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The resumption of fighting affects food security

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mali
  • January - July 2013
The resumption of fighting affects food security

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  • Key Messages
  • Preface
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook

  • Preface

    The resumption of fighting in the north is heightening food insecurity, particularly in areas dependent on the market systems disrupted by insecurity. Continued uncertainty over future developments in the rapidly changing and dynamic situation makes it difficult to project the most likely future direction of the conflict. Thus, the following analysis assumes a continuation of the current situation and will be updated as new data is made available.

    Key Messages
    • Following an outbreak of new conflict in northern Mali, the closure of the Algerian border and the rupture of the Mopti-Timbuktu-Gao trade corridor pose immediate constraints to the regular flow of food supplies, particularly in the Gao and Kidal regions. The absence and/or restricted access of traders to these markets could rapidly erode food security, particularly for pastoralists in these areas who are completely dependent on the market to meet their food needs.

    • Food insecurity levels in northern agropastoral areas will reach IPC Phase 2: Stress earlier than expected, by February instead of March, with the socio-economic problems created by the new outbreak of fighting and restrictions on the free circulation of people and goods.  The normalization of food security drivers in the south is helping to maintain IPC Phase 1 (minimal food insecurity) in this part of the country.

    • Based on currently available information, and assuming that market disruptions and constraints to humanitarian assistance delivery persist, IPC Phase 3 (crisis) is expected by the beginning of April in pastoral areas due to the shut down of key markets, restrictions on the movement of people and goods, and the beginning of the lean season.

    • Preliminary estimates put nationwide crop production at more than 20 percent above the five-year average, which is improving overall cereal availability. However, the approximate 60 percent decline in average output in livelihood zones 3 (Fluvial rice and transhumant livestock rearing) and zone 6 (the Niger River Delta area of Djenné) will prolong the lean season in these areas, quickly propelling them into IPC Phase 2, particularly in the case of the municipalities of Gourma Rharous, Bourem, and Gao.  

    National Overview
    Current situation

    Resumption of conflict, contrary to FEWS NET October outlook assumptions, appears to be continuing and expanding with the active involvement of European and African troops.  The resumption of hostilities has  impaired the operation of financial networks and trade channels to the north, with varying effects on food security conditions according to the area in question. Following the retaking of certain areas by military forces, displaced households from the cities of Konna and Diablay have begun to return to their homes. Given more intense fighting in these areas and subsequent isolation, urban centers appear to be more affected than rural areas, which still have supplies of fresh crops and small market inventories.

    • The closing of the Algerian border is significantly affecting market supply in northern areas, particularly in Kidal where trader inventories are running low. Up until the closing of the border, food commodities supplied from Algeria had  provided local communities with regular access to staple foods at near-average if not below-average prices.
      • The earlier than usual departure of certain traders from markets in the Timbuktu and Gao areas for fear of reprisals is contributing to the tightening of market supplies, particularly given their role in importing food products from Algeria, and is of particular concern in urban markets in the Timbuktu and Gao regions.
    • Major trade flows are disrupted, particularly trade between the north and south.  Currently more dependent on existing local inventories, northern markets are still generally functioning even though attendance has decreased substantially, particularly at weekly  markets. 
      • Trade and commercial activity on many markets has been disrupted or is slower than usual. Area residents have expressed concern over the prospect of food shortages on local markets in the coming months. At present, regular suppliers for the country’s northern regions reportedly still have large inventories in Mopti, which suggests a sufficient supply of food commodities in Mopti to meet demand in northern markets, assuming commercial traffic resumes.
      • The expansion in river transportation service between the south and the northern part of the country (Timbuktu and Gao) offers an alternative means of supplying markets in these areas. However, this mode of transportation will become increasingly difficult as the river seasonably recedes.
      • Commercial trade flows from Niger are important, particularly for parts of the municipalities of Ansongo and Ménaka in the Gao region. However, with the strengthening of surveillance activities and the reluctance of truckers to enter the area, a regular flow of these supplies is increasingly difficult to ensure.
      • In mid-January, the government expressed a priority on the continuation of trade flows between the North, Mopti and the rest of the country following conflit in Konna. The request to reopen banking systems in order to enable traders to conduct financial transactions, and the securing of major arteries by the government to ensure the free circulation and safety of travelers and goods have helped maintain a regular flow of trade to Mopti.
      • Market food supplies are tightening with the depletion of available inventories and the continuing lack of trade with the south, with reports of major shortages of millet and other crops from the south (tubers and fruits) on the Gao and Kidal markets. 
    • With the depletion of available inventories, prices for staple foods (millet, rice, wheat flour, oil, and sugar) have increased sharply since the resumption of conflict. These price increases are increasingly detrimental to poor households who are already struggling to recover from food insecurity last year.
      • A desire to protect themselves from reprisals has prompted a number of traders involved in importing goods from Algeria to quickly sell off their merchandise to other traders and, even, consumers. This strategy has helped keep at least a small amount of inventory on local markets and has somewhat contained sudden price increases for these goods in some areas. In contrast to overall increasing trends in cereal prices, pastoralists in Kidal, reliant on Algerian markets as the main marketing outlets for their animals, will begin to see livestock prices drop. However, certain groups of pastoralists are successfully moving animals to markets outside conflict areas and in neighboring countries, where they may be able to command better prices to make up for at least some of their losses.
    • Economic activity in the north, which had reportedly been picking up since October, has once again slowed, with a likely loss of income for poor households, particularly in urban areas.
      • The flight of better-off households from urban centers early in the conflict immediately reduced employment opportunities in construction, odd jobs, and trade.
      • Migrant remittances from relatives in other parts of the country and abroad (in Mauritania, Algeria, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Senegal) are an important resource, but are becoming increasingly erratic with the disruption in communications with the rest of the country and current border controls.

    Pastoral areas

    Overall, conditions in pastoral zones all across the country are good, even in northern areas, with generally good to average levels of milk and dairy production. There are reports of certain disruptions in herd movements in northern areas, in line with patterns of population displacement. Typical migratory movements by northern herds southwards, to the river valley, are somewhat hampered by the ongoing military campaign and fear of reprisals, particularly against residents of far northern pastoral areas. The good physical condition of livestock and high demand in the coastal states and Algeria are keeping prices five to 10 percent above the five-year average although terms of trade for goats/millet are 20 to 30 percent lower than usual due to the consistently high price of millet. However, price ratios for livestock/cereal in the Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal regions are down as a result of the closing of the Algerian border and restrictions on travel to Niger and Burkina Faso, which are limiting the volume of sales. Temporary market closures for security reasons are restricting the physical access of pastoralists to different markets to trade their animals, mainly for purchases of staple foods, including cereals.

    Population displacement/assistance

    Escalating security threats in the northern part of the country are increasing the IDP populations in southern Mali and neighboring countries. Internally displaced households and their host families are receiving ongoing assistance from the government and its development partners. Estimates by the OCHA as of January 28th of this year put the number of internally displaced at around 227,200, including the additional 9,946 people displaced since January 11th. Their main destinations are Bamako district, which hosts 24 percent of the country’s displaced population, and the Mopti region, with 20 percent. Assistance programs in the northern part of the country have been severely disrupted if not shut down altogether, but assistance programs continue for IDPs in the south. In spite of numerous requests by the humanitarian community, access to conflict areas is still restricted.

    Food security conditions in southern Mali

    Cereal prices in the southern part of the country are in keeping with normal seasonal trends, where they are five to 20 percent above the five-year average. Crop production from good local harvests is more than 20 percent above the five-year average. The availability of crops has been improving the food access of poor farming households since October. Farming activities for off-season crops are actively underway. Currently, the situation in pastoral areas shows normal herd movements down to their usual dry-season grazing areas in the south. The normalization of food security drivers is helping to keep this part of the country in IPC Phase 1 (minimal food insecurity).


    The most likely food security scenario for the period from January through June 2013 is based on the following basic assumptions with regard to future developments in national-level conditions:

    • Armed conflict: Insecurity will continue at the current level during the period of the scenario. Security threats will continue to disrupt economic systems and trade routes, particularly in the Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal, and northern Mopti. 
    • Crop production: Despite the volatile situation in the north, farming activities for off-season crops in village-level irrigation schemes and lake areas of the river valley in the Timbuktu and Gao regions, the Niger River Delta area of Mopti, and the Office du Niger irrigation district are likely to proceed normally, with the prospect of generally average to good harvests. Expected harvests in June-July will help improve food availability in these areas. With conflict concentrated mostly in urban areas and given the perseverance of local farmers, farming activities are expected to continue.
    • Market gardening activities: The forecast for market garden crops is for an average to good harvest.  These crops constitute an essential source of income and are a diet staple among poor households during the outlook period. However, the ban on tobacco production in riparian areas of Bourem, the main source of income for the local population, will limit typically important earnings from these activities. Tobacco cultivation has been replaced by onion and tomato crops, neither of which is as profitable as tobacco. Good water availability will extend the usual growing season for market garden produce (from three to four if not five months).   
    • Animal production: Milk production will fluctuate in line with normal seasonal trends, slowing between March and June with the growing scarcity of pasture and the drying up of watering holes in the weeks before the start of the pastoral lean season in April. Possible disruptions in seasonal migration by transhumant livestock could hasten the start of the lean season in northern pastoral areas, impacting their diet by February-March.
    • Seasonal migration by transhumant livestock: The resumption of fighting in the northern part of the country will disrupt herd movements. There will be unusual herd movements towards neighboring countries in February-March, away from local battlefields, or much larger than usual numbers of livestock heading south. These abnormal herd movements will reduce the availability of milk and lower the market value of livestock due to their poorer than usual physical condition. This erosion in income and milk availability will limit the market access of pastoral households.
    • Livestock prices : Foreign demand will keep prices for livestock in line with normal seasonal trends and above-average throughout the outlook period, particularly in southern farming areas. The improvement in livestock prices in the north with the fortunate return of wholesale butchers to local markets will be eliminated out by the closing of the Algerian border and the slowing of trade with Niger and Burkina Faso, reducing the income of pastoral households.
    • Cereal prices : Cereal prices will follow normal seasonal trends, staying above the five-year average throughout the outlook period in the southern part of the country. The effect of institutional stock-building activities will be felt sometime between April and June due to funding delays. The premature price increases on northern markets as a result of reported market disruptions will continue.
    • Borrowing by poor households. Poor households in the northern part of the country will resort to borrowing in early March, incurring slightly higher than usual levels of debt.  
    • Fishing: Visible improvements in fish catches as water levels on rivers and streams continue to fall, will produce a larger than usual stream of fishing income between January and April, particularly for households in livelihood zones 3 and 6.
    • Humanitarian aid: Emergency humanitarian food and nonfood aid programs for the poor will be disrupted, particularly in the northern part of the country. Recovery programs will be mounted as part of livelihood rebuilding efforts in all areas impacted by last year’s events (parts of the Niger River Delta area, the Western Sahel, and the north) for a target population of approximately 2,000,000, depending on the different programs in place. Assistance programs in the south for IDPs from northern Mali will continue uninterrupted.
    • Migration and population movements: A normal flow of labor migration is expected throughout the outlook period in both southern and northern Mali, where these migratory movements began earlier than usual, before the resumption of hostilities. These migratory movements by working members of poor households to urban centers and, in some cases, neighboring countries are extremely important for poor households as income and remittances of food supplies between April and June. In addition to the usual population movements, there will be a new stream of IDPs from conflict areas. There are already reports of population displacements, though on a somewhat smaller scale than in January of last year, at the  beginning of the conflict.
    • Banking system: For the most part, banks in conflict areas will remain closed or minimally functional. Remittances will continue to be made through the usual informal channels, through individuals and freight services. Nevertheless, the shutdown of banks is expected to affect the flow of trade and migrant remittances.
    • Economic activity/income:  Business in the north will continue to suffer the effects of residual security threats. However, economic activities could start to slowly pick up in northern cities following the cessation of military activities. The main income-generating activities for poor households in these areas are on-farm employment, the sale of “bourgou” grass straw, fishing, and transportation services.
    • Mobility in conflict areas: The limited mobility of local populations in general and pastoral populations in particular  is curtailing their market access. The slump in sales as a result of market disruptions will sharply reduce household income between February and April. The restricted access of pastoralists in the far north to their usual grazing areas (in the river valley) and watering holes (year-round lakes and ponds and wells) could mean losses of livestock.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    The availability of new crops and in-kind payments for work during the harvest in southern farming areas will provide poor households with enough food and income to easily meet their food needs between January and March. Normal labor migration and the expected boom in regular income-generating activities (market gardening, trade, and sales of wood and straw) due to the good harvest will furnish very poor and poor households with enough income to meet their food needs without any major problems between March and June, particularly with prices expected to stay slightly above-average. The availability of off-season cereal crops will help further improve food access in northern riparian areas and off-season farming areas in the south.

    Poor households in pastoral areas will be in IPC Phase 2 (stressed) by February with the disruption of pastoral and trading activities by the ongoing insecurity, particularly with the closing of the Algerian border and the abnormal herd movements in these areas. The small improvement in terms of trade for livestock/cereal will be quickly erased by the slump in livestock sales and increasing food prices (for rice, wheat semolina, and noodles). Howeverowe, movement by certain groups of pastoral households to more tranquil areas will help mitigate the effects of these disruptions, giving them access to new markets in the south and in neighboring countries on which to sell their livestock at somewhat lower than usual prices as a way to maintain their food access. Restrictions on household mobility, with an escalation in conflict obstructing their physical access to markets to purchase food supplies and sell their animals could heighten stress levels, will propel the entire area into IPC Phase 3 (crisis) by March/April, pending the restoration of their mobility and/or the re-establishment of trade channels and/or the resumption of humanitarian assistance programs.

    The combination of the unusual sudden rise in prices with the sharp reduction in the flow of food supplies from southern Mali and Algeria and the poor rice harvest will affect poor households in northern rice-growing and agropastoral areas, limiting their market access as of February, particularly with their livelihoods severely weakened after last year’s hardships. The depletion of their household food reserves, the marginal rebound in economic activity, and the impaired operation of area markets will steadily erode the food security of this group of households currently classified in IPC Phase 2 (stressed). Expected disruptions in scheduled humanitarian aid and in cash and in-kind remittances from relatives outside the area could heighten food insecurity to crisis levels (IPC Phase 3) by sometime in May without humanitarian aid and/or price control measures to help improve market access for poor households.

    Areas of Concern

    Livelihood zones 1 (Nomadism and trans-Saharan trade) and 2 (Nomadic and transhumant pastoralism)

    Current situation

    The main year-round sources of food consumption in livelihood zones 1 (Nomadism and trans-Saharan trade) and 2 (Nomadic and transhumant pastoralism) are imported foodstuffs such as rice, flour, noodles, and semolina, and local milk production. Millet crops harvested in October are widely consumed in the southern reaches of livelihood zone 2, where they are grown in temporary lakes and ponds and oasis areas in rainy years like the 2012-2013 crop year. In addition to migration to Algeria and Libya, the mainstays of local livelihoods are nomadic and transhumant livestock-raising beginning in January and year-round trans-Saharan trade in miscellaneous goods with large markets in Timbuktu and Gao and livestock trade with Algeria.

    The flow of irregular migration to neighboring countries has been disrupted by the closing of the Algerian border and restrictions on travel to Libya, Niger, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso with the strengthening of road surveillance activities. Crop production in these areas covers only approximately 10 to 20 percent of the food needs of poor farming households, underscoring the extent of their market-dependence to meet their needs for food and income, mainly through trade with Algeria. The food security of these areas is threatened by the disruption in trade with their regular sources of supply and restrictions on the mobility of local populations. Such disruptions are putting pressure on market prices, as shipping difficulties continue to tighten market supplies. Bolstered by the adequate supply of pasture in grazing areas for livestock, milk production is both a mainstay of the household diet and a source of extra income.


    The most likely food security scenario in these livelihood zones for the period from January through June 2013 is based on the following specific assumptions:

    • Ongoing insecurity will continue to disrupt trade with regular sources of supply for these areas and outlets for the sale of local livestock, such as Algeria, Niger, and the Gao and Timbuktu markets. The protracted disruption in the flow of supplies to these northern (deficit) areas will, in turn, impair the operation of local markets. As in previous years of food insecurity, pastoral populations will migrate to areas where they have access to markets farther south (in Mopti) and in Niger and Mauritania to access their food needs.
    • There will be more or less continuous food shortages throughout the outlook period. The resulting price increases will play a major role in limiting the food access of poor pastoral households in the weeks leading up to and during the lean season (between February and June).
    • Largely replenished pasture resources and watering holes will continue to create good conditions for pastoral activities through the end of March, helping to ensure good levels of milk production. As usual, nomadic populations in livelihood 1 will migrate to more propitious tranquil areas within the conflict zone and in neighboring countries. Milk availability will improve household food consumption and dietary diversity between now and the beginning of the lean season in April.
    • The inaccessibility of the northern part of the country to large-scale livestock traders and the restrictions on the access of local populations to certain livestock markets in neighboring countries (Algeria and Niger) will weaken overall market demand, reducing the income of pastoral households during the lean season, which is an important period for livestock sales as a source of market access for the purchasing of food supplies.
    • The disruption in trade with markets normally serving this area will slow sales of livestock and related activities like livestock trading and the tending of livestock, which means less income for poor households. Livestock prices during the lean season will be below-average.
    • The depletion of market inventories, particularly with the departure of certain traders (mainly in Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal) will tighten household food supplies. The flight of these major suppliers will sharply reduce food availability on a number of markets. This will drive prices on major markets up sharply, quickly impairing household purchasing power.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    In LZ 1 (Nomadism and trans-Saharan trade) and the northern reaches of LZ 2: Nomadic populations in these areas are highly dependent on year-round market-trading for food and supplies of other staple commodities. The disruption in shipments of supplies to the Kidal, Tessalit, and Menaka markets by conflict in the northern part of the country will help trigger premature, sustained price increases of staple foodstuffs, eroding household purchasing power. Already compromised by the depletion of their productive assets during the last crisis (in 2011-12), local households will, once again, be forced to rely on migrant remittances and loans, which will be very hard to obtain with ongoing security threats causing better-off households to flee the area. The already stressed food security conditions in these livelihood zones in February will further deteriorate with the restrictions on local travel as a result of insecurity. The depletion of food reserves in or around February, followed by earlier than usual rises in prices, will propel very poor and poor households representing over 60 percent of the local population forced to stay put or to flee to neighboring countries into IPC Phase 3 (crisis) between March/April and the end of June.

    In LZ 2 (Nomadic and transhumant pastoralism): The situation in this area is similar to the situation in livelihood zone 1 and for pastoral populations in its northern reaches. The fairly good millet and cowpea harvests for the 2012-2013 season in the south and in riparian areas, reserves of wild plant foods, and the availability of milk should enable local populations currently classified in IPC Phase 1 (minimal food insecurity) to meet their food needs without any major problems. After stabilizing in January, household food consumption will begin to deteriorate in February with the premature rise in cereal prices, the reduction in wage income for lack of local employment opportunities and in income from livestock sales disrupted by the resumption of fighting, and the upheaval on primary markets, propelling food insecurity levels up into IPC Phase 2 (stressed). The exacerbation of these problems by the continued total disruption of livestock and cereal markets will prompt local populations to resort to harmful coping strategies for their health, such as thinning their herds and reducing their food intake. The fall-off in migrant remittances and large carry-over debts from last year will limit prospects for any additional borrowing to offset shortfalls in income, putting poor households in a deepening crisis (IPC Phase 3) between March and April.

    Livelihood zones 3 (Fluvial rice and transhumant livestock rearing) and 4 (Rainfed millet and transhumant livestock rearing) in northern Mali

    Current situation

    The main activity in this area is rice farming in conjunction with transhumant livestock-raising. Very poor and poor households, accounting for just over 60 percent of the area’s population of approximately 460,000 residents, are dependent on small rice harvests between November and January, farm work for better-off households, livestock-raising, market gardening, fishing, and labor migration. The area normally has large production deficits, with harvests by better-off households meeting their consumption needs for just three to six months and those of poor households lasting for only one to three months. With such poor local harvests, residents of livelihood zone 3 are dependent on local markets to meet over 60 percent of their food needs as of the month of March. The market access of poor households is sustained by income from farming activities between April and June and by migrant remittances.

    The availability of fresh rice crops in livelihood zone 3 (though limited by crop losses from the flooding in July-August of last year), millet crops in livelihood zone 4, milk, and fish throughout the month of January improved household food security and nutrition. As usual, poor households are currently living off their rice crops (in LZ 3), their millet crops (in LZ 4), and their reserves of wild plant foods, as well as from in-kind wage payments for farm work, larger than usual remittances of food and cash from relatives outside the area to make up for this year’s poor local economic conditions, and the continuing deliveries of humanitarian food aid through the beginning of January due to the operational delays in these programs. The difficult economic environment and poor rice harvest are responsible for the larger and earlier than usual stream of labor migration. Poor households are also earning income from reported sales of straw. High-water fishing is an important source of food and income for residents of livelihood zone 3 between December and April. Ongoing farming activities for off-season crops in livelihood zone 3 are creating jobs and generating income for poor households, particularly in irrigation schemes and lake areas of the Timbuktu region. These activities are all continuing normally.

    The resumption of hostilities is restricting mobility in occupied areas, where market attendance is down. Trade flows in livelihood zone 4 in the northern part of the country, with its close ties to markets in Niger, Gao (for cereal), and Kidal (for imports from Algeria), have been sharply disrupted by the strengthening of road surveillance programs with Niger and Burkina Faso and the closing of the Algerian border. In livelihood zone 3, in spite of the continued availability of regular river transportation service, the disruption of trade with the south along the Sevaré-Gao road, the main transportation route for shipping provisions to the northern part of the country, is tightening market supplies. Markets in this area depend mainly on the south (Mopti and Ségou) and on local rice production at this time of year. Furthermore, the flight of certain traders is sharply limiting the availability of Algerian imports (noodles, semolina and milk). Conditions in these areas already reporting shortages of crops from the south (millet, rice, tubers, and fruit) will deteriorate in February.

    The steady seasonal decline in cereal prices through the beginning of this month was cut short by the disruption of trade with southern provisioning markets for millet, rice, tubers, fruits, sugar, and oil and the closing of the Algerian border, cutting off the supply of products such as flour, tea, oil, sugar, powdered milk, and fuel. By the end of the month, the depletion of trader inventories of goods from the south and Algerian imports had driven prices up sharply, putting them more than 50 percent above-average. Before the resumption of hostilities, prices for livestock were approximately five to 10 percent above-average, generating more than enough income for local households to meet their needs. However, the current slump in livestock sales with the disruption of trade with regular customers will most likely bring down prices. 

    In general, most households in livelihood zones 3 and 4 are able to meet their food needs with on-farm crop production and food supplies from in-kind wage payments. On the whole, household food consumption throughout the post-harvest period has been adequate. The humanitarian community is continuing to help bolster nutritional conditions through distributions of nutrition kits for malnourished children.


    The most likely food security scenario in these livelihood zones for the period from January through June 2013 is based on the following assumptions specific to both areas:

    • Continuing security threats will limit socioeconomic activity, disrupting trade with the regular sources of supply for these areas.
    • The depletion of trader inventories and reserves of local crops grown by poor households and the increasingly limited mobility of river craft as water levels along the river continue to fall will create shortages of staple foods on certain markets as of February-March. This year, most poor households will be forced to resort to market-buying to meet their food consumption needs earlier than usual, by the beginning of March. These difficult circumstances which, most likely, will also include rises in food prices, will sharply erode household purchasing power, particularly as of April.
    • The disruption of livestock markets by insecurity in these areas will cause sales to slump, driving down prices as of February. Thus, livestock prices will be below-average, as was the case in the early months of the conflict.
    • Farming activities for off-season cereal crops in village-level irrigation schemes, flood-recession crops, and market garden crops should go normally. However, their progress could be disrupted by protracted military activity.  
    • There will be disruptions in normal herd movements to dry-season holding areas in both livelihood zones between January and June. Such disruptions will heighten the severity of the lean season for the animal population, which will be in perpetual motion, fleeing conflict areas for more tranquil areas in other parts of the country or in neighboring countries, whose available pasture resources could be rapidly depleted. Though there will be fairly good pasture availability in both areas, there will be a shortage of watering holes by March-April, triggering abnormal herd movements to distant southern areas of the country, with the attendant risk of losses of livestock, or to neighboring countries, posing a risk of disputes with the native population. This year’s lean season will be harsher than usual.
    • The positive, better than usual outlook for fishing activities in livelihood zone 3 between January and May will not produce the expected results, with the resumption of insecurity keeping buyers from Niger and the southern part of the country out the area. The resulting slump in sales will mean less income from these activities, though it will improve household consumption.
    • Security threats will disrupt humanitarian programs and the delivery of assistance.
    • The disruption in communications with the south and neighboring countries will make it more difficult and costly for migrants to send remittances of food and cash to relatives back home. Poor households will have a hard time doing without this essential means of support, which accounts for approximately 25 percent of household income for the outlook period.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    Households in livelihood zones 3 and 4 will be able to meet their food needs between January and February with reserves of crops from local harvests, in-kind wage payments to members of poor households, and income from the sale of food crops at prices more than 30 percent above the five-year average in spite of the reported seasonal decline in prices. The quicker than usual depletion of food reserves and atypical rise in food prices on local markets with the disruption of trade with their regular sources of supply will curtail the food access of poor households in both areas, propelling them into IPC Phase 2 (stressed) by February. The drop in household income by more than 25 percent with the sharp slowdown in economic activity will force poor households to get deeper into debt than usual in order to meet their needs. Essential migrant remittances for paying off debts from the last growing season will fall short, hindered by current transportation problems. Thus, with their extremely limited mobility and prospects for engaging in income-generating activities to meet their food needs, poor households will turn to harmful coping strategies such as cutting back their number of daily meals and resorting to eating famine foods such as anza (the fruit of the Senegal Boscia plant). The food access of poor households dependent on laborer jobs for most (30 percent) of their income, which are in short supply as a result of the economic recession, will be severely limited. The stressed food security conditions in many parts of the area in February will quickly deteriorate into a full-blown crisis (IPC Phase 3) in May and June, during the lean season for agropastoral households. The usual harvests of off-season wheat, corn, tubers, and pulses in May-June in lake areas, particularly in Timbuktu, will improve household food availability in these areas.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Geographic area

    Possible event

    Impact on food security conditions

    Livelihood zones 3 and 6

    Substantial assistance in the form of farm inputs for off-season rice and market garden crops in January (fertilizer, seeds, and fuel)

    Substantial assistance in the form of high-quality seeds for rice and market garden crops in January would help increase harvests of these crops serving as a source of food and income for local populations. This will help safeguard employment opportunities for poor households in affected areas.

    Northern Mali                (livelihood zones 1, 2, and 3), the Niger River Delta (livelihood zone 6), and the Sahelian Belt (livelihood zone 8)

    Severe damage to pastureland from brush fires in February–March

    Severe damage from brush fires in February–March will curtail pasture availability, limiting animal (milk and dairy) production. The resulting poor physical condition of livestock will reduce income from the sale of animals and erode the purchasing power of pastoralists and agropastoralists. Likely rises in animal fatality rates will create a livelihood deficit.

    Livelihood zones 3 and 6

    Establishment of an assistance network to outfit fishermen with proper equipment and a program for the stocking of lakes and ponds with fish for poor households during the fishing season (from January to May)

    The provision of fishing households with proper equipment will improve catches and resulting income from fishing activities. Likewise, the stocking of lakes and ponds with fish will create fish reserves for these households in April–May. This equipment and assistance will keep poor fishing households from resorting to moneylenders.


    Institutional stock-building by the government and humanitarian agencies between January and June

    The heavy pressure on cereal markets keeping market demand  at record levels will quickly drive up food prices.


    Nationwide hike in oil prices

    Cuts in government oil subsidies in the face of the country’s current economic difficulties will increase transportation costs, impacting the price of food. In some cases, hikes in food prices will outpace rises in the cost of fuel, which will reduce household purchasing power, particularly that of poor households.  

    Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal, and northern Mopti regions

    Stabilization of the situation in the north and the securing of transportation corridors, facilitating trade with the rest of the country and with neighboring countries

    The restoration of stability in northern Mali will help revive trade between the north and its regular trading partners in other parts of the country and in neighboring countries. The end of the fighting and normal operation of area markets will encourage displaced households to return to their homes and humanitarian organizations to resume their assistance programs. Business in this part of the country will pick up. The normalization of conditions for pastoral and agropastoral populations will enable them to meet their food security needs.

    Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal, and northern Mopti regions

    Establishment of secure humanitarian corridors in these areas, with shipments of humanitarian aid

    The establishment of a humanitarian corridor by sometime in February for making shipments of food and nonfood aid will help sustain if not improve the livelihoods of poor populations in conflict areas after a difficult year. The corridor will need to be kept open for the duration of the fighting.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, January 2013

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, January 2013

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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