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Minimal food insecurity in most parts of the country between October 2016 and May 2017

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mauritania
  • October 2016 - May 2017
Minimal food insecurity in most parts of the country between October 2016 and May 2017

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The poor distribution of rainfall between August and September affected rainfed crops only in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone, where production levels will be well-below-average. However, there should be an average nationwide volume of crop production for this year in spite of the smaller areas planted in irrigated crops. 

    • In general, pastoral conditions across the country are adequate and will suffice to feed livestock through the month of May if brush fires can be kept under control. Internal migration by transhumant herds will meet the needs of livestock in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone, where there is a shortage of pasture. 

    • Markets will be kept well-stocked by a regular flow of imports and cross-border trade reinforced by supplies of fresh crops from neighboring countries such as Senegal and Mali. Food prices have been stable for several months and will remain so through the month of May. Livestock prices will rise in line with normal seasonal trends. 

    • Most households across the country will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity through the month of May. The failure of their rainfed crops and the pressure on their livestock herds and to pay off their debts and buy food supplies will put some poor agropastoral households in the western part of the agropastoral zone (in Tagant, Gorgol, and Brakna) in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity through the end of May. 



    Current situation

    Rainfall: The rainy season ended in October, producing average to slightly above-average levels of rainfall in most agropastoral areas as predicted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWS), and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI).

    Crops: The poor distribution of rainfall and water deficit affected rainfed crops only in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone, where production was down sharply (by 60 to 70 percent compared with an average year).  In the rest of the country, harvests of rainfed crops have started up and crop production is in line with the average. Rice production is down from 2015 due to a lack of access to farm credit, which will have only a limited effect on nationwide production, which will still be close to average.  

    This year’s good rainfall in oasis areas should ensure the normal growth and development of market garden crops, translating into average if not above-average levels of production between January and March.

    Locust situation: Environmental conditions are still conducive to locust activity. According to the National Locust Control Center (CNLA), there is a major upsurge in locust activity underway. Conditions are marked by the presence of small swarms and groups of winged adult locusts in the solitary-intermediate stage in the process of mating and laying eggs in large areas, mainly between Trarza and Adrar and, to a lesser extent, in Inchiri and Hodh Chargui. Treatment efforts are underway.

    Pastoral conditions: With the prevention or rapid control of brush fires, pastures will continue to meet the needs of domestic livestock herds through the month of May, except in a few pockets in the agropastoral zone (in Moudjéria, Magta Lahjar, and Monguel). Seasonal birth rates are in line with the norm, ensuring well-above-average levels of milk production after two consecutive good pastoral years.

    Seasonal income: Seasonal income from farm labor is down by between 50 and 75 percent compared with the average in areas with rainfall deficits (Moudjeria, Monguel, M’Bout, and Magta Lahjar departments) severely affecting farming activities.  Seasonal income levels in the rest of the agropastoral zone and in the rainfed farming zone are close to average. The atypical influx of labor into certain destination farming areas for migrant workers (northern Moudjéria, western M’Bout, and rice-growing areas of Trarza) has reduced the amount of work time. As a result, poor households are earning below-average incomes from farm labor though wage rates have not changed (they are still between 1500 and 2000 MRO/day). The situation in urban areas and northern mining areas is seemingly the same, where the slowdown in economic activity has reduced employment opportunities. Income levels from the sale of livestock are above the five-year average in all parts of the country due to the high price of animals, fueled by tightening supplies.

    Cross-border trade: The flow of cross-border trade from areas other than the southern Maghreb, where it has been affected by the instability created by the military actions in that area, particularly from Mali, will be revitalized by supplies of fresh crops from ongoing harvests. As usual, Malian farmers will begin unloading their reserves of crops from previous years by the beginning of October. The new import channels for Malian rice should be animated enough to supply eastern and central agropastoral areas and rainfed farming areas. The hike in the value-added tax (VAT) and fire in the SONIMEX (National Import and Export Company) warehouse has sharply driven up the price of a bag of imported rice which, prior to February 2016, had been hovering around 12,000 MRO, to around 18,000 MRO in these areas, causing households on all levels to turn to eating locally grown rice and wheat.

    Retail markets: All retail markets are well-stocked with imported staple foodstuffs (wheat, rice, oil, sugar, flour, etc.), whose prices have changed very little since the beginning of the year. After a sharp rise of around 45 percent at the beginning of the year, the price of imported rice has stabilized with many households turning to wheat, local varieties of rice, and re-exports of maize from Mali and Senegal. Prices for sorghum and wheat have visibly fallen in farming areas expecting average crop yields and neighboring areas. Even in northern areas and pastoral areas where wheat, which had previously been only a substitute cereal, is now tending to become a dietary staple for poor households used to eat mostly home-grown or purchased sorghum, prices are, at the very least, stable.

    There are still functioning “boutiques de solidarité” in all parts of the country supplied with staple foodstuffs by the government (wheat, local varieties of rice, oil, sugar, and milk), which are offered for sale at prices 30 to 40 percent below official market prices.

    Livestock markets: Supplies of livestock are still much smaller than usual due to the good pastoral conditions reassuring pastoralists and slowdown in seasonal demand and with no special events to heighten demand for livestock and an average harvest outlook. The only reported atypical seasonal fluctuations in livestock prices are on markets in areas such as Magta Lahjar in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone attributable to fluctuations in supplies driven mainly by food needs and needs for seeds. However, these movements in livestock prices fueled by growing cycle needs, particularly needs for seeds, are in line with the normal seasonal rise in prices between October and May.

    Food security and nutritional situation: In general, the food access of poor households is in line with the average. Access to fresh crops and good milk availability should help give poor households in most parts of the country access to a regular, adequate diet, translating into adequate nutrition. Households in areas with shortfalls in rainfed crop production and lower levels of milk production (Moudjéria, Monguel, Magta Lahjar, and M’Bout) are resorting to market purchases, while their seasonal incomes are down sharply (by between 50 and 75 percent). This is limiting the food access of poor households and will likely produce higher than average seasonal levels of global acute malnutrition for the period from October through May hovering around eight percent in Gorgol, 5.7 percent in Brakna, and nine percent in Tagant.

    Thus, in general, there is Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity in most parts of the country. Only the 6,000 residents of Moudjéria are currently classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to the lingering effects of several consecutive years of shortfalls in their crop and pasture production and incomes. The situation of farming households in Monguel, Magta Lahjar, and M’Bout departments currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity could change.


    The most likely nationwide food security scenario for the period from October 2016 through May 2017 is based on the following general assumptions:

    • Rainfall conditions: There will be a more or less normal flow of cold air from the north between December and January, helping to produce rain in northern and central areas of the country and promoting new vegetative growth (grasses and aerial pasture), creating propitious conditions for locust breeding activities.
    • Agro-climatic conditions: With runoff from the river flooding all serviceable walo areas, the size of the area planted in flood-recession crops will be at least in line with the average.
    • Crop production: In spite of the smaller areas planted in crops compared with 2015, the volume of rice production will be close to the five-year average. The same applies to flood-recession crops, while rainfed crop production should surpass figures for 2015 and the five-year average. With the erratic pattern of rainfall and numerous attempts to replant crops, harvests normally taking place between September and November will extend from October through December. Only late-season crops normally harvested between December and January will keep to their usual schedule. There will be near-average levels of market garden production between November and March, generating near-average levels of direct income (from crop sales).
    • Locust and bird situation: Expected cold season rains between December and January could extend the presence of locusts and grain-eating birds through February. The locust situation will be contained and late-season and flood-recession crops will be spared. However, there will continue to be heavy pressure from bird populations creating a similar situation to last year in the absence of any joint control efforts by the three countries concerned (Mauritania, Senegal, and Mali).
    • Food imports: There will be a regular, adequate flow of food imports (wheat, rice, oil, sugar, etc.) throughout the outlook period to meet domestic demand and promote cross-border trade. Seasonal cross-border trade in coarse cereal crops with Mali will further bolster national and local food availability already sustained by harvests of fresh crops. This will cover any localized shortfalls in crop production. Thus, rural markets will be well-stocked with staple foods, whose prices will remain stable through the month of May. There should be a sharp drop in the prices of coarse cereals after the harvest (between November and February, followed by the usual rise in prices between March and May.
    • Government-subsidized boutiques de solidarité: The government-run shops known as “boutiques de solidarité” will continue to operate through the month of May.
    • Livestock prices: Trends on livestock markets in all parts of the country with the exception of the western reaches of the agropastoral zone, where there will be large market supplies of animals from sales of livestock by households looking to purchase food supplies (due to production deficits created by the erratic, insufficient rainfall), including the rest of the agropastoral zone, will be in line with the average through the month of May, marked by limited supplies and stable if not rising prices.
    • Farm labor: There will be below-average levels of income from farm labor due to the small serviceable areas for growing crops.
    • Wild plant products: Income levels from the gathering of wild plant products will be more or less on par with the average in most areas (with the exception of those with large rainfall deficits, where they will be more than 60 percent below-average). These products will serve as sources of both food (mainly for children and adolescents) and income (averaging between 70,000 and 100,000 MRO)).
    • Pastoral conditions: There will be adequate pastoral conditions throughout the outlook period, which will limit the purchasing of wheat for use as animal feed. This will help promote reproduction and milk production and strengthen the physical condition of livestock, keeping prices high. There will be normal internal herd movements by transhumant livestock, but cross-border movements will be limited to the transhumant pastoral zone and, as usual, directed towards normal destinations in Senegal’s groundnut basin.
    • Short-term seasonal labor migration: Short-term seasonal labor migration will begin on schedule but will produce less seasonal income between March and May. On average, these migrant remittances account for a large (20 to 40 percent) share of household income during the lean season.
    • International and regional factors affecting markets: The good world-wide harvest outlook for wheat and rice points to regular domestic market supplies of both these cereal crops, which are main types of cereals used for household consumption, and should preclude any international price shocks negatively affecting household food access. There will be a growing flow of Senegalese and Malian rice with the high price of Asian rice. In any event, prices for imported rice will not move too far above their current levels with the good harvest outlook for rice crops in both countries and the need for rice farmers in both countries facing strong competition from imports of Asian rice to find outlets for their surplus production. This should also be the case for coarse cereals, except for cereal transfers between Mauritania and Senegal, where the poorer than average cereal production in the northern part of that country should absorb a large part of the production surplus in the groundnut basin.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    Between October 2016 and January 2017, the good to average harvests of cereals and pulses, adequate pastoral conditions in spite of localized deficits, well-stocked markets with prices down from September or, at the very least, stable, high prices of livestock, and better access to a safe water supply should enable most poor households to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. Only livestock-oriented agropastoral households in Moudjéria department facing shortfalls in pasture and crop production for the fourth consecutive year will remain in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity. Their need to repay outstanding debts incurred in previous years in order to feed themselves and save their livestock herds will force them to continue to rely on market purchases made with earnings from the sale of animals. Despite the steady rebuilding of their livestock herds (average numbers of new births) after losing more than 50 percent of their animals, their continuing sales of animal are creating livelihood protection deficits undermining their main livelihood.

    Between February and May 2017, the food security and economic impacts of the good conditions described above will be reinforced by expected average levels of market garden and flood recession crop production. However, as far as eastern Gorgol (Monguel and M’Bout departments) and northern Brakna (Magta Lahjar department) are concerned, current pasture deficits, the failure of rainfed crops due to the poor distribution of rainfall, and the limited farming activities in floodplain areas, which are essential to this part of the country, could put more than 20 percent of poor households (60 percent of the local population) in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity without the implementation of measures designed to limit pressure on local livestock, which are their second largest source of food but the main foundation of their coping strategies. Like households in Moudjéria, they are drowning in debt and forced to make loan payments, which are putting pressure on their livestock.

    Figures Current food security outcomes for October 2016

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes for October 2016

    Source: FEWS NET


    Figure 2


    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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