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Household livelihoods are negatively affected by insecurity and COVID-19

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mali
  • August 2020
Household livelihoods are negatively affected by insecurity and COVID-19

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through January 2021
  • Key Messages
    • The relative decline in positive COVID-19 cases has made it possible to reopen the country’s borders to freight traffic and for people. The expected improvement in the movement of people and goods, despite its positive impact on the country’s economy, raises the risk of positive cases being imported, especially if there is a resurgence of cases elsewhere in the world.

    • Market supplies continue to be sufficient throughout the country despite the disruption of flows due to ongoing insecurity in the central and northern parts of the country. With cereal prices at or below the five-year average, as well as improved terms of trade for goats and cereals, household access to food is normal.

    • The agropastoral growing season is progressing well in the country. The area planted with cereals is 5 per cent lower than in July 2019, with a sharp decline in cotton of about 80 per cent, replaced by cereals. The expected 19 per cent above-average increase in cereal production (Rural Development Sector Planning and Statistics Unit) will help to ensure a normal level of food availability in the country.

    • The current Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity situation in the Liptako-Gourma region and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in the western Sahel and parts of the north of the country and urban centers will continue until September 2020. The availability of the domestic harvest in October, falling cereal prices and improved terms of trade will favor normal access to food for the majority of households. As a result, most households will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity from October.

    Current Situation


    Security situation

    The persistence of volatile insecurity, marked by security incidents in the central and northern regions of the country, continues to disrupt socioeconomic activity in the areas concerned. There has been a significant increase in security incidents since the beginning of the year, with 87 incidents recorded in January 2020 compared to 234 incidents leading to 390 deaths at the end of July 2020 (Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, ACLED). Damage to livelihoods through livestock theft, destruction of property, the inability of households to access their fields and market disruptions is having a negative impact on households’ ability to meet their food and non-food needs. Difficulties in accessing basic social services, the unusually high displacement of populations, estimated at the end of June to amount to 268,831 people, and the challenges of humanitarian access have heightened the vulnerability of poor households in these areas, particularly Liptako-Gourma and parts of the Gao and Tombouctou regions.

    COVID-19 situation

    There is a downward trend in the number of active COVID-19 cases. At the end of July, the number of active cases under treatment was 474, compared with 583 at the end of June 2020. This trend does not account for weaknesses in screening, which focuses on symptomatic individuals and suspected cases in health centers. As of 25 August, the cumulative number of positive cases since the outbreak of the crisis was 2,713, including 2,041 recoveries and 125 deaths. Bamako District, with 1,240 cases, and the Tombouctou and Mopti regions, with 569 and 247 cases respectively, account for the largest number of cases. In view of the observed downward trend, air and land borders have been opened. Despite the health regulations imposed at border posts, the risk of importing positive cases should not be ruled out.

    Despite the revival of the economy through the easing of border controls, activity remains below normal levels, especially in the informal sector, which employs a large number of urban workers who continue to be heavily affected by reduced demand and fewer jobs. As a result, household incomes from these activities are below average. The same is true for remittances, which remain below 30 per cent of the norm for more than half of the households receiving them (mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping project (mVAM), July 2020). A relatively higher rate of return to work was observed in July compared to May, with 11 per cent of workers out of work due to coronavirus compared to 12.7 per cent in May. This was particularly evident in Bamako and the regional capitals, where the rates were respectively 12.1 per cent compared to 16.1 per cent in May, and 9.7 per cent compared to 15.8 per cent in May (World Bank, July 2020). Although the direct impact of COVID-19 on the current growing season remains weak, it still limits the ability of some households to make use of labor and agricultural supplies as usual due to declining incomes, especially in migrant transit areas that rely heavily on these factors.

    Seasonal progress

    The progress of the growing season is average to good in the country due to normal to excess rains at the end of the second dekad of August. Planting is almost complete for dry crops, with rice to follow. By the end of July, planted areas were about 5 per cent lower than in July 2019 for cereals and about 80 per cent lower (170,909 ha compared with 777,249 ha in July 2019) for cotton because of the boycott by farmers arising from the lower proposed purchase price (National Directorate of Agriculture). Despite the conversion of areas of cotton into cereals or legumes, which favors an increase in production of the latter, it is expected that cotton producers’ income will fall compared to a normal year. In the cercles of Koro, Bankass and Bandiagara, population displacement and lack of access to fields due to insecurity have reduced the area of land under cultivation compared with an average year. Current agricultural operations (weeding, application of fertilizers) are providing average income and food opportunities for poor households.

    The replenishment of watering holes and new pasture growth are progressing throughout the country. Biomass production is normal to surplus overall, although there are slight shortfalls in parts of the Gao and Ménaka regions. This has ensured significant improvements in animals’ access to food. The resumption of milk production, considered to be good to average, is improving consumption for pastoral households, as well as their income from the sale of milk and dairy products (butter, cheese). The animal health situation is stable and the vaccination campaign against major diseases is ongoing.

    Market and prices

    Markets are functioning normally despite the security and health crises, although insecurity-related disruptions to flows in the central and northern parts of the country continue to be reported. Market supplies remain sufficient overall for local foodstuffs (cereals, vegetables) and imported products thanks to the easing of restrictive measures linked to COVID-19. The seasonal rise in cereal prices continues on the various markets, with a smaller range than in other years due to the good availability of cereals. At the end of July, the prices of the main cereals in the regional capitals were generally stable compared to the previous month. Compared to the five-year average, these prices are: rising by 12 per cent in Kayes (sorghum); stable in Ségou (down 2 per cent for millet), Gao (up 1 per cent for millet) and Ménaka (up 5 per cent for millet); and falling by 9 per cent in Koulikoro (millet), 17 per cent in Sikasso (maize), 9 per cent in Mopti (millet) and 17 per cent in Tombouctou (millet). These price levels are supporting average household access to food. Livestock markets are generally operating normally, with the exception of insecure areas where disturbances persist. Supply levels are normal overall. Prices are average to above the five-year average. The terms of trade for goats and millet are similar to the five-year average in Gao, while presenting a rise of 7 per cent in Rharous, 10 per cent in Bourem and more than 30 per cent in Ménaka and Timbuktu. This favors access to markets for livestock farmer households.


    Heavy rains in July and August caused minor to significant damage to equipment, habitats, grain stores, crops and livestock throughout the country, particularly in Bamako District, and in the regions of Kayes, Sikasso, Mopti and Kidal. The resulting deterioration in livelihoods is adversely affecting the ability of households (an estimated 10,000 people – United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, July) to adequately meet their food needs during this lean season.

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not substantially affected the assumptions used to develop the FEWS NET most likely scenario for the June 2020 to January 2021 period. However, this could change as the current sociopolitical situation in Mali develops. In this context, the following assumption was made.

    Sociopolitical developments: The sociopolitical unrest in the country has led the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and some allied countries to take binding measures to restore the normal constitutional order. The resulting financial restrictions and population movements will negatively affect society and the economy in the country. The increased cost of living and the economic slowdown will reduce the authorities’ ability to meet their social (food aid, health, welfare) and financial commitments (investment), and households’ ability to meet their food and non-food needs, increasing their vulnerability. However, ongoing negotiations with the new authorities, who have taken into account the scope of those measures, will limit their negative impact on the population.

    Projected Outlook Through January 2021

    Poor agropastoral households in the south of the country are experiencing a normal lean season, due to average incomes from the usual sources and to green harvests of maize and groundnut in places, as well as off-season rice. These are providing normal access to food at prices similar to or lower than the five-year average. As a result, food insecurity will continue to be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) until the end of September 2020.

    In Liptako-Gourma, and in places in the north of the country and the western Sahel, poor households are resorting to atypical coping strategies and depending on humanitarian assistance to meet their food and non-food needs. The Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situation for people in Liptako-Gourma, and for displaced people in particular, and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to continue until September 2020.

    From September onwards, the average availability of green harvests, wild products, milk and humanitarian assistance will improve households’ access to food and limit the use of negative coping strategies before the main harvests expected in October. Access to their own production and income-in-kind produce, as well as improved terms of trade for livestock/cereals, will enable the majority of households to return to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity until January 2021, with the exception of poor households in the community conflict areas of Liptako-Gourma (Koro, Bankass and Ménaka), displaced people and flood victims, who will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    Figures Prices of main cereals on the markets of the regional capitals at the end of July 2020 (XOF/kg): close to or less than averag

    Figure 1

    Figure 1.

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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