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Insecurity and rising prices are limiting poor households’ access to food

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mali
  • December 2021
Insecurity and rising prices are limiting poor households’ access to food

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Access to own production thanks to the ongoing harvests — which are slightly down (by 4 percent) compared to the five-year average according to the report produced by the country's planning and statistics unit/rural development service (November 2021) — and income from usual activities should ensure that most poor households in the country are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity from December 2021 to May 2022.

    • The upsurge in security incidents in recent months has disrupted the movement of people and goods as well as off-season activities in the central part of the country and in the Office du Niger area, increasing the risk of food insecurity for poor households in these areas.

    • The overall average livestock conditions in the country are conducive to a peaceful pastoral lean season, except in the insecure areas in the north, where a pasture deficit and disruptions to movements due to the insecurity will cause feeding difficulties for livestock.

    • Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity in the Liptako-Gourma region, parts of the north, and urban centers in the country will continue until May 2022 due to the effects of insecurity on livelihoods, above-average food prices, and reduced agricultural production resulting from insecurity and drought.


    Security situation: The persistence of security incidents, particularly in the center of the country and in the northern part of the Ségou region, is disrupting the movement of people and goods. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), the number of insecurity-related fatalities was 3,684 from November 2020 to November 2021, compared with 5,871 from November 2019 to November 2020, which is a decrease of 37 percent. Negotiations between communities and armed groups are ongoing. Security incidents, in addition to maintaining the upward trend in the number of displaced persons, estimated at 401,736 at the end of September 2021, compared with 377,781 at the end of July 2021, are limiting humanitarian access in the affected areas. The disruption of economic activities resulting from livestock thefts, property destruction, and difficulties in accessing markets and farms in some parts of the Office du Niger and Dogon areas is increasing the risk of households becoming food insecure.

    COVID-19 situation: The increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the country since the last dekad (10-day period) of November remains a concern. As at December 27, 2021, the cumulative number of positive cases since the beginning of the crisis is 18,112, of which 15,345 have recovered and 619 have died. From March to October 2021, the Government of Mali received 475,200 doses of AstraZeneca, 319,200 doses of Johnson & Johnson, 835,200 doses of SINOVAC, and 40,000 doses of WHO Solidarity Trial vaccines. As at December 8, 2021, 4.1 percent of the country’s population had received a dose of vaccine, while 1.7 percent had full vaccination status. The district of Bamako and the regions of Koulikoro and Kayes remain the epicenter of the epidemic. The government is continuing to raise awareness of the need to comply with protective measures and to make vaccination available at health centers. Economic activities continue to suffer the aftermath of the crisis caused by the pandemic, with trade and tourism being the most affected sectors. According to the September 2021 National Food Security and Nutrition Survey (ENSAN), households in some areas in the western Sahel experienced income declines compared with September 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19 on migrant transfers and insecurity in Nara and Banamba. This has affected almost 30 percent of households in Yélimané, 50 percent in Diéma, 52 percent in Nara, and 25 percent in Banamba. The ongoing resurgence of COVID-19 in migrant host countries is having negative effects on economic activities, and will continue to negatively impact migrant remittances, mainly in the western Sahel.

    Agricultural production: Cereal harvests are generally average in the country, with pockets of average to significant declines in production (25 percent to more than 50 percent) compared to the average in the insecure areas in the center (Koro, Bankass, Bandiagara, and Douentza), the north (Rhaous, Ménaka, Ansongo, and Gao), and the western Sahel in the Kayes and Koulikoro regions. According to the provisional results for the growing season, overall cereal production is slightly down (by about 4 percent) compared with the five-year average and is down 7 percent compared with 2020–2021. The decline in agricultural production is linked to the poor spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall, crop pests, and insecurity, which has limited the area under cultivation in the Liptako-Gourma region and the Office du Niger area of Niono. Approximately 254,000 people were affected by average to significant decreases (of 25 to 50 percent or more) in agricultural land in the Ségou and Mopti regions in 2021, according to the World Food Programme study on satellite imagery analysis of agricultural land dynamics in hard-to-reach (insecure) areas in 2021. Koro, Bankass, and Tominian were most affected by this decline, with 18, 20 and 3 percent of their populations impacted, respectively. The establishment of off-season market gardening is continuing with generally average prospects, except in the Liptako-Gourma and Dogon plateau areas, where prospects will be poor due to low water reserves in dams, ponds, and reservoirs and limited access to plots of land. The same applies to flood recession crops at lakes in Tombouctou, Mopti, and the Kayes region, which will be limited due to the low level of water in ponds and lakes.

    Pastoral conditions: Pastures are generally average to above average, except in some areas of the western Sahel and northern regions where production deficits due to poor rainfall have been observed. The same is true for water conditions, which are favorable for an average pastoral lean season, particularly in livestock areas. The government’s ban on the export of cereals, cottonseed, and cottonseed meal on December 6 will further strengthen the availability of much-needed livestock feed during the lean season. However, the rapid degradation of pastures in some insecure areas, due to difficulties in moving livestock and the early migration of Mauritanian herds resulting in overgrazing, could lead to difficulties in feeding livestock in these areas and negatively affect animal production and pastoral income. The usual return of transhumant herds to permanent watering holes and crop residues is being observed. Overall, animal health is stable, and the livestock vaccination campaign is continuing with the support of certain humanitarian partners, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and FAO. The physical condition of animals is satisfactory, as is milk production, which is average, favoring consumption by pastoral households and average income from the sale of milk and its derivatives (butter and cheese).

    Markets and prices: The seasonal increase in the supply of cereals and legumes is being observed at various markets thanks to the availability of new harvests, but at a lower level than normal. This is due to the withholding of stocks by producers in major production areas and disruptions in certain production markets, such as those in Bankass and Koro. Although supply remains adequate overall across the country, it is below average due to the reported drop in production in some areas, low levels of destocking, and disruptions to the movement of people and their goods in insecure areas. With regard to demand, stocks held by traders for institutional and private purchases (mainly in the western Sahel) are being replenished, but at a slower pace due to high prices and the ban on cereal exports.

    Seasonal price declines have been small and cereal prices are stable or rising from their lean season levels. Compared with the five-year average, the price of the main staple cereal at the markets of the regional capitals is up by 8 percent in Kayes (sorghum), 7 percent in Koulikoro (millet), 64 percent in Sikasso (maize), 35 percent in Ségou (millet), 33 percent in Mopti (millet), 8 percent in Gao (millet), 23 percent in Ménaka (millet), and is down by 6 percent in Tombouctou (millet). These price levels are reducing the access of poor households to food in low-production areas that depend on the market for their consumption. To limit the surge in staple cereal prices (millet, sorghum, rice, and maize) and promote adequate access for households, the government has granted subsidies (50 percent tax reduction) on the import of 300,000 tons of rice, 60,000 tons of sugar, and 30,000 tons of edible oil. Exports of local cereals are also being suspended from December 2021. Livestock markets are generally functioning normally, except in insecure areas, where disruptions persist. Prices for small and large ruminants are average to above the five-year average, thanks to a satisfactory increase in their physical condition. Compared with the five-year average, the terms of trade for goats and millet are up 52 percent in Tombouctou, 33 percent in Ménaka, 21 percent in Rharous, 6 percent in Nara, and 5 percent in Gao, and are down 11 percent in Mopti. However, this improvement in terms of trade does not benefit poor households in insecure areas who have limited or no livestock capital due to excessive sales. To have access to food and income, these households are reliant on more intense labor, migrant remittances, and the sale of firewood.

    Nutritional situation: The prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) is 10.0 percent, the alert threshold according to the WHO standards-based, machine-readable, adaptive, requirements-based, and testable (SMART) standards of October 2021, compared with 7.2 percent in December 2020. The nutritional situation is also very worrying among displaced persons living in camps, with a very high prevalence of GAM exceeding the critical threshold of 15.0 percent in three of the five camps surveyed (24.5 percent in Ségou, 22.3 percent in Tombouctou, and 18.5 percent in Bamako). This rate should improve thanks to the availability of harvests and animal products, which can be seen in the seasonal reduction in the number of admissions observed in health centers.


    The current situation has not fundamentally affected the assumptions used to develop the FEWS NET most likely scenario for October 2021 to May 2022. Nevertheless, given the fragile security and political context, the following assumptions have been made:

    • Security incidents will persist in the central part of the country, including in Niono and the northern regions, with disruptions to agricultural activities, particularly the start of off-season crops, and to economic activities, the movement of people, and the continued theft/looting of livestock. Attacks by armed groups in the western regions of Kayes and Koulikoro will also intensify, where growing insecurity is currently being observed. The Sikasso region could also see a deterioration in its security situation.
    • The political situation will remain tense between the transitional authorities and a large proportion of the political class as well as the international community through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), with regard to strict compliance with the transition deadline set for February 2022 in accordance with the Transition Charter. In addition to the individual sanctions already imposed on the government and the transitional legislative body, ECOWAS reserves the right to impose additional sanctions (economic and financial) no later than January 1, 2022 in the absence of any tangible progress on the preparation of elections. This will further reduce trade, with an impact on household incomes and local and imported food prices at a much higher than average level, thus reducing the ability of households, especially poor households, to access food.


    The overall average availability of crops, in-kind and cash income from harvesting, terms of trade for livestock and cereals that are favorable to livestock farmers, and income from regular agricultural and non-agricultural activities are all conducive to average household access to food. As a result, most households in the country will find themselves in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity from December 2021 through May 2022. However, early stock depletion due to an average to significant decline in production will create early market dependency among the populations of Kayes, Nioro, and Yélimané and in places along the Mopti River in Gao. This will put additional pressure on already above-average prices. These households with relatively average – albeit low – access to food during this harvest period thanks to local solidarity will experience an above-average deterioration in their food consumption and nutritional situation from March onward. Poor households that cannot meet their food needs without atypical migration, borrowing, labor (for house building and agricultural labor in the main off-season areas), and reducing their non-essential expenditure will therefore be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from December 2021 to May 2022. Poor households in urban centers will also face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity over the same period due to their low income levels resulting from the effects of COVID-19 and high prices for basic food items.

    In insecure areas in the Liptako-Gourma region, poor households with declining incomes (especially those in Bankass, Koro, Bandiagara, Douentza, and Ménaka) will experience a marked deterioration in their livelihoods. This will limit their ability to adequately meet their food and non-food needs. These households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to their own low harvests, in-kind payments for harvesting, local solidarity, and support from the government and humanitarian agencies. By April, they will experience an above-average deterioration in their food consumption levels. The early deterioration in food consumption due to difficulties in accessing food (especially as prices are expected to be above average) and livelihood protection deficits will keep poor households in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity until April, when they will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    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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