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The lean season in agropastoral areas ends with the availability of green crops

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mali
  • September 2014
The lean season in agropastoral areas ends with the availability of green crops

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through December 2014
  • Key Messages
    • The increasing availability of green maize, fonio, and tuber crops signals the end of the lean season in farming areas across the country. The combined effects of distributions of food assistance by humanitarian organizations to approximately one million recipients, the usual availability of green crops, and good terms of trade for livestock/cereals are improving the food security situation of poor households in the North, the Western Sahel, and the Bandiagara region.

    • The continued rainfall into October as predicted in weather forecasts by the ACMAD in June of this year will support the outlook for average crop yields across the country. However, farmers in northern Kayes and in river valley areas of Gao and Timbuktu growing irrigated rice will face production shortfalls as a result of the poor temporal distribution of rainfall at the beginning of the season.

    • The steady improvement in food security drivers between now and the main harvest season in October should keep Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of acute food insecurity affecting households in the North and the Bandiagara region from escalating. In fact, these households will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity as of October.

    Current Situation

    Progress of the season

    The growing season is progressing fairly well across the country with the exception of localized areas of the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kayes regions, where the poor rainfall conditions at the beginning of the growing season have hindered crop growth and development, particularly that of irrigated rice and rainfed millet crops.

    The usual increasing availability of maize, tuber, cowpea, and peanut crops in southern crop-producing areas is providing households with own-production food stocks and average incomes. The protracted lean season in river valley areas of Timbuktu and Gao and the Bandiagara region with the slow progress of crop growth and development is winding down.

    The condition of pastures and watering holes in livestock-raising areas is improving. However, the availability of milk and dairy products for pastoralists is more limited than usual due to environment conditions preventing a full recovery by livestock and the abnormally high animal mortality rates in river valley areas of Gao and Timbuktu, in the Western Sahel, and on the Dogon Plateau in June/July. Though lower than usual, proceeds from the sale of milk and dairy products are helping poor households improve their food supplies and incomes compared with the last few months.

    Market and price trends

    After tightening in August in response to the discouraging progress of the growing season, market supplies are improving with the new-found sense of confidence in crop-producing areas of the country. The government-subsidized sales of 8,000 metric tons of provisions in food-insecure areas of the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kayes regions and ongoing monthly distributions of food assistance by the government and humanitarian organizations to approximately 900,000 plus recipients are helping households maintain good food stocks and serving as a buffer mechanism against rising prices in target areas. In general, prices for millet/sorghum and rice are stable compared with figures for last month (within +/- five percent). Market prices in all regional capitals are anywhere from two to 21 percent below-average, with the exception of millet prices in Ségou (+ three percent) and rice prices in Gao (+ six percent).

    The improved physical condition of and high demand for livestock, particularly for small animals, have driven the price of goats approximately nine percent above-average in Kidal and more than 25 percent above-average in Timbuktu and Gao. Business on livestock markets is increasingly brisk with the upcoming celebration of Tabaski in early October. Terms of trade for livestock/cereals are more than 30 percent above-average in pastoral areas, helping to provide average market access for agropastoral and pastoral households.

    Current food security situation in areas of concern in the North and Western Sahel

    Households in food-insecure areas of the North, the Bandiagara region, and the Western Sahel are still atypically resorting to borrowing, limiting their nonfood spending, and increasing their consumption of less expensive foods to ensure they have enough to eat. The food security situation of poor households in these areas is Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    The good terms of trade for livestock/cereals in pastoral areas are helping to maintain average food access for local households. Income from the brokering of livestock sales and the tending of livestock, gifts of milk from local community assistance networks, and the generally good availability of wild plant foods are improving household food access. As a result, poor households in pastoral areas are experiencing Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1).

    There are fairly good employment opportunities of on-farm and non-farm work for poor households in agropastoral areas hard hit by the low crop yields for the 2013-14 growing season, providing them with enough food and income to meet their needs. Harvests of green maize, fonio, and other pulses are improving food availability for poor households.

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not significantly affected the assumptions formulated by FEWS NET in July in establishing the most likely scenario for the period from July through December 2014.

    Projected Outlook through December 2014

    The expected average to below-average levels of cumulative rainfall between September and the end-of-season in October based on weather forecasts by the IRI (the International Research Institute for Climate and Society), combined with a high soil water content, should allow for steady crop growth and development. Thus, there is good cause to expect generally average to good crop yields for this growing season. Market supplies of food crops will improve as existing inventories are sold in October with harvests of fresh crops and to meet the financial needs of farmers for the celebration of Tabaski and the payment of tuition costs, driving down market prices for cereal crops to levels approaching the average.

    However, shortfalls in crop production engendered by the poor rainfall conditions marking the start-of-season in parts of the Gao and Timbuktu regions could undermine the food security of poor households as of March of next year by depleting household food stocks earlier than usual. Until then, the growing availability of green crops will end the lean season in farming areas, between now and the main October harvest. Thus, poor households, like the rest of the country, will experience Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) between October and December of this year.

    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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