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A particularly difficult lean season for central and southern parts of the country

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mauritania
  • June 2014
A particularly difficult lean season for central and southern parts of the country

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2014
  • Key Messages
    • Poor households in the agropastoral, rainfed farming and Senegal River Valley zones are currently buying food directly or through food loans. Assistance is sometimes available in the form of distributions of free food rations. The food security situation is particularly difficult in northern Guidimakha, Gorgol, and Brakna, where poor households have begun facing food consumption gaps and are already experiencing Crisis levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3).
    • Pastoral conditions continue to deteriorate throughout the country, causing atypical migrations to seasonal grazing areas inside and outside the country. For several months, pastoralists in the western agropastoral zone and northern Guidimakha have resorted to purchasing animal feed, the price of which has risen steeply. They risk facing livelihood protection deficits and are experiencing Stressed food security outcomes (IPC Phase 2).
    • In other rural areas, with the exception of the western Senegal River Valley, where the successful growing season for hot off-season crops is prolonging the beneficial effects of the cold off-season, the lean season is similar to that of an average year.

    Current Situation

    Pastoral conditions: Pastoral conditions continue to deteriorate throughout Mauritania, in part due to the season, as well as to the increased movement of transhumant herds within the country. While pastoralists from the agropastoral zone have moved their animals into the rainfed farming zone, which has been deserted by herds that have migrated to Mali, those in the north occupy the agropastoral and Senegal River Valley zones, where their presence threatens rice cropping.

    Livestock prices: Selling prices for animals are relatively stable, except in the rainfed farming zone,. In this zone, the concentration of transhumant pastoralists selling their animals to buy food has caused the average price of a sheep (the zone's main animal of trade) to fall 8 percent since April.

    Despite the drop in prices in the rainfed farming zone, livestock prices in most areas of the country remain high compared to the same period last year (up 5.8 percent in the rainfed farming zone, 18.5 percent in the River Valley, and 68 percent in the oasis zone). Only in the agropastoral zone have prices fallen slightly (down 6.8 percent), with more animals being sold off to purchase feed for the rest of the herd, while currently there are no assistance programs in place for pastoralists. These lower prices have reduced the income available to purchase food.

    Cereal crops: Hot off-season rice crops are reaching maturity in the western Senegal River Valley, improving cereal availability for wealthy households. At the same time, work on rainy season crops is under way in the entire zone, offering poor households seasonal income similar to that of an average year.

    Work to prepare the land for rainfed crops, which normally starts in June, has not yet begun, even though the season has started early in other countries in the southern Sahel.

    Market garden crops: Production of cold season market garden crops is now complete. Due to water scarcity in oasis areas, many farmers have abandoned hot off-season market garden crops.  This has lowered the domestic supply, resulting in increased imports and significant price increases (up from 25 to 60 percent) that will continue to rise during the month of Ramadan (July).

    Retail markets: Markets still have adequate stocks of staple foodstuffs (mainly imports) but, as in previous months, the pick-up in cross-border trade flows from Mali (millet, maize, and sorghum) and Senegal (local and imported rice) has not yet yielded seasonal supplies close to those of an average year. Not only will farmers face difficulties in accessing food because they lack the income needed to purchase it, but they will also have problems accessing seeds, which many must obtain by using cereals sold on the market. Sorghum prices are up from April in the oasis and Senegal River Valley zones but remain stable in the rainfed farming zone, which receives most of the sorghum flows from Mali, and in the agropastoral zone, where distributions of free wheat rations have reduced the demand for sorghum. Compared to the same period last year, sorghum prices are up everywhere except in the Senegal River Valley, where they are down 27 percent due to the availability of walo crops and good prospects for hot-off season rice crops. 

    With free distributions of food rations and the restocking of village-level food security stocks (SAVS) and boutiques de solidarité (government-subsidized shops), wheat prices are stable everywhere except in the rainfed farming area in Adel Bagrou, where the pick-up in trade flows of traditional cereals from Mali has reduced demand on the market and caused the price of wheat to fall significantly. This trend is similar to the same period last year. The price of imported rice remains stable overall on all markets.

    Food access: The arrival of the lean season has made it even more difficult for many poor households to maintain regular, adequate food access. In northern Guidimakha and the M’Bout, Monguel, and Magta Lahjar departments, and the northern reaches of the Bababé and M’Bagne departments, some households are already beginning to experience consumption deficits. The only things slowing the further deterioration of their situation are the free distribution of foodstuffs (wheat and oil) by the government and the smooth functioning of the boutiques de solidarité. In the rest of the rural areas of the south of the country, the early arrival of the lean season has made it difficult for poor households to meet their livelihood protection needs. With the exception of the Senegal River Valley, where the start of the rainy season is providing poor households with job and income opportunities, income from local labor is negligible throughout the country.

    Updated Assumptions

    Trends in the food security situation in all livelihood zones are consistent with the projected outlook for the period from April through September 2014.

    Projected Outlook through September 2014

    With the prospect of a rainy season similar to that of an average year, food insecurity levels are expected to fall in all livelihood zones beginning in July. These levels should fall more quickly in pastoral areas, where an improvement in pastoral conditions beginning in mid-July will result in increased animal production (milk and animal sales), significantly reducing the level of Stress (IPC Phase 2) to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in late July or early August. In most farming areas (rainfed farming, agropastoral, and northern Senegal River Valley zones), income from agricultural labor and early crop harvests will lead to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity conditions beginning in August. However, not until short-cycle crops are harvested in September will the current situation of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) be replaced by Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity in northern Guidimakha, Brakna, and Gorgol.

    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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