Food Security Outlook

Crisis acute food insecurity begins in certain areas of the country

April 2014 to September 2014
2014-Q2-1-1-MR-en

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • Certain pockets of poor households in the western areas of the agropastoral and rainfed cultivation livelihood zones where food security conditions have been Stressed (IPC Phase 2) since January of this year will face Crisis levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) between April and July. The deterioration in pastoral conditions, the sharp reduction in seasonal incomes, and the erosion in terms of trade for livestock/cereal will begin to lead to food consumption deficits.

  • Though crop production in other livelihood zones was not as bad as in the western reaches of the agropastoral and rainfed zones, total cereal production is well below-average. As a result, poor households will have difficulty protecting their livelihoods and will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between now and the end of June.

  • Nouakchott is still furnishing rural markets with regular, adequate supplies of imported foodstuffs. In addition, the normal start of the rainy season, which is expected to get underway by June, should lead to a normal demand for farm labor, good pasture and water availability, and typical trends in prices. This improvement in conditions will bring food insecurity in most livelihood zones to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) by September.

National Overview

Current situation

Cropping conditions: Harvests of flood recession crops in all inland areas and the Senegal River Valley have completed. These crops were severely affected by beetle and stalk borer infestations. However, the maize, potato, cowpea, and squash crops planted along the banks of the river and its tributaries crossing the southwestern reaches of agropastoral livelihood zone 7 were less affected by crop pests and preformed better, and are helping to improve the food access of households growing these crops. In spite of the localized shortfalls in all types of crop production, agricultural statistics still put national production above the five-year average.

The growing season for hot off-season rice crops in the Senegal River Valley and the western reaches of agropastoral livelihood zone 7 (the Foum Gleïta irrigation district) is underway, heavily supported by recent government measures (input assistance and debt forgiveness). The size of the area planted in crops should be on par with if not above the five-year average. Harvesting and marketing activities for market garden crops are underway in the River Valley and oasis areas. These crops are already being offered for sale on local markets and are expected to generate average to above-average levels of income for poor households.

Pastoral conditions: The dry season continues, producing unusually severe brush fires in certain areas, which are accelerating the deterioration in pastoral conditions. Pastures in livelihood zone 6 (pastoral transhumance), the Senegal River Valley, and the western reaches of agropastoral livelihood zone 7 are already severely degraded. Not only did the irregular distribution of rainfall during the last rainy season impair pasture production, but the massive influx of transhumant herds from Senegal and Trarza has precipitated the deterioration of pasturelands and triggered atypical, earlier than usual, internal herd movements. While pastoralists in the rest of the country are already beginning to have problems finding water for their animals at surface watering holes and are prematurely resorting to the use of wells, as usual, there are still sufficient pasture resources in these areas to meet the needs of local livestock until the growth of fresh pasture with the upcoming start of the rainy season.        

Seasonal incomes: The small harvests of flood recession crops in the western reaches of agropastoral livelihood zone 7 meant fewer job opportunities in related activities and, thus, less seasonal income from these activities. With normal wage income from farm labor during the rainy season already cut in half, the 66 percent reduction in the size of the area planted in flood recession crops and proportional reduction in income from these crops are expected to put total household income more than 50 percent below-average. Households in northern Guidimakha (in the northwestern reaches of livelihood zone 9 (rainfed cultivation)) have been unable to cover shortfalls in their wage income from last season’s short-cycle diére (rainfed highland) crops (the only type of crop grown in these areas). Moreover, in spite of the larger number of household members engaged in short-term seasonal labor migration, so far, there are no signs of a larger than average stream of migration income in any agropastoral or rainfed farming areas (livelihood zones 7 and 9). Aside from the fact that there is not normally a large flow of seasonal migration income until the month of May, the economic slowdown affecting cities all across the country and the limited employment opportunities in farming areas of Mali are curtailing the flow of income from this source for the time being.

The earlier than usual departure of transhumant livestock herds from pastoral areas has been limiting the use of local pastoral labor since February, which is not normally the case until April/May. On the other hand, the normal start-up of off-season farming activities in the western reaches of the River Valley is creating job and income-earning opportunities for poor households in this area and the southern reaches of livelihood zone 6 (pastoral transhumance). Regular wages from jobs in mining and road construction activities and wage income and sales revenues from seasonal market gardening activities are stabilizing household income in oasis areas.

Markets and prices: Markets in all livelihood zones are well-stocked with regular supplies of imported foodstuffs (rice, wheat, oil, milk, sugar, tea, etc.). On the other hand, seasonal supplies of sorghum (a staple cereal crop) are well below-average due to low domestic production and the slowdown in seasonal cross-border trade with Mali and Senegal. As a result, unit prices for sorghum in most livelihood zones are above the five-year average and up from figures for the same time last year and from February of this year.1 Only in the Senegal River Valley are prices down from February of this year by 12.5 percent, where local rice production and small-scale flood-recession sorghum (walo) production are reducing commercial market demand for sorghum. The upward trend in unit prices for sorghum on the Magta Lahjar market, in the area of concern in agropastoral livelihood zone 7, which also includes Monguel and M’Bout departments, the northwestern reaches of Kankossa department, and the southwestern reaches of Kiffa department, has started to level off. This is due mainly to the large availability and stable market price of wheat. The good availability of wheat in this area is attributable, in part, to the departure of many Malians for other pastoral areas, who are large consumers of wheat. The relatively stable prices of substitute cereals (imported rice and wheat) are limiting rises in sorghum prices in other areas.

Prices for livestock (average sheep and two-year-old bull calves) in all parts of the country, which are already above the five-year average (by 65.40 percent in the Senegal River Valley, 47.20 percent in rainfed farming zones, 65.70 percent in oasis zones, and 62.60 percent in agropastoral zones). The decline in prices triggered by the influx of transhumant herds was reversed by their subsequent departure. Thus, prices are up from the past few months and from the same time last year, except in oasis areas where March prices were down by five percent from February. In spite of the reported decline in March terms compared with previous months, as usual, terms of trade in all livelihood zones are still in favor of pastoral households.

Assumptions

The most likely nationwide food security scenario for the period from April through September 2014 is based on the following general assumptions:

Production:

  • The good flooding levels rivers and good groundwater resources in northern areas of the country will keep market gardening activities in the Senegal River Valley and oasis zones on track, with the “winter” growing season ending in March and the cultivation of hot off-season crops in April and May, in line with the crop calendar. These activities will furnish poor households with an average to above-average supply of food and income.
  • Hot off-season rice production (between February and May/June) will be in line with projections by the Agricultural Statistics Service and provide poor households in the western and central reaches of the River Valley and neighboring areas with average levels of income from seasonal farm labor.
  • The good groundwater resources in oasis areas will translate into average levels of date production in oasis areas (a source of food and income).
  • Assuming the rainy season starts on schedule as predicted in seasonal forecasts, the growing season for rainfed crops should go normally, with household seed availability ensured with the help of assistance from the government and its partners (normally, the FAO). Land preparation work will get underway in June, followed by crop planting and weeding activities in July and early August, in line with the cropping calendar for rainfed crops, generating average levels of farm income.
  • There will be average rates of flooding in flood recession farming areas.

Market behavior and price trends:

  • The normal operation of trade networks for imports should provide rural markets across the country with regular, adequate supplies.
  • By June, the unloading of crops by Malian farmers based on forecasts for a near-average rainy season will speed up the flow of cross-border trade to meet domestic demand. However, domestic trade in staple cereals will not start back up until the end of September, with harvests of short-cycle crops.
  • Sorghum prices will stay very high, but should stabilize between June and September with the expected boost in trade with Mali.
  • After coming down in March, the price of wheat, the main substitute for staple cereals, will start to rise in pastoral and agropastoral areas, driven by human demand (with the limited availability of staple cereals and the high price of rice) and the shortage of pasture (the main alternative to animal feed with the poor quality of locally produced feed products and the high cost of imported feed from Senegal and Mali). Thus, the growing demand for wheat in western and southern pastoral areas of the country will drive prices above seasonal averages (by more than 10 percent) between April and August.
  • Government assistance programs selling staple foodstuffs at subsidized prices such as village-level food security stocks (SAVS) and “boutiques de solidarité” (BS) will be strengthened.
  • There will be a general, steady, steep upward trend in livestock prices beginning in April and continuing through September with the gradual recovery in pastoral conditions. Demand for livestock for the feast marking the end of Ramadan should speed up increases in livestock prices between June and July.

Wage income:

  • There will be below-average levels of income between April and June, except in the western reaches of the River Valley (owing to the hot off-season farming activities in this area between March and June and the “winter” rice-growing season between June and September) and in oasis areas, where date harvests and related activities will furnish poor households with average to above-average levels of income.
  • Assuming the rainy season gets off to a normal start, there will be an average to above-average stream of seasonal income from farm labor between July and September in all livelihood zones with the expected normal progress of the rainy season and associated growing season.
  • Petty trade activities (sales of straw, wood, and charcoal) will remain slow between April and June due to surveillance by Environmental Ministry agents and competition from bottled gas in rural areas.
  • There will be a smaller than average flow of income from short-term seasonal migration between April and June with the limited job opportunities in neighboring host areas. However, income levels should be back on par with the average between July and September with the good prospects for an average rainy season.
  • There will be less wage income from pastoral activities between April and June with the earlier than usual departure of transhumant livestock herds.
Most likely food security outcomes

In general, the continuation of ongoing assistance programs should help keep acute food insecurity levels for poor households in most farming-oriented areas in the Stressed phase (IPC Phase 2) between April and June. The expected average rainy season and normal spatial-temporal distribution of rainfall should generate a normal demand for farm labor and normal supply of pasture and water and stabilize prices between July and September. Thus, most households across the country will likely experience Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) during the same period.

However, the cumulative effects of crop failures, reductions in seasonal income, and the slowdown in cross-border trade with Mali and Senegal will create Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions in the northwestern reaches of agropastoral livelihood zone 7 and western rainfed farming areas of livelihood zone 9 (northern and central Guidimakha) between April and July. With their poor prospects for sufficient income-generation from short-term seasonal migration for the purchasing of regular, adequate food supplies, poor households will be facing livelihood protection deficits and very poor households could begin to experience survival deficits. The expected normal start and progress of the rainy season should gradually improve the food security situation of all Stressed (IPC Phase 2) households between July and September, which should experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity by the end of September.

 

Areas of Concern

Northwestern Rainfed Cultivation Livelihood Zone

This area includes the northern part of Sélibaby department and all of Ould Yengé department, where approximately 75 percent of local farmers are poor, with only one harvest of rainfed crops per year, which provides 35 percent of their annual food supply and whose sale generates 20 percent of their annual income. Thus, they are extremely vulnerable to any rainfall shocks affecting their farming activities. Their main livelihood and coping strategy is short-term seasonal labor migration, which furnishes approximately 20 percent of their income and is largely responsible for maintaining their access to commercially marketed foodstuffs.

Current situation
  • Poor households have had no cereal stocks since December. The low yields from rainfed crops (the only type of crops grown in this area) precluded the building of normal food stocks, which generally last for four to five months after the October/November harvest, until February/March.
  • Since January, households have been buying food from SAVS or BS programs at prices 30 to 40 percent below formal market prices, while others have been resorting to buying foodstuffs from local traders on credit, against future income or crop production.
  • Local markets, like markets in the rest of the country, are well-stocked with imported foodstuffs (rice, wheat, sugar).
  • In contrast to the usual large supplies of staple cereals (millet and sorghum) at this time of year, current supplies are well below-average due to a small and slowing flow of cross-border trade. At the same time, staple cereal prices are unusually high. Unit prices for sorghum on the Adel Bagrou market are up from February of this year by 19.2 percent and from the same time last year by 10.7 percent and are 6.5 percent above the five-year average.
  • There are lower than average levels of local seasonal income generated mainly by farming-related (agro-processing) activities and odd jobs, mostly in construction, which is largely dependent on crop and animal production.
  • Larger numbers of household members are engaged in short-term seasonal labor migration, but there is less household income from this source than in a normal year (in which one or two household members are off working) due to the more limited job opportunities in host areas.
  • Pastoral conditions are still satisfactory in spite of the mass influx of domestic and Senegalese transhumant herds, except in northern Guidimakha where pasturelands are sparser and in poorer condition due to the poor temporal distribution of rainfall in that area.
  • Livestock markets are well-stocked with animals from local pastoralists and from the larger than usual numbers of transhumant pastoralists flocking to the area earlier than usual. As a result, selling prices for livestock are unusually low.
  • According to the SMART survey conducted by the Ministry of Health in conjunction with UNICEF during the post-harvest period (December/January), global acute malnutrition rates range from 4.0 percent (2.3 – 6.9 95% C.I.) in Hodh El Gharbi to 6.5 percent (4.4 – 9.6 95% C.I.) in Hodh Echargui, 6.6 percent (3.9 – 10.9 95% C.I.) in Assaba, and 9.3 percent (6.6 – 13.0 95% C.I.) in Guidimakha. These figures are relatively close to average.
  • Assistance programs such as SAVS and BS programs, out-patient therapeutic feeding centers (CRENAMs), and school meal programs are all still running smoothly and are selling foodstuffs at prices 30 to 40 percent below formal market prices.
Assumptions

The most likely local food security scenario for the period from April through September 2014 described below is based on the following general assumptions:

  • Poor households will continue to be forced to resort to purchasing their food supplies until the upcoming September harvests. The earlier than usual depletion of their food stocks will translate into a heavier than usual need for purchase of foodstuffs.
  • Pastoral conditions will not meet the needs of local livestock between April and June. There will be declining rates of milk production during this period.
  • Trends in pastoral conditions are also affecting the physical condition of livestock and will drive down livestock prices between April and June in rural areas, where poor households will be forced into selling their animals in order to buy food. The growth of fresh pasture between July and September with the normal start and progress of the rainy season will cause prices to rebound.
  • Short-term seasonal labor migration, beginning in January or three months earlier than usual, has not yet had any major positive effects other than reducing the amount of food purchased by corresponding households. Thus, there will be a smaller than usual stream of seasonal migration income between April and June. Its effects will be negligible after the end of June, as household members return home to engage in farming activities.
  • The seasonal decline in wheat prices will make this substitute food affordable for poor households. However, a regular flow of cross-border trade (mainly with Mali) will ensure the availability of sorghum, limiting their recourse to wheat, at least until September.
  • There will be regular market supplies of the main imported foodstuffs consumed by households in this area (sorghum, maize, rice, wheat, sugar, tea, and oil). The latest hike in fuel prices is not expected to trigger any sharp rises in the prices of imported foods. There will be a longer than usual period of market dependence, but poor households will continue to benefit from the low prices of BS and SAVS programs.
  • There will be average levels of income from farm labor between June and September. With the rainy season expected to get off to a normal start, there should be a normal demand for seasonal labor.
  • Assistance levels will conform to a typical year.
Most likely food security outcomes

There are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) levels of acute food insecurity in most parts of livelihood zone 9 (rainfed cultivation), where poor households are reliant on ongoing assistance programs to protect their livelihoods. There will be no change in the situation in these areas until July, when the start-up of farming activities and the recovery in pastoral conditions will strengthen the long-term effects of assistance programs and local households should experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.

However, the shortage of food stocks and seasonal income in northern and central Guidimakha is so severe that poor households forced to resort to purchasing their food supplies are experiencing livelihood protection deficits, which could develop into survival deficits. Barring a major shock to the operation of local markets, there should be no further escalation in the Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity faced by households in this area since April between now and the end of June. With the start-up of farming activities during the rainy season and the improvement in pastoral conditions and access to milk and the rising price of livestock, there should be a slight improvement in the situation as of July, which would bring food insecurity levels in this part of Guidimakha down to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) with continued deliveries of assistance. These households should be experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity by the end of September with their access to short-cycle crops (cereals and legumes).

Western Agropastoral Livelihood Zone

This area includes northern and eastern Gorgol, northern Brakna, and central-western Assaba. Approximately 60 percent of the population consists of poor farming-oriented agropastoral households. On average, crop production meets 30 percent of their food needs and crop sales provide 20 percent of their income. They purchase 35 percent of their food supplies on the market between March and July, mostly with cash income from short-term seasonal labor migration and through in-kind loans from local traders, which are repaid in kind at harvest time when terms are most advantageous.

 Current situation
  • The unusually high rates of overgrazing with the earlier than usual presence of transhumant herds have degraded pasturelands in the southwestern reaches of this area. Pastures in the rest (the central and eastern reaches) of the area are meeting the needs of local livestock.
  • The drying up of surface watering holes is forcing more and more pastoralists to bring their animals to wells, boreholes, and other seasonal lakes and ponds. This is creating a need for pastoral labor, paid for with the proceeds from livestock sales.
  • Poor water access and accompanying shortfalls in biomass production have led to a smaller than average seasonal supply of milk in the western reaches of this livelihood zone.
  • Poor households have limited supplies of staple cereal crops due to the failure of long-cycle rainfed crops and flood recession crops (the main local source of cereal supplies) on account of the poor temporal distribution of rainfall and infestations of beetles and stalk borers. Since January, these households have been purchasing cereal supplies (mainly sorghum) at steadily rising prices, fueled by a sharply reduced seasonal supply of these crops from poor local harvests and a limited flow of cross-border trade with Mali and Senegal due to the well-below-average levels of cereal production in those countries.
  • As a result, staple cereal supplies (supplies of sorghum, millet, and maize) on local markets are tight and most domestic trade is being diverted to markets in local capitals, where households supposedly have better purchasing power.
  • However, markets across the area are well-stocked with substitute cereals (rice and wheat) and imported foodstuffs selling at prices above the five-year average.
  • The atypical seasonal decline in livestock prices on account of the unusually large seasonal supply of animals from sales by transhumant pastoralists is eroding terms of trade, which are, nevertheless, still in favor of pastoralists.
Assumptions

The most likely local food security scenario for the period from April through September 2014 described below is based on the following general assumptions:

  • There will be good market supplies throughout the outlook period. Prices for sorghum and wheat will continue to climb, driven by the high demand brought on by shortfalls in local cereal production. Prices for other imported foodstuffs should be stabilized by patterns of international trade.
  • Assistance programs such as SAVS, BS, and CRENAMs will operate normally and there will be a normal flow of cash remittances.
  • The steadily eroding terms of trade for livestock/cereals through the middle of April will rebound between the end of April and September with the improvement in pastoral conditions and harvests of short-cycle crops which, in line with normal seasonal trends, will reduce reliance on food purchases and credit sales.
  • The rainy season will get underway in June, as usual, and run its normal course, with normal farming activities and average levels of income. This should improve household food access.
  • By July, the recovery in pastoral conditions as a result of the average to below-average levels of rainfall will help improve the availability of milk, which is a dietary staple in this area.
  • By June, Malian farmers will begin unloading more of their crops, improving staple cereal availability and seed access.
  • Farm laborers engaged in seasonal labor migration will return in early June as the rainy season gets underway to work on-farm, earning average to above-average wage incomes from what is expected to be a normal rainy season, with a normal demand for farm labor.
  • There will be an extremely heavy reliance on arrangements for the purchasing of food on credit against future income and harvests between April and June, though the numbers of such arrangements should be back to normal between July and September.
  • Market supply systems will be disrupted between July and September by hikes in fuel prices and the road closures during the rainy season, holding up deliveries. This will cause food prices to increase (by up to 30 percent) until the maturation of early crops at the end of August. The usual speculation during the lean season (April/May to August) will further steepen price increases, making it more difficult for poor households to maintain access to a regular, adequate supply of food between June and the beginning of August.
Most likely food security outcomes

Poor households in this area of concern could begin to experience food consumption deficits between April and the beginning of June, exposing them to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity. These Crisis conditions will give way to
Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of food insecurity between July and August with the onset of the rainy season, gradually putting farm laborers to work, the recovery in pastoral conditions, helping to improve milk production, and the expected boost in staple cereal imports from Mali, bolstered by continued deliveries of assistance. With the combined effects of these factors and their access to green and dry short-cycle crops in September, these households will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity by the end of September.

Less affected by the degraded condition of pasturelands and production deficits, food security outcomes in the rest of agropastoral livelihood zone 7 will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), where ongoing assistance programs will contain the effect of the deterioration in conditions between April and July. Poor households in these areas will experience Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) between July and September.

 

 

FEWS NET Price Bulletin, Mauritania, April 2014, page 3 for sorghum prices

Events that Could Change the Outlook

Table 1. Possible events in the next six months that could change the outlook

 

Area

Event

Impact on food security conditions

Nationwide

 

 

Unusual rise in global market prices for wheat and rice

Sharp rise in food prices (including prices for sorghum and millet), curtailing the food access of poor households

Long-term disruption in cross-border trade

Steady rise in staple cereal prices, driving up prices for substitute cereals (wheat and rice)

Late start of the rainy season

Increased transhumance and heavy pressure on wheat, the main animal feed substitute. The growing demand for this product, which is imported, will be hard to meet, while competition from livestock needs will cause wheat prices to soar to levels close to 2011 prices.

 

Lower demand for labor, reducing seasonal wage income from farming activities

Termination of assistance programs before the upcoming harvests

High likelihood of hikes in food prices, severely limiting the food access of poor households

Agropastoral Livelihood Zone

 

Long period of transhumance on account of the late start of the rainy season or the erratic pattern of rainfall, limiting pasture production

Lower than average levels of wage income for poor households engaged in pastoral activities (with a longer period of transhumance)

Long-term disruption in supply systems based in Nouakchott and Mali

This will affect the level of market supplies and drive up prices, heightening food access problems for poor households.

New assistance programs for poor households

Improvement in household food availability and less pressure on livestock.

Boost in lending activities, dramatically lowering current levels of food insecurity in both parts of this livelihood zone. This prospect is all the more plausible with the presidential elections scheduled for June, in the midst of a food security Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

Rainfed Cultivation  Livelihood Zone

Long-term disruption in supply systems based in Nouakchott and Mali

This will affect the levels of market supplies, drive up prices, and heighten food access problems for poor households.

New assistance programs for poor households

Improvement in household food availability and boost in lending activities, dramatically lowering current levels of food insecurity in both parts of this livelihood zone.

 

 

About Scenario Development

To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
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