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Crop development delayed by the late start of the rainy season

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mauritania
  • August 2015
Crop development delayed by the late start of the rainy season

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through December 2015
  • Key Messages
    • Increased rainfall levels since the last week of July have improved conditions for farming and pastoral activities in agropastoral and rainfed agricultural areas. However, with the slow start of the rainy season, crop and pasture development is still less advanced than usual for this time of the year.

    • The improvement in pastoral conditions has strengthened the impact of various humanitarian assistance programs. However, the lean season is not yet over, except for medium and large-scale pastoralists whose animals have begun supplying them with milk. Many poor pastoral, agricultural, and agropastoral households will continue to face food consumption gaps through September and, thus, remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3 or Phase 3!).

    • In northern and western pastoral areas of the country, the continued purchase of animal feed, the smaller than usual size of livestock herds, and the termination of assistance programs will In northern and western pastoral areas, the purchasing power of poor households will remain limited, even after the end of the lean season, due to continued animal feed purchases, the reduced size of livestock herds, and the end of ongoing humanitarian assistance programs. Affected households will continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes between October and December 2015.

    • Meanwhile, Stressed (IPC Phase 2 or 2!) food security outcomes currently faced by poor households in the eastern and central reaches of the country are being eased by an average numbers of new animal births, incomes from farm labor, rising livestock prices, and stable food prices. After the October harvest, these households will be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.

    Current Situation

    Rainfall: With the exception of the rainfed farming zone and southern reaches of the agropastoral zone that received rainfall in mid-July, the rainy season got off to a later than usual start in most areas of the country. However, rainfall levels have improved since late July and, despite a few dry spells, seasonal rainfall deficits have disappeared. Currently, good soil water levels are helping to promote plant growth and development.

    Crops: According to the crop assessment mission conducted by the growing season monitoring network of which FEWS NET is a member, crops in rainfed farming areas currently range from the seedling to the height growth stage. Crops planted in lowland areas in the rainfed farming zone are in the most advanced stages of development, as they were best able to weather the effects of ensuing dry spells. Many farmers have turned to short-cycle crop varieties this year which, due to planting delays, will probably not be harvested until sometime in October (compared with September in a normal year).

    Bottomland and dammed areas are, in most livelihood zones, currently under water. The river is also finally cresting, although more than 45 days later than usual, with the runoff flooding walo areas (flood recession farming areas). Farming activities in irrigated areas are underway but, in general, the size of the area planted in irrigated crops is down sharply compared to the same time in 2014 and the five-year average.

    Pastoral conditions: In livelihood zones 5 (pastoral and trading) and 6 (pastoral transhumance) where the first rains did not start until mid-August, the only visible new pasture growth is in depression areas and is still in such an early developmental stage that even goats are not yet able to graze on it. In comparison, in a normal year, these pastures begin meeting the needs of local livestock by the beginning of August. Pastoral households are still purchasing animal feed on local markets (at prices ranging from 6,000-6,500 MRO/50 kg bag compared with 4,800 MRO in 2014), since the government assistance program (selling feed at 3,500 MRO/bag) is unable to fully meet their needs.

    In the western reaches of the agropastoral zone, where the rains did not start up until the beginning of August, there is also hardly any new pasture growth. However, transhumant pastoralists and their livestock herds in seasonal grazing areas are beginning their return migration, as cohabitation with rainfed farming communities poses serious problems. There are better developed pastures in the easternmost reaches of this livelihood zone but, in general, at this point in the season, pasture density is below average.

    In the rainfed farming zone, the plentiful pasture resources are largely able to meet the needs of sedentary animals at this time.

    Income: The start-up of agricultural activities in rainfed farming and rice-growing areas is creating employment and income-generating opportunities for poor households. Daily wage rates for casual labor in the rainfed farming zone range from 2,000 MRO (for workers using their own manual labor) to 8,000 MRO (for workers using an animal-drawn plow). In areas close to the Malian border, farm laborers with draft animals can even earn as much as 10,000 MRO/day. In these livelihoods zones, wage rates are up from 2014 due to the limited availability of farm labor with the rural workforce still engaged in short-term seasonal labor migration. Meanwhile, in the western and northern reaches of the agropastoral zone, daily wages range from 1,000-1,500 MRO and are 25 to 33 percent lower than in 2014 due to the late start of the rainy season. These wage rates could, however, improve in the coming months with the likely expansion in the area planted in late season crops in August and flood recession crops in October. Thus far, there has been very little remittance income from short-term seasonal labor migration due to the limited supply of work in urban destination areas and with many poor migrant laborers preparing to return home and thus are in need of their savings to pay for their travel. WFP and certain NGOs (Save the Children, OXFAM, ACCORD, etc.) are still operating their various monthly cash transfer programs.

    Markets: All markets are well-stocked with imported foodstuffs (rice, wheat, sugar, and oil), whose prices have been relatively stable since July and show little movement from the same time in 2014. The demand for seeds in late July drove up sorghum and cowpea prices on many rural markets, although destocking activities by Malian farmers is moderating price increases on border markets (such as Adel Bagrou). Livestock prices across the country are well above levels from last month, last year, and the five-year average, boosted by the effects of new pasture growth and by consumer demand for the celebration of Tabaski. However, poor households with practically no animals left to sell are reaping very little benefit from these high prices.

    Updated Assumptions

    Developments in the food security situation in all livelihood zones are more or less consistent with the June to December 2015 projected outlook.

    Projected Outlook through December 2015

    The results of the June 2015, lean season SMART survey showed that 14 percent of children across the country suffered from global acute malnutrition, with a GAM prevalence in several wilayas (regions) above the emergency threshold (15 percent). These figures reflect a clear deterioration in the nutritional situation compared with the same time in 2014 and the five-year average. This rise in malnutrition rates, combined with the food consumption gaps and erosion in livelihoods resulting from the poor 2015 harvests and low annual incomes, is creating Crisis (IPC Phase 3 or Phase 3!) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2 or Phase 2!) food insecurity for poor households in large parts of the country, which in certain areas would have been worse in the absence of humanitarian assistance.

    While food access is expected to improve in October with the upcoming harvest and relatively good pastoral conditions, poor households currently facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3 or Phase 3!) food insecurity and poor pastoral households in northern and western areas of the country will continue to have difficulty meeting their basic nonfood expenses on account of their higher than usual levels of debt, reduced livestock herds, and the end of ongoing humanitarian assistance programs. As a result, these households will remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity between October and December, even after the end of the lean season. Meanwhile in areas currently facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity, the first harvests of short-cycle crops will improve household food availability and access, bringing down household food insecurity in these areas to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels between November and December 2015.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    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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