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Stressed food security outcomes expected in localized areas despite good national level production

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mali
  • January - June 2015
Stressed food security outcomes expected in localized areas despite good national level production

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • The cereal balance sheet for 2014/2015 presented by the Rural Development Planning and Statistics Unit (Cellule de planification et des statistiques du secteur de développement rural-CPS/SDR) shows a 1,775,696 metric tons surplus at the national level. Cereal production is 11 percent above the five-year national average, providing the country with an adequate cereal supply. However, riverine areas of Gao and Timbuktu, lake areas of Goundam, the Haoussa area of Niafunké, and the northern Youwarou and Kayes areas have large production shortfalls.

    • With the good food availability from recent harvests and cereal prices close to or slightly above average, poor households in agropastoral and pastoral areas have average food access to meet their food needs. Thus, households across the country could experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between January and February 2015.

    • The food stocks of very poor and poor households in riverine areas of Gao and Bourem, lake areas of Goundam, the Haoussa area of Niafunké, and the northern Youwarou area affected by the poor crop yields in these areas will be depleted earlier than usual, making them dependent on borrowing and low-cost foods to meet their food needs earlier than normal. These households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes as of March 2015.

    • The food security situation is expected to deteriorate into a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by July, with poor households in riverine areas of Gao and Bourem departments, lake areas of Goundam department, the Haoussa area of Niafunké, and Youwarou facing difficulty meeting their food needs.

    National Overview
    Current situation

    Crop production

    With nationwide crop production approximately 11.9 percent above-average, there is good cereal availability all across the country. However, the large shortfalls in crop production in the northern reaches of the Kayes region, riverine areas of Timbuktu and Gao, and localized areas of the Mopti region due to the drought and damage from bird infestations will prematurely deplete the food stocks of households in these areas.

    Current off-season market gardening activities are being ramped up to mitigate the effects of the production deficit, but the low supply of water in seasonal lakes and reservoirs is limiting performance expectations, particularly in Kayes and Koulikoro in the Western Sahel. Elsewhere, production prospects are average.

    Pastoral conditions

    An examination of conditions in livestock-raising areas shows fairly dense pastures, with pockets of net pasture deficits in northern areas of the country (Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal), the northern reaches of the Kayes region, and the central reaches of the country. The current availability of pastures, crop residues, and animal watering holes is keeping livestock in average physical condition and maintaining average levels of milk production. Transhumant livestock herds are returning to areas with supplies of crop residues and to year-round watering holes (rivers, year-round and seasonal lakes, etc.) The pasture deficit caused animal herds from Bourem, Gao, and Goundam to head to floodplain pastures (bourgoutières) in riverine and lake areas earlier than usual, begininning in December, which will hasten the deterioration in the condition of pastures in these holding areas and negatively affect animal production and the physical condition of livestock between now and the beginning of the next rainy season in June-July. Distributions of 2,500 metric tons of animal feed by the government in the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions and the ongoing vaccination campaign for livestock supported by a number of humanitarian organizations will help ease the effects of the pasture deficit on livestock.

    Market situation and prices

    Markets are functioning normally, with occasional disruptions by periodic security incidents in the northern part of the country. Thus far, the Ebola fever outbreak has had little effect on trade flows in border areas with Guinea. The few reported disruptions in trade are most likely due to the beefed-up health inspections in Kouremalé, the main entry point for imports.

    The larger supply of crops in the wake of recent harvests is ensuring good market supplies across the country. The availability of home-grown crops to meet household needs has triggered a seasonal decline in consumer demand. There is a normal flow of cereal trade to high-consumption areas in the north and western Sahel.

    In general, cereal prices are coming down, which is helping to improve the market access of poor households with their average incomes from normal income-generating activities such as farm labor, transportation services, brick-laying, and unskilled work. Retail market prices for millet, the main cereal consumed by Malian households, are down from December by 14 percent in Ségou and show little movement on other markets. The smooth flow of trade and average to good harvests are generally keeping them below the five-year average, especially in Gao (-13 percent) and Ségou (-12 percent).

    Business on livestock markets is picking up with the return of transhumant herds since December, particularly in high-consumption areas, fueled by the stock-building needs of pastoralists. The growing demand for livestock with the termination of farming activities and the usual influx of wholesale traders is making it easy to sell animals, which are still in good physical condition. Average prices for livestock are unchanged or up from last month and at or above the five-year average. Prices for goats, the main animal sold by poor households, are above the five-year average by 30 percent in Gao, 15 percent in Timbuktu, and 25 percent in Mopti. These good price levels are improving household food access, creating favorable terms of trade for goats/millet. In general, terms of trade for goats/millet are 30 percent above-average.

    Economic activity

    The main economic activities in the southern part of the country are currently farming activities and trading in crops. Average to above-average sales revenues from the extremely lucrative prices of cash crops are improving household purchasing power. The rising prices of cash crops over the last few years are, most likely, due to the growing demand for poultry farmers and international markets. There is the usual flow of labor migration to urban areas of the country and neighboring countries as a source of income but, thus far, it has produced only small remittances. The earlier than usual out-migration from the Kayes area in the Western Sahel, riverine areas, and lake areas of Timbuktu and Gao due to the poor crop yields in these areas is extending the normal length of the stay of migrant workers in receiving areas, which is expected to produce above-average levels of migration income.

    Laborers in the northern part of the country are engaged in activities such as bricklaying, transportation services, warehousing and product handling services, and trade), but there are still below-average levels of economic activity due to the unstable security situation, which is reducing investment and, thus, limiting employment opportunities. However, with the return of refugee and displaced populations, the government and the humanitarian community are helping to finance income-generating activities enabling households to earn adequate amounts of income to meet their needs.

    Humanitarian assistance

    Approximately 101,100 metric tons of food assistance have been distributed in a coordinated effort by the WFP, CSA, and ICRC as part of the National Response Plan crafted based on the Harmonized Framework exercise of March 2014. This assistance has helped 1,245,133 residents of the Mopti, Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions, with 60 percent of the target population concentrated in the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions. Livelihood assistance programs (distributions of small ruminants, cash transfer programs, distributions of market gardening kits, etc.) have eased the food insecurity of poor households and helped them start to rebuild their livelihoods. With the distributions of farm input assistance (seeds and fertilizer) and small farm implements for market gardening activities, there is good cause to expect production to outstrip the five-year average. The average to above-average proceeds from sales of these crops are improving household food consumption and market access between January and February.

    Population movements

    The number of DPs is steadily declining. There were 86,026 displaced persons as of October 31st (according to OCHA), down from the figure for July of that year. Despite this general pattern of return migration, the percentage of displaced persons with no desire to return home jumped from 21 percent in July 2014 to 28 percent in October 2014. According to OCHA, there were 143,195 refugees as of November 30, 2014.

    Security situation

    The security situation is still marred by the increasingly frequent attacks and fighting across the northern part of the country. Continuing clashes between different armed groups are creating disturbances in affected areas, which is not helping the ongoing economic recovery. In spite of the enormous efforts mounted by the government and its development patners, these acts are disrupting the return of refugees and DPs by limiting employment and reintegration opportunities.


    The most likely food security scenario for January through June 2015 is based on the following underlying assumptions with regard to trends in conditions across the country:

    • Security situation: The security situation hinges on the agreements emanating from ongoing negotiations in Algiers. Localized disturbances in northern areas of the country will continue, negatively impacting the ongoing economic recovery in affected areas and heightening the vulnerability of poor households, whose incomes have suffered in this climate of insecurity.
    • Crop production: In general, there are average production prospects for off-season rice and market garden crops, except in lake areas of Timbuktu, where low flooding levels are limiting cropping rates, which are expected to be below-average. Ongoing average harvests of market garden crops bolstered by substantial assistance from the government and NGOs will continue through March. The usual wheat harvest in March-April in Diré and the rice harvest in June-July in irrigation schemes across the country are also expected to be average.
    • Animal production / herd movements: The reported pasture deficit in livestock holding areas in the Timbuktu and Gao regions will precipitate the start of the lean season for pastoral populations in these areas, which will get underway by February-March instead of in April. The resulting unusual herd movements will negatively affect milk production and the physical condition of livestock. Animal mortality rates are expected to be higher than usual, particularly for the animals of poor households in localized areas of northern Faguibine (Goundam) and the Haoussa area of Bourem unable to afford the cost of animal feed as of May. The reportedly average to good pastoral conditions In other parts of the country will allow for a normal lean season.
    • Prices of cash crops: Prices for cash crops (groundnuts, cowpeas, fonio, and sesame) will stay above-average throughout the outlook period, improving the incomes of farming households and delaying the marketing of cereal crops.
    • Cereal prices: The approximately 11.7 percent above-average volume of cereal production will help ensure regular market supplies between January and June. In line with normal seasonal trends, cereal prices will come down in January, stabilize or inch upwards through March, and continue to steadily climb until the next round of harvests in October 2015. Despite coming down, they will stay slightly above-average. The good cereal availability across the country will suffice to meet the growing demand during the month-long observance of Ramadan in June without triggering a sharp rise in prices.
    • Livestock prices: The above-average January prices of livestock will come down in line with normal seasonal trends with the approach of the lean season for pastoral populations in April. In general, livestock prices will stay above-average, fueled by the low supply of animals due to the good terms of trade, the strong demand from the coastal states, and the good prices of cash crops operating as a disincentive to the sale of livestock. However, the poor physical condition of livestock in parts of Timbuktu, Gao, and northern Kayes due to the pasture deficits created by the poor pastoral conditions in these areas and larger than average sales of animals to meet household needs will bring down the price of livestock between April and June. This could put price levels below-average and turn terms of trade against pastoralists.
    • Rebuilding of institutional stocks: Institutional procurements of approximately 35,000 metric tons of cereals for the rebuilding of the national food security stock will be made, as usual, in the first quarter of the year. Needs for assistance programs scheduled to be operated by a number of humanitarian organizations and for government emergency assistance programs will put the volume of procurements above-average. As usual, these institutional stock-building activities will put pressure on cereal demand during this period and prematurely drive up prices by March.
    • Migration and population movements: Ongoing labor migration to urban areas of the country and neighboring countries as a source of income-generation will continue through February, with mass out-migration from low-production areas of the Timbuktu, Gao, and northern Kayes regions. The average to above-average earnings of migrant workers returning in May will enable households to make necessary preparations for the next growing season and improve their market access, particularly in areas with poor crop yields where the flow of out-migration began earlier than usual. Refugees and DPs will continue to return to northern areas of the country with the improvement in the security situation and economic climate, in spite of the isolated cases of continuing disturbances.
    • Agro-climatic conditions: The Intertropical Front (ITF) should resume its normal seasonal advance into the northern hemisphere in February, suggesting that the first rains will fall by May/June across the country, which bodes well for the timely start-up of farming activities for the 2015/16 growing season and good levels of new pasture growth. Cumulative rainfall totals for the 2015 rainy season as well as the distribution of rainfall will be in line with the norm.
    • Economic activity / income in northern Mali: The rebound in economic activity (in the trade, transportation, and small trades sectors, etc.) in northern Mali is still being slowed by the effects of the unstable security situation in that area. The prudential approach to investment outside of larger secure areas is creating fewer than average employment and income-earning opportunities for poor households. The pick-up in farming activities in May-June will afford food and income-producing opportunities for poor households in crop-farming areas.
    • Humanitarian assistance: Humanitarian food and nonfood assistance programs will be mounted between January and June for food-insecure households across the country, 44 percent of which are concentrated in northern areas suffering from poor crop yields and still feeling the effects of the unstable security situation in that part of the country. Recovery programs (distributions of seed assistance and small farm implements) mounted as part of efforts to help strengthen household livelihoods across the country will continue. The government subsidy program for farm inputs in June will help give farmers access to farm inputs for the upcoming 2015-2016 growing season.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    As of January, there was average cereal availability for most poor agropastoral households in farming areas of the country from harvests of home-grown crops and crops received as in-kind wages and gifts. Average incomes from normal income-generating activities such as market gardening, natural resource-based activities (the gathering and sale of wood, charcoal, and wild plant products), and wage labor are giving households average food access as staple food prices come down at this time of year. Despite reports of localized production shortfalls, there should be no anomalies in household food access. Thus, households in most farming areas of the country will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between January and June 2015, as will households in most pastoral areas enjoying good terms of trade for livestock/cereals, which will enable them to meet their food needs during the outlook period.

    However, the significant shortfalls in crop production in certain areas, particularly in the northern reaches of Kayes, Youwarou, and Douentza departments and riverine and lake areas of the Timbuktu and Gao regions, are prematurely depleting local food stocks. The resulting heavy market dependence of poor households in these areas is causing them to ramp up their borrowing, wage labor, and cutbacks in nonfood spending (on health, education, hygiene, etc.) sooner than usual to meet their food needs. Poor households in these areas struggling to meet their needs as of March will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes until the next main season harvests in October 2015.

    Poor households in localized pastoral areas of the Timbuktu, Kidal, and Gao regions left with limited livestock capital after the high demand for livestock in the last two years will suffer from the falling price of livestock and high mortality risk posed by the severe pasture deficit. The deterioration in terms of trade and reduction in pastoral incomes as of April will limit the food access of poor pastoral households in these areas, where there are still below-average levels of economic activity.  The limited volume or complete suspension of milk and dairy production to protect the physical condition of dairy animals and their young will negatively affect household food consumption. Like agropastoral households, these households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes as of March.


    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, January 2015

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, January 2015

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3


    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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