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Clear improvement in food security and seasonal progress

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mauritania
  • October 2012 - March 2013
Clear improvement in food security and seasonal progress

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Possible Scenario-Changing Events
  • Key Messages
    • The rainy season has been better than predicted by May forecasts, with above-average levels of precipitation and a good temporal distribution of rainfall, resulting in generally good growing conditions, except in the northwestern reaches of the agropastoral livelihood zone. In spite of the under-planting of diéri crops in localized areas of the rainfed agriculture zone, the national cereal harvest is still expected to be better than average thanks to good harvest prospects for flood-recession and irrigated crops.

    • With agropastoral production expected to be better than the five year average, increased income from on-farm employment, steady improvement in terms of trade, and the continuation of assistance programs,  general improvement of food security across the country is expected.  Poor households in areas of concern should be in IPC Phase 1: Minimal acute food insecurity between October and December of this year. 

    • Between January and March, the reduction of certain components of social assistance programs and the gradual ending of humanitarian aid programs between January and March of next year is likely to downgrade household food security to IPC Phase 2: Stress, particularly for poor households in northwestern agropastoral areas and in the southeast, which has been getting an influx of Malian refugees for the past several months. 

    National Overview
    Current situation

    Forecasts by ACMAD and Aghrymet in May 2012 predicted a probability of below-average levels of rainfall. However, all parts of the country received above-average levels of precipitation, with a good spatial-temporal distribution of rainfall in most pastoral and agropastoral areas, particularly with the intensification of rainfall activity beginning in late August and continuing into October. In general, conditions for the pursuit of major agropastoral activities in most livelihood zones shows an improvement over last year and is better than average compared with the last ten years. However, there are certain pockets of water deficits which show visible effects on pasture resources in northwestern agropastoral areas (in the eastern reaches of Aleg and Magta Lahjar departments in Brakna, Monguel department in Gorgol, and Barkéol department in Assaba), as well as in central rainfed farming areas (in Kobenni department and Touil district in the southern reaches of Tintane department in Hodh El Gharbi). Nevertheless, these pockets are surrounded by areas with excellent pastoral conditions and, thus, able to meet internal seasonal migration needs.

    Assistance programs mounted by the government, the FAO, and other NGOs (free farmer transportation services, distributions of seeds, distributions of plows to selected farmers, etc.) between April and October bolstered efforts by farmers to meet their basic food needs (through the purchasing and borrowing of cereal as a source of seeds for planting crops). The result is a nationwide net increase in the size of the area planted in diéri (rainfed) crops in spite of some localized under-planting. Reductions in the size of those areas cultivated with short-cycle crops were largely offset by areas planted in long-cycle and late-season crops in rainfed farming areas, which will be harvested in October/November and December/January, respectively. Any shortfalls should also be covered by surplus production in other parts of the livelihood zone and in neighboring Mali. Harvests in other livelihood zones are expected to be larger than average. However, the larger area planted in rainfed crops in the agropastoral livelihood zone will not make up for losses due to the bursting of dams and dikes in flood-recession farming areas.

    With the good flooding levels in lowland, dam, and walo areas (flood recession cropping areas along the Senegal River) of the agropastoral livelihood zone, record-large areas are expected to be planted in flood-recession crops compared with figures for the last ten years. Distributions of 100 metric tons of seeds furnished by the FAO for flood-irrigated sorghum crops were made in all flood-recession farming areas in a timely fashion (in September).  In spite of the sharp rise in the price of this cereal (to close to double the average for this time of year), farmers are only waiting for the floodwaters to begin to recede to start planting crops. In light of these latest developments, the result should be a better than average cereal harvest. According to the Department of Agriculture, as of the end of the second dekad of September, over 25,000 hectares (of the target figure of 35,000 hectares) had already been planted in irrigated crops in the Senegal River Valley, the only area in which rice is grown under irrigation. Based on the latest forecasts, at close to 187,795 MT, total gross nationwide production could top both the one-year average and the five-year average.

    Regarding locust activity, there have been reports of treatable targets in the Néma, Tagant, Brakna, and Adrar regions in the southeastern part of the country. These locust populations consist mainly of groups of mature winged adults, most in the process of mating, immature insects in the central and northern parts of the country, and  hopper bands of larvae in all different stages in the southeastern part of the country. The current situation, with dispersed infestation areas, is a source of concern and, thus, will require heightened vigilance in targeting, detection, and effective treatment. Treatment activities started in early October  and, as of mid-month, 1,039 hectares had been treated in 16 different operations. Looking ahead, the National Locust Control Center (CNLA) is expecting small-scale locust breeding activities over the next few weeks in the central and northern parts of the country, where conditions are becoming increasingly conducive to a locust upsurge.

    Three main trends mark conditions on cereal markets. The first is the steady rise in sorghum prices since September in all crop-growing areas due to the demand for seeds. Though this is a normal seasonal phenomenon, in general, it resulted in prices at a five-year high this year. Sorghum prices in the Senegal River Valley (on the Boghé market) and in agropastoral areas (on the Magta Lahjar market) are up by 12.06 percent and .77 percent, respectively, from August.  While the latter rise in prices is negligible, it still runs counter to the normal seasonal downward trend in prices. Prices in many remote areas separated from the closest markets by long distances are up by as much as 50 percent from September. The second trend is the decline in wheat prices in all livelihood zones due to the plunge in demand with access to fresh crops and the lack of demand in pastoral areas. The third trend is the fluctuation in prices for rice and other imported foodstuffs beginning in December of this year with the cutting of certain components of social assistance programs (government-subsidized shops that sell rice for 130 MRO compared with the 250 MRO charged by tradesmen). The price of a 50 kg sack of rice in Nouakchott, the country’s main provisioning market, went from 12,800 to 14,000 MRO between the end of September and the beginning of October. This trend is expected to continue until the upcoming rice harvest in November. The visibly lower prices for foods sold commercially (rice, oil, and sugar) in eastern rainfed farming areas are largely due to the resales of food aid by the refugee population in that area.

    Prices on livestock markets are generally up. The average price of a sheep on the Boghé market in the Senegal River Valley, which had dropped by 18 percent between August and September due to large market supplies, jumped nearly 13 percent between September and the beginning of October. There will be increasingly sharp rises in prices with the growth in demand for the celebration of the Feast of Tabaski and the two other religious holidays in the next few months (in December and January). The 3.8 percent rise in September prices on the Abdel Bagrou market in the country’s rainfed farming area was followed by a second 8.45 percent hike in prices at the beginning of October. In contrast, the sharp (12.83 percent) rise in prices in agropastoral areas between August and September was followed by a 4.79 percent drop in prices due to the extremely large market supply of sheep. In summary, terms of trade for pastoralist households in all parts of the country are gradually improving. Terms of trade for sheep/cereal in agropastoral areas rose by 17.7 percent against wheat, 8 percent against imported rice, and 10 percent against rainfed sorghum between September and October, compared with figures for August. Terms of trade for livestock-selling households in rainfed farming areas are also steadily rising (by 10.5 percent against wheat, 11 percent against rainfed sorghum, and by 5.8 percent against rice), in line with the upward trend in livestock prices and the decline in staple food prices with harvests of short-cycle crops and the resale by refugees of part of their food rations.

    A number of international NGOs are working with the National Food Security Agency (CSA) and the World Food Program to mobilize development assistance and emergency relief programs in many rural areas. This year, with the government able to fund only half the financing package required for full implementation of its “EMEL” program mounted in response to relatively high levels of food insecurity in many rural and peri-urban areas since 2010, most of these NGOs are contributing to this program through their own annual programs, oftentimes strengthened by additional components. Thus, poor households will continue to be served by social assistance programs (distributions of free food aid, cash transfer programs, subsidized shops, food-for-work programs, etc.) through the end of December. While there is some doubt as to the extension of some of these programs, the SAVS (village-level food security reserves) scattered across the country are expected to continue to operate, and will be strengthened by a new joint program by the government and the World Bank for the opening of 600 new units.  The delivery of this assistance in the form of distributions of free food aid and cash transfer payments (15,000 MRO per household per month) in southwestern and central agropastoral areas has helped significantly improve food availability and food access for poor households. In the southeast, the resale by refugees of part of the food rations supplied by assistance programs is helping to regulate markets and mitigate the negative effects of the restrictions on trade between Mauritania and Mali.


    The most likely food security scenario described below for the period from October 2012 through March 2013 is based on the following general assumptions:

    • Well distributed high annual rainfall since the second dekad of August has created above-average farming and pastoral conditions.
    • The relief measures implemented by the government and its partners (the FAO and NGOs) in the form of timely distributions of seeds, farmer transportation services, distributions of small farming implements, etc. between August and September will help improve cereal availability, both at the nationwide and at the individual household level, through record, above-average, gross cereal production.
    • Government assistance programs (distributions of free food aid, cereal sales in subsidized shops, and village-level food security reserves) underway since April/May of this year will continue through the end of December, and these social assistance programs are expected to be cut back between January and March of next year. The only program set to continue is the SAVS program under an agreement signed in September and effective as of November providing a $US 4 million funding package for procurements of 7200 metric tons of wheat for 600 SAVS serving 360 000 households across the country. Currently, FEWS NET is not expecting an extension of external humanitarian aid as the funding, scheduling and likelihood of these programs is currently unclear in areas of concern.
    • Farming households should have adequate seed access (through distributions of seed aid, loans, substitution, etc.) for the planting of 20 to 30 percent larger than average areas in flood-recession crops between October and November. 
    • Outside labor migration will play an important role only for poor households in southeastern rainfed farming areas with virtually no floodplain areas to plant in crops this year. The large tracts of viable cropland in all other flood-recession farming areas will limit out-migration by the local workforce, driving up daily wage rates (from 1500 to 2000 MRO) and ensuring a larger than usual number of days work for casual laborers.
    • The effects of crop pests will be negligible. As in previous years, ongoing treatment efforts against crop predators (grasshoppers and birds) since September will be extended for flood-recession crops between December and next February in cooperation with crop protection services in Senegal. Due to current treatment operations, the locust situation should remain stable, with no major negative effects on crop production and potential future pasture production in any part of the country between now and next March. 
    • As of November, conditions will be favorable for the growing of flood-recession crops in livelihood zones 5, 7, and 2 and irrigated crops in oasis areas of livelihood zones 7 and 2 (market gardening and date-producing areas).
    • The high water levels of dams are affording poor households benefiting from distributions of seed aid an opportunity to plant larger than usual areas in crops. The frequent runoff in oasis areas has replenished underground water sources, which should meet crop water requirements for date palms and market garden crops. This should boost cereal production and output of market garden crops between December and next March, which are sources of both food and income for all households in these areas. The spin-off effects of the date harvest will not be felt until June.
    • The good to excellent pastoral conditions in most parts of the country should increase milk production after the birth cycle between February and March of next year, though it will still be 20 percent below-average due to the losses of livestock between October of last year and August of this year. Based on the statements of pastoralists in the focus groups, losses are estimated at around 20 percent of the herd.
    • With the exception of traditional patterns of seasonal migration by large-scale transhumant pastoralists and nomads (representing three percent of the nationwide population), migratory movements by transhumant herds will be internal and should not entail any clashes between farmers and pastoralists or among pastoralists. External migration is not expected to begin until March at the earliest and, at least in the beginning, should be limited to agropastoralists in northwestern agropastoral areas. This set of circumstances, which has been a rare occurrence in the past ten years, will probably mean less income for poor households from the tending of livestock but, at the same time, will also improve access to milk as of February/March, which is a mainstay of the local household diet. Moreover, limited seasonal migration by transhumant herds will also oftentimes tighten supplies on livestock markets and sharpen expected rises in livestock prices during and even after the usual feasting period (between October and January).
    • As has been the case in the past, a five percent hike in fuel prices between October and next March could raise staple food prices by 10 to 20 percent.
    • Markets are expected to function normally during the outlook period thanks to an adequate regular flow of imports to ensure good market supplies and a brisk flow of domestic trade. The restrictions on cross-border trade with Mali should not have any major negative impact and will be offset by the spin-off effects of humanitarian aid programs in the area and the good harvests of flood-recession crops in neighboring areas.
    • There will be less earned income from the tending of livestock in all areas of the country, with the good pastoral conditions causing pastoralists to let their animals wander freely, with virtually no hiring of outside herdsmen.
    • There will be less than usual recourse to food loans and/or cash loans for making food purchases in all parts of the country. With the better-than-average cereal harvest forecast, households should have more available income, which is expected to limit their reliance on borrowing during the lean season this year.
    • Loan payments in all livelihood areas and, in particular, in areas of concern, will be made as usual and will not begin until after the outlook period. These payments are normally made either with crops from the main harvest, which have more potential, and when cereal prices are lowest, or with cash remittances from migrant workers. In either case, payment arrangements are usually based on the value of crops rather than on quantity. The negative effects of such arrangements will be felt primarily after the March harvest.
    • Any remaining food gaps will be filled in part by the smooth operation of government and WFP assistance programs (the so-called “Solidarity” program and WFP programs) between October and December involving distributions of free food aid, cash transfer payments, the replenishment of SAVS, and subsidized sales), particularly in areas of concern.
    • Prices are expected to start to rise between January and March of next year with the reduction in the volume of humanitarian aid available for resale. However, this should not affect market supplies, with local traders meeting demand through imports from Nouakchott, plus informal imports from Mali.
    • A sharp reduction the need  for humanitarian aid (due to a smaller than estimated refugee population) and social assistance programs (with output from farming and livestock-raising activities improving living conditions) is expected between January and March of next year compared with 2012 levels and the five-average.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    The scale of ongoing humanitarian aid and social assistance programs should bring down food insecurity levels in all rural areas of the country compared with September, the same time last year, and the average for this time of year. However, the extent of any such improvement in localized areas in which production systems have been affected by bursting dams and poor pasture growth and development (northwestern agropastoral areas) could be more limited than in other parts of the country. 

    Areas of Concern

    Rainfed farming areas (southeastern reaches of livelihood zone 6)

    Current situation

    Normally, close to 80 percent of the population lives mainly from rainfed (diéri) crops, whose growing season begins between July and August. For poor households (which account for 60 percent of the population), on-farm employment in these specialized farming activities furnishes 20 percent of their annual income and harvests between September and November normally cover 35 percent of their food needs. Household food security is further bolstered by income from the harvesting, transportation, and processing of short-cycle (September to October) and long-cycle (November to December) crops between September and November. Throughout the year, the population of this livelihood zone is also highly dependent on (year-long) cross-border trade and on labor migration to Mali, usually between December and March, in line with trends in growing season conditions.

    Though rainfall conditions across the area are generally good, farmers in southeastern rainfed farming areas are growing very few diéri crops (approximately 30 percent less than usual) due to their poor seed access between June and August and the departure of a large part of the local workforce back in February/March for cities and refugee camps in search of gainful employment. The small harvest of short-cycle crops, which is normally brought in between September and November, will meet their food needs for three months at best, instead of the usual five to six months. However, the larger area planted in long-cycle crops could significantly increase cereal production in this area though, with over 80 percent of the lands planted in long-cycle crops owned by better-off (Mauritanian and Malian) households, its impact on poor households with only limited access to cropland for this purpose will be felt on their income rather than on their harvests.

    The tight supply of local farm labor has brought wage rates up slightly (from 1500 to 2000 MRO/day), but the smaller than usual area planted in crops could reduce seasonal income from on-farm employment. Thus, not all parts of this livelihood zone would necessarily benefit from these higher wages. However, these two factors will have little effect on poor households between October and December with the continuation of assistance programs through the end of December, particularly in southeastern rainfed farming areas. Moreover, up to now, the lowering of food prices with the resale by refugees of part of their food rations has been giving these households access to foodstuffs sold at prices 40 to 50 percent below those charged in formal trading. In addition, the rising prices of livestock are creating more favorable terms of trade for sheep/wheat, sheep/sorghum, and sheep/rice from the standpoint of poor livestock-selling households, which have risen by 10.58 percent, 11.29 percent, and 5.87 percent, respectively. Crop (cereals, cowpeas, groundnuts, etc.) and wild plant consumption is already on par with the norm. The gathering of wild plant products as a source of both food and income is expected to intensify between December and next March with the maturation of different types of popular wild fruits (gum, jujube, monkey bread fruit, the fruit of the Palmyra palm, the fruit of the balanite tree, etc.)


    The most likely food security scenario described below for the period from October 2012 through March 2013 is based on the following local assumptions:

    • Even with the near-average to above-average levels of rainfall, the size of the area planted in dieri crops will be approximately 30 percent smaller than usual, though still larger than last year.
    • There will be a smaller supply of labor with the departure of workers in February/March for urban areas and refugee camp sites in search of gainful employment. Middle-income and better-off households will continue to require outside labor to work their land in spite of the smaller than usual local workforce.
    • Local harvests of early cereal crops (cowpeas, sorghum, and millet) normally brought in sometime in September are not expected to get underway until the end of October. With the current reliance on food aid, this could actually be beneficial for area households, in that it would give them an extra month of cereal reserves.
    • Loan payments will be made as usual (after the end of March). Normally, with the small harvests in this area (which, in a good year, are able to cover household food needs for six months at most), food loans incurred during the previous lean season are repaid mainly with cash remittances from family members off working in Mali (the case of 80 percent of households) or in Mauritanian cities (approximately 20 percent of households). Thus, the first repayments of debts in this area of concern are not expected to start until after the end of March.
    • With the intensification of harvesting activities between November and next March, the downward trend in cereal prices is expected to gain momentum due to the good harvest outlook in Mali, which should definitely fuel informal trade in crops (cereal, cowpeas, groundnuts) and animals (particularly small animals), even with a continuation of current restrictive trade policies.
    • Markets will continue to be well-stocked and trends in terms of trade between now and next March will favor households selling livestock due to low or stable cereal prices and steadily rising prices for livestock.
    • The fairly good pastoral conditions for local livestock herds and the livestock of refugees will improve milk availability between February and March, which is a mainstay of the diet of poor area households. Rising prices for animals will steadily improve terms of trade for livestock-selling households between now and next March.
    • According to preliminary, unofficial results of the biometric survey conducted between August and September, the number of refugees appears to be lower. Barring any future change in this latest figure, there should be a sharp reduction in needs for humanitarian aid between January and March.
    • Based on the most likely status quo scenario for the political situation in Mali, there should not be any further large influx of refugees. 
    Most likely food security outcomes

    Ongoing assistance programs in Malian refugee camps and for poor host households have been keeping food insecurity levels in this area in IPC Phase 2 (stressed) since July. The smaller area planted in diéri crops has reduced the seasonal incomes of poor households in this area, but the outlook for flood-recession crops in neighboring areas and employment in refugee camps are creating much better income-generating opportunities than those lost.  Thus, with the spin-off effects of external labor migration, humanitarian aid, good pastoral conditions, good market supplies thanks to the resale of food aid, and the rising prices of livestock and ensuing positive trends in terms of trade for livestock-selling households, the household food security situation should steadily improve, eventually bringing down food insecurity levels currently classified in IPC Phase 2 (stressed), though not until after the end of October.

    External labor migration (to neighboring flood-recession farming areas between October and February/March) and employment in refugee camps are generating slightly larger than usual amounts of seasonal income for poor households. The combined effects of the income earned in the camps, the improvement in conditions for agropastoral production, and the benefits provided by assistance programs should put poor households in IPC Phase 1 (minimal acute food insecurity) between November and December. A certain number of households are planning to leave for flood-recession farming areas in other departments in the region between November and December, once the harvest of short-cycle crops is completed, where the high levels of dams and the deliveries of seed aid by the FAO are expected to sharply increase the size of the area to be planted in crops. This new strategy should help boost their income and make up for the small reduction in their income from rainfed farming activities. Harvests, beginning in mid-February and ending in mid-March, staggered over a period of approximately one month, should move along at a more or less normal pace. This new source of income should help continue to keep food insecurity down to a minimum but, with the current restrictions imposed by the Mauritanian government on cross-border trade, the shutdown of ongoing assistance programs for refugees and/or host households will blunt its positive effects, putting these households back in IPC Phase 2 (stressed) between January and March of next year.

    Agropastoral areas (northwestern reaches of livelihood zone 5)

    Normally, poor households in this livelihood zone (approximately 60 percent of the population) harvest small areas planted in rainfed crops between September and October, which cover their cereal needs for one to two months. Between November and December, they work for better-off households in dam and lowland areas for daily wages of from 1500 to 2000 MRO. This on-farm employment provides approximately 20 percent of their annual income, with the remaining 80 percent generated by employment in livestock-raising activities, oftentimes outside the area. Close to 35 percent of their annual food needs are met through market purchase between January/February and August with income earned from these two sources. They also take out cash loans backed by liens on their next harvest or against future demand for farm labor. Most of the area population consists of livestock-oriented agropastoral households for which animal production plays an important role as a source of both food and income. Normally, food insecurity levels for agropastoral households begin coming down as soon as the rainy season settles in due to the importance of milk production in the diets of poor households.

    The expected improvement in pastoral conditions across the northwestern reaches of this livelihood zone in July did not really materialize until the beginning of September, which was marked by diluvial rains. As a result, there was not as much new pasture growth in this area as in other parts of the livelihood zone due to the nature of local soils (stony to rocky). In addition, the decision by better-off households to focus their efforts on the upcoming growing season for flood-recession crops reduced the size of areas planted in diéri crops in certain parts of Aftout (the main crop-producing area in this livelihood zone). There are fewer rainfed crops and their progress is lagging behind that of crops in the rest of the livelihood zone due to the numerous rounds of replanting necessitated by the destruction of crops by runoff and wandering animals and the damage to many water-retaining structures (embankments, bunds, and dams) from heavy rains. Reductions in the size of cropping areas will also scale back the income earned by poor households from on-farm employment between October and December, the planting period for flood-recession crops in this livelihood zone. 

    The good pastoral conditions in most parts of the country are likely to reduce income from employment in livestock-raising activities, with pastoralists allowing their animals to wander freely with the good availability of pasture and surface watering holes and delaying the hiring of herdsmen until sometime around May or June, when necessitated by animal watering needs.

    The unusual close of all government assistance programs with the exception of SAVS after the end of December will create a hard-to-fill gap for poor households in this area, even with the expected improvement in already favorable terms of trade for sheep/wheat (which are up by 17.7 percent), sheep/rice (up 8.0 percent), and sheep/sorghum (up 10.20 percent) with the seasonal decline in sorghum prices at harvest time (in November) and the anticipated 13 to 25 percent rise in prices for livestock with the high demand for live animals for the year-end feasting period (from October through December). As a mainstay of the local diet, poor milk availability due to the much lower than usual (by 85 percent) birthing rates for small animals (the main types of herds owned by poor households) is another handicap. Animals conceiving between September and October of this year rather than in March and April, as is generally the case, will not give birth until after a six-month gestation period. Thus, there will be no improvement in milk availability (a source of both food and income) until the beginning of February of next year, which normally helps strengthen food availability for poor households beginning in August. With the deterioration in local environmental conditions, the contribution (consumption and sales of wild plant products) of nature-based products (normally 10 percent) is expected to be larger than usual (50 percent).


    The most likely food security scenario described below for the period from October 2012 through March 2013 is based on the following general assumptions:

    • Rainfed cereal production in the northwestern reaches of this livelihood zone will be 30 percent below-average, creating poorer than usual seasonal cereal availability and, thus, a heavier than usual reliance on exogenous sources (assistance and market purchase).
    • There will be a moderately to significantly below-normal demand for labor in certain flood-recession farming areas due to the bursting of numerous water-retaining structures (embankments, bunds, and dams).
    • Fairly regular annual breeding activities over the last few years have visibly increased the size of local herds. However, losses and sales of animals during the course of the past year have weakened this potential and limited future sales. Thus, any further sales could be prejudicial to future herd rebuilding, as well as to the preservation of this essential local livelihood.
    • Pastoral conditions will be poorer than in other neighboring areas but should meet the needs of local herds through next March, barring early than usual seasonal migration by pastoralists in livelihood zone 2 (mixed pastoral and oases).
    • There will be very little milk production until February/March of next year, which is normally a major source of food and income for area households between August and March. Poor households will resort to drinking powdered milk between October and March, as was the case between 2011 and 2012. The reason for this is the six-month lag in new births due to the poor physical conditions of female animals.
    • Lending arrangements in which debts are paid off through unpaid labor in upcoming farming activities (in October/November) in flood-recession areas (dam and bottomland areas) will be made beginning in October and prior to the harvest of these flood-irrigated crops (in February) by poor households with limited access to transfer payments as a way to buy food.
    • Terms of trade will continue to favor livestock-selling households throughout the outlook period. 
    • There will be sharp hikes in prices for imported foodstuffs and local crops (cowpeas, groundnuts, millet, and sorghum) in points of sale not affiliated with social assistance programs. While this is a normal phenomenon, price increases are expected to be steeper than usual, particularly between October and November for local cereal crops due to the demand for seeds for flood-recession crops.
    • Social assistance programs (distributions of free food aid and subsidized sales in “Solidarity” program shops), cash transfer programs, and school meal programs for poor households throughout the northwest will continue through the end of December, helping to keep food insecurity levels down to a minimum.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    The minimal levels of food insecurity in agropastoral areas are largely supported by government-operated social assistance programs, early harvests of crops, income from on-farm employment, the spin-off effects of humanitarian relief programs, and the improvement in pastoral conditions. Between October and December, household food security will be further bolstered by the harvests of cereal crops between September and November. Thus, area households will be food-insecure, or in IPC Phase 1 (minimal acute food insecurity), between October and December thanks to the continuation of these assistance programs, which are easing pressure on their livelihoods.

    The negative effects of the suspension of distributions of free food aid, cash transfer programs, and subsidized cereal sales between December and next March and of expected cuts in the incomes of poor households with the likely reduction in demand for labor for the tending of livestock and for farming activities due to the bursting of many dams can be offset only by income from livestock sales. The only programs which will continue to operate between January and March of next year are village-level food reserve (SAVS) programs, provisioned either by direct purchasing by local populations with income from prior sales or by new deliveries of aid from the government and the WFP, as was the case in October. With SAVS programs expected to carry on, there should not be any problems with food availability between January and March, particularly with harvests of rainfed crops in neighboring areas fueling domestic trade as of December and the low price of cereal, in line with normal seasonal trends. Thus, poor households will be much more affected by poor food access than by poor food availability. With the ending of cash transfer programs and corresponding transfer payments and the reduction in income from on-farm employment and employment in livestock-raising activities, they will be forced to sustain a level of livestock sales which, in the current situation (with the herd rebuilding process still underway), could undermine their main livelihood at that time of year.  Thus, in the face of current efforts to rebuild herds depleted by losses and sales over the past two years, this pressure could threaten the main livelihood of poor households (livestock). As a result, these households will be unable to continue to keep their food insecurity to a minimum  (IPC Phase 1) between January and March of next year without running the risks of weakening their livelihoods, which will propel them into IPC Phase 2 (stressed) during this period.

    Possible Scenario-Changing Events



    Impact on food security conditions



    Rise in international market prices for substitute cereals (wheat and rice)

    Low market supplies in Nouakchott

    Trouble provisioning rural markets

    Sharp rise in cereal prices, affecting the food access of poor households

    Escalation of the conflict in Mali

    Migration by poor households in search of new sources of income to help fill the gap left by the shutdown of assistance programs

    Large-scale locust infestation between November and February

    Destruction of pastures and crops (diéri and irrigated crops and seedlings of flood-recession crops) in all livelihood zones, prolonging the lean season

    Livelihood zone 5 (agropastoral areas)

    Epizootic outbreak. This is a recurring phenomenon associated with a long-term degradation in pastoral conditions.

    Little or no positive seasonal effect by pastoral activities on household food security

    Disruption in supply networks with the Valley

    This area gets much more of its rice supplies from Senegal and the Valley than from Nouakchott, which only provisions regional capitals. A disruption in these trade flows would sharply increase food prices and reverse the current positive trend in household terms of trade.

    Plunge in livestock demand

    Unfavorable terms of trade, forcing households to increase sales before having rebuilt their herds after their large losses of animals  (from deaths and sales) between 2011 and 2012

    Continuing humanitarian aid beyond December

    The extension of humanitarian aid beyond the end of December would fill any gaps in income and cereal production and keep households in IPC Phase 1 (minimal acute food insecurity).

    Livelihood zone 6 (rainfed farming areas)

    Heightened civil insecurity threats


    Extension of restrictive measures, possibly leading to  reprisals by Malian populations in border areas

    Restriction of the free movement of persons and goods between Mauritania and Mali

    Limited shipments of supplies to border markets serving as provisioning centers for northern rainfed farming areas and central agropastoral areas


    Continuing humanitarian aid beyond December

    The extension of humanitarian aid beyond the end of December would fill any gaps in income and cereal production and keep households in IPC Phase 1 (minimal acute food insecurity).

    Figures Standard Seasonal Calendar

    Figure 1

    Standard Seasonal Calendar

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, October 2012

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, October 2012

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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