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Insecurity and reduced agricultural production in some areas will reduce poor people's access to food

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mali
  • October 2021 - May 2022
Insecurity and reduced agricultural production in some areas will reduce poor people's access to food

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Current harvests, although lower than last year's and the five-year average, should result in sufficient food availability in the country during the 2021/22 food year. The availability of own production and grain prices that are similar to/slightly above average means that the majority of households can access food without much difficulty and food insecurity is in Minimal (IPC Phase 1).

    • Poor households in the Western Sahel, in parts of the center of the country, will experience an early lean season, causing the food situation to change to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from May 2022 onwards due to the average-to-significant decline in agricultural production.

    • Average-to-good livestock conditions in the country indicate a normal pastoral lean season for livestock beginning in April, except in the Western Sahel and in some regions in the north. In these areas, it will arrive earlier due to the rapid deterioration in livestock conditions resulting from the pasture deficit and overgrazing, particularly in insecure areas where access to pastoral resources remains limited.

    • The current level of food insecurity in Liptako-Gourma will change from Stressed to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in May 2022 in the absence of any humanitarian assistance. However, poor displaced households in insecure areas, returnees and those who are experiencing difficulties integrating into the socioeconomic system, and those who suffered flooding during the rainy season but who do not account for the 20 percent required for the entire area to be classified are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and will remain so until May in the absence of any food assistance.


    Current Situation

    Agricultural production: The September 2021 grain production forecasts are up 4.9 percent compared to last year and 7.7 percent from the five-year average, according to the report published by the country's planning and statistics unit/rural development service. However, the insufficient rainfall and early end to the rainy season observed in some areas of the Western Sahel strip covering Koulikoro, Kayes, Ségou and Mopti since these forecasts were issued, and the reduction in cultivated land in insecure areas, will reduce expected production compared to last year and the five-year average. The overall below-average harvests underway in the country are improving food availability and households' access to food. In-kind and cash remuneration for labor activities and harvests provide average food and income opportunities for poor households. The off-season market gardening and cereal growing season is starting with average-to-good prospects thanks to the good availability of water in rivers, dams, and ponds. Increasing the area used to grow cotton by 31 percent over the five-year average through an incentivizing purchase price will raise the income of cotton producers to average to above-average levels in the areas concerned.

    Livestock production: Pastures are considered average to good overall, particularly in the pastoral areas of the country's northern regions, although there are areas of deficit, particularly in the Western Sahel. Water conditions are average to good overall thanks to the average levels of the water reservoirs. The physical condition of livestock and livestock production levels are average overall and are improving the diet and income of livestock-farming households. Transhumant herds have begun to return to concentrated dry-season areas for crop residues and the riverside for bourgou grass. Animal health is relatively stable overall. The vaccination campaign that started in October is continuing as expected throughout the country.

    Fish production: The usual decrease in fish catches has been observed during this period of high water. Catches are considered low compared to the average due to security disruptions in the main fishing areas of the Inner Niger Delta of Mopti and the Tombouctou and Gao regions. In other areas, they are average.

    Market operation and prices: Food availability remains adequate in all markets and is improving thanks to new harvests. However, the deterioration of the security situation in the Office du Niger area, particularly in Niono, has limited the movement of people and reduced market supply levels in the region. The supply of cereals has increased as usual but less so than in a normal year due to below-average production prospects in many areas, resulting in the retention of farmers' stocks. Compared to the five-year average, the price of staple cereals was up at the end of September in the markets of regional capitals: by 12 percent in Kayes (sorghum), 57 percent in Sikasso (maize), 8 percent in Ségou (millet) and Gao (millet), and 21 percent in Ménaka (millet). Prices were down 7 percent in Koulikoro (millet), 13 percent in Tombouctou (millet), and by a similar rate in Mopti (millet). The price of imported food also increased by 10 to 30 percent, including 15 to 30 percent for oil, 10 to 25 percent for wheat flour and 5 percent for milk powder. Import exemptions and government subsidies have limited price increases for these foods.

    Livestock supplies are stable compared to last month but below those of a normal year in markets in insecure areas due to these markets being deserted. Livestock prices are above average due to the cumulative effects of insecurity reducing supply, high livestock feed costs and, consequently, an increase in the price of red meat of more than 20 percent compared to the average. Compared to the five-year average, the price of goats — the animal most sold by poor households to access food — is up 55 percent in Ménaka, 32 percent in Tombouctou and Mopti, 25 percent in Rharous and 23 percent in Nara. Goat/cereal terms of trade are generally stable or improving compared to last month and the five-year average in the pastoral markets monitored by FEWS NET. They are similar to the five-year average in Gao (+2 percent) and up by 6 percent in Bourem, 24 percent in Rharous, 29 percent in Ménaka, 32 percent in Mopti, and 51 percent in Tombouctou, which supports livestock-farming households' access to markets.

    Accessibility: The availability of own production in this harvest period, donations/zakat, and goods acquired as remuneration in kind for harvest work allow the majority of households to access food without great difficulty in production areas despite below-average harvests. The favorable price changes for the main staple foods to a level similar to or higher than average and improvements in the terms of trade for livestock and cereals in most pastoral areas (Figure 1) support average access to food for agropastoral households. However, in the conflict areas in the central and northern parts of the country, the significant deterioration of livelihoods due to persistent insecurity and unusual displacement, marked by the loss of goods and the interruption of economic activities, limits the access of poor households to food, particularly for internally displaced persons who are dependent on relatives/friends and, in some areas, humanitarian assistance for the distribution of food and non-food items covering their minimum needs of 2,100 kilocalories. Poor households in urban centers are facing difficulties accessing food and non-food items because of reductions in their income due to the difficult economic situation and the effects of COVID-19, which decreased cash transfer levels for more than 28 percent of households (Mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping, September 2021).

    Security situation: The security situation remains volatile in the northern and central regions of the country and, since July, has deteriorated in Niono and Ségou (the northern part of the Office du Niger area) and Nara. The number of incidents decreased by 18 percent overall between August and September 2021, according to Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), with 85 incidents in September compared with 104 in August. Armed attacks, clashes between armed groups, robberies, and targeted assassinations continue to disrupt socioeconomic activities in the affected areas in the form of market disruptions, looting, the disruption of agricultural activities, and more. The drop in income linked to these losses of activity and the access difficulties faced by humanitarian groups have made households less able to adequately meet their food and non-food needs in these areas.

    Population movement: As at the end of September 2021, the number of displaced persons was estimated at 401,736 (Commission on Population Movements, September 2021 report) across the country due to ongoing security incidents in the North, Center, Ségou and Koulikoro regions. In Niono, some villages have seen mass displacements of people as a result of violence perpetrated by armed groups. Refugees and some displaced persons are reported to return tentatively based on negotiations and agreements between communities, with the support of the government and humanitarian agencies. The main reasons for displacement cited by those affected remain armed conflict (82 percent), community conflict (43 percent) and natural disasters (10 percent) (Displacement Tracking Matrix, July 2021 report). According to the same report, 66 percent of internally displaced persons live primarily with host families, compared with 28 percent in spontaneous settlements and 5 percent in collective centers.

    Humanitarian assistance: As part of seasonal assistance, more than 985,283 people (75 percent of those in need) received monthly food assistance — primarily in the form of cash/coupons — and livelihood support (726,069 people) — primarily in the form of cash — from the government and humanitarian partners between January and August 2021 (Food Security Cluster, September 2021). In the same period, 245,307 displaced persons received food and non-food assistance as part of the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM), which continues to operate throughout the country. Livelihood support continues as part of resilience-building efforts.

    Nutritional situation: The nutritional situation has improved as usual thanks to the availability of the first harvests, maintenance of food prices, and availability of animal products (milk, butter, cheese), which are support households' average access to varied foods (animal products, legumes, vegetables, cereals). At the end of October 2021, the number of admissions to malnutrition management facilities (195,880) was down by about 8 percent compared to the same period in 2020 (212,080). Malnutrition continues to be screened and managed by operational health care facilities.

    Current food security outcomes: Food consumption continues to improve with the seasons as the availability of new harvests and rising livestock/cereal terms of trade reduce food access constraints. The resulting reduction in coping strategies and food diversification are helping to improve household food consumption across the country. This consumption is expected to improve with the seasons and approach average levels due to the current harvests which are improving access to food. As a result, the majority of households are in Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1). Poor households in the insecure areas of Liptako-Gourma and displaced poor people are in Stressed (IPC Phase 2): they are unable to meet their food needs without resorting to the atypical coping strategies of reducing food expenditure or borrowing in kind or in cash. However, poor displaced households and very poor households in insecure areas that have been unable to grow crops due to insecurity or flooding, and whose livelihoods are significantly deteriorating with significant protection or even survival deficits, are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    The most likely food security scenario for October 2021 to May 2022 is based on the following key assumptions about how the national context will change:

    • Seasonal agricultural production: Delayed rains, poor rainfall distribution in the Western Sahel, and/or reduced land area in the insecure areas of the center and north of the country and the northern part of the Niono circle, as well as flooding in the river valley, will result in agricultural production levels below 2021 levels and similar to the five-year average, leading to premature depletion of stocks in the affected areas.
    • Off-season crops: The average amount of water available in reservoirs (ponds and recession lakes) and the overall below-average river levels indicate average production forecasts for off-season crops, starting in October for market-garden crops, and January/March for rice crops in irrigated areas and flood recession crops in the Tombouctou, Kayes, Mopti, and Gao regions.
    • Animal production/livestock movements: Normal-to-surplus pasture production, particularly in pastoral areas, in addition to crop residues and the average replenishment of water points, support good animal feed and average animal production (milk, butter, meat) from October to May 2022. In the insecure areas of the north and Liptako-Gourma, disruptions related to security incidents will limit herds' access to certain pastures, which will have a negative effect on animal production.
    • Fishing: High river levels support good fish breeding rates. The production outlook for the November 2021 to May 2022 fishing season is average to above average, and average to below average in the conflict areas of the Inner Niger Delta.
    • Non-agricultural labor: The usual non-agricultural labor and small-trade activities between November and May will continue as normal in the country. However, insecurity in the Liptako-Gourma and northern regions and the after-effects of COVID-19, particularly in urban centers, will limit employment opportunities and reduce income from these activities to below-average levels.
    • Agricultural labor: Opportunities for harvesting, transportation and threshing will be below average due to the expected decline in agricultural production. Off-season market gardening, flood recession and rice activities from October to March and efforts to prepare the land for the new growing season in April and May will provide average labor opportunities for poor households.
    • Migration: Migrant workers will continue to travel as usual to the country's major production areas and neighboring countries for harvesting work and in search of resources until February. The gold-mining sites opened in October will be the preferred destination of many migrants in the regions of Kayes, Koulikoro and Sikasso. Remittances from migrants will remain below average due to the after-effects of COVID-19 on the recovery of economic activity in host countries.
    • Cereal prices: The seasonal fall in prices that began with the current average harvests is expected to continue until January. The replenishment of community stocks from January/February including cereal banks, cooperatives and institutions (the National Produce Board, WFP and NGOs), which will be at an average to above-average level, and the above-average demand expected from neighboring countries, will result in a seasonal price increase from January until May. Cereal prices will be at a similar to above-average level from October to January and above average from January to May.
    • Livestock prices: The above-average price trend is expected to continue until April/May due to the usual increased demand for meat for the holiday season, and also during Ramadan, which will take place in April. From April onward, the usual decline in livestock conditions, and deterioration in the physical condition of livestock, will cause a seasonal drop in prices. Prices will still be similar to or above average, except in Liptako-Gourma areas and in some places in the northern regions, where huge market disruptions have been observed due to insecurity.
    • Replenishment of government stocks: To replenish the national security stock, which is practically empty after the lean season, purchases will be made from January to March for more than 30,000 tons of millet/sorghum, which is above average.
    • Security/political situation: The planting of explosive devices and clashes between the regular army and armed groups are expected to continue at a similar level to 2020. Attacks are likely to increase in frequency and intensity in the western regions of the country, particularly in Kayes and Koulikoro, where armed groups are attempting to extend their influence.
    • The political situation in Mali is expected to remain tense until early 2022, with demonstrations becoming more frequent between December 2021 and February 2022, and beyond if elections are postponed. In addition, given that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is opposed to postponing the elections, doing so would pose a serious threat to the country's economic activity should ECOWAS impose economic sanctions.
    • Population movement: The end of the rainy season, which coincides with the intensification of security incidents, is likely to maintain the upward trend in the number of displaced persons, estimated at 401,736 at the end of September 2021 (Commission on Population Movements). At the same time, refugee populations from Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso will continue to return gradually.
    • Humanitarian assistance: Plans for food assistance for the next few months are still in progress. However, humanitarian assistance typically decreases from October and picks up again around January as part of the response to the pastoral lean season. For displaced populations that make up less than 20 percent of the area, food and non-food assistance will continue to be provided under the RRM throughout the period.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Most households' access to food will improve thanks to the availability — albeit low in some places — of their own production, proceeds of payment in kind and in cash for harvesting work, sale of animal products (milk, butter, cheese) and the fall in food prices to a level similar to or slightly higher than the average. Improved food consumption and reduced reliance on food and non-food coping strategies will mean that the majority of households in the country will be in Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) from October 2021 to January 2022. Average incomes from the sale of agricultural products, livestock and usual activities, and improved terms of trade for livestock/cereals will provide poor households with the means to access markets without great difficulty. However, declining incomes and deteriorating livelihoods due to the combined effect of COVID-19 and insecurity will continue to make poor households in Liptako-Gourma and urban centers less able to adequately meet their food and non-food needs. As a result, those households, which will be unable to meet their food needs without exceptionally resorting to labor, migration and reduced food spending, will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from October 2021 to January 2022.

    From February to May 2022, the premature depletion of stocks (starting in February/March) for poor households in the Western Sahel, Liptako-Gourma, and parts of Tombouctou, Gao, and Ménaka due to declining agricultural production will result in longer-than-usual dependence on the market. The overall decline in income, particularly in insecure areas with severely deteriorated livelihoods, and the rise in cereal prices will limit access to food for poor households in these areas. Poor households will then resort to reducing non-food and food expenditure, opting for less preferred but cheaper foods, reducing the size of meals, and migrating en masse. Once acceptable food consumption during the harvest period will deteriorate early in March due to the use of less expensive foods and smaller meals. The same will be true for malnutrition, which will be above average. Poor households in the low-production areas of the north — in Kayes, Koulikoro, and Ségou — that are unable to meet their food and non-food needs without resorting to atypical coping strategies will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from March to May 2022 The food situation of poor households in the Liptako-Gourma area will fall into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in May, particularly in the cercles of Bankass, Koro, Ménaka, Douentza, and Gourma-Rharous, which are experiencing an early lean season on top of insecurity and limited humanitarian assistance which is reaching under 25 percent of those in need. Displaced households and some villages in Niono Cercle, which make up less than 20 percent of the area's population and are under the control of armed groups, will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and May 2022.

    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.



    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    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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