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Access to food remains limited despite improved agricultural employment opportunities

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Mauritania
  • August 2023
Access to food remains limited despite improved agricultural employment opportunities

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  • Key Messages
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Projected Outlook through January 2024
  • Key Messages
    • The lean season continues to progress, marked by low availability of household stocks, high commodity prices, and a deterioration in poor households' access to food. Despite a slight improvement in the income of poor households due to increasing agricultural labor opportunities during the rainy season, most households in the agropastoral, rainfed, and peri-urban areas of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou are in Stress (IPC Phase 2) with some households remaining in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Starting in September, the increasing availability of green harvests will contribute to improving food security outcomes in agropastoral and agricultural areas.  
    • Based on historical trends, El Niño years are not correlated with notable anomalies in rainfall performance in Mauritania. However, there are increasing rainfall deficits of up to 50 to 70 percent of the long-term average in the southeast of the country (Hodh El Chargui) as of the end of August. These deficits are affecting the level of surface water points, the regeneration of pasture, and likely to have a negative impact on agricultural production. 
    • In the south-central and south-western regions, cumulative rainfall was average to above average, contributing to better growing conditions for crops and pastures. With this good pace of the agricultural season, the demand for agricultural labor has increased and daily wages have risen by about 25 to 50 percent in most of the rainfed cultivation zone and the southern agropastoral zone. This opportunity is favorable to poor households who will benefit from additional seasonal income and improved access to market purchases, albeit weakened by the seasonal rise in food prices.
    • Market supplies are satisfactory in August. Compared to July, the prices of imported foodstuffs remained stable. On the other hand, the prices of local agricultural products have risen due to the strong demand for seeds. The price of a 50 kg bag of rice, which fluctuated between 1,100 and 1,250 Mauritanian Ouguiya (MRU) in previous months, rose to 1,530 MRU at the beginning of this month. This trend is set to continue until the end of the month if the rainy season continues as expected and farmers are tempted to increase their plantings. According to the National Agency for Statistics, Demographic, and Economic Analysis (ANSADE) in June, food inflation was +3.5 percent. Year-on-year food inflation trends fell from 12 percent in March to 5 percent in June, although average annual food inflation for the period June 2022 to June 2023 remained at 14 percent.

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal Calendar for typical year in Mauritania

    Source: FEWS NET

    ZoneCurrent AnomaliesProjected Anomalies
    • Cumulative rainfall is average to above average in the center and south of Trarza and Brakna as well as in western Gorgol (figure 1). On the other hand, there are significant deficits, particularly in the north of the agropastoral and pastoral zones and in the southeast of Hodh El Chargui, resulting in localized water stress and below-average vegetation health (figure 2), plus deficits in the level of surface water points.
    • In Trarza, the early onset of the rainy season disrupted the end of the hot off-season harvest and led to some crop losses among rice farmers who planted late and a delay in the start of the winter rice season in some areas.
    • In addition, the rainy season caused flooding in some towns, notably Boghé in the Brakna region. These floods caused considerable material damage, but no loss of life was reported.
    • Market inflation, marked by sharp rises in staple food prices, is limiting access to food for the poorest households. As a result of the high demand for seeds for the agricultural season, prices of local agricultural products have risen. The price of a bag of rice (50 kg), which fluctuated between 1,100 and 1,250 MRU in previous months, rose to 1,530 MRU in August. A moud of sorghum (~8-9 kg) rose from 80 MRU to 160 MRU. This upward trend is set to continue until the end of August, as good rainfall motivates growers to increase their plantings.
    • Since the beginning of August, residents of the capital have been experiencing a shortage of drinking water. The shortage is thought to be linked to heavy rains in July, which made the Senegal River's waters muddier and more difficult to treat. Part of Nouakchott, notably the moughataas of Tevragh Zeïna, Arafat and Ksar, is affected by this crisis. The city's poorest households, who rely on carts for their water needs, are faced with soaring water prices, which have doubled in some places.
    • According to seasonal forecasts, average to above-average rainfall is expected, but it is unlikely that this will compensate for deficits accumulating in the southeast. Average to surplus runoff is expected in the main rivers, particularly in the Senegal River valley, from July to August. Localized flooding in production areas is likely to result in losses of crops, harvests, equipment, infrastructure, and even loss of life in some localities.
    • With the rainfall deficit recorded in August, particularly in the pastoral and agropastoral zone in the southeast, resulting in below-average pasture development and a low level of water point replenishment, an early deterioration in pastoral conditions in these areas could be expected.
    •  Prices of the main commodities will continue to rise throughout the lean season. However, the good pace of the agricultural season, which is stimulating demand for farm labor, is likely to boost seasonal household incomes until January.
    • Locust monitoring has identified isolated immature adults in the southwest and adults in the central and southeastern regions. Forecasts up to the end of the month point to the possibility of some rain in southern parts, where small-scale breeding is likely in some areas.

    Figure 1

    Cumulative seasonal rainfall (CHIRPS) vs. historical average 1981-2010 as of the end of August 2023
    Carte sur le cumul pluviométrique saisonnier (CHIRPS) par rapport à la moyenne historique 1981-2010, à la fin d’août 2023

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 2

    Vegetative health (NDVI) compared to normal as of the end of August 2023
    Comparaison de l’état de la végétation (NDVI) à la normale en fin aout 2023

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Projected Outlook through January 2024

    With the exception of the western part of the valley zone (southern Trarza and southwestern Brakna), where poor households may have income paid in kind and in cash for the work of harvesting rice in the off-season, in the other livelihood zones, during the lean season, households are essentially dependent on the market for food. In rainfed farming areas (southern and central agropastoral areas, southeastern valley zone, mainly in Gorgol and Guidimakha), the early onset of the rainy season and the good spatio-temporal distribution of rains have stimulated demand for agricultural labor. With the good prospects for the season, the dependence on the market will diminish from September onwards, as some households will be able to start consuming their green produce from early crops.

    Markets are generally well supplied with imported products, but prices remain seasonally high. Demand for labor has increased with the start of the season, leading to a rise in labor wages from 200 MRU in 2022 to 250-300 MRU this year. However, this seasonal rise in food prices is outpacing wage increases and eroding household purchasing power.

    Thanks to good rainfall, pastoral conditions are normalizing over most of the country, although internal transhumance is intensifying in search of green pastures, particularly towards the south and southwest of the country. In the extreme southeast of the country, where pastureland is poorly developed and watering points are low, pastoral conditions are expected to deteriorate earlier than normal.

    Supplies to livestock markets slowed down sharply after the various religious holidays and are not expected to return to typical levels until the end of October. In the main livestock markets of Nouakchott, Boghé, and Kaédi, the price of a medium-sized sheep fell by 10-15 percent compared with the June holiday period. In rural markets, on the other hand, low supply led to an increase of around 5 to 10 percent in the price of a medium-sized sheep.

    Overall, the good pace of the cropping season, particularly in the valley, the main agricultural production zone, points to good production prospects, despite unfavorable conditions in the southeast that could result in below-average localized production. If this positive trend continues, households in the rain-fed zone and those in the southwestern agropastoral zone will be able to harvest early crops, which were sown in June and early July. The good level of filling of dams and lowlands will also enable flood-recession areas to be exploited from October onwards, boosting national food supplies between the end of January and February 2024. National agricultural production is expected to be average to above-average, helping to improve food consumption and protect the livelihoods of poor households who may experience minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) during the period from October 2023 to January 2024. However, poor households in the peri-urban areas of Nouakchott, Nouadhibou and Zouérate, who depend on markets for their food and whose employment opportunities will remain low, will experience Stress (IPC Phase 2) outcomes during this period.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Mauritania Remote Monitoring Report August 2023: Access to food remains limited despite improved agricultural employment opportunities, 2023.

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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