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Above-average cereal production supports food availability across the country

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mali
  • February - September 2016
Above-average cereal production supports food availability across the country

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • Poor households in the lake area of Goundam are facing a drop in cereal production to approximately 40 percent below the five-year average, a poor harvest outlook for off-season crops in June, and a reduction in income-earning opportunities due to insecurity. As a result, they will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food security between February and September.

    • Atypical livestock deaths and high livestock sales over the past two years has reduced the livestock assets of many poor pastoral households in the Gourma area of Timbuktu and Gao in the Northern Livestock livelihood zone, reducing income and purchasing capacity. Poor pastoral households will engage in coping strategies including migration and cutbacks in nonfood spending and will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through at least September.

    • Approximately 500,000 poor, previously displaced people, and an estimated 15,000 people impacted by floods between July and September will need to rebuild their livelihoods and will not be able to meet both their food and nonfood needs. They are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September.

    • National cereal production was more than 25 percent above-average, providing markets across the country with adequate supplies and households with adequate stocks. Cereal prices are expected to reamin near average and favorable livestock-to-cereal terms of trade are supporting household food access. Most of the country will maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between now and September.

    National Overview

    Current situation

    Food availability

    There is average to above-average food availability throughout Mali as a result of favorable 2015/2016 crop production, which was 25 percent above the five-year average and created a surplus of 1,635,000 metric tons. Farming activities for off-season cereal and vegetable crops are in progress in usual areas. It is expected production will be average, particularly for vegetable crops, whose harvest is already underway. The harvests are improving household food consumption and average to above-average crop sales are increasing the income and purchasing power of farming households. Typical levels of agricultural labor opportunities in growing off-season crops, both in the harvest and planting of off-season rice crops in irrigation schemes, are providing poor households with income and food through in-kind payments.

    Pastoral conditions

    Pastoral conditions are in general favorable and the average to above-average availability of pasture in key livestock-raising areas is supporting average livestock body conditions and average levels of milk production. Transhumant livestock herds have begun their regular southern migration to farming areas in the river valley and around permanent water sources to graze on crop residues. These herd movements are proceeding normally.

    As usual, the return of transhumant herds and regular need of pastoralists to stock up on provisions are creating larger supplies of animals on major livestock markets. Despite this, prices for livestock are still above the five-year average, driven by strong market demand. The January 2016 price for goats, the animal most often sold by poor households, was 34 percent above the five-year average in Timbuktu and four percent above the five-year average in Rharous.

    Market supplies and trade

    There are adequate market supplies of cereals in all parts of the country. As is typical in during the post-harvest period, there is an increasing supply of cereal crops, mostly from local production. Trade flows to Kidal market, which normally receives supplies from Algeria, are occurring at typical rates, although with isolated disruptions interfering with the movement of traders.  

    Food Access

    Prices for major staple foods in regional capitals are decreasing slightly, in line with seasonal trends. By late January 2016, prices for millet, the most widely consumed cereal, were four, seven, 10, and 12 percent below the five-year average by in Sikasso, Ségou, Koulikoro, and Ségou, respectively. Millet prices in northern regions, which are receiving regular supplies from southern farming areas, decreased by four percent in Gao and 10 percent in Bourem. These price levels, together with the availability of household food stocks and and wild foods (fonio and cram-cram grass), are supporting improved households food access. The exception to this is poor households in certain northern areas, flood-stricken households, and returnees with reduced incomes.

    Favorable livestock prices have improved goat-to-millet terms of trade by more than 30 percent in Gao and 19 percent in Ansongo, giving poor pastoral households with livestock average market access (Figure 1).

    Additional key factors

    Northern regions of the country are still experiencing conflict-related incidents, which continue to negatively affect the socioeconomic recovery in these areas. Travel disruptions and the necessary caution are limiting employment opportunities for poor households, whose incomes remain below average. Limited access to certain villages is interfering with the successful delivery of humanitarian assistance to poor, at-risk households, which is heightening their vulnerability, limiting the rebuilding of livelihoods, and eroding coping strategies.

    Current Food Security

    The majority of agropastoral and pastoral households across the country have average food access from average supplies of household crops and wild foods and near-average cereal prices. Favorable livestock-to-cereal terms of trade are further supporting market access for pastoral households, allowing them to meet their food needs. Most households are currently experiencing None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.

    However, an estimated 15,000 persons in households stricken by floods between July and September 2015 are suffering crop and asset losses and are having difficulty both meeting their basic food needs and rebuilding livelihood assets. They are currently facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Poor households affected by the significant below-average crop production in 2015 in the Lake Faguibine and Lake Télé areas of Goundam, and households in pastoral area of Gourma whose animal herds have been decimated by high mortality rates, are resorting to atypical coping strategies involving migration and more intensive wage labor in order to meet their food needs. They are also currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    There is a steady flow of IDPs and refugees returning to their homes in Mali. According to the DTM (the Displacement Tracking Matrix), as of the end of January 2016, there were 494,121 returnees, of which 453,059 were internally displaced and and 41,062 were displaced in neighboring countries.  These households, who are finding it difficult to reintegrate into the local economy and rebuild their livelihoods, are struggling to meet their food and nonfood needs and, thus, are Stressed (IPC Phase 2).


    The February to September most likely food security scenario is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    Farming activities
    • Rainfall: According to the latest agro-climatic forecasts by NOAA and ECMWF, the rainy season will start on time in June in the Sudanian and Sahelian zones. Rainfall is forecast to be average to above-average in total cumulative amount for the season and average crop growth and development is expected as a result (Figures 2 and 3).
    • Crop production for 2016/2017: The extended government subsidy program for farm inputs, distributions of equipment, and ongoing hydro-agricultural development projects will allow for the planting of larger areas for the 2016/2017 growing season. The expected average levels of rainfall, together with the above-mentioned factors, are likely to result in average to above-average crop production.
    Additional sources of food and income
    • Animal production: In general, current pastoral conditions are average and supporting typical levels of animal production, except in the Gourma area of Gao and Timbuktu which was affected by abnormally high livestock mortality rates in 2015. Milk production will seasonally decline between March and June, increase in July, and peak in August/September when pasture conditions regenerate.

    • Herd movements: Livestock herds have begun their regular southern migration to year-round watering holes and crop-growing areas to graze on crop residues. These herd movements are expected to proceed normally and will be followed by the usual pattern of return migration to rainy season holding areas in June-July. However, security incidents in northern regions of the country could cause migration disruptions in certain areas, adversely affecting the diets of livestock herds.

    • Fish production: Last year’s adequate flooding levels in fish breeding areas suggest good breeding rates and are expected to support the favorable development of fish species. There will be a further improvement in catches for the current fishing season with the falling water levels on rivers and streams, the lifting of fishing bans between February and April, and the opening of the collective fishing season at the end of March. Fish production and resulting sales will improve the income, purchasing power, and consumption of fishing households.

    • Migration: Normal labor migration from farming areas to urban areas and foreign countries began in October and will continue as usual. The income from migrant workers returning home between May and June will support household food access during this time proceeding the new growing season.

    • Labor: There will be typical levels of labor opportunities for unskilled laborers in non-farming activities and petty trade between February and May and for farm labor between May and September. Average earnings from these activities will help improve the purchasing power of poor households who are dependent on this work. However, employement opportunities will more restricted in northern regions due to insecurity, which is limiting investment and will result in below-average incomes.

    • Agropastoral lean season: Most agropastoral populations around the country will have a normal lean season. The new pasture growth beginning in July and the availability of early crops in September will help improve the consumption and income of pastoral and agropastoral households. However, with the early depletion of household food stocks in February, rather than March-April, poor households in the Lake Faguibine and Lake Télé areas of Goundam and poor pastoral households in the Gourma area of the Timbuktu and Gao regions are atypically dependent on the market to access food and will be experience a one-month early start to the lean season.
    • Cereal prices: Due to good cereal availability in all parts of the country it is expected prices will fluctuate normally throughout the food consumption year and remain near or below average, supporting household food access. Prices began decreasing in early November and are expected to remain stable through March/April after which they will seasonally rise from May through the end of the lean season in September.

    • Livestock prices: The average to above-average pastoral conditions are expected to support good livestock body condtions and keep livestock prices above-average. There will be a seasonal decline in livestock prices between April and June in line with the usual deterioration in pasture conditions. The recovery in pasture conditions with the beginning of the rainy season in July will lead to a recovery in prices as improved pasture supports improved livestock conditions, with the normal contraction in supplies as livestock herds head back up north, and the growing demand for animals during Ramadan in July and the Feast of Tabaski in September. Livestock-to-cereal terms of trade are expected to remain favorable for pastoralists. 

    • Institutional procurements: Institutional procurements (10,000 metric tons of rice and 20,000 metric tons of millet and sorghum) for the rebuilding of national security stocks maintained by the OPAM and by the WFP and other humanitarian organizations for implementation of the National Response Plan will be smaller than in 2016 than in 2015 due to the fewer number of people in Mali receiving assistance.

    Other important issues
    • Security situation: It is expected isolated incidents of conflict will continue to occure, interfering with the free movement of people and goods, particularly in the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions and northern Mopti region. Implementation of the June 20, 2015 Peace Accord’s resolutions in the coming months will help improve the security situation and minimize its negative socioeconomic effects on affected areas.

    • Returning refugees and IDPs: It is expected the flow of IDPs and refugees returning to their homes will continue with improvements in the security situation and enforcement of the peace accord. Meeting the needs of these households is important for their successful reintegration into the local economy, but may put stress on the resident population.

    • Nutritional situation: It is expected that the prevalence of malnutrition will decrease between October and March, during the post-harvest, increase between May and September during the lean season and alongside the seasonal deterioration in health and sanitation conditions. The global acute malnutrition (GAM) prevalence based on weight-to-height ratios, was 12.3 percent (95 percent confidence interval: 10.6 to 14.3) according to the SMART survey conducted in June 2015 (at the beginning of the lean season) by the Ministry of Health and its partners. It is not expected the GAM rate will increase above 12.3 percent during the outlook period. Average household food access and the scaling up of screening and treatment programs for malnutrition, particularly in areas affected by the conflict, will help strengthen the nutritional situation and bring down the prevalence of malnutrition. The availability of early crops and milk in September will further help improve the nutritional situation, keeping the prevalence of malnutrition near typical levels.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    The average to above-average cereal production is supporting adequate household food stocks, providing typical levels of income from agricultlural labor, supplying markets, and supporting near-average prices. Most households across the country will experience None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.

    For poor households in the lake area of Goundam who depleted their below-average households stocks a month early in February and poor pastoral households in Taimbktu and Gao who have below average herd sizes, have poor market access currently. Poor households are engaging in migration, borrowing, reducing nonfood spending, purchasing cheaper substitute foods, and selling household assets as coping mechanisms to meet their food needs. Their atypical market dependence and below-average lower incomes are limiting poor households ability to meet both their food and their nonfood needs. Poor households in these populations will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between February and September, at which point the availability of early crops and wild foods will bring the lean season to an end.

    As of February 2016, an estimated 15,000 people from households who were affected by floods between July and September 2015, and suffered crop and asset losses, will have difficulty adequately meeting their food needs and are expected to resort to atypical coping strategies. This will also be the case for returnees who will be trying to rebuild their livelihoods. These households will also likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between February and September. 


    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, February 2016

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, February 2016

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Terms of trade for millet/goats (kg/animal)

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Terms of trade for millet/goats (kg/animal)

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Precipitation anomalies (mm/day), May through July 2016

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Precipitation anomalies (mm/day), May through July 2016

    Source: NMME

    Figure 3.  Precipitation anomalies (mm/day), July through September 2016

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. Precipitation anomalies (mm/day), July through September 2016

    Source: NMME

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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