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Low incomes and deteriorating terms of trade for poor households

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mauritania
  • February 2015
Low incomes and deteriorating terms of trade for poor households

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2015
  • Key Messages
    • Markets in all livelihood zones are well stocked with cereals (rice, wheat, and maize) and imported foodstuffs. However, the sharp decline in seasonal incomes is limiting the purchasing power of poor households in the west of the agropastoral zone, the center of the Senegal River Valley, and the south of the oasis zone. These households are beginning to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions.

    • The deterioration in pastoral conditions in south-central Mauritania is triggering unusual seasonal livestock sales by pastoralists and agropastoralists. The falling prices of sheep and cattle in rural areas are accentuating the steady deterioration in terms of trade. The livelihood protection deficits already affecting poor households could spread to the most vulnerable groups of middle-income households between April and July.

    Current Situation

    Progress of the season: The north and center of the country are still getting sporadic light rainfall. However, any positive effects of this rainfall activity are limited to the Bir Moghreïn and Ain Bin Telli areas, where late-November rains spurred new pasture growth. Camel herders from the northern reaches of the agropastoral zone should be able to head back up north, which would ease pressure on pastures in the central part of the country.

    Off-season crops: Though rice harvests in the Senegal River Valley were as good as usual, they affect very few poor households. With the low flood stage of the river and stalk borer infestations limiting yields of flood recession crops, seasonal supplies of locally grown rice in areas of the Valley where crop production is consumed in-house will only last for a short time (January and February). The releases of water from the Manantalli dam in February reassured local farmers, prompting them to plant cold off-season rice and maize crops which will be ready for harvesting in March/April.

    Pastoral conditions: The unfavorable 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 since the last rainy season have degraded pastures to such an extent that pastoralists are resorting to purchasing animal feed, which does not normally happen until sometime between April and May. Pastoralists counting on the pastoral assistance program announced by the government are currently forced to sell more of their animals, though demand is down sharply since the end of the holiday season. This is steadily eroding their main livelihood.

    Income: There will be no change in conditions shaping farming and pastoral activities in the south-central reaches of the country normally serving as the main sources of seasonal income for poor households between February and June liable to heighten current demand for labor and boost current income levels, which are 75 to 80 percent below-average. There is still very little income from short-term seasonal labor migration in spite of the larger number of workers involved (more than one household member) due to the extremely limited supply of work in destination areas (large towns and cities and farming areas of Mauritania, Mali, and Senegal) for job seekers with skills suitable only for farm work and informal employment. There will also be a limited demand for pastoral labor with the steady flow of premature seasonal migration by transhumant livestock herds. The main source of income for all poor households in areas of concern is the sale of animals, which has been undermined by the falling prices of livestock. A comparison with figures for previous months shows livestock prices on urban markets slipping only slightly from December, but prices in rural areas down by anywhere from 17 percent (in the Senegal River Valley area) to 25 percent (in the northwestern reaches of the agropastoral zone).

    Markets: Markets across the country are well stocked with imported foodstuffs. Supplies of sorghum and millet are still limited, but maize supplies have grown considerably, boosted by Malian exporters to the point where they currently account for more than 70 percent of the coarse cereal inventories of traders on the Sélibaby and Kaedi markets. Fresh market supplies of locally grown rice (paddy and hulled rice) and maize have reduced reliance on wheat and stabilized its price. With the strong competition from locally grown rice, maize, and wheat, sorghum prices are coming down on urban markets in all parts of the country but are still on the rise in rural areas unaffected by the influx of imported maize and paddy rice.

    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 January through June 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 factors driving the food insecurity already affecting poor households in the central reaches of the Senegal River Valley and western reaches of the agropastoral zone.

    Projected Outlook through June 2015

    Markets will be well stocked with cereals and imported foodstuffs until the upcoming (September) harvest. The already good maize supplies on the Assaba, Guidimakha, and Gorgol markets could quickly filter into other regions of the country from the large maize inventories of cereal traders in Nouakchott. The flow of cross-border trade will improve with re-exports of maize (by Mali and Senegal) and exports of flood-recession sorghum crops from ongoing harvests in Senegal. However, households in the south-central reaches of the Senegal River Valley and the agropastoral zone where crop yields were well below-average will be unusually reliant on market purchase for their food supplies for a longer than usual period of time. Continued below-average levels of household income and deteriorating terms of trade will complicate these market purchases. Thus, this group of households is currently in a state of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and could continue to face crisis conditions until the next round of harvests in October.

    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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