Skip to main content

A drop in income for the most vulnerable households during the early stages of the upcoming lean season

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Mauritania
  • December 2021
A drop in income for the most vulnerable households during the early stages of the upcoming lean season

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The 2021 rainy season was characterized by a poor spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall, coupled with an increased rainfall deficit in the country (see Figure 1). Cumulative rainfall from the end of September 2021 compared to last year shows a deficit at 81 percent of stations (Food Security Observatory [OSA], November 2021).

    • The poor growing season will most likely result in reduced crop yields and have a negative impact on food security and on household livelihoods in rainfed, agropastoral, pastoral, and Senegal River Valley zones.

    • National production forecasts for the 2021/2022 growing season indicate a 4% decline in gross production of all crops compared to the five-year average for the 2016/2017 to 2020/2021 period, and a 14% reduction compared to the 2020/2021 growing season.

    • Market prices for all agricultural products have significantly increased compared to last year's average. This is due as much to the decline in annual agricultural production as to the rise in the price of imported food, which the poor and the poorest households can only access after selling their agricultural goods, barely satisfying their food and nutritional needs.


    Mauritania has endured a very difficult growing season in 2021, characterized by a significant rainfall deficit and a poor spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall, with long dry spells. This has had a direct negative impact on agricultural yields and agropastoral conditions, as well as on the incomes and assets of poor and very poor households, and, consequently, on their food and nutrition situation in rainfed cultivation, agropastoral, pastoral, and nomadic zones.

    Agricultural production: Rainfed and agropastoral zones, mainly in the Dieri (areas that are not subject to flooding, but rather rainfed cultivation), are the most affected because the late onset of the rainy season and long dry spells in all agricultural areas have delayed the planting and re-planting of the season’s crops. The current situation is particularly concerning because of the relative reduction in pastureland used. Production is expected to be below average compared to 2020 and the five-year average in most areas. It is expected to be even lower in southern parts of the country due to limited rainfall. Harvests from flood recession crops remain significantly below average, even though the level of water in the reservoirs is close to average. Insufficient flooding of the walo (floodplains) along the Senegal River, as well as the low level of water in dams and lowlands, will lead to a substantial decrease in flood recession crop areas. Production forecasts indicate gross production for the 2021/2022 growing season of 349,189 tons for all crops combined, compared to the five-year average of 363,069 tons, and 409,922 tons in 2020/2021, i.e., a decrease of 4 and 14 percent, respectively (Food Security Commission (CSA), Directorate of the Food Security Observatory (OSA), November 2021).

    Pastoral zones: Highly dependent on rainfall, pastoral zones are facing a significant deficit due to poor pasture development during the rainy season in most livelihood zones, except those along the borders with Mali and Senegal, where pastures have undergone significant development. However, these relatively well-supplied zones are overburdened by an increase in transhumant herders from Mali and Senegal, drastically reducing the potential of their pasture. Domestic transhumance has reduced during this period because of the lack of sufficient pastoral areas, and farmers have already resorted to using supplementary livestock feed in deficit areas in the north of Hodh Ech Chargui and Hodh El Gharbi, Assaba, Brakna, Trarza, Gorgol, and Tagant, as well as in the northern regions of the country, where the current situation is particularly challenging for a second consecutive year.

    Livestock markets: Livestock markets in inland areas of the country, especially those in the central and western agropastoral zone, as well as those in the pastoral zones and the Senegal River Valley, are well supplied. In a typical year, during such a post-harvest period when prices of agricultural products are at their lowest, livestock farmers would sell their essential food and non-food products. In anticipation of the expected challenging conditions (the long and early lean season) and potentially ensuing animal losses, there will be more animal sales than in a typical year due to increased food prices (especially for imported products) and lower market demand for livestock. In addition, poor pastoral conditions in most pastoral zones are causing livestock farmers to engage in strategic animal destocking. Livestock farmers are therefore selling more female animals and older animals that are more vulnerable to poor pastoral conditions.

    Domestic demand for livestock is currently lower than last month and below average due to the absence of events and/or official ceremonies. Requests for slaughter in urban centers are the only source of income for livestock farmers and traders due to insufficient pasture. The saturation of assembly markets and a decline in demand have also considerably slowed internal flows, which are contingent on Malian and Senegalese demand, except for traditional exports to coastal countries, which continue to operate as they would in a typical year.

    Markets and food prices: Inflation is still influencing prices in all formal markets; as such, staple food prices are continuing to rise (see Figure 2). Despite the regular supply of markets, poor and very poor households still struggle to access staple foods — a challenge that could be exacerbated during the lean season.

    Domestic and external food supply flows are regular and sufficient, with the resumption of cross-border flows, especially of sorghum, millet, and locally produced rice from Mali and Senegal. Demand is higher than average in all livelihood zones of the country due to low agricultural yields and poor pasture conditions. Given the presence and operations of the government- and employer-run EMEL stores, whose prices are lower than those in the market, market demand is lower in urban centers, particularly in the city of Nouakchott.

    As is typical for this time of year, flows from Nouakchott to inland markets are increasingly dynamic. In fact, due to the sharp decline in local rainfed grain production, demand for imported grain substitutes is continually increasing. Similarly, flows are increasing between the southern rainfed cultivation zone and national markets.

    Prices for all agricultural products are significantly higher than in November and compared to an average year (Figures 2a and 2b). This is due as much to the decline in annual agricultural production as to the rise in the price of imported food, which the poor and the poorest households can only access after selling their agricultural goods, barely satisfying their needs. At Adel Bagrou Market, a flagship market in the most productive rainfed cultivation zone in the country, a 100 kg bag of millet (a staple grain for household consumption) which would normally be sold for less than 1,200 MRU in an average year, currently costs around 1,900 MRU.

    In all livelihood zones, seasonal incomes of the poor and the poorest households are significantly lower than those of an average year and of the two lean seasons (agricultural and pastoral). The end of the harvest in rainfed, agropastoral, and Senegal River Valley zones marks the loss of the main source of seasonal income for the poor and the poorest households. The influx of labor into these crop-growing areas is expected to result in a reduction in hours worked, and thus, in income compared to a typical year. During the dry season in other rural areas, informal activities, mining, and fuel harvesting (collecting wood, charcoal, and straw) continue to provide a source of income for households. Urban areas see a slight decrease in household purchasing power due to a decline in labor opportunities in construction, domestic labor, and the sale of food and artisanal products. In all medium-sized areas, the seasonal income level remains below that of an average year.

    During this post-harvest period, the food security and nutritional situation of poor and very poor households is deeply concerning due to the combined effects of low agricultural production, rising prices of staple foods, delays in the harvesting of off-season crops, and the limited contribution of pastoral activities. This situation is expected to further expose poor households, especially the most vulnerable, to severe food and nutrition insecurity. The results from the Cadre Harmonisé (CH) analysis and identification of areas at-risk and food-insecure populations in the Sahel region and West Africa that were carried out in November 2021, confirm this trend and indicate that, at the national level, 6 moughatas (departments) are currently in Minimal (IPC Phase 1), 37 are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), and 5 are already in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), namely: M'Bout (Gorgol); Maghama (Gorgol); Monguel (Gorgol); Aioun (Hodh El Gharbi); and Tintane (Hodh El Gharbi). Current estimates (October to December 2021) show the food-insecure population at 384,268 people, compared to 660,740 people in the projected situation (June to August 2022), while 3 moughatas will be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1), 12 in Stressed (IPC Phase 2), and 33 in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    Annual agricultural production is projected to be well below average compared to last year and the five-year average, down by 4 and 14 percent, respectively.

    Due to the weakness of agricultural and income-generating activities, households are largely dependent on markets to access food, with little purchasing power. This dependence will continue until the arrival off-season crop harvests.


    Below-average availability of resources and pastoral production are forcing livestock farmers to adopt atypical strategies for selling livestock and destocking.

    The pastoral and agricultural lean seasons will start earlier and last longer than usual and transhumance and labor migration to southern regions and neighboring countries will increase.


    A general decline in the income and purchasing power of poor and extremely poor households in all livelihood zones.

    Due to rainfall deficits, and, in turn, the low level of water in the reservoirs, the next annual off-season crops harvests are expected to be below average. 
     A continued increase in the price of staple foods above the five-year average, especially for imported products. 


    The country is witnessing the regulation of external and internal flows, the supply of staple foods, and the resumption of remittances and flow of goods from neighboring countries and European and Asian countries. These activities are expected to intensify from January/February 2022. Prices of staple foods, which have been subject to inflation since early 2021, will begin to stabilize.

    Since the lowland crop and irrigated areas did not have the desired flood levels due to rainfall deficits, their next off-season harvests are at the bolting and heading stages. These harvests are expected to be below average compared to a normal year.

    Poor and very poor households in rainfed cultivation zones are currently struggling to live off their own largely insufficient production, scarcely available pastoral resources, and remittance income from permanent migrants, despite declining incomes from agricultural labor and preventive destocking. This trend will most likely be exacerbated during lean seasons.

    Nomadic pastoral and mining zones will experience a slight decrease in household purchasing power due to a decline in income from livestock sales, as well as a decline in work opportunities in livestock maintenance, local construction and domestic labor. Successive poor agropastoral growing seasons in some of the regions concerned worsen the current situation for these poor and extremely poor households.

    Pastoral zones, oases, and wadis will experience a reduction in household purchasing power, due to the decline in agricultural (dates and cowpeas) and milk production and will experience a lack of local employment opportunities. Extremely poor households will most likely be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) throughout the lean season.

    In river crop-growing and Senegal River Valley areas, which are affected by a significant drop in production and a lack of local employment opportunities, there will be a decline in the purchasing power of extremely poor households, whose food and nutritional situation will worsen during the lean season between April and May, and through September 2022. Poor and extremely poor households in these areas will most likely be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until May 2022.

    Figures Figure 1. Percentage of normal seasonal rainfall accumulation (by pentad), May to September 2021

    Figure 1

    Figure 1.

    Source: USGS/EROS

    Figure 2a. Comparative price (Mauritanian Ouguiya, MRU) per kg of staple foods in November 2020 and November 2021, Aleg Marke

    Figure 2

    Figure 2a.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2b. Comparative price (Mauritanian Ouguiya, MRU) of staple meat products in November 2020 and November 2021, Aleg Mark

    Figure 3

    Figure 2b.

    Source: FEWS NET


    Figure 4


    Source: FEWS NET

    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.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top