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Food Security Outlook July to December 2012

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mali
  • July - December 2012
Food Security Outlook July to December 2012

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  • Key Messages
  • Preface
  • Current food security conditions
  • Most likely food security scenario
  • Factors that could change the scenario

  • Preface

    Given the limited availability of information regarding desert locusts and uncertainty with respect to future developments of the political crisis in northern Mali, food projected food security outcomes are less certain. The following analysis will be updated as new data is made available.

    Key Messages
    • The climate of insecurity in the north continues to disrupt economic systems, with reduced employment opportunities, low cereal supply and high prices, and unfavorable terms of trade for pastoralists. However, current IPC Phase 3: Crisis level food insecurity should gradually improve to IPC Phase 2: Stress through December with the expansion of ongoing and scheduled humanitarian assistance programs in the north, the end of the lean season in pastoral areas, and the continuation of the agricultural season. 

    • The end of the lean season in pastoral areas as of July should help to significantly improve pasture and water resources and the physical condition of animals, normalize livestock prices, and foster a return to normal seasonal migration patterns. Humanitarian assistance for pastoralists since June helped reduce food insecurity levels to IPC Phase 2: Stress starting in July.

    • In general, crop production forecasts for the 2012-2013 growing season are predicting an average harvest, buttressed by the earlier than usual and above-average rainfall reported through the end of July and the start-up of farming activities. However, shortages of farm inputs and equipment are expected to significantly reduce rice production in the north. This will mean less seasonal income for households in livelihood zones 3 (fluvial rice and transhumant livestock rearing) and 6 (Niger Delta), keeping poor households in IPC Phase 3 (crisis) until December, when local harvests will allow for slight improvements. 

    • The growing season, which is already underway, is threatened by a desert locust infestation, with security problems preventing the monitoring and treatment of infested areas in the northern part of the country. The number of potential problem areas is multiplying in Tamesna and Adrar, where sightings of adult locusts have been reported since May. The immediate mobilization of necessary resources for the detection, treatment, and prevention of a widespread locust outbreak is essential to avoid large losses of crops and pasture resources, both in Mali and across the Sahel.

    • Good growing season conditions, ongoing efforts to deliver aid to northern areas of the country, and the easing of political tensions should help improve the nationwide food security situation by September. However, a shortened rainy season and possible locust infestation could undermine food security conditions, particularly in dry farming areas. 

    Current food security conditions

    Negotiations by different political groups for the formation of a unity government have calmed the political situation to some extent. However, skirmishes between different rebel groups in June/July in Gao, the destruction of mausoleums in Timbuktu, and the increasingly stringent enforcement of religious law are still fostering a climate of insecurity in the Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu regions. An increasing will to reclaim rebel-occupied areas explains the numerous ongoing talks by both political and military leaders. However, the realities on the ground during the rainy season and the ability of the government to take political action make any military operation unlikely in the short term. Meanwhile, a slow but steady flow of IDPs southward continues. The number of IDPs is currently estimated at over 174,000.

    The growing season is already underway, with rains beginning earlier than usual across the country. Cumulative rainfall totals as of July 10th were average to above-average everywhere except in the southern reaches of the Kayes region, which reported a small rainfall deficit. Government subsidies for farm inputs will be extended for the fifth consecutive year, but have been cut by 26 percent compared with last year. However, the climate of insecurity in northern crop-producing areas is seriously hampering the start-up of farming activities, where planting rates may not even reach 60 percent. The government’s grain production target is approximately 9.5 million metric tons, compared with 5.7 million last year and 6.4 million in 2010. This increase is based on the development of new automatic irrigation systems for rice-growing areas in the southern part of the country (covering approximately 16,000 hectares) and distributions of high-yield (5 to 6 MT/ha) hybrid corn seeds. The production target for cotton is 500,000 MT, compared with 433,000 MT last year. However, the difficulty of providing farmers with a regular supply of fertilizer, the limited availability of high-quality seeds and resulting low planting rates in the Niger Delta and western Sahelien areas, as well as the risk of damage from grain-eating birds and locusts make the achievement of these production targets highly unlikely. 

    The reported presence of desert locusts in gregarization areas in the northern part of the country is a continuing source of concern, particularly with the inaccessibility of these areas due to security threats. The improvement in environmental conditions in these areas (with the beginning of the rains and new pasture growth) is conducive to locust breeding activities, laying the foundation for a possible infestation of farming areas of Mali and neighboring countries. However, current data on locust movements, locations, and behavior is unavailable. The National Desert Locust Control Center has drawn up an action plan designed to contain any eventual infestations through the deployment of canvassing and treatment teams along the front extending from Koro (Mopti) to Nara (Koulikoro). However, security threats and a funding gap could undermine the plan’s efficacy. The immediate mobilization of necessary resources for the detection, treatment, and prevention of a widespread locust outbreak is essential to avoid major losses of crops and pasture resources in Mali and across the Sahel.

    Grain prices on all domestic markets are still very high, at 60 to 80 percent or more above the five-year average and last year’s figures. This is due, in part, to the high demand for millet/sorghum for the government’s blanket distributions of food aid since December of last year. However, prices for corn and imported rice in the southern part of the country were more or less stable and, in some cases, actually dropped between May and June, though market prices in the north continued to rise. Corn prices in the south are approximately 9 percent lower than last month, though still slightly more than 40 percent above-average. Prices for imported rice are stable or down from last month, lower than at the same time last year, and below-average. Millet/sorghum prices are stable or up slightly from last month. The government has waived customs duties on imports of 120,000 MT of rice and 85,000 MT of sugar and capped prices for both items under an agreement with traders, which should lower the unit price of imported rice by approximately seven to ten percent and that of sugar by 10 percent compared with last month. 

    The blanket distributions of 45,476 MT of cereals under the government’s emergency plan for households in IPC Phase 3: Crisis across 104 municipalities judged at risk for food insecurity by the SAP (the National Early Warning System) in October of last year in livelihood zones 8 and 4 in the Kayes and Koulikoro regions and the Niger Delta area of Mopti (livelihood zone 6) ended in July. The subsidized sales of over 90,000 MT of grain scheduled to begin in January in the 266 municipalities hardest hit by the last poor harvest have still not started up due to budget constraints. In addition to government assistance programs, NGOs and humanitarian organizations have also been conducting targeted food distributions, subsidized sales of grain and seeds, cash payments, and distributions of small animals to populations in the south. The resumption and gradual expansion of humanitarian assistance programs in the north are helping to lower food insecurity levels in Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal, as well as for IDPs and host families in the south. 

    Northern Mali (Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal)

    Rice is the main crop grown in the country’s northern regions, accounting for just over 70 percent of local grain production and representing approximately 12 percent of nationwide rice production. The 2012-2013 rice-growing season is reportedly in jeopardy, particularly in large-scale irrigation schemes in Timbuktu and small village-level irrigation schemes given the lack of means by many cooperatives to provide needed supplies of fertilizer and fuel for pumping stations and to properly maintain power-driven pumps. Security problems are making it difficult to deliver supplies of needed farm inputs to northern areas of the country for this year’s growing season, heightening fears of a large shortfall in rice production. A special plan has been put in motion to address this issue by enabling farmers to obtain needed supplies of inputs from the neighboring Mopti region. Such a production shortfall will reduce the size of on-farm reserves and household income from these farming activities (from sales of crops and on-farm employment). In addition to these operational problems affecting rice production in areas with automatic irrigation systems, there is also a limited availability of seeds for equally important flood-irrigated rice crops for households in livelihood zone 3 (fluvial rice and transhumant livestock rearing) as a source of food and income. 

    Massive population displacements from northern to southern Mali, with no sign of any returns in the face of continuing security threats, could bring down planting rates for this growing season in the Timbuktu and Gao regions. Poor households will intensify self-employment activities such as the sale of straw and firewood in preparation for their subsequent migration. The lack of technical training and supervision will preclude the proper follow-up of agricultural extension services, which will affect crop yields. NGOs are mounting numerous initiatives designed to bolster crop production in this area through distributions of seeds, fuel, and power-driven pumps. This assistance, particularly seed aid, could come too late given the crop calendar for rice (which should ideally be planted in June in village-level irrigation schemes and in JulyAugust in the case of flood-irrigated rice crops). These constraints will sharply reduce rice production in particular, possibly by more than 50 percent compared with normal production levels.

    This year, the heavy market dependence of Malian households in the face of soaring food prices is heightening vulnerability, particularly with the disruption and, in some cases, complete shutdown of their sources of income for market access. Market conditions are marked by higher than usual grain prices and low market supplies of foodstuffs, aggravated by the climate of insecurity in this part of the country. The unit price of local rice is up by seven percent from June on the Timbuktu market. Rice prices on the Kidal and Gao markets are stable. Prices for the small quantities of millet shipped to the Timbuktu market from southern Mali are up eight percent from last month. Prices on all markets are more than 70 percent above-average. However, imported foodstuffs (imports of rice, wheat semolina, food pastes, oil, and milk) from Algeria are improving market supplies in the north, particularly in Kidal and Gao. Prices for these imports are lower than usual due to the waiver of import duties. 

    Sources of household income for the purchasing of food supplies such as livestock have been undercut. The average price of cattle is down by more than 50 percent from the same time last year. Terms of trade for goats/millet are well below-average. Income from local on-farm employment will be lower than expected with fewer employment opportunities afforded by farming activities as a result of the expected reduction in planting rates. Income (in the form of food and cash) from regular short-term seasonal labor migration and longer-term migration to southern areas of the country and even destinations outside the country is suffering in the face of the disruption and, in some cases, complete breakdown of relay channels (with the shutdown of banks, the disruption in public transportation service, and the higher cost of remittances). Such disruptions have hurt the incomes of poor households, making them increasingly reliant on borrowing and local community assistance networks, which are being severely tested by the extended state of insecurity and by delays in and limited volume of humanitarian aid.

    Steady improvements in the organization of caravans under the direction of the Ministry of Humanitarian Aid, Social Welfare, and Elderly Affairs in collaboration with the High Islamic Council are evident. There are also signs of the expansion of assistance programs by certain NGOs, particularly nutritional assistance programs and distributions of food aid. However, reports by local informants allude to the limited volume of food aid distributed to date and problems hampering the effective targeting of high-risk groups. The nutrition situation in the country’s three northern regions is a source of concern in the face of the rise in child malnutrition rates in the Gao region reported by Action Against Hunger. According to ACF, 51.7 percent of the 2,046 children screened at the Gao referral center between May 14th and June 10th of this year were suffering from global acute malnutrition.

    Southern Mali With the rains beginning earlier than usual in most parts of the country, planting activities started up in June and are actively continuing in all crop-producing areas. However, these activities are being hampered by shortages and, in some cases, a complete lack of seeds for both millet and rice crops. The worst-off areas are the Sahelian zone (livelihood zones 8 and 4 in the Kayes and Koulikoro regions) for rainfed millet and sorghum crops and pulses and the Niger Delta area (livelihood zone 6 in the Mopti region). This could affect production levels by lowering planting rates and, in particular, by reducing crop yields as a result of the use of any kind of available seed in these areas trying to recover from the last, very poor growing season. According to government experts, expected shortfalls could come to as much as 20 to 30 percent of normal production levels, particularly in the case of rice. With the steady rise in water levels which, so far, are ahead of figures for last year and above the thirty-year average, any delay in planting activities poses a flooding risk in low-lying ricegrowing areas of the Niger Delta. A number of farmers are resorting to buying any available seeds on the market in an attempt to minimize any flooding risks. The weak physical condition of plow oxen, following a much harsher than usual lean season in the Western Sahel and the Niger Delta due to shortages of pasture and water, is also noteworthy.

    Market conditions are marked by visibly tighter grain supplies, particularly in the western Sahelien area, due to the previous poor harvest. Grain prices are still above-average and higher than at the same time last year. Millet prices on the Ségou market are down three percent from last month but more than 70 percent above-average. Corn prices in Sikasso are following the same trend but are somewhat lower, at 45 percent above-average. The low levels of on-farm stocks particularly in the Sahelian zone and the Niger Delta, and the strong demand from humanitarian organizations on other southern markets between January and June of this year, which has since tapered off, have helped keep prices high. Stocks at nearby cereal banks in the Sahelian zone and the Niger Delta, drawn on by local populations during the lean season and helping to regulate prices in certain areas to some extent, are virtually nonexistent. Poor households are increasingly turning to on-farm employment (for cash wages or in-kind payments), self-employment, and, in particular, to borrowing in order to cope with high market prices.

    Most likely food security scenario

    The most likely food security scenario described below for the two main focus areas for the period from July through December 2012 is based on the following general assumptions:

    • Southern Mali will benefit from normal to below-normal amounts of rainfall, while the central and northern reaches of the country will see normal rainfall activity.
    • Humanitarian aid will fail to resolve seed shortages for local floating rice crops in the Niger Delta (which account for 90 percent of output in that region) and floating rice-growing areas of Timbuktu and Gao in the time required (before the end of August).
    • In the absence of new information regarding the behavior, location, activities, and movements of desert locusts, the most likely scenario assumes that locusts will cause some localized losses of crops and pasture. This assumption will be updated as new information becomes available given the potentially rapid evolution of the locust threat.
    • Grain prices in the south will remain high though stable through the month of August, dropping as of the beginning of September with the expected unloading of cereal stocks. Prices in the north will remain at July levels, with small fluctuations throughout the outlook period according to developments in humanitarian assistance efforts and security conditions. Grain prices in both southern and northern Mali will continue to be above-average.
    • The general lack of funding, fertilizer, and fuel for the proper operation of irrigation schemes in the Timbuktu and Gao regions will jeopardize rice harvests in these areas.
    • High-water levels in livelihood zones 3 and 6 should be normal, helping to properly irrigate rice-growing plain areas and allowing for good fish breeding rates in August.
    • Farmers and traders in the southern part of the country will proceed to unload their cereal stocks at the end of August in the face of good growing season conditions.
    • Markets in the northern part of the country will continue to gradually recover, improving supplies of grain and farm inputs, though prices will stay high.
    • The slow rebound in economic activity in the north will continue to seriously affect the incomes of northern populations.
    • Humanitarian assistance programs will improve and expand in the north and the Niger Delta area as of July-August.
    • Pastoralists will stick to their normal patterns of seasonal migration, with new pasture growth and a rebound in milk production levels in both southern and northern Mali in August.
    • The unlikelihood of any sort of treatment against grain-eating birds in September will mean considerable damage to rice crops in the Niger Delta.
    • Population displacements from northern to southern Mali will continue throughout the outlook period.
    • Migrant remittances in livelihood zones 2, 3, and 8 will be up by 20 to 30 percent from the same time last year due to the food security problems in these areas.
    • There will be a continuation of the status quo in terms of political stability between now and December, with a possibility of localized tension in the north.
    • Seasonal labor migration income will increase by 20 to 30 percent, with migration periods extended from six to eight months and larger numbers of migrant workers.
    • Income from farming and pastoral activities in livelihood zones 3, 6, and 8 will be lower than usual due to the fewer employment opportunities in these areas. Income levels in other parts of the country should be normal.

    Northern Mali

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

    High mobility of populations in both areas, marked by permanent moves in search of good pastoral conditions and trade, makes them less vulnerable to issues currently affecting northern regions of Mali. Livestock are the primary livelihoods source in these areas. The end of the lean season in June with the growth of fresh pasture and the replenishment of watering holes has improved the physical condition of the animal population and milk availability. In addition to a good milk supply, populations in LZ 1 earn sizeable amounts of income from sales of livestock to Algeria. The livelihoods of poor, generally sedentary, households involving tending livestock, firewood sales, and engaging in various income earning activities continue normally. The availability of wild plant foods in general and wild fonio in particular in September should improve food security conditions for poor households. With their ties to Algerian markets, residents of LZ 1 should experience only minimal food insecurity during the outlook period. However, pastoralists in LZ 2 will remain in food security stress until August, given their ties to dysfunctional markets in the rest of the country for livestock sales and food supply, as well as disruptions in seasonal mobility of people and assets. Beginning in August, these populations will evolve to minimal food insecurity.

    Livelihood zone 3 (Fluvial rice and transhumant livestock rearing)

    Rice farming in association with transhumant livestock-raising is the main occupation in this livelihood zone. Local households depend on rice-farming, livestock-raising, market gardening, fishing, and migrant labor (remittances) in the case of better-off households. This area normally has large food deficits, with crop production meeting household consumption needs for nearly three to six months in the case of better-off households and for only one to three months in the case of poor households. Given low production in this area, local populations rely on the market to meet over 60 percent of their food needs. Poor households depend on income from farming activities and migrant remittances for market access in July.

    The current state of food insecurity in this area, triggering mass population displacements, and the reluctance of better-off households to invest in agriculture, reducing employment opportunities, will mean less income for very poor and poor households from farming activities. The lack of funding for irrigation schemes normally providing more than five months of work, particularly in Timbuktu, is jeopardizing employment prospects for thousands of households. The downsizing of irrigated areas will cut labor needs by 25 to 50 percent. The deterioration in terms of trade for goats/millet in the face of soaring grain prices, outstripping the average by more than 80 percent, is heightening household vulnerability in general and that of the poor in particular. However, the slow recovery of livestock markets affording opportunities for selling animals at better prices should slightly improve conditions for those households with any remaining animals left to sell.

    In most cases, ongoing humanitarian assistance programs should help ease conditions for poor households in this area between July and December. The situation in urban centers is less critical than in other areas with the outflow of large numbers of IDPs to the homes of relatives in the countryside, where they will share their limited resources. Very poor and poor households currently in IPC Phase 3 (crisis) will see an improvement in their food security situation by September with the availability of wild plant foods such as wild fonio and water lilies (which could cover a month’s worth of household consumption needs), milk, and fish, and deliveries of humanitarian aid. By November, local rice harvests, the expected decline in market prices for cereal crops from southern Mali, improvements in seasonal income and expansion in humanitarian aid should help bring down the food insecurity levels of very poor and poor households to IPC Phase 2: Stressed.

    Livelihood zone 4 (millet and transhumant livestock rearing): Gao and Timbuktu

    This area normally is a production deficit zone for millet. Most food needs (50 to 60 percent) are met by market purchase with income earned mainly from sales of livestock and short-term seasonal labor migration. On-farm employment in July helps to enable access to food and income among poor households. Wild fonio harvested in September and cram-cram grass are important food sources for poor households. Like other northern livelihood zones, this area is chronically food insecure, as reflected by the large numbers of refugees in Niger and Burkina Faso. These departures will sharply reduce crop production, increasing food gaps for local populations. Households remaining in the area continue to experience crisis levels of food insecurity in July, with their limited income from short-term labor migration and from sales of animals, which was much less than expected due to the poor physical condition of their livestock, preventing poor households from meeting their food needs. The availability of milk and fonio in August-September should provide some relief. Thus, food insecurity levels should improve from IPC Phase 3: Crisis in July to IPC Phase 2: Stress by September, still strained by the economic slowdown and the high market prices for cereals. The continuation of humanitarian assistance programs is required to protect the livelihoods of poor local populations given high food prices and to limit crop sales.

    Livelihood zone 6 (Niger Delta – fluvial rice): Mopti

    The majority of the local population is generally agropastoral and dependent on rice-farming in conjunction with livestockraising. This is normally a food-secure, surplus production area. Rice farming activities afford good employment opportunities in July and August and between November and January, during the rice harvest. The main source of food for better-off households in this livelihood zone at this time of year is normally on-farm production. The poor depend on market purchase for over 50 percent of their food supply and on in-kind wage payments for approximately ten percent. Sales of livestock in October and milk sales in November are important sources of income for the poor in particular, along with labor migration, beginning as of September. 

    In spite of what are expected to be good flooding levels, the growing season is dependent on the success of appropriate measures taken to address the shortage of local rice seeds for this crop year. The high market price of cereal is limiting access for poor households facing a reduction in income due to the limited on-farm employment opportunities available. The increase in remittances from migrants and seasonal migrant workers expected to earn more or less normal amounts of income will not suffice to meet food needs and needs for local rice seeds, selling for double the normal price. A sack of seeds is currently selling for 100 to more than 150 percent above its normal price in this area. 

    In spite of the improvement in the physical condition of livestock with the growth of fresh pasture, poor households have very few salable animals to meet their funding needs at this time of year. However, the rebound in animal caretaking opportunities as a source of food should help improve the diets of poor households between August and December under the in-kind payment system prevalent in this area (three meals a day for caretakers for sedentary animals and three sacks of rice for those accompanying transhumant herds). Fishing households will continue to suffer from small catches after last season’s poor fish breeding conditions. Even with the high price of fish, fishing income is approximately 50 percent lower than usual. 

    NGOs have been furnishing high-risk households with food aid and local rice seeds since June. These two-to-six-month-long assistance programs should help ease hardships for poor households in this area already benefiting from the government’s blanket distributions of grain in May as part of its emergency plan. These different forms of assistance should help propel very poor and poor households currently in IPC Phase 3: Crisis to IPC Phase 2: Stress by November with the first rice harvests of the season and the improvement in fish catches. At the same time, expected good harvests should drive down prices for millet and sorghum. Middle-income and better-off households should be food-secure throughout the outlook period.

    Southern Mali

    Livelihood zone 8 (millet/sorghum, migration, and transhumant livestock rearing)

    Migrant remittances in the form of cash are the driving force in the livelihoods of most of the population of livelihood zone 8 in northwestern Mali. These remittances are made throughout the year as needed, increasing in December with the beginning of the holiday season and the influx of vacationers. Sales of livestock in July are another source of income for better-off households. Remittances from seasonal migrant workers and the intensive farming activities between July and August afford employment opportunities for poor households in this area (in return for cash wages and in-kind payments). The preservation of these employment opportunities hinges mainly on migrant remittances to better-off households. The harvest season from October to December and, in some cases, beyond is also a busy time for the poor. The availability of crops from the first round of harvests beginning in September marks the end of the lean season. 

    Last year’s poor harvest triggered a much sooner than usual flow of short-term seasonal migration and longer-term migration by the local workforce. As of July, the planting period for crops, there was still very little return migration by seasonal migrant workers. However, even with the downsizing of potential cropping areas, particularly in the case of poor households, this is enabling these households to earn more income than usual with the extension of their normal labor migration periods. Moreover, the increase in migrant remittances to better-off households in the face of current temporary hardships is ensuring gainful on-farm employment opportunities for the poor. Such opportunities are essential for this group of households in livelihood zone 8 during the months of July, August, and even September. The good physical condition of livestock in August should improve prices compared with previous months. This improvement in prices benefits better-off households more so than poor households, who have fewer if any animals to sell, having already sold off their entire herd prior to the outlook period. Any improvement in the incomes of poor households will be offset by the high market price of grain, which will continue to rise through the end of August with the poor condition of roads rendered unfit for vehicle traffic by the rains. The availability of green crops as of September will ease the effects of current high market prices on poor households.

    The blanket distributions of food and grain aid and subsidized sales programs by the government and NGOs between December of last year and June of this year helped ease hardships for local populations and, in some cases, actually helped stabilize grain prices between May and June. Humanitarian assistance programs are still underway and scheduled to continue through December of this year. These targeted « food for work » programs and distributions of food aid and small animals will further ease current conditions for poor households, some of whom had begun to resort to harmful coping strategies such as skipping meals. The different assistance programs implemented to date and scheduled for future implementation, with a high probability of materializing, should help keep poor households in IPC Phase 2: Stress through September, by which time they should experience only minimal food insecurity, assuming no major market disruptions and the good seasonal progress. 

    Other southern livelihood zones (southern Kayes, Koulikoro, and the Seno area of Mopti, Ségou, and Sikasso)

    Developments in the food security situation in other southern livelihood zones should be in line with normal seasonal trends. Poor households in these areas will have difficulty obtaining adequate food supplies through the end of July in the face of the soaring market price of grain. Normal employment opportunities afforded by the growing season and other seasonal occupations should enable poor households to meet their food needs, though to the detriment of other important investments in farm implements, equipment and inputs. The opening of cereal banks in these areas in August and the drop in prices with the expected unloading of cereal stocks in August and September should further improve the food security situation. The availability of season foods (corn, cowpeas, earthpeas, and squash) is another positive factor. 

    Factors that could change the scenario

    Resumption of fighting

    A resumption of the fighting in the north would have serious consequences for food security outcomes, particularly in the event of an escalation in tension in August/September, in which case fighting could break out by September. The ensuing conflict between different factions (the army, self-defense groups, and rebel groups) will severely disrupt if not completely shut down humanitarian assistance programs, triggering massive population displacements leaving fields abandoned at the height of the growing season or harvesting period. The resulting increased disruption in economic systems, marked by the failure of both food and livestock markets, will only contribute to eliminating income from livestock-raising activities with the lack of outlets for livestock and the rising cost of crops shipped from the south. In addition, the virtual halt in economic activities will mean a lack of employment opportunities, particularly for already severely tested sedentary populations in the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions, which could be propelled into Phase 4 (emergency) of the IPC acute food insecurity phase scale by November without humanitarian aid to meet their food needs. Nomadic populations will take advantage of their mobility to distance themselves from battle zones, taking refuge in neighboring countries. 

    Shortened rainy season and/or locust threat

    There is presently little if any evidence of a locust threat, except for reports of unofficial sightings of groups of locusts in the vicinity of Kidal. However, the locust situation could change very quickly. The presence of locusts and subsequent activity could seriously compromise domestic or regional crop production. The government’s extremely limited resources and the measures taken to date against the locust threat are not likely to be sufficient in the face of a potential widespread infestation between August and September. In the worst-case scenario, a locust infestation would cause massive damage to both crops and pastures. Significant crop losses, particularly in southern crop-producing areas, would justify cereal hoarding and steep hikes in market prices for grain. Poor households in southern Mali would begin to experience food insecurity by December. Shortages of pasture in the northern part of the country would mean sizeable losses of livestock and a sharp drop in market values. Livestock-raising households and pastoralists in particular would face a food crisis during next year’s lean season, which would begin very early in the year (February/April). A shortened rainy season with the rains ending sometime in September would have the same effects as a locust infestation, particularly on crop production in the southern part of the country. There is little likelihood of the materialization of these three shocks, unless a drought in the northern part of the country drives locust populations down into southern farming areas. 

    Table 1: Other possible events in the next six months that could change the most likely scenario 

    Geographic areapossible eventsimpact on food security conditions
    All livelihood zonesShortened rainy seasonThe expected unloading of on-farm and trader inventories in August will not materialize. Prices will begin to rise as of September, further undermining the food security situation of poor households, particularly in the Sahelian zone and northern regions of the country facing a second consecutive poor crop year.
    Livelihood zone 3Sizeable deliveries of aid in the form of fertilizer, seeds, and fuel for irrigation schemes in northern regions of the countrySizeable deliveries of high-quality rice seeds by August 10th at the latest will enable rice farmers in general and impoverished households in particular to plant large enough tracts of potential ricelands in crops. This will help ensure job opportunities for poor households at reasonable prices.
    NationwideLocust infestation for lack of adequate surveillance and treatment capabilitiesLarge losses of crops with the same effects as a shortened rainy season, plus heavy damage to pasturelands with serious/ fatal consequences for animals and pastoralists.
    NationwideStrong demand for grain from humanitarian organizations in the event of the resumption of fighting in the northHeavy pressure on grain markets, sustaining the upward trend in prices.
    Livelihood zones 1, 2, 3, and part of zone 6 (northern Mopti)Full-blown war by the army to take back occupied northern regionsGeneral upheaval, isolating northern populations and triggering new large-scale population displacements. The operation of markets will be severely disrupted, with a risk of shortages in impacted areas. 
    Livelihood zones 6, 8, and 4 (Kayes and Koulikoro)Effective control of the grain-eating birds sighted in massive numbers in these areasEffective treatments against grain-eating birds in September (their breeding season) will help safeguard crops (millet, sorghum, and rice), protecting farmers from a food deficit.
    Northern Mali (livelihood zones 1, 2, and 3), the Niger Delta (zone 6), and the Sahelian zone (livelihood zone 8)Shutdown of humanitarian programsEscalation in food insecurity and nutrition problems in July and August in livelihood zone 8 and between July and October in livelihood zones 1, 2, 3, and 6.
    Northern Mali (livelihood zones 1, 2, and 3)Peace accord between the government and rebelsRestoration of peace, fostering the free movement of persons and goods. The return of IDPs and refugees with the business recovery and resumption of humanitarian assistance programs will improve food availability.


    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Timeline of Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Timeline of Critical Events

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current estimated food security outcomes, July 2012

    Figure 2

    Current estimated food security outcomes, July 2012

    Source: FEWS NET

    Livelihood zone map

    Figure 3

    Livelihood zone map

    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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