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Limited household access to food in some areas due to conflict

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mali
  • June 2019 - January 2020
Limited household access to food in some areas due to conflict

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • The 2019–2020 agricultural season has begun in Mali, thanks to the onset of rains at the end of May. Agricultural production prospects are up 10 percent from 2018 and 25 percent from the five-year average. The average to above-average harvests expected in October 2019 will support a good supply of cereals to markets.

    • The supply of cereals to markets throughout the country remains sufficient, despite the occasional disruptions to flows in insecure areas. Cereal prices, which are generally similar to slightly above average, are supporting poor households’ access to food.

    • The early lean season in the Gao and Tombouctou river valley and in places in the Inner Niger Delta, as well as declining incomes, are leading poor households to resort to negative coping strategies to meet their food needs. As a result, households’ food security will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), with humanitarian assistance needed from June to September for the most affected areas to prevent the situation from worsening.

    • The average to above-average harvests expected in October 2019, as well as the observed decline in prices and improved terms of trade between livestock and cereals, will improve household access to food. As a result, most households in the country will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between October 2019 and January 2020. As regards displaced households and flood victims, the aftermath of the degradation of their livelihoods will continue to be a burden, therefore leading to Stressed (IPC Phase 2), or worse, food security.

    National Overview

    Current situation

    Agricultural production

    The 2019–2020 agricultural season has begun in the agricultural areas in the south of the country, thanks to more or less significant rainfall. Total rainfall in Mali as of 30 May was generally below average, except in places in the regions of Ségou and in the north of the country. Clearing fields, transporting or spreading manure and ongoing sowing provide average opportunities for poor households engaged in these activities to generate income and produce food. The off-season rice crops in village-level irrigation schemes and flood recession crops in lakes and ponds in the Tombouctou and Mopti regions are growing normally. The average to above-average harvests expected from June to July will improve food availability in these areas. Cereal production forecasts for the upcoming season are 25 percent higher than the five-year average and 10 percent higher than in 2018/19 (National Council of Agriculture). The continuing subsidy for agricultural inputs and equipment and hydro-agricultural developments, as well as the forecasts of average to above-average rainfall, are a positive indicator of average to above-average agricultural production in the country.

    New pasture growth and the replenishment of watering holes are under way, 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 pastoral lean season is still under way in the northern pastoral areas and in the Western Sahel band, awaiting the onset of rains. In southern agricultural areas, herds are being moved to winter grazing areas. Disruptions in herd movements are being observed in areas of community conflict along the Burkina Faso and Niger border strip.

    Fish production

    Fish catches were considered average to above average across the country. Collective fishing activities and the lifting of bans have helped to increase the size of catches compared with the previous month. Average income from this activity is improving fishing households’ purchasing power and food supply. Fishing households are currently returning to shore from their usual fishing grounds. 

    Markets and prices

    The availability of cereals at markets across the country remains adequate, despite a sharper than average seasonal drop in supplies, thanks to the good production levels in 2018. Sales subsidized by the National Produce Board (OPAM) and current off-season rice harvests are helping to increase supplies compared with the previous month in the areas concerned. At the end of May, the price of the main cereal crop (millet) in all markets in the regional capitals was stable compared with the previous month. Compared with the five-year average, millet and sorghum prices at the end of May increased by 17 percent in Kayes and 9 percent in Gao, remained stable in Tombouctou and Kidal and fell in the other markets of the regional capitals, by 21 percent in Ségou and 6 percent in Mopti. These price levels are supporting average household access to markets.

    Livestock supplies are increasing as usual during the lean season, with the influence of the Eid-al Fitr holiday also playing a part in this increase. Supply is generally average for the period due to average livestock conditions, which are not encouraging significant destocking. Demand is increasing due to religious holidays and exports to neighboring countries. However, a decline in exports compared with an average year has been reported in the Gao and Mopti markets due to insecurity, which is limiting market access for wholesalers.

    The price of goats, which is the animal most commonly sold by poor households, decreased by 20 percent in Rharous and 8 percent in Gao, remained stable in Tombouctou and increased by 22 percent in Nara, 15 percent in Mopti and 9 percent in Bourem, compared with the five-year average (Figure 1). Terms of trade between goats and cereals decreased by 15 percent in Gao and 26 percent in Rharous, remained stable in Bourem and Tombouctou and increased by 23 percent in Mopti, 16 percent in Nara and 7 percent in Ménaka, compared with the five-year average. The deterioration in the terms of trade is reducing pastoralist households’ ability to access food. The average to above-average availability of off-season cereal crops and products from in-kind remuneration intended for land preparation for the new agricultural season, in addition to the similar to slightly above-average price of cereals, are enabling households in agricultural areas to access food without undue difficulty. In some pastoral areas, the deterioration in the terms of trade between goats and millet compared with the average is reducing poor households’ ability to access markets.

    Food consumption

    Food consumption is following its usual trend of deterioration. However, the early depletion of stocks and high dependence of poor households in the poor production areas of the Niger Delta and the Gao and Tombouctou river band are causing unusual deterioration due to the use of strategies to reduce food spending, which is negatively affecting their food consumption. The same is true for displaced households, who are in a situation of deprivation that is limiting their adequate access to food outside ongoing humanitarian assistance. The poor or borderline food consumption score should be close to the average for the period and higher than the March average of 14.7 percent, according to the National Food Security and Nutrition Survey (ENSAN) for the last four years. As for food diversity, it is minimal in this lean season, due to rationing in poor households. The hunger index is expected to be higher than the 8 percent moderate to severe hunger score of February 2019 (ENSAN, February 2019), due to the use of atypical adaptation strategies.

    Population movements

    The usual return of able workers to their home areas for the new agricultural season continues but remains limited in conflict areas, due to the persistence of incidents. The average to above-average cash and in-kind earnings sent or reported will improve households’ purchasing power during this lean season. Insecurity in the country’s northern and central regions has led to unusual population movements. At the end of April 2019, approximately 106,164 displaced people were counted by the Commission on Population Movements, including 43.9 percent in the Mopti region alone, where population arrivals from Burkina Faso were also reported. The resulting loss of property increases their vulnerability to food insecurity. Returns of Malian refugees continue to be recorded throughout the country, particularly in the Tombouctou and Mopti regions, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) estimate being more than a thousand people.


    The security situation continues to be marked by ongoing security incidents that are negatively affecting the socioeconomic environment in Mali’s northern and central regions, reducing poor households’ employment opportunities and incomes compared with the average. Loss of property and looting associated with these security incidents are damaging livelihoods for households in the affected areas, particularly in Ménaka and the Mopti regions. The resulting difficulties in implementing humanitarian assistance have prevented it from achieving its expected effectiveness for households in need, increasing the hardship that they experience and limiting the rebuilding of their livelihoods, which are vital to meeting their needs.

    Humanitarian assistance

    The national response plan currently being prepared provides for monthly food assistance in the form of half and full rations from June to September for 1,055,380 people throughout the country, 77.3 percent of whom are in the Gao, Kidal, Ménaka, Mopti and Tombouctou regions. Support in terms of agricultural inputs for the new agricultural season (seeds and fertilizers), and support for farmers in the form of animal feed and ongoing veterinary care will relieve beneficiary households of the burden of adopting negative coping strategies. Support for displaced, returning and repatriated populations will continue throughout the scenario period.


    The most likely food security scenario from June 2019 to January 2020 is based on the following underlying assumptions regarding trends in nationwide conditions:

    Agricultural and pastoral production

    Rainfall/river flooding: The consensus forecasts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and the African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development (ACMAD) of May 2019 indicate that average to above-average cumulative rainfall is likely in Mali, particularly in the central and northeast areas, where a surplus is expected. A good distribution of rainfall over time and throughout the country is needed to ensure a good level of agricultural production for the current growing season. The same applies to flows of the various rivers serving Mali in the Niger and Senegal river basins.

    Locust invasions: According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Desert Locust Bulletin (, small-scale breeding will take place south of the Atlas Mountains, in Algeria and Morocco, but locust numbers will remain low. Limited breeding may continue in northern Mali. Unconfirmed reports have been received from nomads, travelers and local populations of the presence of immature and mature solitarious adults mixed with last instar solitarious larvae in the north of the country at three sites in the Tilemsi Valley, west of Aguelhoc (1927N/0052E). In the future, low numbers of locusts will persist in parts of the Adrar des Iforas. No significant developments are likely.

    Agricultural production: Favorable forecasts on climatic factors (rainfall and floods), as well the continuing national agricultural input subsidy program of 50 percent of the market price (of seeds and fertilizers) and hydro-agricultural development program, both government initiatives, provide hope for average to good cereal production in the country. The same is true for recession crops in the Tombouctou and Mopti lakes area, where the marked rise in water levels in 2018 will increase the area available for cultivation. Average to above-average harvests are expected in August/September for flood recession crops, October/November for millet, sorghum and seasonal maize, and December/January for rice. Support in terms of agricultural supplies, particularly in the northern regions, by the FAO, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as part of resilience-building programs, will strengthen beneficiary households’ productive capacities. However, conflicts that limit access to fields for some households in the central areas of the country will further reduce below-average production expected in October 2019 in these areas.

    Agropastoral lean season: The agropastoral lean season that is beginning will be normal for most of the country’s population owing to average household access to food thanks to the good harvests in 2018 and cereal prices at markets. However, poor households’ dependence on markets for one to two months longer than usual in the poor production areas of Gao, Mopti and Tombouctou, which are experiencing a drop in income compared with the average, will lead to an earlier lean season, by one month or more, than in a normal year. The average availability of green crops (legumes, vegetables, maize, etc.) from September onward will put an end to the lean season for households.

    Animal production: The normal pastoral lean season in most agropastoral areas is conducive to a normal recovery of livestock production (milk, butter and meat), thanks to the usual restoration of livestock conditions from June to July. Production will peak around August and September. However, the recurrence of community conflicts in the border strip with Niger in the Ménaka region and with Burkina Faso in the Mopti region will limit adequate access to certain routes. This may adversely affect the proper feeding of herds and consequently income and the availability of animal products for pastoral households.

    Livestock movements: Herds concentrated in usual dry season areas will begin returning to winter pastures with the arrival of rains in June/July. Livestock movements will remain disrupted in areas of community conflict as adequate access to some pastoral rangelands will be impaired.

    Fish production: Fish catches, which are abundant during this period, will decline as usual from June to September due to higher water levels in rivers. Fish production will remain above average, thanks to the good reproduction levels of 2018. From September onward, catches will increase as usual, thanks to the drop in water levels. Production prospects for the fishing season will be average to above average, thanks to the expected average flooding.

    Other livelihood activities

    Migration and population movements: The arrival of the rains in June/July marks the return of the workers for the new agricultural season, who had previously left in search of earnings for their households. Average to above-average income reported in June or sent during workers’ time away will allow households to prepare for the new agricultural season and improve their access to markets, especially in areas of declining agricultural production, where departures have been earlier than usual.

    Agricultural and non-agricultural labor: The normal types of agricultural labor, from preparing land for harvest to small trades, will continue in the country from June to October. The average earnings from these activities will help to improve the purchasing power of poor households dependent these sources of income. However, labor income will decline due to expected reductions in production in the areas affected by community conflicts in Mopti and the unstable security situation that limits job opportunities for laborers (in construction, the small trades sector, etc.) in the country’s northern and central regions. 

    Markets and prices

    Cereal prices: The good availability of cereals across the country will contribute to a good supply of cereals to markets from June to January. The usual seasonal drop in supplies from June to August will be followed by the usual increase from September onward, thanks to destocking by both traders and farmers. Cereal prices will follow the normal seasonal trend of a smaller than usual increase in June until the next harvest in October 2019. According to the FEWS NET price projection system, cereal prices will be near or similar to the average in the main markets. The good availability of cereals across the country will be sufficient to meet the increase in demand from the month of fasting in June without causing any significant price increases.

    Livestock prices: Similar to below average livestock prices in pastoral areas and average to above-average prices in southern agricultural areas are expected to improve as a result of the recovery of livestock conditions which will help improve the physical condition of livestock, as well as the increased demand in the months of Ramadan and Tabaski and from neighboring countries, particularly in the southern agricultural areas throughout this scenario period. Disruptions in household market access in the Ménaka and Mopti areas affected by community conflict and the willingness of the households concerned to make emergency sales will reduce the price level to below the average in these areas.  The terms of trade between goats and millet will generally be near to above average from June to December.

    Other key factors

    Institutional purchases: Institutional purchases for national food security stock will be roughly 2,000 tons of maize and are ongoing. The amount of purchases will be lower than usual due to the decline in the number of people requiring aid in the country and the current level of stocks. These institutional purchases, which will mainly support the widely available maize supplies, are not expected to have a significant impact on overall market prices.

    Security situation and population movements: Security disruptions continue in the northern and Mopti regions, where community conflicts have reached high levels despite ongoing negotiations and military patrols. According to FEWS NET, the security situation will continue to be marked by localized disruptions in the regions of Gao, Kidal, North Ségou, Tombouctou, and particularly in Ménaka and Mopti, where community conflicts are frequent. The deterioration of livelihoods and human deaths caused by these conflicts will continue to negatively affect people’s lives in the areas concerned. At the end of April, the number of displaced people was estimated at 106,164 across the country, most of which are staying with host families and in camps in Mopti. The development of such displacements directly relates to the security situation, for which negotiations are ongoing.

    Humanitarian assistance: The national response plan developed by the Government in collaboration with technical partners provides food assistance and resilience building for approximately 450,000 people identified by the Cadre Harmonisé workshop from June to September. The same will apply to households displaced as a result of conflict. Support in terms of agricultural inputs for the new growing season, and support for farmers in the form of animal feed and veterinary care provided by the Government and its partners is under way and/or planned. Support for reintegrating returning and repatriated populations will continue throughout this scenario period.

    Nutrition: The deterioration of the nutritional situation typically begins in April (with the depletion of food stocks, rising food prices, the prevalence of diseases such as malaria, acute kidney injuries, etc.) and reaches its peak during the lean season (June to September). The most recent Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) survey carried out in July/August 2018 revealed a global acute nutrition (GAM) prevalence rate based on a weight-for-height of 10 percent (95 percent confidence interval (CI): 9.1–11.0). This is comparable to the result of the previous SMART survey conducted in August 2017, which was 10.7 percent (95 percent CI: 9.8–11.6). The regions of Bamako (GAM: 10.5 percent (95 percent CI: 7.8–14.0)), Ségou (GAM 11.2 percent (95 percent CI: 8.9–14.0)), Ménaka (GAM: 13.5 percent (95 percent CI: 10.8–16.7)), Tombouctou (GAM: 12.5 percent (95 percent CI: 10.1–15.4)) and Gao (GAM: 14.2 percent (95 percent CI: 11.6–17.3)) are in a serious nutritional situation, with GAM prevalence rates that exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) critical threshold and are consistently serious or critical in the Tombouctou and Gao regions. The prevalence of GAM is expected to remain within the typical seasonal limits for each region until December 2019. The mortality rate of 0.31 [0.30–0.32] per 1,000 is not expected to change significantly.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The good availability of cereals from the previous agricultural season and the similar to slightly above-average trend of cereal prices helps provide most households with average access to food without undue difficulty, thanks to average incomes from usual activities. The current Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity is expected to continue for most households in the country from June to January 2020.

    However, the early lean season resulting from the early depletion of stocks for some households in the areas of the Niger Delta and the Gao and Tombouctou river band is forcing poor households to adopt atypical coping strategies for this time of year, such as agricultural labor, livestock sales and loans from relatives and friends. The already high poor food consumption score for 8.5 percent of households in the area according to the February 2019 ENSAN is expected to fall further and be above average for the period and near the four-year average for September, which is about 15 percent. Poor households and displaced poor people that are unable to meet their food needs without adopting negative coping strategies and/or depending on aid experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) food insecurity with humanitarian assistance needed to avoid Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from June to September. The same will apply to poor households affected by flooding, who will have difficulty meeting their food needs and adequately managing the degradation of their property. The usual deterioration in the GAM rate will be at levels typical for most areas throughout the country for the period, except in the anomaly areas mentioned above, where it will be higher than the median of the last five years, which is 10.7 percent.

    From September, the availability of low first harvests, wild products, animal products, payments in kind from the harvest and the fall in cereal prices will allow households to meet their food needs and reduce the use of atypical coping strategies. The poor or borderline food consumption score for 29.8 percent of households and the very high hunger index should improve and be almost average for September. Improving food availability and minimizing the use of negative coping strategies will help reduce the prevalence of malnutrition, which will be almost average for the period. Households’ average access to their own production, thanks to large harvests and falling food prices, means most will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity from October to January. Poor flood-affected households and displaced people who are struggling to rebuild their livelihoods will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity from October to January 2020.

    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 Map of Current food security, June 2019: Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in most of the country,  Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Stressed!

    Figure 1

    Current food security, June 2019

    Source: FEWS NET

    Title: Mali seasonal calendar Description: Rainy season is from mid-May until October. Land preparation is from April until J

    Figure 2


    Source: FEWS NET

    Graph of changes in the terms of trade of millet and goat (kg/animal): In May 2019, less than average in Gao, the same as ave

    Figure 3

    Figure 1.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Precipitation forecast map May to July 2019: Average or higher than average in Mali

    Figure 4

    Figure 2.

    Source: NOAA/NMME

    Precipitation forecast map July to September 2019: Above normal in the south of the country, and close to normal in the west

    Figure 5

    Figure 3.

    Source: Mali Meteo

    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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