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Food consumption gaps likely for poor households in central and southern Mauritania

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mauritania
  • March 2015
Food consumption gaps likely for poor households in central and southern Mauritania

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2015
  • Key Messages
    • According to data released by the Ministry of Agriculture, annual crop production is up from 2013/14 and above the five-year average. Irrigated rice production is up sharply, but yields of traditional crops grown mainly by poor households are way down from both the aforesaid reference periods. As a result, poor households, which normally have large stocks of crops at this time of year, have no food stocks whatsoever.

    • There are already Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity, with households in the south-central reaches of the country expected to face food consumption gaps due to the large shortfalls in their annual crop production, the degraded condition of pastures causing them to sell atypically large numbers of animals at low prices, and the sharp drop in their seasonal incomes. These households will continue to face high levels of acute food insecurity through September.

    Current Situation

    Crops: According to a publication by the Ministry of Agriculture presented to the February meeting of the Food Security Cluster, Mauritania’s gross cereal production for 2014/15 is estimated at 319,394 metric tons, which is a 10 percent improvement over the figure for 2013/14 and 32 percent above the five-year average. This good outcome is attributable to the large increase in irrigated rice production, over 80 percent of which belongs to private agricultural developers. The main types of crop production by poor households (dieri and walo) are down from the aforesaid reference periods by 41 and 85 percent, respectively. Thus, poor households dependent on these types of crops have already depleted their food stocks and are forced to resort on market purchase for their food supplies earlier than usual. The worst-off households are in the south-central reaches of the country.

    Pastoral conditions: Pastoral conditions in all parts of the country are steadily deteriorating, with atypical herd movements by transhumant livestock creating unprecedented overgrazing problems in pastoral areas. Thus, pastoralists in many pastoral areas are now resorting to the use of animal feed. The price of a 50 kg sack of average-quality feed is extremely high (between 5600 MROs in Nouakchott and 7500 MROs in western agropastoral areas, where it is already up by 56.25 percent from the same period of 2014). This is not normally the case until sometime between June and August and is attributable to the delay in implementation of the pastoral assistance program announced by the government.

    Income: The unusual lack of farming activities between March and June in all parts of the country with the exception of the portion of the river valley lying south of Trarza, where new off-season irrigated farming activities are creating a demand for labor, is sharply limiting the incomes of poor households from local sources. Seasonal migration by transhumant herds has also weakened the demand for labor in pastoral areas, which is generally used mostly to water livestock. Migrant remittances, which were expected to steadily increase as time went on, once the two-month settling in and job hunting period was over, are still extremely limited and too uncertain to serve as security for purchases from merchants on credit due to a lack of job opportunities and the saturation of the informal sector. This worrisome state of affairs has caused certain retail traders to simply stop making credit sales. Thus, the main source of income is the sale of livestock. Prices for old lean animals have been falling for the past two months, but prices for animals in fairly good physical shape are soaring. Pastoralists are selling more and more animals likely to command a better price to improve their access to food and animal feed.

    According to the household economy analysis (HEA) conducted in February by the Food Security Analysis Group, certain poor households at risk for food insecurity are facing survival deficits. Most of these households are in the Agropastoral Zone, the Senegal River Valley, and the Rainfed Cultivation Zone.

    Markets: Markets in all livelihood zones are well stocked with imported foodstuffs. Though still much lighter than usual, cross-border trade flows are improving sorghum supplies. There are large supplies of sorghum from crop sales by farmers in certain rainfed lowland areas producing good harvests (the case of the southwestern reaches of Aleg department) and by Senegalese farmers (in border areas highly dependent on trade with Mauritania) harvesting walo crops in February, who are selling their sorghum crops on retail markets in order to buy supplies of lower-cost local rice and wheat as a coping strategy. Maize supplies are steadily improving as Malian exports previously confined to the Senegal River Valley area and the Rainfed Cultivation Zone begin to filter into the southern reaches of the Agropastoral Zone (the Aleg and Magta Lahjar markets).

    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 drop 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 the western reaches of the agropastoral zone.

    Projected Outlook through June 2015

    Cross-border trade flows will help improve coarse cereal supplies, though most of the demand from poor households will be for lower-cost wheat, locally grown rice, and maize. Markets will continue to be well stocked with cereals and imported foodstuffs until the upcoming (September) harvest. As of April, supplies of livestock could begin to gradually tighten, which will drive up prices. However, a major improvement in income from local sources or short-term seasonal labor migration is highly unlikely with the lack of local income-generating activities and the poor job prospects for migrants looking for unskilled work in urban activities. The operationalization of government assistance programs (the extension of current BS (subsidized sales outlets), SAVS (village-level food security stocks), and CRENAM (outpatient therapeutic feeding centers) programs, pastoral assistance programs, and distributions of free food assistance), WFP programs (cash transfer programs and distributions of free food assistance), and programs mounted by certain NGOs such as Save the Children (localized cash transfer programs) would at least help ease food insecurity. However, with poor households in the south-central reaches of the country unable to meet their basic food needs, the Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity in this area are likely to continue through at least the month of September.

    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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