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Localized cereal deficits contribute to heightened food insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mauritania
  • December 2014
Localized cereal deficits contribute to heightened food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through March 2015
  • Key Messages
    • The cereal deficits created by the failure of rainfed crops in the south-central part of the country and decline in cross-border trade flows have heightened the market dependence of poor households in the western reaches of the Agropastoral Zone and central reaches of the Senegal River Valley for their food supplies, while their seasonal incomes have been sharply reduced.

    • In the face of the poor conditions in pastoral areas, pastoral and agropastoral households culled their herds by selling off animals before their early departure for seasonal grazing lands (in November). The resulting surplus drove down the price of livestock and undermined terms of trade.

    • The current Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions in the western reaches of the Agropastoral Zone and central reaches of the Senegal River Valley will hold only through January in many areas. Food insecurity in localized areas of the south-central part of the country will reach the Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as of February/March.


    Current Situation

    Progress of the season: Cold season rains have been falling in the northern part of the country since the end of November (58 mm in Bir Moghreïn and 22 mm in Zouerate). As usual, the condition of pastures in this part of the country is expected to keep pastoralists in pastoral areas in place until May/June.

    Crops in the south-central reaches of the Senegal River Valley and Agropastoral Zone: Rice harvests are already underway and are expected to produce average yields with farmers resorting mainly to short-cycle varieties of crops. In addition, farmers have sold their supplies of rice straw to sedentary pastoralists at lucrative prices. However, with the diminutive size of communal farms, very few poor households are reaping the benefits of this source of food and income. Moreover, the low level of the river is expected to prevent the growing of hot off-season crops, which normally help reduce the annual cereal deficit. The lack of run-off from the flooding of the river prevented the planting of walo crops, which generally meet over 60 percent of the cereal needs of poor households and provide 80 percent of their annual income. The smaller areas planted in crops in all crop-growing areas have reduced the seasonal incomes of poor households and cut their crop production.

    Pastoral conditions: Pastoral conditions in the western and northern reaches of the Agropastoral Zone, the central reaches of the Senegal River Valley, and the southern reaches of the Oasis Zone are so poor that herd movements by transhumant livestock to southern areas of the country started up in November, much earlier than usual.  These southern destinations are merely stop-overs on the road to pasturelands in the Kayes area of Mali. The large sales of livestock by pastoralists looking to thin their herds have driven prices down sharply compared with figures for October (by 15.70 percent in Boghé and 9.20 percent in Magta Lahjar) and undermined terms of trade, to the detriment of poor households.

    Markets: Markets in virtually all parts of the country are still well-stocked with imported foodstuffs (rice and wheat). However, coarse grain supplies (supplies of sorghum and millet) are still low due to the poor yields from local cereal harvests and limited flow of cross-border trade with Mali and Senegal. The result is a growing reliance on wheat, whose price has, nonetheless, remained stable in spite of this heightened demand due to the smooth operation of food assistance programs selling wheat at reduced prices.


    Updated Assumptions

    Developments in the food security situation in the country’s different livelihood zones are still relatively consistent with the projected outlook for the period from October 2014 through March 2015. The failure of rainfed crops, the expected low yields of flood-recession crops, the sharp decline in seasonal income, and the poor pastoral conditions are all drivers of food insecurity already affecting poor households in the central reaches of the River Valley and western reaches of the Agropastoral Zone.


    Projected Outlook through March 2015

    There should be regular, adequate market supplies of imported foodstuffs, but there will continue to be a limited flow of cross-border trade with the production shortfalls in Senegal. Households in the south-central reaches of the Senegal River Valley and the Agropastoral Zone where crop yields were well below-average will be more dependent than usual on market purchase to meet their food needs, while persistent below-average household incomes will make market purchase problematic. Thus, the current Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of food insecurity are expected to further escalate, reaching the Crisis (IPC Phase 3) stage by February/March, particularly in the south-central reaches of the Senegal River Valley and northern reaches of the Agropastoral Zone. The decline in livestock prices will accentuate the income gap between January and June and further weaken the food purchasing or borrowing power of poor households.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 5

    Source:

    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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