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Seasonal rains return after a long dry spell

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mauritania
  • August 2014
Seasonal rains return after a long dry spell

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through December 2014
  • Key Messages
    • Though the rainy season got off to a relatively average start in late June/early July, all livelihood zones are showing large rainfall deficits, with long dry spells causing rainfed crops and pastures to wither. Even if the good seasonal outlook hold true, harvests of rainfed crops and pasture production in certain areas are expected to be below-average.

    • The protracted lean season is aggravating Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food security conditions faced by poor households since July in most parts of the country’s Agropastoral and Rainfed cultivation Zones. With no food stocks and large shortfalls in their seasonal incomes, they are having difficulty meeting their livelihood protection needs.

    • The Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions in the west of both livelihood zones since June are spreading to Aleg and Moudjéria departments and into the northern reaches of Boghé, Bababé, M’Bagne, and Kaédi departments. It is only on account of the assistance programs conducted by the government and international NGOs that certain poor farming and agropastoral households are still in the Stressed food insecurity phase (IPC Phase 2!).

    Current Situation

    Progress of the season: The more or less normal start of the rainy season (in late June/early July) gave cause to expect a normal growing season for rainfed crops. Unfortunately, as of the middle of July, most rainfall gauge stations in the southern part of the country were reporting large rainfall deficits. The slow resumption of rainfall since the beginning of August, which is, historically, the wettest month of an average season, has probably come too late to reverse all the damage caused by the reported rainfall deficits at the beginning of the season.

    The early start-of-season created so much enthusiasm for the growing of rainfed crops that the cost of farm labor in these farming areas was relatively high. Large-scale farm operators and subsistence farmers alike hastened to plant crops using cereals purchased on the market, since the seeds provided by the government and scheduled to be distributed free of charge had not yet been delivered in most parts of the country. Unfortunately, the ensuing long dry spells hurt considerably the development of these crops. However, farmers in the rainfed farming zone and the southern reaches of the agropastoral zone believe they can still plant short-cycle varieties of crops maturing in late September or early October, provided the seasonal outlook proves true and the rest of the season progresses normally.

    Harvests of hot off-season rice crops and growing season for rainfed crops: The size of the area planted in hot off-season crops in Trarza and southwestern Brakna was much larger than expected (21,000 ha instead of the expected 15,000 ha). The result was a series of very good harvests extending through the end of July, which delayed the start-of-season for rainy season crops in spite of the timely provision of farm credit and distribution of farm inputs. In general, rice farmers heeded the recommendation to use either short-cycle varieties of seeds available only in Senegal or seeds of locally-grown hot off-season crops.

    Pastoral conditions: The emerging new pasture growth in the wake of the late June and early July rains made little progress due to the ensuing long dry spells and heavy pressure from livestock. Vegetation indexes in most pastoral areas are below-average. Thus, pastoralists are still resorting to purchasing animal feed at sharply increased prices (6700 MRO per 50 kg sack compared with 2800 to 3000 MRO at the same time last year).

    Markets: Retail markets are still well-stocked with imported staple foodstuffs. The only reported rise in the price of wheat, the main cereal consumed by poor households at this time of year, is in the rainfed farming zone, where it is still below figures for last year. The price of imported rice has been stable since June and is not noticeably higher than at the same time last year except in the Agropastoral zone (+8.1 percent). Prices in the Rainfed cultivation (16 percent), Oasis and wadis (18 percent), and Agropastoral zones (9.4 percent) are above the five-year average by the largest margins.

    Market prices for rainfed sorghum crops are more or less unchanged from June of this year, except in the agropastoral zone (on the Magta Lahjar market), where the 10.3 percent rise in prices is due to the shortage of wheat. Only in the river valley area severely affected by the failure of these (rainfed and flood-irrigated) cereal crops and the limited volume of staple grain imports from Senegal are prices really significantly (22 percent) above the five-year average.

    The poor pastoral conditions and need to sell livestock in order to buy food have increased the seasonal supply of animals. However, livestock prices across the country are elevated, in line with price trends since 2008, with traders (more so than pastoralists, who are subject to their rules for lack of a market for their animals) pegging their sales prices to trends in prices for imported foods and in the exchange rate for the local currency against the CFA franc used by high-demand countries (Senegal and Mali). This price behavior is accentuated by the looming holiday demand, with most foreign (Senegalese and Malian) and domestic traders beginning to move into pastoral areas for livestock. Thus, based on the main cereal eaten and proceeds from the sale of a sheep, terms of trade are above the five-year average.

    Updated Assumptions

    Trends in the food security situation in all livelihood zones are more or less consistent with the projected outlook for the period from July through December 2014. Provided the rest of the season progresses normally as forecasted, farming households in the southern part of the country should be able to recover from the dry spells at the beginning of the season, though they will have below-average harvests.

    Projected Outlook through December 2014

    Markets will continue to have regular, adequate supplies, bolstered by increasing sales of cereal stocks by Malian farmers in areas along the border. The ten percent decline in sorghum prices on the Adel Bagrou market since June will steepen over the next few weeks, though poor households will be facing a protracted lean season due to their low incomes. Thus, these households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food security conditions through October, with certain households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), particularly in Brakna.

    However, provided the resumption in rainfall activity since the beginning of August continues into October, there should be a visible improvement in pastoral conditions, whose positive impact on the food security of poor households will be reinforced by September harvests of short-cycle crops and the November harvest of long-cycle crops. Ensuing ancillary activities should improve their incomes. With this combination of positive factors, nearly all poor households in areas dependent on farming activities should experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between November and December.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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