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Crisis food insecurity continues in some areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mauritania
  • May 2014
Crisis food insecurity continues in some areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2014
  • Key Messages
    • Below-average harvest production in northern Guidimakha, Gorgo and Brakna has led poor households to turn to loans and market purchase for food needs three months earlier than normal. Seeing as their seasonal incomes are also below-average, between April and July, households in these areas risk experiencing consumption deficits and will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity.
    • In most other agropastoral, rainfed cropping and Senegal River Valley areas, meager post-harvest activities have resulted in below-average seasonal revenues for poor households at a time when they are heavily reliant on market purchase to meet food needs. Without assistance programs, they would not be able to meet their livelihoods protection needs, making them Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) until July.
    • Seasonal forecasts for a normal rainy season allow for expectations for a typical cropping season and regeneration of pastoral conditions, as well as seasonally normal incomes, leading to generally Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between July and September. However, some southern rainfed cultivation areas will still remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until the harvests beginning in September.

    Current Situation

    Pastoral conditions: There has been an ongoing, visibly sharper than usual deterioration in pastoral conditions in agropastoral and transhumant pastoral areas, the Senegal River Valley, and western rainfed farming areas since February of this year. Even with the departure of most transhumant sheep and cattle herds (two months earlier than usual), pastoralists are still forced to purchase animal feed (feed cakes and wheat) to maintain their sedentary herds. As usual, pastures in the rest of the country are still meeting the needs of local and transhumant livestock herds.

    Livestock prices: Selling prices for animals across the country are rising and are well above figures for the same time last year and the five-year average. The small dips in prices over the past few months, triggered by the arrival of transhumant herds, were quickly reversed upon their departure. Early market trends as of the beginning of May confirm that prices are back on the rise. The lower price of sheep in the northern part of the country (on the Aoujeft market) compared with figures for February and March is attributable to the unusually large sales of animals by local transhumant pastoralists preparing to leave for northern agropastoral areas.

    Production stocks: Most poor farming and agropastoral households depleted their own-production stocks three months earlier than usual, making them more dependent than usual on market purchase for their food needs. The only households with remaining food stocks are in the eastern reaches of the Senegal River Valley (in the southern part of Maghama department), where rainfed and flood-recession crop production levels were generally near-average, and in the southwestern reaches of the Senegal River Valley (in southern Keur Macen, Rosso, and R’Kiz departments), where there were fairly good harvests of off-season crops in February and March.

    Off-season crops: Market supplies of market garden crops harvested beginning in January, which are grown mainly in the western reaches of the Senegal River Valley, northern oasis zone (Adrar and Tagant), and central areas of the agropastoral zones, are increasingly tight, in line with normal seasonal trends. The low level of the water table on account of the rainfall deficit is expected to sharply reduce the size of cropped areas and output from harvests of hot off-season crops.

    Retail markets: Markets still have adequate stocks of staple foodstuffs (mainly imports) but, in spite of the slight pick-up in cross-border trade flows from Mali (millet, maize, and sorghum) and Senegal (local and imported rice), seasonal supplies of staple cereals from traders and farmers are well below-average. This has driven up sorghum and wheat prices in most rainfed farming areas and parts of the Senegal River Valley. Though typical for this time of year, these price hikes are steeper than usual due to a tight supply and heightened demand from poor households, which are turning to wheat due to its lower price compared with that of other cereals.

    While wheat prices in regional capitals in agropastoral and oasis zones have been relatively stable for the past several months, prices in rural areas are up sharply (165, 170, and 180 MRO/kg in Male, Bijingal, and Monguel, respectively), driven by high demand. Wheat prices on markets tracked by FEWS NET in the west of the agropastoral zone and oasis zone are more than 20 percent above the five-year average.

    Food access: Though the lean season has only just begun, the lack of own-production stocks and sufficient income is already making it extremely difficult for many poor households to maintain regular, adequate food access. These households are concentrated mainly in northern Guidimakha, M’Bout, Monguel, and Magta Lahjar departments, and the northern reaches of Bababé and M’Bagne departments. Direct purchase accounts for only about a third of household food consumption in agropastoral and rainfed farming areas, where food loans provide one half to two thirds of household food supplies. Community networks in the agropastoral zone are focused on redistributing the food supplies received by certain community members through assistance programs, but such activities are still very limited in the rainfed farming zone, where, as of the beginning of April, scheduled distributions of free food rations by the government had not yet started up. Subsidized food sales programs (selling wheat, locally grown rice, sugar, and oil) are running smoothly.

    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
    The current Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) levels of acute food insecurity in most agropastoral, pastoral, and rainfed farming zones could last until the beginning of July, where poor households will continue to have difficulty meeting their livelihood protection needs. Many households in these areas will be dependent on ongoing assistance programs to preserve their livelihoods. Poor households in northern Guidimaka, northern Gorgol, and northern Brakna will begin to experience food consumption gaps during this period, lasting until July, and will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity. As the seasonal forecast calls for conditions that would lead to near-average levels of crop production and pastoral conditions, food insecurity levels in most livelihood zones should gradually come down as of the end of July, translating into Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) between July and September. Only in certain agropastoral and rainfed farming areas of southern Mauritania could the food security situation of poor households, under heavy pressure from their meager incomes and large outstanding loans, remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through the end of August.
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Trends in sorghum prices on the Magta Lahjar market in the agropastoral livelihood zone

    Figure 2

    Trends in sorghum prices on the Magta Lahjar market in the agropastoral livelihood zone

    Source: FEWS NET

    Trends in wheat prices on the Adel Bagrou market in the agropastoral livelihood zone

    Figure 3

    Trends in wheat prices on the Adel Bagrou market in the agropastoral livelihood zone

    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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