused by bush fires in certain areas in the north of the country.

    Animal health continues to be marked by a suspected outbreaks of bovine, ovine, and caprine pasteurellosis (a bacterial infection) including mortality cases reported in the Kidal region between February and March. The vaccination campaign is continuing in the central and northern regions of the country with the support of various humanitarian partners, notably the ICRC and FAO.

    Fishing: The receding of the rivers has led to a seasonal increase in fish catches in the various fishing zones. Fishing households benefit from above-average prices and average to above-average incomes. However, in the insecure areas of the Niger Delta and in parts of Gao and Ansongo, fishing activity continues to be disrupted by security incidents, which has a negative impact on the income of fishing households in these regions.

    Markets and prices: Market supply is generally normally. Nevertheless, challenges to market accessibility have been observed in insecure areas in center and north of the country, particularly in the Ménaka region, as well as in parts of Ansongo (southeast) and Gao (south), where access remains very limited and traders halt circulation due to insecurity. The supply of grains and imported products remains sufficient, except in the Ménaka region and in the part of Gao where supply flow is severely disrupted. 

    Staple grain prices (millet, sorghum, maize) remain well above the five-year average in markets in regional capitals. Increases observed showed 62 percent in Ménaka, 61 percent in Sikasso, 49 percent in Koulikoro, 45 percent in Ségou, 38 percent in Gao, 35 percent in Mopti, 32 percent in Kayes, and 26 percent in Tombouctou. High grain prices reduce poor households' access to food, particularly for displaced households who no longer have access to their usual sources of income and food due to insecurity. This situation is even more prevalent in the inaccessible areas of the Ménaka region and the north of Ansongo, where economic activities have virtually ground to a halt.

    Livestock markets: Markets are experiencing a seasonal increase in the supply of livestock, in addition to the high demand for Ramadan in Mali and neighboring countries. However, market disruptions in northern pastoral areas due to insecurity are reducing trade flows to the region's main markets, thus affecting income from sales. Goat prices are above the five-year average in livestock markets, with increases of 6 percent in Timbuktu, 17 percent in Mopti, 18 percent in Ménaka, 22 percent in Nara, 26 percent in Rharous, 30 percent in Bourem, and 36 percent in Gao. Although these prices are favorable to breeders, they do not benefit small-scale breeders, who are experiencing a significant reduction in their herd size from excessive sales and theft. In addition, the terms of trade for goats/millet are down compared to the five-year average in all markets monitored due to high grain prices (Figure I). They are below the five-year average by 27 percent in Ménaka, 16 percent in Tombouctou, 15 percent in Rharous, 14 percent in Mopti, 12 percent in Nara and Gao, and 11 percent in Bourem, which reduces pastoral households’ food access. 

    Figure 1

    Terms of trade for goats/millet (kg/head) in markets in March 2023
    Termes de l’échange caprin/mil (kg/tête) sur certains marchés en mars 2023

    Source: FEWS NET

    Humanitarian food aid and livelihood support: The rapid response mechanism from the government and its various partners is providing humanitarian support in the form of food and non-food items to mainly poor households and displaced people. The World Food Programme, through its partners (World Vision and Action Against Hunger) distributed 468 tons of food (grains, pulses, oil, and sugar) and provided cash assistance to 36,600 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Of the total number of IDPs, 11,982 were in Ménaka and 24,618 in Gao (OCHA). Livelihood support operations (fertilizers, seeds, livestock feed, and small equipment) for poor households in insecure areas in the center and north of the country are also underway by FAO, the ICRC, and other partners. However, the resurgence of security incidents, which restricts movement, is limiting humanitarian access for people in need in some insecure areas in the Gao and Ménaka regions. Although the government and various partners are continuing to provide monthly humanitarian food assistance covering at least 60 percent of beneficiaries' energy needs, humanitarian access remains a challenge in the inaccessible areas of Ménaka and in parts of Gao and Ansongo, where households also lack basic social services. In these areas in Ménaka, the continual arrival of displaced people is increasing the need for assistance. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the February to September 2023 food security outlook remain unchanged, except for the following:

    • Security situation and its impact on household livelihoods: Given the current upsurge in clashes between armed groups and with the armed forces in the center and north of the country, particularly in the Ménaka and Gao regions, an increase in the number of incidents is expected through September 2023. This escalated level of confrontation will have a greater impact on livelihoods than previously projected. Attacks on civilians are also expected to continue in the central and northern regions of Ségou and Koulikoro. The increase in the number of displaced people, the huge disruption to economic activities, and the challenges to humanitarian access in non-urban areas will reduce households’ ability to access typical food and income sources. The worst affected households are in the inaccessible areas of the Ménaka and Gao regions.

    Outlook up to September 2023

    In the agricultural areas in the south of the country, current Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity will continue through the end of September 2023 thanks to generally average harvests and near-average incomes. Seasonal activities during this period include the sale of agricultural produce (grains, off-season crops), livestock and fish, agricultural and non-agricultural labor activities and migration, among others. However, high headline inflation (6.1 percent in one year) and well above average staple grain prices are reducing the purchasing power of poor households, forcing them to resort to atypical coping strategies such as reducing non-food expenditures to meet their food needs. As a result, poor households in urban centers and areas with a higher dependence on market purchases due to an early depletion of stocks from below average grain production will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food Insecurity from April to September 2023.

    In the Liptako Gourma area, the continuing deterioration in livelihoods linked to recurrent insecurity is reducing household food access, particularly in the Ménaka region and in parts of the Gao and Mopti regions, where there has been an upsurge in armed attacks. The early depletion of stocks and limited access to typical food and income sources at a time when staple food prices are well above the five-year average will significantly reduce poor households’ ability to meet their food and non-food needs in these areas. Excessive livestock sales (for those who still have them), reduced spending on food and non-food items, and a reduction in the volume and quality of meals has resulted in an unusual deterioration in food consumption. As a result, food insecurity in the Bankass, Koro, Douentza, Bandiagara (Mopti), and Gourma Rharous (Timbuktu) cercles will deteriorate from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from June to September 2023. 

    In the inaccessible areas of the Ménaka region, which are home to between 20 and 30 percent of the area's total population, particularly in the communes of Andéramboucane and Inékar, the current Crisis level outcomes are likely to deteriorate to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) between June and September. These areas are facing a significant reduction or even cessation of income opportunities, rising grain prices, declining purchasing power, and inaccessibility to humanitarian assistance.

    Limited access to food during the lean season, especially in insecure areas, will lead to seasonal deterioration in the nutritional situation from April to September 2023. This will be exacerbated by reduced access to basic social services and by poor dietary and hygiene practices, as well as the high prevalence of diseases such as diarrhea and acute respiratory infections. In these inaccessible areas with very limited access to food, the March 2023 SMART survey showed a very high prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM): 19.7 percent in Ansongo cercle and 7.7 percent in Gao cercle. The prevalence is much higher in the IDP sites in Gao (15.1%) and Ménaka (26.9%), with cases of severe acute malnutrition at 4.2% and 8.2%, respectively. These figures confirm a very critical food situation, likely with high levels of mortality in these two regions.

    Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Mali Food Security Outlook Update, April 2023: Insecurity and high prices reduce poor households' access to food.

    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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