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Ongoing food insecurity in conflict areas in Liptako Gourma

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mali
  • October 2019 - May 2020
Ongoing food insecurity in conflict areas in Liptako Gourma

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • The increase in cereal production of about 17 percent above the average is favorable to overall satisfactory food availability in the country during the 2019–2020 food year. Average-to-good current harvests and cereal prices ranging from below average to near average mean that the majority of households are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.

    • Average-to-good livestock conditions in the country bode well for a normal pastoral lean season for livestock from April, except in the western Sahel in Kayes, where it will be early due to the rapid deterioration of livestock conditions linked to the pasture deficit. The anticipated average animal production and the maintenance of their average physical condition will generate average incomes that should help improve the purchasing power of livestock farming households.

    • Household access to cereals is generally average due to the average to above-average availability of domestic production (although this is low in places), payments in kind and below-average to near-average food prices. Improving the terms of trade for goat/cereals to levels similar to or above average favors adequate market access among livestock farming households.

    • Early stock depletion as a result of declining agricultural production in the western Sahel and Liptako Gourma, in addition to declining livelihoods due to conflict and flooding, will lead poor households affected to make atypical use of labor and migration, reduce their non-food expenditure and rely on humanitarian assistance or relatives to meet their food needs. As a result, they will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in March, requiring assistance from April to avoid the situation worsening.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Agropastoral production: Overall average harvests underway across the country are improving food availability in households and on markets. Payment in kind and in cash for farm labor activities are providing average food and income opportunities for poor households that depend on them, except in areas of declining production in the western Sahel due to a lack of rainfall, where remuneration will be lower than average. Cereal production forecasts show a slight decrease from last year’s forecasts and a 17 percent increase on the five-year average (Source:  Rural Development Sector Planning and Statistics Unit, CPS/SDR). The off-season of marketing gardening and cereal cultivation that is starting looks promising, thanks to a high level of availability of water in rivers, dams and reservoirs.

    Grazing land and watering holes are considered average to good across the country except in the western Sahel area, where a significant biomass deficit has been observed. This is a matter of concern because of Mauritanian transhumant herds coming down this year. The animals’ physical condition and the level of animal production are generally average to good. Transhumant herds are expected to return from November onwards for crop residues and along the riverbed for the “bourgou” (aquatic grassland). The animal health situation is relatively stable, despite some isolated outbreaks of contagious bovine nodular dermatosis in places. The immunization campaign is underway throughout the country, with an immunization rate of 64.51 percent at the end of September.

    Fish production: Catches are usually low in this high-water period. The level of flooding in breeding areas due to the high level of water in rivers suggests average-to-good fishing prospects for the next fishing season, from December to April. Low catch levels in this period are expected to improve as water levels fall, which will contribute to improving the income of fishing households and their access to food. However, like other activities, some fishing grounds remain difficult for fishermen in insecure areas to access, particularly in the Niger Delta. 

    Market operation and prices: The supply of cereals and pulses to the markets is generally sufficient due to the increase in supply following the use of stock from the 2018 growing season and the arrival of new harvests. The rise in supply compared with low consumer demand explains the seasonal fall in prices that has begun compared with last month in some production markets such as Bankass, Koro and Diéma, where the declines are -17 percent, -20 percent and -9 percent respectively. In markets in the regional capitals, prices of the main cereal are stable or decreasing everywhere except in Kidal, where an increase linked to the decline in imports from Algeria has been observed. Compared with the five-year average, the basic cereal price declined by 22 percent in Ségou, 18 percent in Sikasso, 13 percent in Koulikoro and 10 percent in Mopti, similar to Tombouctou, and rose by 6 percent in Gao and 16 percent in Kayes. These price levels are supporting average household access to foodstuffs.

    Livestock markets are increasingly being driven by the usual return of transhumant herds and the supply needs of livestock farmers. Livestock prices are stable or rising compared with last month, due to good livestock conditions. Compared with the five-year average, the price of goats, which is the animal most sold by poor households to access food, is generally increasing, for example in Tombouctou (21 percent), Nara (20 percent), Bourem (9 percent), Rharous (25 percent) and Mopti (25 percent), and is similar in Ménaka. The terms of trade for goat/cereals are generally stable or improving compared with last month. Compared with the five-year average, the terms of trade for goat/millet are similar or have improved by 20 percent or more in the pastoral markets monitored, apart from in Ménaka, where a decline of 11 percent has been observed.

    Accessibility: The average to above-average availability of domestic production and produce given as payment in kind during harvesting allow the majority of households to access food without major difficulties in production areas. The decline in prices of the main staple foods to a level similar to or below average and improved terms of trade for livestock/cereal in most pastoral areas (Figure 1) are favorable to average access to food among agropastoral households. However, poor displaced households and those in insecure areas face difficulties in accessing food due to the significant decline or lack of income associated with the cessation of economic activities.

    Food consumption: The usual improvement in food consumption is observed through the availability of varied foods (cereals, pulses, vegetables and animal products) and favorable prices that reduce negative food coping strategies. However, food consumption remains problematic in areas of insecurity, especially for poor internally displaced households and host households that are under severe pressure, which is limiting their adequate access to food outside humanitarian assistance. The poor or borderline consumption score should be close to the average for the period and similar to the average score for the last four years, of 27 percent nationwide (National Food Security and Nutrition Survey (ENSAN), March 2015 to 2018). As far as food diversity is concerned, it is at its best during this period of satisfactory food availability overall.

    Population movement: Continued armed attacks and inter-community clashes continue to cause unusual population displacements in the Mopti, Ménaka, Gao and Tombouctou regions. By the end of September 2019, more than 171,000 displaced persons had been counted, indicating an increase of about 6 percent in the number of displaced persons compared with August, according to the Commission on Population Movements (Commission Mouvements des Populations, CMP). At the same time, the return of refugees and some displaced persons on the basis of negotiations and agreements between communities is underway but remains limited. Poor displaced populations living in host communities and in makeshift shelters face difficulties in meeting their food and non-food needs, which explains their dependence on ongoing assistance reported by humanitarian agencies. The Government and humanitarian agencies continue to provide humanitarian food and non-food assistance to identified internally displaced persons (IDPs) (147,628 people) as part of the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM).

    Flood damage: Significant material damage and loss of life were recorded as a result of major rains from May to September across all regions, particularly in Ménaka, Ségou, Sikasso, Tombouctou, Gao, Kidal, Koulikoro and the Bamako district, where IDPs were affected. The degradation of livelihoods due to loss of habitats, property, equipment, livestock, crops and stocks has increased poor households’ vulnerability to food insecurity, making them reliant on local solidarity or even borrowing to limit the impact of the damage. Food and non-food support from the Government and humanitarian partners was provided to affected households, estimated at more than 80,000 people at the end of September, according to the Directorate-General for Civil Protection (Direction Générale de la Protection Civile, DGPC).

    Security situation: The security situation remains unstable and marked by incidents that continue to disrupt the free movement of people and goods in the central and northern parts of the country. Inter-community clashes, particularly in the central part of the country and the Ménaka circle, have resulted in unusual displacements of people and disrupted agricultural activities in the Koro, Bankass, Bandiagara and Douentza circles. Disruptions to trade flows and the operation of markets, and restrictions on movement adversely affect economic activities and humanitarian assistance in these areas, which in turn has a negative impact on overall household income in the areas concerned.


    The most likely food security scenario from October 2019 to May 2020 is based on fundamental assumptions about changes in the national context, as follows:

    • Seasonal agricultural production: The trend in the current agricultural growing season is generally average, though with pockets of significant delay in the agricultural calendar. The green harvests for pulses and first sowings of cereal crops currently underway will continue until December/January. According to the Rural Development Sector Planning and Statistics Unit (CPS/SDR), harvest forecasts for the current agricultural growing season are generally 17 percent higher than the five-year average. This situation is favorable to the average availability of cereal in the country in the 2019–2020 food year. However, the lack of rain in places across Mali, particularly in the western Sahel, and the loss of crops due to flooding and conflicts in the central part of the country will lead to localized declines in cereal production.
    • Off-season crops: The average fill level of reservoirs (ponds and flood lakes) and rivers suggests average to above-average production prospects for off-season crops from October for market-garden crops, and from January/March for rice crops in irrigated areas and for flood recession crops in the Tombouctou, Kayes, Mopti and Gao regions. The prospect of average to above-average production expected from December for market-garden products and from May to August for cereals will improve the availability of food and the incomes of farming households. For wheat, average harvests are predicted as usual in Diré in March-April.
    • Animal production: The good availability of grazing land in addition to crop residues and the good level of replenishment of watering holes will help keep livestock in good physical condition from December to May. Animal production (milk, butter and meat) will generally be average thanks to good livestock conditions in the usual dry-season concentration areas from February to May (agricultural areas and toward the bourgou fields in the river and lakes area), except in the western Sahel, where animal production will be moderate to poor due to the expected early pastoral lean season. In the community conflict zones of Ménaka, Koro and Bankass, the disruptions to livestock movements that limit the access of herds to grazing land will adversely affect animal production.
    • Fishing: Prospects for fish catches are moderate in the country thanks to the high water level in rivers, which has flooded fish breeding areas. Low catches in October due to very high water levels will improve from November with the start of the fishing season and the fall in the water level in rivers until April/May, after which the removal of protective fencing around ponds for collective fishing will help increase fish availability.
    • Non-agricultural labor: The usual non-agricultural labor and small trades activities from December to May will continue in the country as normal, except in areas of insecurity, where reduced opportunities will make income from these activities below average. In non-conflict areas, average income from these activities will enable poor households that are dependent on them to improve their purchasing power.
    • Agricultural labor: The harvests now starting to represent average food and income opportunities from October to January for workers in agricultural areas, except for those that have experienced a decline in output linked to insecurity and/or rainfall. From April onwards, field clearing and manure transportation operations in preparation for the new agricultural growing season will provide poor households with employment opportunities. Average income and payments in kind from these activities will improve their access to food.
    • Migration: The usual departures of workers in need of earnings to urban centers in Mali and neighboring countries that began in September will continue until February, with a focus on the major production areas in the country for harvesting work, and on neighboring countries. The gold-panning sites that opened in October will attract many migrant workers in the Kayes, Koulikoro and Sikasso regions. Support in kind and in cash sent from October to May or brought back by returning migrants in April-May will improve household purchasing power.
    • Cereal prices: The atypical change in cereal prices in the 2018/19 food year, with long-term stability or even drops in the middle of the lean season, suggests a high level of availability of carry-over stocks among farmers and on the markets. The seasonal decline observed in October is expected to continue until March thanks to the expected average harvests in the country, which will reduce demand for consumption as usual. The replenishment of community stocks from March onwards (in cereals banks run by cooperatives and institutions: National Office for Agricultural  Products (Office des Produits Agricoles du Mali, OPAM), the World Food Programme (WFP) and NGOs), which will be at an average level, and the demand expected from Niger due to the closing of the Nigerian border, will raise prices. The usual increase from March onwards will continue until May at a lower rate than average, thanks to average production and the availability of large carry-over stocks in the country and particularly in the major production areas. The trend for cereal prices below or similar to the five-year average will continue from October to May 2020.
    • Livestock prices: The usual return of the herds in October will increase the supply of livestock to markets, thereby reducing the inflationary effect of Tabaski Festival. Livestock prices, which are currently rising compared with the average in the main livestock markets, will remain largely stable, due to satisfactory livestock conditions that do not encourage emergency destocking, the continuing high demand in coastal countries and the end-of-year festivals. From April onwards, the usual decline in livestock conditions, with a deterioration in the physical condition of livestock, will lead to the usual fall in prices, which will nonetheless remain higher than average but will be lower in the western Sahel due to difficult feeding conditions. The terms of trade for goats/millet, generally similar to higher than average, will continue throughout the outlook period from October to May 2020.
    • Institutional stock replenishment: Free food distributions and subsidized sales under the 2019 national response plan have significantly reduced stock levels at OPAM, as well as at WFP and other humanitarian agencies. Purchases will be made to replenish the National Security Stock and other agencies that may have to intervene under the 2020 national response plan. Demand will be below or similar to average because of the preference for cash transfers or vouchers instead of direct distributions, which are considered expensive and onerous.
    • Livestock movements: The usual return of transhumant herds for crop residues and to dry-season grazing land will be observed from October and will continue until February. The herds are not expected to come down early due to the average to surplus availability of pasture and well-filled watering holes in current concentration areas. However, disruptions due to insecurity in the Niger Delta, the Liptako Gourma area and the early descent of Mauritanian herds to the Sahel, which will lead to the early degradation of grazing land, may be observed from October to May 2020. Animal production (milk, butter and meat) will generally be average thanks to good livestock conditions in the usual dry-season concentration areas from February to May (agricultural areas and toward the bourgou fields in the river and lakes area).
    • Pastoral lean season: The average to above-average availability of grazing land and watering holes after the winter is conducive to problem-free feeding of livestock in the various pastoral areas of the country. On the whole, the pastoral lean season will start in March-April, as in a normal year. Feeding difficulties may be observed and linked to the feed deficit, particularly in the western Sahel in Kayes-Nioro-Diéma and in conflict zones, due to difficulties in accessing grazing areas, which will create overgrazing in the more secure areas.
    • Agropastoral lean season: The average agricultural production expected in the country should ensure average availability of cereals throughout the 2019/20 food year, at prices broadly similar to the average. This gives hope that there will be an average agricultural lean season in the country. However, in localized areas of poor production in the western Sahel and in places in the northern and central regions, early stock depletion and longer-than-usual market dependency will lead to the lean season starting one to two months earlier than normal.
    • Impact of flooding: Decreasing agricultural production due to the loss of cropland and the deterioration of livelihoods as a result of floods across the country are reducing the capacity of poor households to adequately meet their food and non-food needs, particularly as the new season approaches.
    • Security situation: Security incidents continue to be recorded in the conflict zones in the central and northern parts of the country, despite the ongoing negotiations between the Government and the various communities, which resulted in the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement in some areas of the center of the country. The laying of explosive devices and confrontations with the army and between rival groups are likely to continue. Despite the lull in the fighting and hope ignited by these negotiations, localized disturbances, particularly in the Liptako Gourma area, will continue to be recorded during the outlook period due to terrorist groups.
    • Population movements: The ongoing insecurity in the northern and central regions of the country continues to cause population displacement, as people seek out safer areas. The number of displaced persons has been steadily increasing since March 2019. The change in the security situation, particularly in the Liptako Gourma area, with the ongoing incidents and attacks on villages, doesn’t bode well for a major change from the current situation. At the same time, there have been limited returns of refugees from Mauritania.
    • Nutritional situation: The nutritional situation, which is normally difficult during the lean season (June-September) due to a lack of access to food, will improve from October onwards, thanks to the availability of crops, food diversity and lower food prices, which will help ensure average household access to food. From March-April onwards, the usual deterioration in hygiene due to water scarcity and households’ growing dependency on the market, especially in areas of limited production, will contribute to a deterioration in food consumption and, in turn, the nutritional situation. The usual decline in the availability of animal products from March to May – which coincides with the pastoral lean season – and the implementation of stock management strategies, will further affect households’ nutritional situation. The prevalence of global acute malnutrition will therefore follow the seasonal increase from March to May.  It should remain close to the average throughout the period, taking into account the overall satisfactory food situation in the country and the active continuation of efforts to detect and treat cases of malnutrition. However, in insecure areas, the nutritional situation will worsen beyond the usual prevalence in the area, due to difficult living conditions, especially for displaced households.


    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The availability of even low domestic production, in-kind and cash earnings from harvesting work, milk and below-average or near-average food prices will support adequate and diversified household access to food. The poor to borderline food consumption score for the period is expected to be close to the average of 27 percent. The replenishment of stocks and agricultural income from crop sales and agricultural or non-agricultural labor activities will raise the purchasing power of agropastoral households to an average level. The same applies to pastoralist households, which will benefit from favorable terms of trade in livestock/cereals to meet their food needs. As a result, most agropastoral and pastoralist households will be in a Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity situationfrom October 2019 to May 2020.

    However, the early depletion of stocks due to the significant decline in production linked to poor rainfall and floods will lead to early market dependency for affected populations, particularly in the western Sahel area and in places in the Niger Delta. Poor households that need to recover their damaged livelihoods will make atypical use of migration, loans, labor activities and reducing non-food expenditures (agricultural supplies, health, education, hygiene, etc.) to meet their food needs. These households, which have relatively average (albeit poor) access to food during the harvest period and to local solidarity, will experience worse-than-average deterioration in food consumption levels and the nutritional situation from March onwards. Poor households that cannot meet their food needs without atypical use of coping strategies will therefore be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from March to May 2020.

    In insecure areas, particularly in the Liptako Gourma region, poor households with declining incomes, especially in Bankass, Koro, Bandiagara, Douentza and Ménaka, will experience a marked deterioration in their livelihoods, which will limit their ability to meet their food and non-food needs adequately. These Stressed (IPC Phase 2) households from October to March – thanks to their low domestic production, in-kind payments for harvesting, local solidarity and support from the Government and humanitarian agencies – will experience a worse-than-average deterioration in their food consumption levels from March onwards. The use of negative coping strategies because of their longer-than-usual dependency on the markets and humanitarian assistance, especially for displaced households, and the early deterioration of food consumption, will cause significant difficulties in accessing food, making these households Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) with a need for assistance from April until May.


    Events that Might Change the Outlook



    Impact on food security outcomes

    National (Niger Office areas, Gao and Tombouctou riverine regions)

    Pest damage to crops from October to May

    Significant damage by grain-eating birds to off-season crops from April to May might reduce cereal availability in agricultural zones and may lead to higher market prices. Increased prices would reduce the access of poor households to food and the income of farming households. The same applies to possible caterpillar damage to market-garden crops from October to March.

    Northern and central Mali

    Intensification of market disruptions due to residual insecurity from October to May Heightened insecurity would further impact the economic environment in affected areas, negatively impacting household incomes, supplies and livelihoods, and increasing the vulnerability of poor households to food insecurity.

    Northern Mali (zones 2, 3, 4), Niger Delta (zone 6) and the Sahel band (zone 13)

    Significant bush fire damage on grazing land from March to May

    Bush fires habitually cause huge damage to grazing land from December to May, resulting in unusual degradation of grazing land and feeding difficulties for livestock. The resulting deterioration in livestock’s physical condition, reduction in animal production or even increased mortality among livestock would adversely affect the livelihoods of agropastoral households.

    Areas of insecurity (northern and central Mali, Ségou and Koulikoro)

    Epizootic disease from December to May

    Insecurity that restricts vaccination coverage among livestock could lead to a resurgence of epizootic diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and anthrax (bacterial and symptomatic) in areas with high livestock concentration. The loss of resources through death and the decline in animal production would adversely affect the animal herders' livestock capital and income.

    Northern and central regions

    Significant humanitarian food and non-food aid for poor households in anomalous areas 

    Increased support covering at least 20 percent of the needs of the majority of poor households affected by declining production and loss of livelihoods due to insecurity and flooding would improve their food situation. Reducing household financial burdens would strengthen the resilience of recipient households and rebuild degraded livelihoods.


    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 Graph of changes in the terms of trade of millet and goat (kg/animal): More than average, September 2018, and August 2019 in

    Figure 1

    Figure 1.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Graph of the Projection of millet prices in Gao from September 2019 to August 2020: More than the average of the last 5 years

    Figure 2

    Figure 2.

    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

    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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