Skip to main content

The new flare-up in security incidents hampers humanitarian assistance efforts in northern Mali

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mali
  • May 2015
The new flare-up in security incidents hampers humanitarian assistance efforts in northern Mali

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Current situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2015
  • Key Messages
    • The growing security problems in the Timbuktu and Gao regions, including killings and acts of pillaging, are disrupting the movement of people and goods. This is negatively affecting income-generating activities and is causing households who were already struggling to recover from the three-year-long security crisis to lose additional assets.

    • Declining livestock prices and the resulting sharper than usual deterioration in livestock-to-cereal terms of trade are limiting market access for poor households in northern pastoral areas. As a result, these households are resorting to atypical coping strategies, food intake reductions and, in some cases, the depletion of savings in order to meet their food needs. 

    • In riverine areas of Gao and Bourem, lake areas of Goundam, the Hausa area of Niafunké, and northern Youwarou, the current Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of food insecurity, resulting from crop production shortfalls in 2014 and below-average incomes from farming and/or livestock-raising activities, will reach Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels during the peak of the lean season (July to the beginning of September 2015). 

    Current situation

    Growing season for off-season crops

    In Ségou, Gao, and Koulikoro, the growing season for off-season rice in village-level irrigation schemes continues. The expected average harvests in June-July will improve food availability for households and local markets in these areas. Ongoing field clean-up work and fertilizer transportation services for the upcoming growing season in agricultural areas are providing average incomes for poor households engaged in these activities.

    Seasonal forecasts

    During the past month, there were reports of isolated rainfall events in several areas of the country. Looking forward, the rainfall forecasts of various meteorological agencies (NOAA/CPC, IRI, ECMWF, UK MET, and the PRESAO Forum) for the upcoming season (June to September) are conflicting, ruling out a high level of confidence in predictions of future rainfall trends compared to average. However, most meteorological agencies, including NOAA/CPC, IRI, and ECMWF, are forecasting an increased probability of below-average cumulative rainfall in southern and western areas of the country and near-average rainfall elsewhere.

    Security problems

    The increasingly frequent number of attacks on civilian populations and the resulting losses of assets and human lives in northern areas of the country are becoming a source of concern. These continuing attacks are hampering the movement of people and goods and are triggering population displacements, particularly for the « Hausa » populations in Gourma Rharous department and the lake areas of Goundam in the Timbuktu region. According to the Social Development Service, as of May 24, 2015, approximately 31,547 residents of Gourma Rharous and Goundam departments had fled to safer areas. Deliveries of humanitarian food assistance to poor households could be confined to more secure areas, if not suspended altogether, due to the increasing civil insecurity. If this were to occur, food insecurity could worsen in affected areas.

    Market supplies and cereal prices

    In general, cereal availability is average. However, trade flows to northern areas have slowed as a result of the growing numbers of security incidents in that part of the country. Military escorts are being organized twice a week to help get supplies to major source markets in the Gao and Timbuktu regions. There is reportedly a seasonal decline in cereal supplies on markets in other parts of the country, particularly in crop-producing areas, driven by low cereal prices that are seen as unprofitable by farmers. At the same time, demand is seasonally growing in high-consumption areas, particularly in northern areas of the country and the Western Sahel.

    Cereal prices on markets throughout the country are increasing as usual for this time of the year, with the largest increases seen on markets located in production areas. Meanwhile, at retail markets in consumption areas that are provisioned by traders with large inventories, prices are either stable or up slightly. For example, a comparison with prices from last month shows millet prices are holding steady in Gao, Timbuktu, and Nara but up by approximately seven percent in Koulikoro and Ségou, 11 percent in Diéma, and eight percent in San. Compared to average, millet prices are lower in all regional capitals with the exception of Mopti and Kayes, where they are very close to average. However, an examination of prices in FEWS NET’s areas of concern shows millet prices in Bourem are stable while prices in Rharous, Goundam, and Niafunké are up by 13 percent, 29 percent, and six percent, respectively. These price increases are curtailing market access for local poor households, particularly in view of their below-average incomes. In addition, continued trade flow disruptions due to security incidents could contribute to the rise in market prices in affected areas between now and the upcoming October harvest.

    Pastoral conditions

    Pastoral conditions in the southern part of the country are average. However, in Kayes and Koulikoro in the Western Sahel, as well as the Timbuktu and Gao regions, pastoral conditions are poor and are creating physiological problems for livestock in these areas. The deterioration in livestock body conditions and the decline in animal production are reducing the incomes of agropastoral and pastoral households to below-average levels. So far, there have been no reports of unusual livestock mortality, but this could change quickly should the rainy season fail to get off to a timely start in June. In addition, unusual herd movements and large concentrations of livestock have been observed in holding areas, causing pastures to be severely degraded. The high price of straw, which is more than 25 percent above-average in Nioro and approximately 50 percent above-average in Bourem, is also making it difficult for poor pastoral households to maintain their animal herds.

    Business on livestock markets is increasingly brisk, fueled by needs by pastoral households to generate income to purchase food and by herd destocking strategies necessitated by the poor pastoral conditions. In general, prices are stable or down slightly from last month. In addition, livestock prices are below-average by 15 percent in Bourem, six percent in Gao, 13 percent in Gourma Rharous, 10 percent in Goundam, and 15 percent in Niafunké. The deterioration in goat-to-millet terms of trade by 23 percent in Rharous, 30 percent in Goundam, and 25 percent in Niafunké compared to average is also limiting food access for pastoral households. 

    Updated Assumptions

    Projected Outlook through September 2015
    • Seasonally normal income-generating activities and food sources with the start-up of farming activities should maintain food insecurity in southern agropastoral areas at Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels.
    • In pastoral areas of the Timbuktu and Gao regions, the delivery of humanitarian assistance is preventing food insecurity, currently at Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) levels, from deteriorating further. Beginning in June-July, the recovery of pastures and the replenishment of animal watering holes will improve milk production and the physical recovery of livestock. This, in turn, will help improve incomes and the food security situation of pastoral households. Consequently, households in these areas will continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity but will no longer be at risk of  declining into worse outcomes in the absence of humanitarian assistance.  
    • Very poor and poor households in riverine areas of Gao and Bourem, lake areas of Goundam, the Hausa area of Niafunké, and northern Youwarou experienced an earlier than usual start to the lean season. Currently, these households are cutting their food intake and resorting to atypical coping strategies, such as consuming less expensive foods and ramping up their wage labor to atypically high levels. As a result, these households are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. However, during the peak of the lean season (July to August), poor households in these areas will no longer be able to meet their food and nonfood needs, causing their outcomes to deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels. In September, the availability of lean season foods (pulses, earthpeas, fresh maize, wild fonio, etc.) will lessen the severity of the lean season for agropastoral households, bringing food insecurity back down to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels.
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 7


    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.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top