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Deterioration in household livelihoods due to insecurity and COVID-19

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mali
  • August 2021
Deterioration in household livelihoods due to insecurity and COVID-19

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The agropastoral growing season is progressing and average overall, with the area cultivated under 3 percent compared to last year and a recommencement of cotton farming following last year’s boycott. Continued rice cultivation and ongoing farming activities provide moderate food and income opportunities for poor households.

    • Despite market flow disruptions of food due to insecurity in the northern and central regions, foodstuff supplies to markets remain sufficient throughout the rest of the country. While cereal prices are similar to or slightly above the five-year average, terms of trade for goat-to-cereals are rising and supporting typical household access to food; the exception is in some remote markets in the Gao and Tombouctou regions.

    • Ongoing humanitarian food and cash assistance provided by the government and humanitarian partners will continue through September for approximately 1.4 million food-insecure people. This assistance reduces household difficulties in accessing food and the use of negative coping strategies among beneficiaries.

    • In the Liptako-Gourma region, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity will continue until September 2021, while Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity is expected to continue in urban centers and parts of the north.

    • Average access to food among most households is expected with the availability of harvests in October, lower cereal prices, and improved terms of trade for livestock and cereals. As a result, most households will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity from October 2021 to January 2022.


    Security situation

    In Niono, Nara, and Asongo, attacks on civilians were observed as insecurity resurged in August. In affected areas, disruptions to socioeconomic activities limit recovery and the implementation of humanitarian assistance. In general, the trend in security incidents has increased slightly since the beginning of the year, with 592 incidents recorded from January to July 2021, resulting in 1,061 deaths, compared to 628 incidents and 1,956 deaths at the end of July 2020 (Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)). Looting of property, inaccessibility of households to their fields, and market disruptions continue to reduce households’ ability to meet their food and non-food needs. At the end of June, the number of people displaced by insecurity and intercommunity conflict was estimated at 372,266 (Commission on Population Movements (CMP), June 2021). Difficulties in accessing basic social services and fields, loss of livestock, reduced employment opportunities, and challenges in accessing humanitarian assistance increase the vulnerability of poor households, particularly in the Liptako-Gourma area.

    Seasonal progress

    The growing season is considered average across the country because of average to above-average rainfall recorded. At the end of July, the area sown with cereals was slightly lower than in 2020, with a 3 percent decrease. The decline is more marked for rice (-34 percent), for which planting continues because of insufficient rainfall. According to the National Directorate of Agriculture, for cotton, the agreement between the Malian Textile Development Company (CMDT) and farmers has made it possible to reach 789,527 ha of the planted area, compared with 170,909 ha in 2020 (the year of the boycott) and 777,249 ha in 2019. In addition, ongoing crop cultivation provides moderate income and food opportunities for poor households; However, insecurity-related disruptions in Koro, Bankass, Bandiagara, northern Niono, and Nara limit households’ access to their fields. Ongoing flooding in the agricultural areas in southern Mali is causing crop losses and disrupting agricultural operations,  reducing agricultural employment opportunities. 

    The replenishment of watering holes and new pasture growth is actively underway across the country. Plant biomass production is normal to above-normal compared with the country’s 10-year average for 2009–2018. However, there are pockets of slight deficit in the Kayes, Sikasso, Mopti, and Tombouctou regions.

    The return of herds to winter pastures continues. The resumption of milk production, generally considered to be average, is improving consumption for pastoral households and their income from the sale of milk and dairy products (butter and cheese). Animal health is stable, and the vaccination campaign against major diseases is ongoing with support from certain partners.

    Markets and prices

    Markets continue to operate normally, but there were disruptions in Niono and the Liptako-Gourma area due to increased insecurity. Broadly, market supplies of food remain adequate. Cereal prices are stable or slightly up from last month. Compared to the five-year average, the price of the main cereal in the regional capitals is similar in Koulikoro (-3 percent), Kidal (+2 percent), and Ségou (+2 percent), down in Mopti (-10 percent), and Tombouctou (-7 percent), and up in Sikasso (+28 percent), Ménaka (+21 percent), Gao (+8 percent), and Kayes (+6 percent). These price are favorable for average household access to food, except in Sikasso, Ménaka, and Gao, where rising prices limit market access for poorer households. In addition, the overall increase of 10 to 20 percent for basic food (oil, milk, sugar, etc.) and even more than 20 percent for meat and eggs is limiting poorer households’ access to these foods. The government has taken measures to exempt households from taxes and subsidies to improve their access to these basic necessities through price stabilizations and decreases. 

    In July, a general increase in livestock prices was observed due to preparations for Eid al-Adha celebrations and high demand from neighboring countries. This price trend is continuing due to improved livestock conditions. As a result, the price of goats is higher than the five-year average in Rharous (+23 percent), Nara (+27 percent), Tombouctou (+30 percent), Mopti (+38 percent), Bourem (+41 percent), and Ménaka (+62 percent) and similar in Gao. Compared to the five-year average, the terms of trade for goats and millet are down by 8 percent in Gao and up by 34 percent in Rharous and Ménaka, 39 percent in Nara and Tombouctou, and 54 percent in Mopti, which is favorable to improved market access for pastoral households.


    Beginning in the third dekad (10-day period) of July, heavy rains resulted in light to serious damage to equipment, homes, granaries, and crops in fields across the country, particularly in the district of Bamako and the regions of Kayes, Sikasso, and Ménaka. According to the General Directorate for Civil Protection (DGPC), floods affect household livelihoods and their ability to meet food and non-food needs during the lean season.  The DGPC estimates that 15,530 people have been affected by the floods during August. 

    Impact of COVID-19

    With the easing of protective measures and the opening of trade flows, the resumption of economic activities has benefited some businesses including restaurants, hotels, handicrafts, and industrial units, which were severely affected. However, despite this recovery, activities remain lower than normal, particularly in the informal sector, which many urban workers who remain severely affected by reduced demand and employment. In terms of monetary transfers from migrants, the recovery of economic activities in the host areas has helped improve remittances, but at a level that is still below the average of 10-30 percent or greater for more than a third of the households (36.9 percent) that receive them (Mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM), June 2021). In addition, the reduction in income due to the pandemic has impacted the growing season in terms of reducing some households’ ability to access agricultural inputs and labor.

    Humanitarian assistance

    Humanitarian assistance in the form of food and cash from the government and humanitarian partners is continuing for almost 1.4 million people, primarily in the insecure areas of Liptako-Gourma and elsewhere in the country. Monthly assistance, mainly in cash, will continue until September and ease beneficiary households’ difficulties in accessing food during the lean season, which has been earlier and harder than typical.


    The current situation has not fundamentally affected the assumptions used to develop the FEWS NET most likely scenario for June 2021 to January 2022. However, it could be subject to change as the security and socio-political situation in Mali evolves. Within this context, the following assumptions have been developed.

    • Socio-political developments: Political uncertainty remains high after the prime minister announced on July 8 that the Malian government would form a new election management commission before the general elections scheduled for February 2022, a decision the opposition fears will be used as a pretext to prolong the political transition. As a result, the political situation in Mali is expected to remain tense through early 2022, with demonstrations and protests becoming more frequent as the elections approach, particularly in December 2021 and January 2022. 
    • Security situation: Attacks on civilians and national and international security forces by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) continue to be concentrated in the Gao and Mopti regions. Attacks through October are expected to decrease as heavy rains and flooding make moving more difficult. Nonetheless, from November 2021 to January 2022, attacks are expected to resume, reaching the same high levels of conflict during the previous year due to the announced withdrawal of French forces in the first quarter of 2022. However, intercommunity violence in the central part of the country has decreased following a series of peace agreements negotiated in 2020 and early 2021. This trend is expected to continue and be below the level of previous years. 


    With average food availability, a normal lean season is underway. Most agropastoral households can access food; cereal prices are similar to or slightly above average; terms of trade are better than average; incomes from farming and non-farming labor and activities (small-scare trade, migrant remittances, and the sale of livestock) are near average, supporting Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity conditions through September 2021.

    In Liptako-Gourma, areas north of Ségou, and other parts of the north, the combined effects of insecurity and COVID-19 on economic activities limit poor households’ access to food. As a result, households are adopting atypical coping strategies, such as reducing expenditures on food and non-food items, borrowing cash and in-kind, selling goods, and relying on humanitarian assistance to meet their food and non-food needs. As a result, households are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the lean season. These outcomes will continue until September 2021, particularly for displaced people in inaccessible areas.

    From September, the availability of green harvests, wild products, milk, and humanitarian assistance will be average, improving households’ access to food and limiting negative coping strategies before the main harvest in October. In addition, access to their own production, cereals from in-kind payments, and improved terms of trade for livestock and cereals will allow most households to be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) until January 2022. The exceptions will be poor households in the conflict zones of Liptako-Gourma (Koro, Bankass, Ménaka, and north of Niono and Nara), displaced persons, and areas affected by floods, which will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes or worse.

    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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