Food Security Outlook

Humanitarian assistance helps stabilize Stressed levels of food insecurity in northern Mali

July 2015 to December 2015
2015-Q3-1-2-ML-en

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • The large-scale distributions of humanitarian assistance to 650,000 recipients under the National Response Plan for combating food insecurity are stabilizing food insecurity in northern areas of the country at Stressed (IPC Phase 2 or 2!), without which it could have reached Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels.

  • The extended pastoral lean season, beginning in February instead of April as in a normal year, has triggered larger than usual numbers of animals in physiological distress and livestock fatalities, which is negatively affecting household livelihoods in northern pastoral areas. However, the improvement in pastoral conditions with the first July rains will help improve milk availability and increase pastoral incomes between August and December.

  • Despite the poor spatial-temporal distribution of rainfall at the beginning of the season, rainfall forecasts by NOAA, PRESAO/ACMAD, and ECMWF are predicting average to above-average cumulative rainfall across the country, with a regular distribution of the rains and a normal end-of-season in October. These favorable rainfall conditions and large-scale deliveries of farm input assistance from the Government and partner organizations are cause to hope for an overall average to above-average crop production this year despite a few possible localized production deficits.

  • The expected average to above-average crop yields from the upcoming October harvests and good livestock-to-cereal terms of trade will improve household food access. Thus, households in all parts of the country will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between October and December.

National Overview

Current situation

Growing season

In general, cumulative rainfall totals for the period from May 1st through July 29th in most farming areas of the country were normal to above-normal (Figure 1). Crop planting activities in southern farming areas, which were delayed by one to two weeks (Figure 2), are currently actively underway and extending into central and northern areas of the country with the large amounts of rain since the middle of July.

As of the beginning of July, pastures were in average condition in the southern part of the country and in poor condition in the north, where there was still insufficient new grass cover. The same applies to animal watering conditions at watering holes. Livestock in the country’s northern regions and the Western Sahel are in poor physical shape. There are reportedly larger than usual numbers of animals in physiological distress, as well as livestock fatalities, in northern holding areas with the one-to-two-month longer than usual lean season in pastoral areas. Animals in other parts of the country are in average physical condition.

Market functioning and prices

Cereal markets are functioning normally and, in general, there are adequate market supplies. Harvests of off-season rice crops in the Office du Niger irrigation district and various village-level irrigation schemes across the country are bolstering available market supplies of rice. There are more and more reports of the normal seasonal increase in demand in deficit producing areas between July and August, though it is not as steep as usual in northern areas of the country with the distributions of food rations to over 40 percent of the local population. Millet prices are more or less stable in all regional capitals with the exception of Gao, where they are up from last month by nine percent. Prices across the country are close to or below the five-year average, except in Timbuktu, where they are five percent above the five-year average.

Livestock markets are well-stocked with animals, particularly in areas with poor pastoral conditions, where households are culling their herds in an effort to cut their losses. Prices for goats, which are the main animal sold by poor households, are below the five-year average by 10 percent in Timbuktu, 12 percent in Gao, and 22 percent in Rharous. Goat to cereal terms of trade are under the five-year average by eight percent in Timbuktu, five percent in Gao, and approximately 29 percent in Rharous, curtailing the market access of pastoral households. Elsewhere in the country, livestock prices are above-average (by 18 percent in Kayes, 22 percent in Nara, and 23 percent in Niono) despite the harsh pastoral lean season in some of these areas.

Humanitarian assistance

The government and certain partner organizations have been providing various input assistance. For example, they have supplied 15,000 metric tons of animal feed with a 50 percent price subsidy to sustain livestock in pastoral areas between July and August. They also supplied 42,394 farming households with millet and rice seeds in July for the 2015/16 growing season, furnishing them with the inputs needed to kick off the season and helping to improve household food access by allowing them to reallocate funds earmarked for purchasing farm inputs to buying food supplies. This in turn is limiting their recourse to negative coping strategies.

Security situation

The security situation has been gradually improving since the signature of the June 20, 2015 peace accord. However, the sporadic attacks by jihadist groups in the north and certain parts of southern and central Mali are dictating the need for caution with respect to the free movement of people and goods, which is limiting economic activity and income-earning opportunities for poor households in affected areas of the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions and northern Mopti and Ségou regions.

Population movements

As usual, there was a steady flow of migrant workers returning home to begin preparatory work for the upcoming growing season through the end of July. Their average to above-average cash and in-kind earnings will help improve the market access of these households.

Assumptions

The most likely food security scenario for July through December 2015 is based on the following underlying national assumptions:

Seasonal progress
  • Rainfall: Seasonal forecasts for July to September are conflicting, with certain forecasts (NOAA, PRESAO/ACMAD, Agence Nationale de la Météorologie du Mali, and ECMWF) predicting average to above-average conditions while others (IRI and UK MET) showing a higher likelihood of below-average rainfall. Based on this outlook and recent trends in sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean, FEWS NET is assuming there will be average to above-average cumulative rainfall totals for the period from July through October, with a normal end-of-season in late October in most farming areas of the country.
  • Crop predators: There are sightings of winged adult insects in regular desert locust areas. However, with the reportedly low breeding rates in the central Sahara, Algeria, and southern Atlas Mountain area of Morocco, there will not be large enough locust populations to cause them to migrate southwards beyond their usual locations in Adrar des Iforas and Timétrine, which suggests they will have only a limited impact on crops and pastures. In addition, the usual presence of grain-eating birds in their regular locations in the Western Sahel and the Senegal River Valley will cause light to average damage to crops in these areas.
  • Crop production: Cereal production forecasts issued by the government are 27 percent above the five-year average due to the large volume of assistance provided in the form of farm inputs and on-farm improvements. Based on these crop production forecasts, the projected average to above-average cumulative rainfall totals, and stable plant health conditions, FEWS NET is expecting generally average to above-average crop production levels beginning in September.
  • Animal production: Milk production started up in July and will peak sometime in August in the southern part of the country. In general, there will be an average volume of production, except in the Koulikoro and Kayes areas of the Western Sahel and the Timbuktu and Gao regions where the sharp deterioration in the condition of pastures and animal watering holes has put animals in physiological distress. This in turn will negatively affect new birth rates and milk production between July and December. Heavy pressure and above-average livestock mortality rates will drive herd size below-average.
  • Transhumance: The new pasture growth in July jump-started return migration by livestock herds to normal holding areas, although movements are lagging behind schedule as a result of the delay in the recovery of pastures in rainy season grazing areas. There will be normal herd movements back from rainy season pastures to graze on crop residues in October-November and to dry season holding areas beginning in December.
Markets and prices
  • Cereal markets: Cereal market supplies will be seasonally average in all parts of the country despite the seasonal normal decline in supply levels between July and August due to precautions taken by farmers in the face of erratic rainfall patterns at the beginning of the season. Supplies are expected to improve in September with the destocking of on-farm and trader inventories in line with crop production forecasts.
  • Cereal prices: There will be a slight seasonal rise in prices though price increases will not be as steep as usual on account of good cereal availability from both farmers and traders. The large volume of humanitarian assistance in northern areas of the country will also reduce demand. The usual drop in demand in September with the harvesting of green crops is expected to stabilize, if not lower, prices between October and December. Based on its fundamental and technical analysis of historical price trends and current market dynamics, FEWS NET is assuming that millet prices will stay close to or slightly below-average between July and December in the south and certain northern areas and above-average in certain areas of concern in the north.
  • Livestock prices: Livestock prices will rise in line with normal seasonal trends between July and December with the physical recovery of livestock and the usual growing demand from both domestic customers and the coastal states for Ramadan in July, Tabaski in September, and the year-end holiday season. The generally above-average livestock prices will in turn improve the incomes of pastoral and agropastoral households. There should be some improvement in the currently unfavorable livestock-to-cereal terms of trade from the standpoint of pastoralists in many areas of the north starting in August with the rebound in livestock prices and normal decline in cereal prices between September and December. In general, this will put terms of trade for livestock at or above the average.
Other issues
  • Farm labor: The average farm labor opportunities between July and August for crop planting and maintenance work should give way to near-normal employment opportunities during the October harvest, particularly with the promise of average to above-average crop yields based on the rainfall outlook and deliveries of farm input assistance.
  • Wild plant products: The expected rainfall activity across the country will ensure normal growing conditions for plants such as water lilies, vines, and wild fonio, which are gathered as a source of food. Average to above-average yields of these wild plant foods will help ease household food insecurity during the lean season.
  • Civil insecurity: The signature of the peace accord by the Malian government and armed rebel groups on June 20, 2015 offers new hope for an improvement in security conditions in the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions. However, there could still be localized minor incidents causing slight disruptions during the outlook period.
  • Population movements: The unusual population movements in northern areas of the country triggered by the recent security incidents in May are slowing, with IDPs returning to their settlement sites.
  • Humanitarian operations: Between July and September, the government and partners will carry out its National Response Plan for approximately 650,000 residents of the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions and Douentza, Tenenkou, and Youwarou departments in the Mopti region. The monthly distributions of food and nonfood assistance as part of this plan will help ease hardships for food-insecure populations affected by the security crisis and poor crop production during the 2014/15 season.

Most likely food security outcomes

Agropastoral households in the southern part of the country with average to above-average crop yields in 2014 and average incomes from the normal sales of wood/charcoal and farm and off-farm labor have fairly good food access. September harvests of green crops, crops from the main October harvest, and in-kind wages for outside work will further improve their food access and keep their incomes at average levels. Thus, poor households in these agropastoral areas currently in the midst of a normal lean season will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between July and December.

The deterioration in goat-to-millet terms of trade is curtailing the market access of poor pastoral households in northern areas who are emerging from a longer than usual pastoral lean season resulting from atypically low animal production and pastoral incomes. Thus, these households are resorting to atypical coping strategies involving borrowing, sharp cuts in the size and number of their meals and, in some cases, the depletion of their livestock herds as a way to gain food access. Poor pastoral households with small animal herds unable to maintain their livestock are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) levels of food insecurity, due in part to food assistance programs that are preventing a further deterioration in their food security situation. However, the improvement in pastoral conditions in late July and the physical recovery of livestock, combined with the improvement in milk availability in August, will help strengthen the diets and incomes of pastoral households. These higher incomes, though still below-average due to atypical sales and animal losses during the lean season, will help maintain household food insecurity at Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels in August and September, even in the absence of assistance. In addition, the availability of wild plant foods between August and September and the improvement in terms of trade in September, particularly with the high demand for livestock for the celebration of Tabaski, will help give poor households food access. As a result, these households will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity starting in October.

Very poor and poor households in agropastoral areas of Gao, Bourem, Niafunké, Rharous, and Youwarou cercles, which have been market dependent for a longer period than usual due to their poor 2014/15 crop production, are resorting to atypical coping strategies involving borrowing, sales of productive assets, and cuts in food and nonfood spending. While ongoing deliveries of food and farm input assistance as part of the National Response Plan underway since June 2015 are limiting their recourse to negative coping strategies, they will continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) levels of food insecurity between July and September pending the availability of green crops and wild plant foods which will end the harsh lean season by improving food access for the poor and limiting their use of coping strategies. Thus, between September and October, these households will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of food insecurity even in the absence of any humanitarian assistance. Then, between October and December, the main harvest and decline in food prices, combined with income and in-kind earnings from harvest-related work, will enable households to maintain adequate food access and experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.

 

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.

About Scenario Development

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.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
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