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Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions in the western agropastoral zone threaten to spread into central and southern areas of the country

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mauritania
  • December 2017
Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions in the western agropastoral zone threaten to spread into central and southern areas of the country

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The cumulative effects of the failure of flood-recession crops, the mediocre condition of pastures, and the low levels of income from wild plant products and short-term seasonal labor migration are prolonging the pressure on livestock and accentuating the deterioration in food access in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone. Many poor households in this area are already in a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) level of food insecurity.


    • The earlier than usual arrival of large numbers of transhumant pastoralists and their livestock in the central reaches of the agropastoral zone and the rainfed farming zone has accelerated the deterioration in pastoral conditions in these areas and forced poor and middle-income pastoral and livestock-oriented agropastoral households to resort to atypical seasonal coping strategies, which are already starting to create livelihood protection deficits. These households are currently moving towards the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) level of food insecurity.  

    • The poor water levels in the Senegal River Valley have prevented the growing of walo crops, which are the main source of crop production and income-generation for poor households in that area. In addition, the low level of the river for this time of year (which is barely at 2.5m compared with 4 to 4.5m on average) is making the planting of off-season irrigated crops risky. Poor households in this area are already experiencing food consumption gaps, which put them in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity. 



    Seasonal Progress: The cool season has settled in across the country, but there are still no reports of the usual rainfall activity helping to spur new pasture growth in the north and, on occasion, extending into the southern part of the country. The northern winds have started to blow, uprooting grasses whose root systems were compromised by the shortage and erratic pattern of rainfall.

    Crops: The harvest of irrigated “winter” crops is completed and, while crop yields are relatively close to figures for 2016, the volume of production has been visibly reduced by the smaller areas planted in crops. Many farmers did not have access to farm credit. Crop growth and development in all flood recession farming areas are affected by the mediocre water balance.

    Pastoral conditions: Pastoral conditions in the western part of the country (the central, eastern, and northern reaches of the transhumant pastoral zone, the western part of the agropastoral zone, and the central reaches of the Senegal River Valley) are a continuing source of concern. Any existing pockets of pasture in the central reaches of the agropastoral zone and the rainfed farming zone prematurely invaded by massive numbers of transhumant animals (as early as October instead of March, as is the norm) are disappearing. Many pastoralists are already in Mali and Senegal. Those still in place are resorting to purchasing animal feed and wheat for their animals.

    Income: Earnings by poor households in all crop-growing areas from farming activities (land preparation, plowing, harvesting, the shipping and processing of crops, etc.) are down sharply both from 2016 and from an average year. This is due as much to the sharp reduction in the size of the areas planted in crops as to the mediocre harvests. In general, there has been very little Income from harvests of wild fruits which, for the previous two years, enabled a poor household to meet its consumption needs for as many as three months (limited to less than a month’s worth of food consumption) with the shortage and erratic pattern of rainfall affecting yields from fruit trees. There are still only meager earnings from short-term seasonal labor migration in spite of the earlier than usual departure of multiple household members (in September/October instead of February/March) with the rapidly growing numbers of job seekers making the assimilation of migrant workers into urban economic systems increasingly difficult. Contrary to normal seasonal trends, income from the sale of livestock is up in urban market centers but visibly down in rural areas due to the large supply of animals with the failure of crops forcing poor households to resort to atypical sales of livestock in order to purchase food supplies and repay previous debts secured by liens on future sales proceeds.

    Markets: All retail markets are well-stocked with imported foodstuffs (rice, wheat, sugar, and oil) at prices which had been relatively stable until November but which have now reportedly jumped relatively sharply, particularly in agropastoral areas and parts of the river valley. Only in the rainfed farming zone receiving most Malian cereal exports are wheat and sorghum prices moving downwards. The drop in the price of locally grown rice due solely to the November harvest and the fact that it is indexed to the price of imported rice is not likely to last very long, particularly with the large shortfall in local production compared with figures for the previous two years.

    Livestock markets in rural areas generally have low supplies, and livestock prices on these markets are down sharply, except in the case of livestock markets in the rainfed farming zone in which most of the livestock of transhumant pastoralists who have not yet crossed into Mali and Senegal are presently concentrated. In contrast, livestock markets in urban areas have large supplies of animals as terminals for the marketing networks of livestock traders. Prices on all markets in areas of concern are reportedly on the decline.


    The assumptions used by FEWS NET in establishing the most likely scenario for the period from October 2017 through May 2018 have not changed, in that harvests of flood recession crops will not cover the shortfall in rainfed crop production and the deterioration in pastoral conditions and low seasonal incomes of poor and middle-income households are accentuating the pressure on livestock, creating livelihood protection deficits liable to trigger food consumption gaps.


    There will be an escalation in food insecurity in all livelihood zones between January and May, driven by the poor pastoral conditions, the large shortfall in crop production, and the decline in income. Poor households are already resorting to purchasing food supplies by selling larger numbers of animals at below-average seasonal prices. Poor farming-oriented agropastoral households in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone where food security conditions are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2) are already being propelled into a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situation, which is expected to spread to poor livestock-oriented households between January and May. Poor households in the central reaches of the agropastoral zone, the rainfed farming zone, and the Senegal River Valley and the northern portion of the transhumant pastoral zone will most likely be in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity during this period. 

    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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