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Food security improves with average to above-average harvests

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mali
  • October 2014 - March 2015
Food security improves with average to above-average harvests

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • Overall cereal production is expected to be average to above average, ensuring average levels of food availability for much of the country. However, localized production deficits due to insufficient rainfall will cause households in the departments of Gao, Bourem, Goundam, and Niafunké and some areas in the northern parts of Koulikoro and Kayes and the Douentza department to deplete their food stocks earlier than usual.

    • The availability of newly harvested crops and the drop in prices that typically results will improve household food access from October through March. Crop sales, market gardening activities, and 20 percent above-average livestock prices will result in average to above-average income levels, at least until March.

    • With the ready availability of food from the October harvest and average to slightly above-average cereal prices, poor households in agropastoral and pastoral zones will have average access to foodstuffs and be able to meet their food needs. The country could therefore continue to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity conditions from October through March.

    • However, the food security situation is likely to deteriorate to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in April in rice-producing riverine areas of the Gao and Bourem departments, the lake region of the Goundam department, and the Haoussa area of Niafunké due to decreased crop production following insufficient rainfall during the rainy season.

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Growing season

    Continued rainfall after the month of September should lead to average to above-average cereal production throughout most of the country. Ongoing harvests of maize, short-cycle millet, tubers, legumes, and fonio will become more widespread over time, creating average food and income-producing opportunities for households in crop-producing regions of the country. However, production shortfalls are expected in some areas of the regions of Timbuktu (Goundam, Haoussa area of Niafunké), Gao (Bourem, Gao), Mopti (Douentza), and Kayes (Kayes, Nioro, and Yélimané), where insufficient rainfall has hindered normal crop growth.

    Market gardening activities have begun, with good production levels expected given the level of water in ponds, dams, and reservoirs. Market garden produce will provide average food and income opportunities to households from October to March, allowing them to diversify their sources of food and access market purchases.

    On the whole, pasture and animal watering conditions are average to above average, except in the areas mentioned above that received insufficient rainfall. Livestock body conditions are generally good but are average in areas of the regions of Timbuktu, Gao, the Dogon Plateau area of Bandiagara, and northern areas of Kayes and Koulikoro that experienced a long pastoral lean season. The production of animal products (milk and meat) is average on the whole but below average in deficit areas, bringing down incomes earned from the sale of these products.

    Security situation

    The security situation remains marred by isolated incidents, with mine explosions on roadways and clashes between militia groups resulting in losses of life and property. This insecurity is a major concern, as it is preventing the situation from returning to normal.

    Income trends

    Usual farming and non-farming activities (paid labor, the gathering and sale of forest products, migration, petty trade, etc.) will continue as usual everywhere in the country except for certain areas of northern regions suffering from persistent insecurity. Average levels of income from these activities will help improve household access to market purchases.

    Market function and prices

    Markets will be sufficiently well-stocked with foodstuffs throughout the country. Supply rose typically as farmers sold their stocks from the last growing season to meet financial needs related to the Tabaski holiday and school expenses. It will soon improve even more with the usual arrival of early-harvested crops and the drawing down of producer stocks in production areas in the renewed hope that this growing season will be successful. Demand has fallen as usual, with households having access to green maize, fonio, earthpea, cowpea, and groundnut crops.

    On the whole, cereal prices have remained stable since last month, but millet prices fell slightly (four percent) in Ségou. Rice prices are up approximately 2 percent in Mopti and 18 percent in Timbuktu and are stable on the other markets. Cereal prices are generally similar to or slightly above the five-year average on markets in the regional capitals, with the exception of millet prices in Koulikoro (down 8 percent) and maize prices in Bamako (down 12 percent) and Sikasso (down 9 percent). Cereal prices are generally at or below the levels during the same time last year, with the exception of sorghum prices in Sikasso (up 17 percent) and rice prices in Timbuktu (up 8 percent).

    Livestock markets are well-stocked with increased demand surrounding the Tabaski holiday and pastoralists selling animals to buy cereal stocks. Livestock prices are above average, fueled by good animal body conditions and high demand. Prices of adult goats (the most commonly sold animals among poor households) are 11 percent higher than last month in Gao but 10 percent lower in Timbuktu. Throughout the country, goat prices are 25 percent above average. Terms of trade for goats/millet are 35 percent above average in Gao, 46 percent above average in Timbuktu, and 69 percent above average in Douentza, providing households with average access to cereals.

    Humanitarian assistance

    Humanitarian assistance in the form of food, cash, and farm inputs has limited the need for households in the beneficiary areas of Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal, and Mopti and northern parts of Koulikoro and Kayes to use negative coping strategies and allowed them to begin rebuilding their livelihoods. Approximately 3 million people received humanitarian assistance from January through September 2014 in the form of food distributions (1.56 million people), cash, income-generating activity assistance, farm inputs, and pastoral activity assistance.


    The most likely national food security scenario for October 2014 through March 2015 was established based on the following assumptions:

    • Security situation: The situation will remain marred by localized tensions in the north throughout the outlook period, which will continue to disrupt the tranquility of the population and the normal functioning of trade routes (though less than last year and in 2012), particularly in Kidal. The outcome of the negotiations taking place in Algeria will determine whether calm will return to the country, particularly in the regions of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal.
    • Crop production: The beneficial continuation of rains after the month of September compensated for rainfall shortages in September in many growing areas. Overall production for the 2014-2015 growing season from October to December is expected to be average to above-average, with localized pockets of 20 to 30 percent below-average production levels due to poor rainfall distribution in the regions of Timbuktu (Goundam, Haoussa area of Niafunké), Gao (Bourem, Gao), Mopti (Douentza), and Kayes (Kayes, Nioro, and Yélimané).
    • Off-season crops: Off-season crops should develop normally throughout the country from January to March, particularly in flood-recession areas of Timbuktu and Gao and in irrigated areas along the Niger River. Water levels in ponds and lakes used for flood-recession farming and assistance in the form of farm inputs announce average to above-average crop production levels. Decreased cereal production in some riverine areas will push more households into market gardening activities from October to March, resulting in higher market garden produce production than usual throughout the country.
    • Cereal prices: Cereal supplies should rise as usual from October to March, despite isolated pockets of production deficits. The expected drawdown of stocks in October to meet financial needs surrounding the Tabaski holiday and the start of the school year and the availability of early-harvested crops on the markets will contribute to this rise. The typical decrease in demand during this period with the availability of newly harvested crops will be more significant than usual due to continued humanitarian food assistance in the usual consumption zones (western and northern parts of the country). With more supplies and lower demand, prices will follow normal seasonal trends and remain similar or close to the five-year average.
    • Livestock migration and animal production: Pasture and watering hole replenishment levels announce average livestock feeding and watering conditions from October through March. However, pasture deficits observed in northern Faguibine (Goundam) and riverine areas of Gao and Bourem could cause early feeding and watering problems for herds in those two departments beginning in February. The normal migration of transhumant livestock toward dry season pastures will begin in November-December, as usual, so they can reach crop residues in farming areas and bourgou pasturelands in the Inner Niger Delta and travel along usual migration routes. On the whole, animal production will remain average but will be lower in areas facing severe pasture deficits.
    • Livestock prices: Livestock prices will remain more than 20 percent above average from October to December.  Supply will rise as pastoralists sell their animals to buy food stocks, and demand will fall after the Tabaski holiday, leading to a typical drop in prices. However, prices will remain above average throughout the outlook period as average to above-average livestock-rearing conditions discourage pastoralists from drawing down their stocks. In areas of Gao, Bourem, and Goundam with pasture deficits, pastoralists will be tempted to sell more animals than in 2013-14 to save capital and because of the drop in humanitarian food assistance, which limited the need for them to sell livestock in 2014.
    • Migration and population movements: The usual migration of able-bodied workers to the major production zones in November-December will improve the availability of food for poor households in areas that experienced a poor harvest. The early departures of workers to urban centers in Mali and neighboring countries observed since September in areas with production deficits will continue through March. The level of food and remittances sent by these migrants should be average to above-average given average work opportunities in host areas and for longer periods of time, which will improve the access to and availability of food. The current return of displaced persons and refugees will continue through the outlook period thanks to ongoing socio-economic reinsertion programs implemented by the government and humanitarian agencies.
    • Fishing: Average fishing prospects given typical fish reproduction conditions announce average catches during the fishing season, which opens in December. Fishing households in riverine areas of Gao and Bourem will step up this activity to fill rice production deficit gaps. Twenty-five percent above-average fish prices will generate average to above-average income from December through March.
    • Economic activity/income: Economic activity will continue to recover in the north. Employment opportunities will be below average (though still better than in 2013) thanks to an economic recovery supported by the return of displaced persons and refugees and government technical structures. Normal activities such as transport, petty trade, and crafts will generate more income than usual for poor households in these areas. The feeling of caution in the area will continue to limit investments, affecting business and labor opportunities. Programs to support income-generating activities and labor-intensive reconstruction work will mitigate the effects of fewer labor opportunities.
    • Nutritional situation: The nutritional situation should not deteriorate any more than usual. According to the latest SMART survey conducted in July 2014, the global acute malnutrition rate (weight/height < -2 z-scores and/or edema) is 13.3 percent (95% CI: 11.7-15.0), ranging from 9.4 percent (95% CI: 8.3-10.6) in Sikasso to 14.8 percent (95% CI: 11.3-19.2) in Timbuktu. This rate indicates a serious nutritional situation in the regions of Mopti, Kayes, Koulikoro, Ségou, and Timbuktu and the district of Bamako. However, average household access to food thanks to the October harvest, market garden produce production from October to March, and average income from the usual sources during this period will improve the nutritional situation among households, at least until March. The current strengthening of prevention and nutritional recovery programs through capacity-building and the provision of inputs will keep malnutrition rates in the country from getting worse.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    Improved food availability and access during this harvest season and lower cereal prices will mark the end of the lean season in both farming and pastoral zones. Households' access to their own crops from October to March, as usual, and crops from in-kind labor payments in farming zones, along with good terms of trade for livestock/cereals resulting from increased demand around the Tabaski holiday and average livestock body conditions, will help improve the food security situation throughout the country. Crop sales and farm labor will generate average levels of income for poor households to meet their financial needs. Given the factors improving the food security situation as described above, poor households will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity from October 2014 to March 2015.

    However, in rice-producing areas of the departments of Timbuktu, Bourem, and Gao, the lake area of Goundam, and the Haoussa area of Niafunké, lower production levels due to poor rainfall will lead to an early depletion of food stocks among poor households beginning in February. Early dependence on market purchasing will cause households to resort to more labor and livestock sales and able-bodies workers to depart earlier than usual. Good levels of water in watering holes in all areas (ponds, dams, etc.) will result in increased off-season market gardening activities, providing employment opportunities to poor households. Average levels of income earned by stepping up usual market gardening activities from October to March will help poor households in these areas to mitigate the effects of decreased production during the outlook period and will prevent the food security situation from deteriorating.

    In pastoral zones, the lean season is expected to begin early for livestock, in March, due to pasture deficits in the northern Lake Faguibine area in Goundam and riverine areas of Gao and Bourem. This will have a negative effect on livestock body conditions and milk production, resulting in reduced income from livestock and dairy product sales. Elsewhere, the situation will remain average.


    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, October 2014

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, October 2014

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1


    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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