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Production shortfalls and lower incomes lead to Stressed food insecurity in the North in April

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mali
  • February 2015
Production shortfalls and lower incomes lead to Stressed food insecurity in the North in April

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2015
  • Key Messages
    • The 1,775,696 metric ton surplus in cereal production should help ensure fairly good market supplies across the country for the 2015 food consumption year. With cereal prices below-average and the availability of fresh crops, most households around the country will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between February and June.

    • The premature start of the lean season triggered by the depletion of food stocks and below-average incomes will create Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions for poor households in certain farming areas of the Timbuktu and Gao regions as of April. The security issues disrupting access to certain markets and potential resulting rise in prices will limit the market access of poor households.

    • The poor pasture availability in pastoral areas of the North will limit animal production in these areas, while posing a higher than usual risk of animal mortality between April and June. This will negatively affect the livelihoods of pastoral populations and heighten their vulnerability to food insecurity. Food security conditions in these areas of Timbuktu and Gao will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as of April.

    Current Situation
    • Ongoing market gardening activities are generating average to above-average levels of income for farm operators in crop-producing areas, improving their purchasing power and food consumption for the time being. Current off-season rice-farming activities in irrigation schemes along the river are creating employment opportunities for poor households in these areas. Farm input assistance from the government and from humanitarian organizations is helping to bump production up above the average, particularly in areas marked by production deficits.
    • The food balance sheet for Mali shows a 1,775,696 metric ton cereal surplus, which should help ensure fairly good market supplies across the country for the 2015 food consumption year. However, the security issues disrupting access to certain areas, particularly in the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions, could limit the flow of trade within these regions, where there were large localized crop production shortfalls of over 30 percent compared with the average.
    • The adequate food supplies on markets across the country from the October harvest have stabilized and, in some cases, brought down cereal prices since last month on crop markets in the South as well as in agropastoral areas of the Timbuktu and Gao regions. Food prices (prices for semolina and noodles) in the Kidal region, whose main source of supply is Algeria, are still within the average range or, in some cases, slightly above-average (by five percent), in line with the flow of truck traffic and price fluctuations on source markets. Prices for millet, the most widely consumed cereal crop, are under the five-year average by three percent in Sikasso and Kayes, 13 percent in Koulikoro, and 12 percent in Ségou. With the steady flow of supplies from southern farming areas to northern markets, millet prices are 15 percent below-average in Gao and 14 percent below-average in Bourem.
    • The limited, below-average, availability of pasture, particularly in the Timbuktu and northern Gao regions, has caused livestock to head to their usual dry season holding areas earlier than usual. The resulting large concentrations of animals in these areas could create overgrazing problems, affecting animal production and creating above-average animal mortality rates between April and June. There is reportedly a larger than usual supply of livestock on markets in pasture-short areas. The best strategy for pastoralists would be to take advantage of the currently good prices of livestock, which are still generally in fairly good shape, before their physical condition starts to deteriorate in March-April. In spite of the plentiful supplies of animals, livestock prices are still above the five-year average due to a fairly strong market demand. Prices for goats, the main animal sold by poor households, are above the five-year average by 30 percent in Gao, 18 percent in Timbuktu, and nine percent in Kidal. With the good prices commanded by livestock, terms of trade for goats/millet are more than 20 percent above-average, giving pastoral households with livestock capital fairly good market access.
    • The security situation in the North is still volatile, with clashes between rebel groups and pro-government militias creating new disturbances. This has sharply reduced the flow of vehicle traffic out of Gao, which could limit if not completely block the movement of people and goods. The economic slowdown is limiting employment prospects for laborers, particularly in the city of Kidal, reducing the incomes of poor households depending on these job opportunities.

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not affected the assumptions used by FEWS NET in establishing the most likely scenario for the period from January through June 2015.

    Projected Outlook through June 2015

    Households in farming areas in the southern part of the country will continue to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity, with a good availability of crops and below-average prices giving them fairly good market access. Normal income-generating activities (short-term seasonal labor migration, local employment, and small trades) will produce average amounts of income for poor households, sustaining their purchasing power on local markets. Average harvests of off-season market garden crops between February and March and average rice harvests in June will provide households with enough food and income to meet their needs.

    The premature depletion of the food stocks of very poor and poor households in riverine areas of Gao and Bourem, the Haoussa area of Niafunké, the lake area of Goundam, and the northern Kayes area as a result of the large shortfalls in cereal production in these areas will prolong their dependence on market purchase to meet their food needs more than usual. They will seek more outside employment, begin scaling back their nonfood spending sooner than usual, and ramp up their borrowing in order to meet their food needs. Thus, they will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions as of March, until the next round of harvests in October 2015. However, very poor households with large livelihood protection deficits could face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions between July and September.

    The earlier than usual start of the lean season for pastoral populations in the North will reduce income from the sale of livestock in poor physical condition as a result of the unusually degraded condition of pastures. Poor pastoral households with small livestock herds depleted by several consecutive years of crisis and without the means with which to maintain their few remaining head of stock will be forced to sell off more animals, creating severe livelihood protection deficits. Their below-average earnings from animal production as of April and the simultaneous seasonal rise in cereal prices will limit the market access of poor pastoral households. Thus, poor pastoral households experiencing Minimal food insecurity in February will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions as of April during this year’s harsher than usual lean season in pastoral areas of Gao and Timbuktu.

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    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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