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Growing food consumption gaps for poor households across the country

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mauritania
  • May 2015
Growing food consumption gaps for poor households across the country

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2015
  • Key Messages
    • Despite a slight improvement in livestock prices, poor households in central and southern areas are already facing food consumption gaps indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity due to the combined effects of no household cereal stocks, a sharp decline in income levels, and inadequate volumes of humanitarian assistance.

    • Even in the case of an average rainy season, the population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will grow between July and September 2015, with a small number of very poor households also in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity. In the event of a fairly large rainfall deficit during the upcoming season, the food insecure population would likely be larger than current estimates.

    • In other rural areas, the premature start of the lean season (two to four months earlier than usual) and reduced income levels have contributed to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes for poor households, which could become increasingly widespread between May and September.

    Current Situation

    Crops: Yields of hot off-season irrigated rice and maize crops were well below 2014 production levels and the five-year average due to a reduction in cropped areas with the low water levels along the Senegal River and the refusal of the Caisse de Développement et d’Investissement (CDI) to grant credit to farmers with outstanding debts. In addition, there are reports of the wilting of crops, particularly maize, in many community, village, and privately-operated irrigation schemes due to strong, hot winds starting two to three months earlier than usual. Date production in central (Tagant, Assaba, and Hodh El Gharbi) and northern (Adrar) areas of the country has also been affected by the rainfall deficits and earlier than usual hot winds. However, households producing dates are not expecting their incomes to suffer as low supply and high demand during the upcoming month of Ramadan, starting in June, will drive up prices.

    Pastoral conditions: Most Mauritanian livestock herds are already in Mali, with pastoral conditions in areas of Gorgol, Guidimakha, Assaba, Hodh El Gharbi, and Hodh Ech Chargui that are typical livestock receiving areas at this time of the year no longer able to meet transhumant livestock demands. Sedentary pastoralists have been resorting to purchasing rice straw and animal feed for the past several months. As of the middle of May, prices for both products were up sharply from 2014 levels at the same time of year, by 30 to 50 percent in the former case and 17 to 25 percent in the latter case, fueled by strong demand. The long-awaited pastoral assistance program selling animal feed at subsidized prices (3500 MRO per bag compared with its official market price of 7000 MRO) has recently started up.

    Income: The main source of seasonal income for households in all wealth groups outside of mining and coastal areas is the sale of livestock. Livestock prices have been relatively stable for the past few months on markets across the country and are still well above the five-year average and 2014 prices at the same time of year (by 30 to 45 percent). However, this is of no help to poor households, whose atypically large and early sale of livestock (beginning in January instead of April/May as in a normal year) have left them without any more animals to sell. Consequently their income is mainly dependent on short-term seasonal labor migration, frequently from migrants who left home with their families after their flood-recession crops failed to germinate. However, incomes from this seasonal migration is well-below-average due to difficulties integrating and finding employment in urban areas. However, for households with migrant family members earning regular incomes, remittance flows have been stable. However, while there was no significant improvement in income-generation from short-term seasonal labor migration between April and May, it does serves as security for the purchase of food supplies on credit from traders under the promise of repayment using future migrant remittances.

    With the off-season still in progress and the departure of transhumant livestock herds, the main local sources of wage income for poor households are cash-for-work (CFW) or food-for-work (FFW) programs operated by humanitarian organizations in their respective areas of intervention. A total of 92,334 households will receive 875,393,321 MROs over the next few months in monthly cash payments designed to strengthen their food purchasing power.

    Markets: Markets in all livelihood zones are well-stocked with imported foodstuffs. Prices for these products have been relatively stable for the past few months and compared with the same period in 2014. The only large fluctuations are in sorghum prices, which depend, in part, on market supplies from trade with Senegal and Mali. Thus, between February and April, the unit price of sorghum on the Magta Lahjar market fluctuated between 238 and 275 MRO/kg (- 5 to + 16 percent compared to last year’s levels), in line with sorghum flows from Mali. However, despite the growing demand for sorghum for use as animal feed, prices on the Adel Bagrou market in the rainfed farming zone close to the Malian border remained stable between March and April and 23 percent below figures for the same time last year. Likewise, there was an atypical 13 percent decline in sorghum prices on the Boghé market in the Senegal River Valley between March and April, driven by imports of sorghum from Senegal. Sale prices for animals typically sold by poor households (sheep and goats) are slightly improving. Thus, in general, terms of trade for the most frequently sold animal versus the most widely consumed cereal are stable across all comparison periods, except on the Aoujeft market (in the oasis zone) and the Magta Lahjar market (in the agropastoral zone), where they are 12 percent below and 24 percent above the five-year average, respectively.

    Updated Assumptions

    The evolution of the drivers of food insecurity in all livelihood zones are more or less consistent with the projected outlook for the period from April through September 2015. The failure of rainfed crops, the expected low yields of flood-recession crops, the sharp drop in seasonal income, and poor pastoral conditions are all factors driving food insecurity already for poor households in the central reaches of the Senegal River Valley and the western reaches of the agropastoral zone.

    Projected Outlook through September 2015

    In general, poor households in our areas of concern (western areas of the agropastoral zone and central areas of the Senegal River Valley) will consume wheat, locally grown rice, and maize between May and September 2015 as prices for these products are lower than that of sorghum. However, food access for these households will be constrained with food consumption gaps expected due to the premature depletion of household food stocks, a protracted reliance on market purchases, below-average incomes, and earlier than usual sales of livestock. Though ongoing and projected humanitarian assistance programs should limit the number of additional households facing elevated levels of food insecurity, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions are still expected in large parts of the country over the next few months. In addition, a small minority of very poor households in south-central zones, representing less than 20 percent of the total population, will face more severe food consumption deficits, equivalent to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) at the height of the lean season (July and September 2015).

    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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