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Poor rainfall in Mauritania will lead to Crisis food insecurity in February/March

  • Alert
  • Mauritania
  • November 17, 2014
Poor rainfall in Mauritania will lead to Crisis food insecurity in February/March

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  • Summary
  • Situation

  • Summary

    Poor rainfall during the June to October season in south-central Mauritania (Figure 1) will result in significantly below-average main and off-season harvests, reduced seasonal labor incomes, and reduced income from livestock sales. In February/March, more than 300,000 poor households in affected areas of the Senegal River Valley and Agro-pastoral Zones will begin to face food consumption gaps. Without additional, well-targeted emergency assistance, more than 600,000 households could face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity by June. An Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is possible by September 2015 in the absence of emergency response.


    A FEWS NET assessment in September to the Senegal River Valley and Agro-pastoral Zones found that development of rainfed crops in affected areas was significantly delayed. This will reduce and delay harvests. At the end of the rainy season, water retention was minimal in flood recession cropping areas for long-cycle crops. Field reports confirm that main season harvest production is only expected to last poor households approximately two months, compared to four-five months in a typical year. Irrigated farming will also suffer in the coming year as a result of low water levels in rivers, streams, and temporary lakes following the poor rains between July and September. The level of the Senegal River is about 50 percent below the three-year average.

    In addition to below-average and delayed harvests, households in affected areas will continue to earn below-average seasonal revenues. The unproductive main season in the region led to a decrease in demand for agricultural labor at the same time that overall labor supply increased as poor households sought to make up for expected harvest losses. Local off-season labor opportunities and seasonal migration labor opportunities to eastern Mauritania and Senegal will also be below average as off-season production in those areas is negatively affected by the bad rainfall earlier this season in both countries. Below-average pasture availability later in the year will translate into declining livestock body conditions and low sale prices for livestock, further limiting incomes for poor households.

    The price for sorghum, the preferred local staple, is expected to rise above the five-year average due to below-average local production, atypically low trade flows, and increased household demand, especially by pastoralists. Poor household purchase needs will be atypically high this year as a result of the poor harvests. Even though purchase prices for imported substitutes (rice, wheat) are stable, households in south-central Mauritania will face difficulty meeting their food needs through purchase. FEWS NET analysis of affected areas in the Senegal River Valley and Agro-pastoral Zones (using the Household Economy Approach) indicates that households will begin to face difficulty meeting their basic food needs in February/March, despite continued access to credit for purchase.

    Poor households in affected areas of the Senegal River Valley and Agro-pastoral Livelihoods Zones will exhaust household food stocks about three months earlier than normal. Due to limited seasonal incomes, they will face difficulty meeting their above-average market purchase needs. In February/March, they will begin to face food consumption gaps. Humanitarian assistance programs continuing from the last consumption year will not be enough to offset these gaps. By June, more than 600,000 people will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Additional and well-targeted emergency assistance is needed to minimize the number of households from experiencing more significant food consumption deficits. In the absence of such response, an Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is possible by September 2015.

    Figures Figure 1. Areas of south-central Mauritania worst affected by poor rainfall in the main cultivation season

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    FEWS NET will publish an Alert to highlight a current or anticipated shock expected to drive a sharp deterioration in food security, such that a humanitarian food assistance response is imminently needed.

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