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Food insecurity in localized areas, due to limited market access

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mali
  • June 2018
Food insecurity in localized areas, due to limited market access

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  • Key Messages
  • Suppositions
  • Résultats les plus probables de la sécurité alimentaire
  • Key Messages
    • The 2018–2019 agricultural growing season has begun in Mali. Average to above-average rainfall throughout the country, based on seasonal forecasts and various forms of assistance (supplies, agricultural equipment and hydro-agricultural development schemes) provided by the government and its partners, suggest average to above-average cereal production in October 2018.

    • The availability of cereals at markets across the country remains adequate, despite a sharper than usual seasonal drop in supplies. Cereal prices in general are much higher than the average and the sharp deterioration in terms of trade for livestock and cereals compared with the average is limiting poor households’ access to food.

    • A worse than average lean season in the farming areas of the Gao and Timbuktu regions, the lakes area of Goundam and some places in the Inner Niger Delta and western Sahel is causing poor households to adopt unusual coping strategies to meet their food needs. At present, food insecurity is in a Stressed (IPC Phase 2) situation, which is expected to worsen between June and September (IPC Phase 2), in the absence of humanitarian assistance.

    • Households’ access to food will improve in October, thanks to the average to above-average cereal and livestock production expected in the country, lower cereal prices and improved terms of trade for livestock and cereals. As a result, food insecurity throughout the country will be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) from October 2018 to January 2019.


    Current Situation

    Seasonal progress

    The 2018–2019 growing season has begun, thanks to more or less significant rainfall in the country’s southern agricultural areas. Total rainfall at 20 June was generally normal to below average in these areas. The resumption of agricultural activities, such as transporting and spreading manure, clearing fields and sowing, offers poor households average opportunities to generate income and produce food, as they usually contribute to these activities. Off-season crops are coming to an end in irrigated and flood recession areas in the Timbuktu and Mopti regions. The poor rise in water levels in the river and lakes has caused a drop in production, which has resulted in a lower than average harvest. However, the harvests will continue into July and will improve the availability of supplies in the areas concerned. Cereal production forecasts for the growing season that is just starting are up 36.1 percent compared with the five-year average and 8.4 percent compared with the 2017 average. The continuing subsidy for agricultural supplies and equipment, hydro-agricultural development schemes and forecasts of average to above-average rainfall are a positive indicator of average agricultural production in the country.

    Pastoral conditions

    New pasture growth and the replenishment of watering holes are underway, particularly in southern agricultural areas, thanks to the level of rainfall recorded. This is helping to improve the physical condition of livestock and livestock production. The lean season was longer in the farming areas in the north and western Sahel band, due to food supply issues (pasture deficit, early drying of watering holes and the high price of livestock feed), which have caused cases of physiological distress and a significant drop in livestock production, as well as above-average cases of mortality. The livestock vaccination campaign continues with the support of several development partners throughout the country.

    Fish production

    Fish production was generally below average, as poor water levels prevented adequate flooding of spawning grounds, resulting in low fish reproduction levels. Collective fishing activities and the lifting of bans have helped to increase the size of catches compared with the previous month. Average incomes are improving the purchasing power of fishing households. Fishing households are currently returning to shore from their usual fishing grounds.

    Cereal markets and prices

    The availability of cereals at markets across the country remains adequate, despite a sharper than average seasonal drop in supplies. Sales subsidized by the National Produce Board (OPAM) and current off-season rice harvests are helping to increase supplies compared with the previous month. Commercial trade is being disrupted, though not prevented, by security incidents in the Timbuktu and Gao regions and the center of the country. At the end of May, the price of the main cereal crop (millet) in all markets in the regional capitals had increased compared with the previous month, from 3 percent in Bamako to 18 percent in Timbuktu, except in Gao, where it was stable. Similarly, millet and sorghum prices had also increased at the end of May compared with the five-year average, by 5 percent in Mopti, 12 percent in Gao and 17 percent in Timbuktu. In other markets in the regional capitals, millet and sorghum prices were similar or lower. The preference for maize as a more affordable option to millet resulted in increased maize prices to an above-average level in Kayes and some parts of Ségou.

    Livestock markets

    The livestock supply is average in the south of the country and above average in the north and western Sahel due to poor livestock-farming conditions in these areas. Intense demand during Ramadan and from neighboring countries prompted a rise in the country’s main supply markets. The price of goats, which is the animal most commonly sold by poor households, decreased by 23 percent in Gao and Bourem, 11 percent in Goundam and 2 percent in Rharous and Mopti, and increased by 3 percent in Timbuktu, compared with the five-year average. Terms of trade for goats and cereals decreased by 41 percent in Gao, 45 percent in Bourem, 27 percent in Goundam, 28 percent in Rharous, 15 percent in Mopti and 8 percent in Timbuktu, compared with the five-year average, which is negatively affecting pastoral households’ access to markets (Figure 1). The deterioration in terms of trade compared with the average is forcing households to sell more livestock and adopt more strategies to maintain their access to markets. This is causing the number of animals to decline and forcing some poor households to sell the few animals they have.

    Humanitarian assistance 

    The National Response Plan of the Food Security Agency (Commissariat à la Sécurité Alimentaire), in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) provides free food to around 935,000 people vulnerable to food insecurity from June to September 2018, including 20.3 percent facing instability in the Timbuktu, Gao, Ménaka, Taoudenit and Kidal regions and 31 percent in Mopti. In addition to food, distributions of agricultural supplies (seeds, fertilizer and livestock feed), agricultural equipment and livestock to strengthen herds (2,500 head of livestock) are planned for over 2.5 million people in the same areas. The food and agricultural supplies received improve poor households’ access to food and help them to rebuild their weak livelihoods.


    Security incidents continue to be reported in the northern and central regions of the country, dominated by intercommunity conflicts. This has a negative effect on movements of people and goods and causes population displacement. The disruption of economic activities is limiting job and income-earning opportunities and the delivery of humanitarian assistance, particularly for poor households.

    Population movements

    There is a steady flow of migrant workers returning to their home areas for the new growing season. Their average to above-average cash and in-kind earnings will help to improve household purchasing power during the lean season. Insecurity in the north and center of the country is causing unusual displacements of people, further undermining household livelihoods and affecting an estimated 61,404 people at the end of May (Commission on Population Movements, May 2018). The resulting loss of goods is increasing households’ vulnerability to food insecurity. In addition, refugees from Niger and Burkina Faso have been reported in the Ménaka area and Gossi, with an estimated one thousand people present, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).


    The most likely food security situation for June 2018 to January 2019 is based on the following underlying assumptions regarding trends in nationwide conditions:

    Seasonal progress

    • Rainfall: Agroclimatic forecasts from April 2017 by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), NMME, West Africa Regional Outlook Forum (PRESASS), European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), seasonal forecasts show no major irregularities in terms of rainfall across the country. Despite a normal to late start and similar to longer than average dry spells expected in the Sahel areas, cumulative rainfall totals between June and September are expected to be normal or higher than normal (Fig. 2 and 3). The country’s rainy season will begin in June in the Sudanian and Sahelian zones and in July in the northern areas. The average to above-average levels of rainfall expected during this period will allow the growing season to start throughout the country, depending on the different isohyets.
    • Pests: Dry conditions in traditional breeding grounds have reduced the level of locust reproduction in the Middle East. Nonetheless, isolated individuals have been observed in the Sahara in Algeria. A small number of winged insects may be present and persist in parts of Adrar des Iforas, Tamesna and Timétrine in the Kidal region. The current low numbers, despite the onset of rains creating conducive breeding conditions, means they are unlikely to descend from their usual breeding grounds in Adrar des Iforas. Although measures taken in 2017 have limited armyworm infestations, the onset of rains is expected to prompt a resurgence of this pest. As a result, average to significant damage to crops is expected in the Sikasso region and the south of Koulikoro, where the presence of armyworms has been reported. The usual light to average damage from grain-eating birds, grasshoppers and caterpillars is expected.
    • River flooding: There was a sharp drop in water levels of all rivers and streams this year, with levels actively falling. The current water level in rivers and streams is significantly lower than in the same period last year and compared with the multi-year average. However, water levels are expected to rise in June and July 2018 with the onset of rains and will continue into September and October. According to PRESASS forecasts, average to above-average rainfall should result in above-average runoff during the 2018–2019 growing season in the Niger and Senegal river basins.
    • Crop production: The conditions are generally conducive to above-average crop production in the country, notably as a result of average or above-average expected rainfall and the continuing government subsidy program for agricultural supplies (seeds and fertilizer), distributions of agricultural equipment and hydro-agricultural development schemes.

    Other sources of food and income

    • Animal production: The return of more favorable livestock conditions is supporting average animal production (milk, butter and meat) in the country, except along the river in the Mopti, Gao and Timbuktu regions and in western Sahel, where the early deterioration of pastures and drying of watering holes has negatively impacted the physical condition of livestock and animal production. The onset of rains in June and July will help pastures and watering holes recover, improve the physical condition of livestock and support milk production, which will be below average due to the difficult lean season.
    • Herd movements: Herds are currently in the usual areas where they gather in the dry season and around year-round watering holes (wells, rivers and lakes). They will remain in these areas until the onset of rains from June and July, which will trigger their usual return to rainy season pastures, where they will stay until October. Following this, herds will return to graze on crop residues and drink from year-round watering holes. Delays in withdrawing herds are likely, particularly in agricultural areas in the south of the country, which will cause conflicts between livestock farmers and crop producers in June and July. The security incidents in the north of the country will continue to affect normal transhumance patterns throughout the period from June 2018 to January 2019.
    • Fish production: Below-average fish catches during the fishing season (from December to April) will fall further due to higher water levels in rivers and streams and rains from June to November. Near to above-average flood levels will help promote good breeding rates for fish populations, suggesting an average fishing season between November 2018 and February 2019.
    • Migration: Workers who left in search of additional income to support their families will return in May and June to engage in agricultural activities during the new growing season. The average to above-average cash and in-kind earnings brought back by these workers will help to ease hardships for households during the lean season between June and September. As the agricultural work ends, there will be a new wave of labor migration to urban areas of the country, neighboring countries and increasingly to gold-panning areas in Mali and neighboring countries.
    • Labor: The normal types of agricultural labor, from preparing land for harvest to small trades, will continue in the country from May to October. The average earnings from these activities will help to improve the purchasing power of poor households dependent on these sources of income. However, due to financial difficulties caused by poor production in 2017 and the unstable security situation, the limited job opportunities for laborers (in construction, the small trades sector, etc.) in the northern regions of the country and the north of Ségou and Mopti will have a negative impact on earnings.
    • Agropastoral lean season: Poor farming conditions have negatively impacted animal production and herd movements. The decreasing availability of animal products (milk, butter and cheese) and income from livestock, resulting from the deterioration in their physical condition, are affecting pastoral households’ purchasing power. This explains the early pastoral lean season, which is set to continue until June. The recovery of farming conditions from June onwards will increase the availability of milk and dairy products and improve the physical condition of livestock, thus improving pastoral households’ access to food and purchasing power.

    Markets and prices 

    • Cereal markets: The seasonal upward trend in prices following relatively above-average demands will continue until September in the usual consumption areas in the north of the country and the western Sahel, which have seen declines in production as well as unusual pressure from demand in neighboring countries (Mauritania and Niger). Demands to replenish the national security stock and from humanitarian partners, as well as those previously mentioned, will contribute to maintaining the upward trend until September 2018, at a significantly above-average level for the main cereal crops. Subsidized cereal sales and the distribution of free food parcels by the government and humanitarian agencies from June onwards will mitigate the upward trend in consumer markets during the period. From October onwards, the availability of first harvests will reduce consumer demand and improve market supplies, helping to trigger the seasonal fall in market prices.
    • Livestock prices: The above-average trend in livestock prices in the south and the below-average trend in the north should improve as a result of generally average to good farming conditions and demand, which will remain average. The seasonal fall in prices resulting from the usual decline in farming conditions is particularly apparent in the Gao, Timbuktu, Mopti and western Sahel markets, where prices are lower than average. Prices will increase to average or near-average levels, thanks to improved farming conditions in June and July (resulting from improved physical conditions of animals), the usual drop in supply linked to returning herds, and the increased demand for Ramadan in June and Tabaski in August.

    Other issues

    • Civil security: The security situation is still marked by isolated incidents, which will continue to disrupt the free movement of people and goods, notably in the Timbuktu and Gao regions and the north of Mopti and Ségou. However, the introduction of joint patrols involving all the warring parties is a peacekeeping move that will improve security and mitigate its impacts on the socioeconomic life of the areas concerned, which will continue to feel the consequences of the crisis.
    • Population movements: The community-related security incidents still occurring in the northern and central regions of the country are still causing populations to move to safer areas. According to the CMP report, around 61,404 displaced people were recorded at the end of May, an increase of 11,093 compared with March 2018. Population movements will continue throughout this scenario period as people try to escape the conflicts. In addition, 4,000 refugees from Burkina Faso’s border region were recorded by UNHCR.
    • Humanitarian assistance: The National Response Plan currently being prepared provides for free, monthly half-rations of food (9kg/person/month) from June to August for 932,651 people throughout the country, as well as resilience building for over a million people. Support in terms of agricultural supplies for the new growing season (seeds and fertilizers), livestock feed for livestock farmers (over 15,000 tons), zootechnical care in pasture deficit areas and herd building are currently underway. Support for reintegrating returning and repatriated populations will continue throughout this scenario period. These resilience-building programs will limit beneficiaries’ use of negative coping strategies.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The majority of agropastoral households in the south have average income from normal agricultural and off-farm labor, particularly during this period, with the resumption of agricultural activities, self-employment (timber, charcoal and small trades) and migrant remittances. Households will be able to access food without undue difficulty by pursuing their usual sources of income and food during the normal lean season, until green crops are available in September, when the season ends. Food consumption and the nutritional situation will continue to improve as usual compared with the lean season, and will reach an average level. Food insecurity will remain at a Minimal (IPC Phase 1) level until January, thanks to the availability of households’ own production and in-kind payments during the harvest, while the fall in food prices will further improve poor households’ access to food.

    Poor households in the northern regions and western Sahel are emerging from a longer than usual pastoral lean season, which has reduced agropastoral production and income by more than usual. An increase of more than 25 percent in cereal prices and decrease of more than 20 percent in the terms of trade for goats and millet has made it difficult for these households to access markets. Households are therefore adopting unusual coping strategies, including labor, borrowing, reducing food and non-food expenditure and atypical livestock sales to access food. The poor food consumption score should be above average for the period and close to the figure for September 2017, which was 17.2 percent. The Stressed (IPC Phase 2) level of food insecurity in June will continue until September, thanks to humanitarian organizations distributing food and non-food supplies to households facing food insecurity in these areas. The overall trend in the acute malnutrition rate – which is above the World Health Organization (WHO) critical threshold according to the July 2017 SMART assessment (15.7 percent in Timbuktu and 15.2 percent in Gao) – is likely to continue, due to difficulties in accessing food. This is expected to last until September, after which there should be a seasonal improvement in the nutritional situation.

    From September, the availability of low own production levels, payments in kind from the harvest, wild products, animal products and the fall in cereal prices will allow households to meet their food needs without resorting to atypical coping strategies. As a result, the majority of pastoral and agropastoral households in the aforementioned areas will return to a Minimal (IPC Phase 1) level of food insecurity from October to January. However, poor households affected by flooding from July to September throughout the country, displaced populations and returning refugees will have difficulty meeting their food expenditure and livelihood recovery needs. As a result, they will be in a Stressed (IPC Phase 2) situation from January.




    Résultats les plus probables de la sécurité alimentaire

    La majorité des ménages agropastoraux du Sud du pays disposent des revenus moyens issus des activités habituelles de mains d’œuvre agricole et non agricole notamment en cette période de relance des activités agricoles, d’auto emplois (bois, charbon, petit commerce) et d’envois des migrants. La poursuite des sources habituelles de revenus et de nourriture en cette soudure habituelle permettra aux ménages d’accéder à la nourriture sans trop de peine jusqu’à la disponibilité des récoltes en vert en septembre qui mettront fin à la soudure. La consommation alimentaire et la situation nutritionnelle connaitront leur amélioration habituelle par rapport à la soudure et sera à un niveau moyen. L’insécurité alimentaire Minimale (Phase 1 de l’IPC) en cours se maintiendra jusqu’en janvier grâce à la disponibilité de la propre production et des rémunérations en nature dans les opérations de récolte et la baisse des prix des denrées alimentaires amélioreront davantage l’accès des pauvres à la nourriture.

    Les ménages agropastoraux pauvres des régions du Nord et du Sahel occidental qui sortent d’une soudure pastorale plus longue que d’habitude et qui a réduit plus que d’habitude les productions agropastorales et les revenus, ont des difficultés d’accès aux marchés à cause de la hausse des prix céréales de plus de 25 pourcent et de la dégradation des termes de l’échange chèvre/mil de plus de 20 pourcent. Les ménages ont alors recours aux stratégies d’adaptation inhabituelles de main d’œuvre, d’emprunts, de réduction des dépenses non alimentaires et alimentaires, de vente inhabituelle de bétail pour accéder aux aliments. Le score de consommation alimentaire pauvre devrait être au-dessus de la moyenne pour la période et proche de celui de septembre 2017 qui était de 17,2 pourcent pour le score pauvre. L’insécurité alimentaire de Stress (Phase 2 ! de l’IPC) en cours en juin se maintiendra jusqu’en septembre grâce aux appuis humanitaires de vivres et de non vivres aux ménages en insécurité alimentaire dans ces zones. La tendance du taux de malnutrition aiguë global supérieur au seuil critique de l’OMS selon le SMART de juillet 2017 (15.7 pourcent à Tombouctou et 15.2 pourcent à Gao) devrait se maintenir à cause des difficultés d’accès à la nourriture jusqu’en septembre à partir duquel, l’amélioration saisonnière de la situation nutritionnelle sera observée.

    A partir de septembre, la disponibilité de la propre production même faible, des paiements en nature issus des travaux de récolte, des produits de cueillette, des produits animaliers et la baisse des prix des céréales permettront aux ménages de satisfaire leurs besoins alimentaires sans recourir aux stratégies d’adaptation atypiques. Par conséquent, la majorité des ménages pasteurs et d’agropasteurs dans les zones citées plus haut se retrouveront en insécurité alimentaire Minimale (Phase 1 de l’IPC) à partir d’octobre jusqu’en janvier. Toutefois, les ménages pauvres qui seront victimes des inondations de juillet à septembre à travers le pays et ceux déplacés et réfugiés de retour auront de la peine à satisfaire convenablement les dépenses alimentaires et de reconstitution de moyens d’existence. Par conséquent, ils seront en insécurité alimentaire de Stress (Phase 2 de l’IPC) à partir de janvier.

    Pour plus d'informations sur les perspectives des zones de préoccupation, veuillez, s'il vous plaît, cliquer en haut de la page pour télécharger le rapport complet.

    Figures Mali seasonal calendar  Rainy season is from mid-May until October. Land preparation is from April until June. Planting is fr

    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Graph indicating changes in terms of trade for goats/millet (kg/animal)

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. Trends in terms of trade for millet and goats (kg/animal)

    Source: FEWS NET

    NMME forecast indicates average to above-average rainfall across most of the country from June to August 2018

    Figure 3

    Figure 2. Probability of most likely rainfall category – June to August 2018

    Source: NOAA/NMME

    NMME forecast indicates average to above-average rainfall across most of the country likely from July to September 2018

    Figure 4

    Figure 3. Probability of most likely rainfall category – July to September 2018

    Source: NOAA/NMME

    Figure 4.   Probability of most likely rainfall category – June to August 2018

    Figure 5

    Figure 4. Probability of most likely rainfall category – June to August 2018

    Source: Agence Nationale de la Météorologie - Mali

    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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