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Acute food insecurity persists in northern and central Mali due to escalating conflict despite the harvest season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mali
  • October 2023 - May 2024
Acute food insecurity persists in northern and central Mali due to escalating conflict despite the harvest season

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Areas of Concern: Ménaka region: Livelihood zone ML01 (Nomadism and trans-Saharan trade), ML02 (Northern livestock farming), and ML04 (Livestock, millet, and remittances in the center of the country) (Figure 2)
  • Other Areas of Concern in the Country
  • Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance
  • Key Messages
    • Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity are expected in the north and center of the country in late 2023 and early 2024. The Ménaka, Kidal, and Ansongo cercle regions are the areas of greatest concern. Conflict and declining income are the main determinants of acute food insecurity during this outlook period. However, the seasonal improvement in livestock production, ongoing harvests, and lower prices for staple grains helped ensure sufficient food availability and household access to food during the lean season from April to September 2023. The pastoral and agropastoral areas of Liptako Gourma improved from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while the conflict-affected Ménaka region shifted from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The food security situation is expected to remain relatively stable until April 2024, the start of the next lean season.  
    • A surge in conflicts between armed groups and the military has affected the level of insecurity in the Ménaka, Gao, Timbuktu, and Mopti regions, resulting in significant disruption to trade flows and the persecution of civilians. Continuing atypical population displacement, the deterioration in livelihoods from the decline in opportunities for economic activities, and theft/looting of goods all further expose poor households to food insecurity. While insecurity has increased significantly in central and northern Mali, the most severe impacts are expected in Ménaka, where population movements remain limited and market supplies are severely disrupted. Conflict dynamics in central and northern Mali are quite volatile, and there is a risk that conflict levels and the resulting impacts on market functioning and local livelihoods could worsen beyond current projections. If this happens, it is likely that levels of food insecurity will deteriorate further than FEWS NET has predicted.1  
    • The Planning and Statistics Unit/Rural Development Service (CPS/SDR) grain production forecasts are slightly above last year, by 6.4 percent, and similar to the five-year average. However, poorly distributed rainfall in June and July severely delayed planting and crop development. Given this, coupled with poor rainfall in September, insecurity that limited cultivated areas in the center and north of the country, and the high cost of inputs, particularly for rice cultivation, FEWS NET estimates that production will likely be below the five-year average. 

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Security situation: The security situation in the Timbuktu, Gao, Ménaka, and Kidal regions has worsened since the handover of MINUSMA camps to the Malian armed forces in June 2023. Repressions against civilians and robberies on the main roads (Ménaka-Ansongo-Gao, Ménaka-Niger, Timbuktu-Mopti) by armed groups are disrupting the movement of people and goods and the normal functioning of markets, particularly in border areas with neighboring countries (Niger, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania). In addition, clashes between the army and armed groups are also disrupting economic activities in the north of the Ségou (Niger office area) and Koulikoro (Nara) regions. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), from January to September 2023 there were 1,121 security incidents, an increase of 13.6 percent compared to the same period in 2022. In addition to the disruption of economic activities and loss of property, difficulties in accessing social and health structures and the atypical displacement of households, particularly in conflict zones, increase their exposure to food insecurity. 

    Population movement: Ongoing and escalating security incidents persist in causing population movements as people seek safer areas. At the end of September 2023, the number of displaced people was estimated at 391,961, an increase of 4 percent compared to April 2023 across the country and mainly in the Mopti, Timbuktu, Gao, Ménaka, and Kidal regions where villages were abandoned (CMP, Sept 2023). Having lost their usual sources of income and food, these displaced households find themselves in a precarious situation by causing host households to exert enormous pressure on the meagre resources available. 

    Agricultural production: Grain production projections for September 2023 are slightly above last year by 3.3 percent, and by 5 percent on the five-year average, according to a report by the Planning and Statistics Unit/Rural Development Service (CPS/SDR, September 2023). However, delayed crop development, low flooding, and poor rainfall distribution, as well as low fertilizer use due to high prices and reduced cultivated areas in insecure zones, particularly in the Liptako Gourma area, have reduced agricultural production compared to last year and the five-year average, including in production basins such as the Seno and the Niger River Valley from Mopti to Gao. In addition to challenges in access to fertilizer, medium to heavy damage to millet/sorghum by granivorous birds in the Mopti region, and by leaf-miner caterpillars in the Koulikoro region, will adversely affect production in the affected localities. Harvests, although below average in some places, are improving food availability and household access to food. In-kind and cash remuneration from harvest labor activities provide average food and income opportunities for poor households. Average availability of water in rivers, dams, and reservoirs will likely also provide an average grain season and off-season of market gardening. 

    Livestock production: Pastures are average to above average, particularly in pastoral areas in the north of the country, which provides good livestock feed. However, vegetation deficits, particularly in the Goundam and Rharous cercles, areas known to be more susceptible in the dry season, are a concern for adequate feeding for livestock during the lean season (April to June) in an environment where herd movements remain disrupted. Animal body condition and livestock production levels are generally average, which improves food consumption and income for pastoral households. Transhumant herds are beginning to return to agricultural areas with harvest residues and to permanent watering points in the north of the country and in the Bourgou river strip. Overall, animal health is relatively stable. The vaccination campaign, initiated in early October, is progressing as usual nationwide, but disruptions are being observed in insecure areas in the central and northern regions of the country. 

    Fishing production: The usual seasonal drop in fish catches is observed during this period of high water in rivers. Catches were low compared to average due to very high water levels and security disruptions in the main fishing areas of the Mopti inland Niger delta and the Timbuktu and Gao regions. 

    Functioning of markets and prices: The seasonal rise in grain supplies is being observed more and more thanks to destocking by producers and traders, and new harvests that improve food availability in markets, yet it is less pronounced than in a normal year due to low carryover stocks. In the insecure areas of Mopti, Timbuktu, Gao, Ménaka, and Kidal, disruptions in access to certain markets and even blockades, as in Timbuktu and Ménaka, are significantly reducing trade flows, with occasional shortages, particularly of imported manufactured goods. Compared to the five-year average, staple grain prices in markets in the regional capitals at the end of September were up 71 percent in Ménaka, 39 percent in Sikasso, 31 percent in Gao, 24 percent in Koulikoro, 13 percent in Ségou, 11 percent in Kidal, 8 percent in Mopti, 7 percent in Kayes, and 4 percent in Timbuktu. These sharp price increases stem from access difficulties due to insecurity, except in Sikasso, where they are linked to the ever-increasing demand for maize for animal feed, and the high cost of production linked to input prices in the different zones. Yet, they remain lower than the same period in 2022 thanks to the rebound in agricultural production in 2022. Prices for imported foods are on the rise in insecure areas, due to the significant drop in their availability as a result of disrupted flows following the upsurge in security incidents. Rising food prices reduce poor households' access to markets.  

    In livestock markets, the supply of livestock is stable or up compared to last month, and average overall, thanks to the return of transhumant herds and grain replenishment needed by livestock farmers, who are benefiting from the improved terms of trade between livestock and grains. Livestock prices remain above average, due to the reduction in supply caused by insecurity and the good condition of livestock in the central and northern regions. Compared to the five-year average, the price of goats, the animal most sold by poor households to access food, is up 33 percent in Gao, 20 percent in Bourem, 19 percent in Rharous, 16 percent in Mopti, Nara, and Timbuktu, and 7 percent in Ménaka. The goat/grain terms of trade in pastoral markets monitored by FEWS NET are generally stable or improving compared to last month thanks to the drop in grain prices and the rise in livestock prices (Figure 1). Compared with the five-year average, they are similar in Gao (+2 percent), up in Timbuktu (11 percent), Nara (10 percent), Mopti (7 percent), and down in Bourem (-7 percent), Rharous (-12 percent), and Ménaka (-42 percent); this reduces access to these markets for pastoral households. 

    Figure 1

    Terms of trade for goat/grain (kg/animal), Sept 2023
    Termes d'échange chèvre/céréales Sept. 2023 (Kg/Tête)

    Source: FEWS NET

    Humanitarian assistance: As part of the seasonal assistance from June to September 2023, 1,175,983 people received monthly food assistance mainly in-kind and cash/vouchers, and 322,281 people received livelihood support, mainly in the form of livestock vaccination, from May to September 2023 from the government and humanitarian partners (Food Security Cluster, September 2023). In the same period, 170,132 displaced people received food and non-food assistance under the rapid response mechanism, covering 2,100 kcal for newly displaced people, which continues across the country. Livelihood support is also continuing as part of the drive to build resilience. Difficulties in humanitarian access remain a challenge, particularly in the Liptako Gourma area as well as in Ménaka and more recently in Timbuktu with a blockade imposed by armed groups; this limits some households' access to humanitarian assistance. 

    Nutritional situation: The nutritional situation is improving seasonally given the improved household access to diversified foods during the harvest period, animal products (milk, butter, cheese), and a seasonal drop in prices. The July/August 2023 SMART survey shows a prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) of 11.1 percent of children aged 6 to 59, including 2.1 percent with severe acute malnutrition, compared to 10.8 percent in 2022. This prevalence is considered Serious on the WHO classification scale. The nutritional situation of each region varies, with precarious levels in Sikasso (8.2 percent) and Mopti (8.9 percent), critical levels in Gao (15.3 percent) and Ménaka (19.4 percent), and concerning in the other regions. The Ménaka region is the most affected by severe acute malnutrition (4.5 percent), followed by the Timbuktu and Kidal regions with a rate of 2.3 percent; this indicates a difficult food security situation for households in these areas, in addition to problems accessing social and health services. Screening and management of malnutrition cases are continuing at operational health facilities, but much less in insecure areas where limited access to social and health services persist. 


    Current Food Security Outcomes 

    The availability of green harvests of maize, millet, and legumes (cowpeas, groundnuts) concludes the lean season for agropastoral households. In addition to the availability of these products, the seasonal fall in staple grain prices, the improvement in the terms of trade between livestock and grain in most pastoral areas, the proceeds from in-kind payments from harvesting labor, and donations/zakat for the poor, mean that the majority of households in agricultural areas have access to food without great difficulty. In pastoral areas, thanks to average breeding conditions, the average availability of animal products (milk, butter, cheese), is improving food access and income from the sale of these products. As a result, most households are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. However, restricted access or even inaccessibility to crops and harvesting areas due to insecurity and population displacement in the Gao and Mopti regions limit access to food for affected households. Above-average prices for main staple foods continue to have a negative impact on poor households' access to food, particularly in urban centers, given lower incomes resulting from the country's difficult economic situation and the deterioration of livelihoods in insecure areas. Poor households that benefit from lower commodity prices and crop availability continue to face difficulties in adequately satisfying both their food and non-food needs, and resort to reducing non-food expenditures, borrowing in-kind or in cash; these households are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity. 

    Some households are displaced in the south of Kidal (Anefis, Tessalit), where village have been increasingly abandoned as a result of the ongoing military offensive. This population along with poor households in the Ménaka region, where 54 percent of the population is displaced, are experiencing huge disruptions to economic activities. The resulting sharp drop in income makes it extremely difficult for poor households to access food and leaves them with little or no means of protecting their livelihoods. Poor households in these areas are experiencing a seasonal improvement in food consumption, thanks to their access–albeit limited– to foraging and livestock products and to lower prices following improved supply, which reduces the need for emergency strategies. As a result, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity improved to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity beginning in October in Ménaka. In addition, poor households in urban centers, who continue to suffer from the effects of high food prices, and flood victims, estimated at 6,910 people, who are finding it difficult to meet both their food needs and the need to rebuild lost assets, are experiencing at least Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity. 

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET


    The most likely food security scenario from October 2023 to May 2024 is based on the following national-level assumptions: 

    • Security situation: The handover of MINUSMA camps to the army will continue to fuel opposition from armed groups who are signatories to the Algiers Agreement in the central and northern regions of the country. Current incidents in the Timbuktu, Kidal, Gao, Bandiagara, and Mopti regions will be exacerbated by the departure of MINUSMA, particularly in the northeast of the country (Kidal, Ménaka, and Gao). The number of incidents is likely to rise in line with seasonal trends, as the end of the rainy season in October will encourage mobility, with a subsequent increase in the number of displaced people. Violence from conflict in the center of the country is likely to remain similar to its current level, close to that of 2023 given the active continuation of military offensives in the area as well as to ongoing community negotiations. 

    • Seasonal agricultural production: National production is expected to be average to below average, with localized declines in production, including in certain production zones (Mopti, Gao, and, in some areas within Ségou and Koulikoro), due to significant damage by granivorous birds, poor access to fertilizers, and a reduction in planted areas in connection with insecurity in the center and north of the country. 

    • Off-season crops: The average water level from sources (ponds and lakes for flood recession crops) and the near-average flood levels on rivers favor average production prospects for off-season market garden crops from October to March and rice from January to March in the areas concerned. 

    • Livestock production/movement: Thanks to the country's generally average to above average livestock conditions, livestock production (milk, butter, meat) is expected to be average from October to January, with a seasonal decline from April to May. In insecure areas, livestock production will remain below average because of difficulty accessing certain pastures. Usual transhumance returning to areas known to be more susceptible in the dry-season will be observed, except in the insecure areas of the north and Liptako-Gourma, where disruptions to herd movements will persist. 

    • Fishing: The seasonal increase in fish catches will be observed starting in November, thanks to flood recession waters and restrictions being lifted. Production prospects for the November to May 2024 fishing season are average overall, except in the inner Niger delta fishing areas of Mopti and the Gao river valley, where conflicts will limit access to certain fishing zones. 

    • Agricultural labor: Labor opportunities for harvesting and off-season labor from October to March will provide poor households with average incomes in agricultural areas, except in areas of insecurity and lower production, where reduced yields will lessen opportunities compared to an average year. Beginning in April, preparations for the next agricultural season will provide average labor opportunities for poor households. 

    • Non-agricultural labor: From November to May, typical non-agricultural labor and petty trade activities will continue normally in the country except in the insecure areas of the center and north, where employment opportunities will be down; income from these activities will fall to below average, particularly in the insecure areas where significant disruptions are observed. 

    • Migration: The usual departure of migrant laborers to the major production zones, mining areas, and urban centers of the country and even neighboring countries in search of additional resources will be observed from October to February. These departures will be above average in insecure areas and in areas that have experienced production declines. The in-kind or cash resources sent by migrants will be close to average due to the longer than usual length of stay and the larger number of migrants. 

    • Food supplies to markets: Overall, market supplies will remain adequate until May 2024, except in insecure areas where trade flows will be severely disrupted, or even blocked in areas like Timbuktu and Gao. In these areas, the drop in flows will lead to shortages of certain imported foods. From April on, the seasonal drop in supply will be observed. For livestock, increased flow of transhumance return will continue until May, and will be below average in insecure areas where markets are dysfunctional. 

    • Grain prices: A seasonal fall in prices will be observed from October/November through January 2023, but will be less pronounced than in a normal year due to the strong demand expected for the replenishment of institutional stocks (OPAM (Office of Agricultural Products of Mali), WFP, NGOs) and merchant stocks, as well as for the neighboring countries of embargoed Niger and Mauritania. According to FEWS NET's projections, the above-average five-year trend in grain prices will continue from October to May 2024, due to low carryover stocks, above-average demand, and rising farming input costs. 

    • Livestock prices: The above-average price trend is expected to continue through April/May thanks to the seasonal increase in demand for the end-of-year festivities, as well as for Ramadan in April. Despite the seasonal drop in prices from April on, prices will remain similar to or above average. Persistent market dysfunction in insecure areas of the center and north will keep livestock prices below average outside accessible markets. 

    • Replenishment of institutional stocks: Institutional purchases planned of more than 25,000 tonnes of millet/sorghum for the replenishment of the National Security Stock and other humanitarian organizations for possible interventions under the 2024 National Response Plan (NRP) will be near average. 

    • Political situation: The transitional government’s extension of the transition period beyond the deadline set, in disagreement with some political parties and the international community, implies an increasingly tense political environment. Appeals from some political parties and civil society groups to respect the agreed dates did not help ease the situation. However, the government's initiatives to engage in dialogue with the political parties will contribute to a more peaceful political environment. Moreover, ECOWAS's reluctance to postpone the elections poses a serious threat to the country's economic activities if economic and financial sanctions are reimposed. 

    • Humanitarian assistance: The usual seasonal decline in humanitarian assistance will be observed by the government and its partners from October to January given the current harvests and lower prices for staple grains, which will improve household access to food. Despite this decline in humanitarian assistance, it will continue for displaced people as part of the rapid response mechanism (RRM) and from emergency funds from humanitarian agencies. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The availability of food from own production, albeit limited in places, in-kind and cash income from harvesting work, animal products (milk, butter, cheese), and the seasonal drop in food prices all contribute to average household access to food across the country, and subsequently to an improvement in household food consumption. Income from the sale of agricultural produce, livestock, and other typical activities will provide poor households with adequate resources to access markets. As a result, the majority of households in the country will be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity from October 2023 to January 2024. However, the decline in purchasing power linked to the effects of inflation and insecurity is reducing poor households’ ability to meet their food and non-food needs, particularly in the country's urban centers, and in insecure areas suffering from deteriorating livelihoods. Households in these areas have their own harvest, albeit small compared to average. A seasonal drop in staple grain prices, improved terms of trade between livestock and grains, and proceeds from in-kind payments during harvesting labor and donations/zakat ensure most households with food access. Households unable to adequately meet their non-food needs without resorting to atypical intensification of labor activities and migration are expected to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity from October 2023 to January 2024. In the Ménaka region, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity is improving to Crisis (IPC Phase 3). This is because of the seasonal improvement in household food access linked to the availability of harvests and harvested products, and to greater mobility in the area and in the operation of markets given the reduction in blockades, enabling circulation to resume on certain roads. This is favorable to the resumption of economic activities, particularly in areas with limited access. 

    From February to May 2024, poor households with highly degraded livelihoods in the Liptako Gourma area, those in urban centers and poor households susceptible to flooding will find it difficult to meet both their food and non-food needs. From March onwards, they will experience a deterioration in their food consumption and nutritional situation due to the early depletion of stocks and the increase in grain prices, which will reduce their purchasing power. Consequently, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity for poor households in the Liptako Gourma area, particularly in the Bankass, Koro, Douentza, and Gourma Rharous cercles, which will experience an early lean season in a difficult economic climate, will deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from May 2024. In the areas under blockade by armed groups in Timbuktu and Gao, the continuing decline in food supplies outside this harvest season will lead to a significant rise in prices, which will reduce adequate access to markets for the poor experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity, which will deteriorate into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) if it continues beyond May. As for the poor in the Ménaka region, who continue to face considerable difficulty accessing food, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity will continue through April, when a likely deterioration is expected given the rise in grain prices. In urban centers, the drop in purchasing power due to inflation reduces the poor households’ ability to access food, and they will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity utilizing atypical borrowing and reducing non-food spending. The same is true for the poor in the western Sahel (northern Kayes and Koulikoro regions), who will experience an early lean season due to the sharp drop in their agricultural production. Displaced households that have lost access to their usual sources of income and food will experience at a minimum Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, requiring humanitarian assistance. The nutritional situation will seasonally deteriorate from March on, but much more pronounced than in an average year, particularly in the Liptako Gourma area and for displaced populations. 

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1
    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most likely scenario
    AreaEventsImpact on food security outcomes

    Timbuktu, Kidal, Ménaka, and Gao regions   

    Further increase in insecurity and tightening of the blockade on the main roads 

    An intensification of acts of insecurity and a reinforcement/prolongation of the blockade will significantly reduce the supply of foods to markets, especially as these areas are dependent on supplies from the south of the country and imports from Mauritania and Algeria. The significant drop in supply, or even shortages, particularly of imported foods, and atypical population movements will cause considerable disruptions to economic activities, with a significant drop in income, exacerbating the challenges to poor households in accessing food. As a result, the number of people in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or even Emergency (IPC Phase 4) will increase in these areas. As the number of displaced persons in Kidal increases, increased insecurity events will lead to an area level deterioration into Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

    Northern Mali (ML02, ML03, ML04), Niger Delta (ML06), and Sahel belt (ML13) 

    Northern Mali (ML02, ML03, ML04), Niger Delta (ML06), and Sahel belt (ML13) 

    In pastures accessible from December to May in the northern pastoral zones of the country, uncontrolled bush fires will lead to early degradation, exacerbating the challenges in feeding livestock in these areas where disturbances in herd movements are observed. The resulting drop in pastoral production and income will worsen the food situation of agropastoral households, increasing the number of people in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Ménaka and Gao regions 

    Substantial humanitarian support in food and non-food items for poor households in the region 

    Intensified assistance covering at least 20 percent of needs for the majority of poor households affected by the security crisis and atypical displacements will improve their access to food and reduce the use of negative coping strategies. As a result, there will be a significant reduction in the number of households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in the region. 

    Areas of Concern: Ménaka region: Livelihood zone ML01 (Nomadism and trans-Saharan trade), ML02 (Northern livestock farming), and ML04 (Livestock, millet, and remittances in the center of the country) (Figure 2)

    Figure 2

    Map of livelihood zone 2 and 4 in the Ménaka region
    Carte de la zone de moyens d’existence 2 et 4 dans la région de Ménaka

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Situation 

    Security situation/population movement: although insecurity remains at a high level compared with last year, the drop in intensity of attacks between armed groups in recent months has led to a relative lull, which has reduced repression of civilian populations and improved mobility in the area. According to ACLED, from January to the end of September 2023, 72 incidents resulting in 281 deaths were recorded, representing a 26 percent drop in the number of incidents and a 57 percent drop in the number of deaths compared with 2022 for the same period (97 incidents resulting in 653 deaths recorded in 2022). Conflicts between armed groups, particularly certain movements of the Permanent Strategic Framework (CSP) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), and Malian security forces, and robberies on the main roads, continue to disrupt the movement of people and goods and the normal functioning of markets. Despite the drop in the intensity of oppression of civilians compared to the last two months, unusual population displacements and difficulties in humanitarian access persist in some areas. At the end of September, according to the DTM report, 10,650 households, or 45,121 internally displaced persons (IDPs), were enrolled through biometric registration, or 54.0 percent of the region's population. These displaced people are in need of food, CASH, shelter, and NFI assistance. 

    Changes in livelihoods: the persistence of security incidents continues to limit access to the usual sources of income and food for the region's poor households, and particularly for displaced households, estimated at 54.0 percent of the region's population, and those in areas with limited access. According to key informants, the decline in income opportunities by around 60 percent compared to the average in the area and high food prices are leading households to resort atypically to remittances from migrants who have left en masse for neighboring Niger and Algeria in search of income to support their households. According to the DIEM results (FAO, June 2023), 23.5 percent of households are selling more livestock than usual up to the last females, indicating a deterioration in livelihoods for predominantly pastoralist households. The income generated by the usual activities of labor, transport, brokerage, agricultural labor, selling firewood, petty trading, and handicrafts is below average, due to the sharp drop in opportunities. Recourse to loans from relatives/friends also remains a significant source, but insufficient to meet expectations due to the difficult local economic climate, which spares no one. According to a REACH assessment in September 2023, 70 percent of households in Ménaka are in debt to meet their food needs. Improved access to inaccessible areas (Inékar, Andéramboukane) thanks to the reduction in conflicts between armed groups has led to a timid resumption of economic activities and the functioning of markets, with greater household access to humanitarian aid. Humanitarian assistance is the main source of food for 21 percent of households and 42 percent of displaced households (REACH, September 2023). The increased use of harvested products (wild fonio, Cram Cram), although available at this time in lower than average volumes due to limited access to harvesting areas, only slightly reduces the food needs of households, particularly those outside the towns of Ménaka and Andéramboukane. The fact that 65.4 percent of households in the region have resorted to Crisis to Emergency strategies, 41.9 percent of which are emergency strategies, provides information on the level of deterioration in livelihoods for households who no longer have access to their usual sources of income due to the persisting economic disruption. 

    Agropastoral production: prospects for the main harvests of dune millet crops from October onwards are well below average, due to climatic hazards and major population displacements, which have significantly reduced the area under cultivation. Although harvests are low compared with the average, the difficulties of access to food for farming households during this harvest period are mitigated. The pastures (herbaceous and woody) are generally average in the area and are conducive to satisfactory livestock feeding. However, the enormous disruption to herd movements caused by insecurity limits access to certain pastures, with a negative impact on livestock production and the market value of the animals. The animals' overall weight is good. As for livestock production (milk, butter, cheese), it is well below average due to the significant reduction in livestock numbers as a result of excessive sales and theft/kidnapping. 

    Markets: grain supplies to markets remain severely disrupted by ongoing security incidents, limiting the flow of goods from Gao and Ansongo, as well as from Niger to the region and from Algeria via Kidal, particularly for rice, pasta, wheat flour, milk, and vegetable oil. The supply of foodstuffs is much lower than in an average year on the main markets, with occasional supply disruptions for markets in areas with limited access or even inaccessibility in the communes of Inékar and Andéramboukane; this is contributing to higher prices. The price of millet is 47 percent higher in Ménaka than the five-year average, which significantly reduces the ability of poor households to access this staple, as well as imported foodstuffs, whose prices are 20 percent (milk, sugar, oil) to over 30 percent (rice, wheat couscous) higher than the average. As for livestock markets, the supply of livestock is down sharply due to the dysfunctional nature of the markets linked to the difficulties of physical access to the various markets. The price of goats, the animal most sold by poor households, is down 7 percent on the five-year average at the Ménaka market. The goat/millet terms of trade in Ménaka have deteriorated by 35 percent compared with the five-year average, due to the high price of millet, which reduces pastoralist households' access to markets. 

    Humanitarian assistance: monthly food assistance in the form of cash and/or vouchers was provided in the area from June to September to poor households, displaced persons and their host households as part of the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM). At the end of September, more than 43.7 percent of the population (36,541 people) received monthly food assistance to cover 2,100 kcal. However, difficulties with humanitarian access to certain areas and financial mobilisation continue to limit the level of humanitarian assistance outside the towns of Ménaka and Andéramboukane.  


    The most likely food security scenario from October 2023 to May 2024 is based on the following fundamental assumptions, in relation to changes in the national context: 

    • Security situation/population movement: clashes between armed groups (CMA, ISGS) and the defence forces will continue in the region from October to May 2024, especially as the handover of MINUSMA camps to the army is being resisted by armed groups in the CSP. The joint operations of the armies of Mali and Niger, within the framework of the new Alliance of Sahel States (AES), which will intensify, will at times calm the situation without preventing attacks on the positions of the armed forces. The resulting security incidents, the persecution of civilians and the looting of property will lead to unusual movements of people to safer areas in Ménaka, Ansongo, Gao, and Kidal. 

    • Market supplies and cereal prices: ongoing security incidents will continue to disrupt the normal functioning of markets, with a drop in footfall and a consequent below-average supply of foodstuffs, which will remain below average. The price of millet and imported foodstuffs will remain well above the five-year average by more than 30 percent at the region's main markets (Ménaka, Andéramboukane, and Inékar), which will reduce poor households' ability to access markets. As for foodstuffs imported from Algeria (pasta, milk, oil, sugar), the above-average price trend of over 25 percent for milk powder and sugar, and 30 percent for couscous, will continue in view of the current disruption of trade flows from Kidal in connection with the military offensive in this region. 

    • Livelihood trends: the persistent insecurity that will continue to disrupt economic activities in the area will keep household access to usual sources of income and food below that of an average year. However, improved mobility in the area, which will improve the functioning of markets, the resumption of economic activities, and humanitarian access, will help to reduce the difficulties households have in accessing food from October to May 2024.    

    • Humanitarian food assistance: as part of the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM), humanitarian assistance will continue for displaced persons, mainly in the towns of Ménaka and Andéramboukane, which are the main reception centers. Actions to strengthen resilience through income-generating activities, distribution of small equipment and even livestock, and livestock vaccination will be carried out during the same period. Difficulties in humanitarian access due to limited access to certain areas of the region outside the towns of Ménaka and Anderamboukane (Inékar, Tidermmène) will continue to limit household access to humanitarian assistance in food and non-food items. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes 

    From October 2023 to January 2024, food consumption will experience a seasonal improvement thanks to the availability, albeit low compared to the average, of harvested products, crops, and animal products (milk, butter, cheese). In addition, the continuation of humanitarian assistance and the seasonal fall in prices are raising the terms of trade for livestock/cereals compared with the lean period, but these will still remain below average. Improving household access to food will reduce the need for emergency coping strategies. However, given the high level of deterioration in livelihoods linked to insecurity, very high food prices compared with the five-year average, and difficulties in humanitarian access, poor households in the region will continue to face difficulties in gaining adequate access to food, particularly for displaced households, who represent over 50 percent of the region's population. Atypical recourse to borrowing by 59 percent of households (including 73 percent for IDPs), reduction in the volume of meals by 67 percent of households, dependence on aid by 21 percent of households, sale of productive assets by 20 percent of households (Reach, October 2023), and begging, all point to food consumption that is much worse than average. As a result, the current Crisis food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) will continue until February 2024. 

    From March to May, falling incomes and the sharp rise in market cereal prices will keep households resorting to atypical coping strategies. The reduction in the volume of meals, or even the number of meals, due to the precariousness of livelihoods, and the drop in livestock production linked to the pastoral lean season, will maintain a deterioration in food consumption compared with the average, as will the already critical nutritional situation in the area, with an overall acute malnutrition rate of 19.4 percent in Ménaka according to the SMART of July 2023. The total livelihood protection deficit for the poor and the survival deficit of 29 percent for the poorest denote a Crisis situation in the area. Crisis food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) will continue until May, when a deterioration is expected, particularly for displaced persons, who are estimated at 54.0 percent of the population in the Ménaka area.  


    Other Areas of Concern in the Country

    Due to the unstable security situation, which is causing major disruptions to economic activities, trade flows, and population movements, as well as the impact of reduced agricultural production on food availability and prices, poor households in some localities are likely to experience difficulties in accessing food. Thus, in the central and northern regions of the country, and particularly in the cercles of Koro, Bankass, Bandiagara, Douentza, Ansongo, Gao, Gourma Rharous, and Timbuktu, the deterioration in livelihoods through the varying degrees of decline in socio-economic activities, disruptions to the movement of people and goods, and unusual population movements, continues to reduce the access of poor households to their usual sources of income and food. The current harvests, although low due to difficult access to fields and insufficient rainfall, provide food and income for poor households through their own production and remuneration in kind and in cash for harvesting work, enabling access to food without major difficulties. In addition, the seasonal fall in prices, the improvement in the terms of trade between livestock and cereals, and the availability of animal products (milk, cheese, butter), foraged produce, and market garden produce all contribute to the seasonal improvement in food consumption in these areas. Poor households in these areas unable to meet their food and non-food needs without resorting to labor intensification strategies, migration, reduced non-food expenditure, in-kind and cash borrowing are therefore in Stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2) from October to January 2024. 

    From February to May 2024, the seasonal rise in prices, which will be more marked than usual in the face of below-average incomes, will reduce poor households' access to foodstuffs, particularly in the areas under blockade, where the steepest increases are expected. Food consumption will continue to deteriorate seasonally, but more sharply for the poorest than in an average year. Poor households in these areas that are able to meet their food needs and are struggling to rebuild their livelihoods will continue to adopt atypical strategies of labor intensification, migration, reduced non-food expenditure, and borrowing in kind and in cash to access food. Thus, the current Stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2) will continue until May 2024.  

    However, the resurgence of insecurity and the continued imposition of long-term blockades in the import-dependent regions of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal will further worsen the food situation of poor households in these areas, who will experience food insecurity from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to worse. The same applies to displaced households across the country, who experience food insecurity from Stressed to worse due to the total or partial loss of their livelihoods. As for the urban poor, they will continue to suffer the effect of inflation on their purchasing power in a difficult economic situation that keeps them in a Stressed (IPC Phase 4) state.


    Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Mali food security outlook October to May 2024: Intensifying conflict maintains acute food insecurity in northern and central Mali despite harvest season.  


    See page 7 for more details on events that could change the scenario.

    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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