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Early depletion of harvest stocks in the southern and central regions

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mauritania
  • January - June 2015
Early depletion of harvest stocks in the southern and central regions

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • The failure of flood-recession crops in the northern and western reaches of the Agropastoral Zone has further aggravated shortfalls in harvest production and associated seasonal incomes. Pastoralists have icnreased their sales of animals, with the resulting surplus triggering an atypical seasonal decline in livestock prices. Poor households will have more difficulty meeting their food needs and, thus, will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and June.

    • With the limited farming activities in walo areas in central areas of the Senegal River Valley after the failure of rainfed crops, the lean season in farming areas will begin earlier than usual despite the small harvests of irrigated main season crops. As in the northwestern reaches of the Agropastoral Zone, households in this area will have trouble meeting their food and livelihood protection needs, which will put them in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as of March.

    • Though Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions are expected in the south-central part of the country and even in the Oasis and Wadis Zone, other livelihood zones are currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. Average seasonal incomes, the availability of rainfed and irrigated crops, and/or the improvement in pastoral conditions should allow the food security situation to remain more or less in line with seasonal norms through the end of June 2015.

    National Overview
    Current situation

    Rainfall pattern: There has been no meaningful rainfall in crop-producing and pastoral areas since the November rains reported in Adrar and Inchiri. The resulting pasture deficit has triggered premature herd movements by transhumant livestock, except in Tiris Zemmouroù where camel traders have confirmed the continued existence of near-average levels of pasture across the area extending from Bir Moghreïn (in Mauritania)  to the southern reaches of the Moroccan and Algerian Sahara.

    Cultivation: Late-season sorghum crops in certain parts of the Rainfed Cultivation Zone and eastern reaches of the Agropastoral Zone have begun to wither for lack of a sufficient water supply. This is attributable to the earlier than usual end of the rains and a warmer than average “cool” season and will, unquestionably, reduce yields of late-season crops and, thus, expected output from the November 2014 harvest.

    Despite the more or less average water levels (between 40 and 90 percent) in lowland areas, which are especially extensive in the central and northern reaches of the Agropastoral Zone and which, for the most part, were planted in crops, cereal production in these areas is expected to be down sharply due to the severe damage to these crops from premature herd movements bringing transhumant livestock herds through these areas during the tillering stage of their growing cycle. Moreover, those crops not destroyed by livestock were subject to heavy stalk borer infestations.

    On average, the growing of walo crops (flood recession crops planted in floodplain areas along the Senegal River and its tributaries and in riverbank areas) normally meets half the cereal needs of poor households in the Senegal River Valley area and southwestern reaches of the Agropastoral Zone benefiting from these activities and provides three quarters of their seasonal farm income. However, this year, most of these areas were left dry by the limited rainfall activity during the 2014 growing season. Low-lying areas collecting runoff from the river and fed by some of its tributaries were planted in crops but, as in the Agropastoral Zone, most of these crops were ravaged by straying animals, transhumant herds, and stalk borers. However, many farming communities turned to growing irrigated “winter” crops (mainly maize and legumes).

    Pastoral conditions: With the heavy pressure from transhumant Mauritanian herds and herds from northern Senegal, the already mediocre pastoral conditions in most parts of the western and northern reaches of the country since September due to the erratic light rainfall activity in these areas are much poorer than usual. Pastoral conditions in the rest of the country (from eastern Gorgol to southern Hodh Echargui) are still good, but expected overgrazing problems with the movement of transhumant pastoralists and their animals through these areas could quickly create a pasture deficit, particularly in the absence of effective measures for fighting the brush fires which have already erupted in these areas. Thus far, there are no reports of any epizootic outbreaks.

    Seasonal incomes: With the good pastoral conditions and yields from rainfed and irrigated crops, at a minimum, poor households should have average seasonal incomes, except in south-central areas of the country where seasonal household incomes are well below-average due to the limited supply of work. The poor progress of flood-recession crops is limiting the use of farm labor and the earlier than usual stream of short-term seasonal labor migration will affect normal income levels from pastoral work. Despite the larger than average numbers of poor household members engaged in short-term seasonal labor migration, so far, there is no evidence that this is having any major positive effect, with these migrant workers having an extremely hard time finding jobs in the productive sectors of receiving areas (mainly Mauritanian and Senegalese cities), where the seasonal supply of farm work is limited and there is an extremely large labor pool.

    Markets and prices: Retail markets still have good supplies of imported staple foodstuffs. As for domestic cereal crops, December prices for sorghum were up on retail markets in all livelihood zones due to the large shortfall in nationwide sorghum production and limited flow of seasonal cross-border trade in sorghum from Senegal and Mali. Rises in prices between November and December range from 18 percent in the Senegal River Valley (Figure 1) down to 1.7 percent in the Rainfed Cultivation Zone (Figure 2). Prices are up from the same time last year by 47.5 percent in the Senegal River Valley, 12.5 percent in the Oasis Zone, and 27.9 percent in the Agropastoral Zone, but are down by 17.3 percent in the Rainfed Cultivation Zone. They are still moderately to well above the five-year average in all livelihood zones.

    Prices for wheat, the main imported substitute foodstuff, are unchanged from last month in all livelihood zones and trending downwards. This is attributable to the good availability of wheat from a large, regular flow of private commercial, government, and humanitarian imports. Though up sharply from the same time last year by 30.7 percent in the Rainfed Cultivation Zone, prices in all other livelihood zones are stable. The only major price fluctuations from the five-year average by more than +/- 10 percent are in the Rainfed Cultivation Zone (+42.4 percent) and the Agropastoral Zone (+11.9 percent).

    The pasture deficits in certain parts of the country and influx of transhumant Senegalese herds have triggered an atypically large increase in seasonal sales of livestock. In general, the resulting surplus in rural areas and on urban livestock markets has driven down the prices of sheep since November in all livelihood zones with the exception of the Agropastoral Zone, where they are up by close to nine percent. Livestock prices are generally down from the same time last year, except in the Senegal River Valley, where they are up by 20.1 percent. Only in the Oasis Zone and Agropastoral Zone are they significantly above the five-year average.

    Terms of trade in all livelihood zones have depreciated since November with the decline in local prices for livestock and the limited flow of cereal trade from Senegal. This has been a contributing factor in curtailing the food access of poor households, particularly in the western reaches of the Agropastoral Zone and central reaches of the Senegal River Valley.


    The most likely nationwide food security scenario for the period from January through June 2015 is based on the following general assumptions:

    • Annual national cereal production is expected to be down sharply from figures for 2013 and 2014 and well below-average. Rainfed crops were affected by the pattern of erratic light rainfall activity and flood-recession crops by straying animals, stalk borer infestations (in lowland and downstream areas), and the low flood stage of the river (walo crops in the central reaches of the river valley), particularly in south-central areas of the country.
    • However, with the relatively good yields of irrigated “winter” crops throughout the river valley, households will have stocks of paddy rice through the end of February. Certain households growing cold off-season crops (maize) will have food stocks through the month of March. No large-scale hot off-season farming activities are expected with the already low water levels along the river. Market garden production will follow the same pattern as irrigated crop production, with near-average crop yields in January and little to no production between February and March.
    • Pastoral conditions in the Rainfed Cultivation Zone and eastern reaches of the Agropastoral Zone will meet the needs of local livestock between now and June but will cover the needs of livestock from other areas only through January/February.
    • Animal birthing rates between January and March will be below-average due to the mediocre condition of pastures, except in the Rainfed Cultivation Zone and eastern reaches of the Agropastoral Zone. Poor household incomes from pastoral work will be well below-average in most parts of the country throughout the outlook period with the earlier than usual migration by transhumant herds from most pastoral areas to the southern reaches of the Agropastoral Zone and the Rainfed Cultivation Zone.
    • The flow of short-term seasonal labor migration will speed up between January and March, but is not expected to have any major positive effect due to the limited supply of work in farming areas, which normally provide employment for over 70 percent of migrant workers, as well as urban areas. There should be a larger supply of work in coastal areas of Mauritania as well as Senegal with the tough main growing season in both countries.
    • There should continue to be a regular flow of adequate market supplies of imported foodstuffs (oil, sugar, rice, wheat, pasta, etc.), bolstered by re-exports of Asian rice from Senegal. There will be a larger than average volume of re-exports of imported commodities in all border areas to Mali, Senegal, and southern areas of the Maghreb.
    • However, with the erratic pattern of rainfall, there will be a limited flow of domestic trade in coarse grains due to the large shortfall in crop production. Cross-border trade in coarse grains will pick up in April, in keeping with seasonal farming practices, but the volume and duration of these trade flows will be well below-average with the shortfalls in cereal production in border areas of Senegal and certain parts of Mali.
    • Prices for imported foodstuffs and coarse grains will rise in line with normal seasonal trends. There will be steeper rises in prices in south-central areas of the country with the sharpest declines in local crop production. Poor sorghum availability will drive up prices and cause poor and middle-income households to fall back on substitute cereals (locally-grown rice and wheat), driving up their prices as well.
    • By January, there will be a steeper than average decline in livestock prices in rural areas, where livestock herds are being culled as a protective measure against potential losses from pasture deficits and long-distance migration and where, in addition to the large-scale sales of livestock by transhumant pastoralists, most sedentary pastoralists will be steadily ramping up their sales of animals to meet their needs during the long lean season for pastoral populations. Speculation by traders using the physical condition of animals as justification for raising prices will keep livestock prices high in urban areas.
    • Certain international assistance programs scheduled to shut down in December will not resume operations until March, but government programs (village-level food security stocks (SAVS), government-subsidized “boutiques de solidarité” (BS), outpatient therapeutic feeding centers (CRENAMs), and distributions of free food assistance) will continue through at least the month of June.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    Households in most pastoral livelihood zones and the Rainfed Cultivation Zone with relatively good pastoral conditions and near-average levels of cereal production will continue to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity into the month of March. However, there could be above-average levels of food insecurity between March and June with the expected erosion in terms of trade, driven by the falling price of livestock and expected rise in the prices of substitute cereal crops and other staple foods with the mounting demand in the face of the large production deficit. Affected poor households in the central reaches of the Senegal River Valley and northwestern reaches of the Agropastoral Zone may need to resort to irreversible coping strategies to continue to meet their nonfood needs, creating Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes in these areas through February/March.

    Poor households in the central reaches of the Senegal River Valley and the northern and western reaches of the Agropastoral Zone were left with large shortfalls in their annual cereal production. They continue to rely on market purchase for their food supplies, while facing large gaps in their seasonal incomes, which have been sharply reduced by the combined effects of the slow-down in local income-generating activities, limited volume of migrant remittances, and deterioration in terms of trade with the falling price of livestock. They are having trouble maintaining regular access to an adequate food supply. Their need to ramp up their sales of livestock to maintain their food access on local markets will impair their livelihoods and force them to resort to negative strategies for meeting their food needs and managing their livestock herds. As such, these households will be in a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situation as of February/March 2015.

    Moreover, as of February, there is a high probability of negative food security outcomes for poor households in the Oasis and Wadis Zone (Livelihoods Zone 3). The severe rainfall deficit has limited market gardening activities (between January and February) and the growing of crops in “graras” (depression areas), lowland areas, and down-stream areas (between October and March), which are their main sources of cereals. These households are likely already facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes and, thus, having difficulty meeting their nonfood needs.


    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, January 2015

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, January 2015

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Trends in sorghum prices in an area of the Senegal River Valley

    Figure 3

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Trends in sorghum prices in an area of the Rainfed Cultivation Zone

    Figure 4

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 5


    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.

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