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Forage deficits lead to early livestock migration

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Mauritania
  • December 2023
Forage deficits lead to early livestock migration

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  • Key Messages
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Projected Outlook to May 2024
  • Key Messages
    • In December, most households in agropastoral and agricultural areas are facing minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1), thanks to the diéri harvest. However, some poor households remain in Stress (IPC Phase 2). These include poor households in the valley, who are more dependent on the flood recession and hot off-season cereal harvests, which take place in March and June. Poor households in parts of the south-east of the country, where low rainfall has led to a shortfall in agricultural production and early internal livestock migration, will also be in Stress (IPC Phase 2), as will among poor households in peri-urban areas who are heavily dependent on markets and face high prices and limited employment opportunities. The pastoral lean season, which will be earlier than usual, will be marked by an atypical increase in the proportion of households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the southeast through May.
    • According to the UNHCR, as of October 31, 2023, the number of Malian refugees in the country is 104,324, of whom 86,586 are in the Mbéra camp. The number who have arrived since the beginning of 2023 and the end of October is 562, compared with 11,123 who arrived in 2022. Although more recent figures are not available, there are reports of an increase in refugee arrivals since the start of the MINUSMA withdrawal, renewed clashes between Touareg fighters from the Cadre Stratégique Permanent (CSP) and Malian armed forces, and the imposition of several blockades by the CSP. These refugees, for the most part, are heavily dependent on humanitarian aid - in view of the continuing influx, the EU has increased humanitarian funding by 2.6 million Euro. This population in the camp will remain in Stress! (IPC Phase 2!) throughout the projection period.
    • The supply of imported products to markets is regular and adequate, and prices overall remain stable, albeit high, compared with the previous month. In livestock markets, the availability of animals is relatively high, and the livestock body conditions are generally good. The large market supply of animals is quite typical for this time of year, when livestock farmers are generally selling in order to obtain supplies of agricultural produce, which is driving down livestock prices. On the Nouakchott market, the average sheep, which was worth 4,000 MRU last month, is selling for between 3,700 and 3,800 MRU, and on the Boghé and Kaédi markets, the 2-year-old bull calf, which cost 16,000 MRU last month, lost 15 to 17 percent of its value in December.

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

    Source: FEWS NET

    ZoneCurrent AnomaliesProjected Anomalies 
    • In the valley area, the food situation remains difficult for poor households, who are much more dependent on hot off-season crops, which will not be harvested until June 2023, and flood recession, or walo, crops, which are typically harvested in February and March.  
    • The rainfall deficit has led to a drop in rainfed diéri production of -7 percent at national level compared with the average for the last 5 years, and -35 percent compared with last year.
    • In southeastern Hodh El Chargui (Bassiknou moughataa), the influx of Malian refugees has led to a high demand for foodstuffs, which in turn has driven up prices. Availability of local agricultural produce (millet, sorghum, maize, cowpeas and groundnuts) in almost all markets remains low compared with a typical year.
    • Biomass production is good in the south-western part of the country, while it is average to very low in the northern and eastern parts (Figure 2). The early drying-up of surface water in several localities, particularly in the central part of Hodh El Gharbi and the southern part of Hodh El Chargui, is having a negative impact on animal watering conditions.
    • With livestock migration starting early in forage-deficient areas, particularly in the north of the country, there has been an influx of herds towards the border strip of Hodh El Chargui and Guidimakha.
    • Biomass production is good to very good in the western and central-southwestern parts of the country (Moughataas of Trarza, Keur Macène, Méderdra, R'kiz in Wilaya du Trarza and Moudjeria and Tichit in Tagant). However, it is slightly negative to negative in parts of Hodh El Gharbi, and in the northern and eastern parts of Hodh El Chargui, Tagant, Inchiri, and Nouadhibou. The pastoral lean season will be early and difficult, particularly in eastern Mauritania. 
    • This forage deficit in the north and east of the country has led to early internal transhumance towards the south. However, cross-border flows to the south of Assaba and Guidimakha remain limited. On the other hand, in the south-east, covering the south of the Bassiknou and Amourj moughataas, the herds of new Malian refugees will create a pastoral overload in these areas already affected by poor pastoral conditions. 
    • Prices for local products, which have been on a seasonal downward trend since the start of the harvest, will continue to fall until January 2023. However, this fall will be less marked than in a normal year, due to relatively high international prices. As for prices of imported products (rice, wheat, oil), no significant drop will be observed, with an earlier tendency to stabilize. 
    • Following the announcement of a blockade of the main roads in northern Mali by the Cadre Stratégique Permanent (CSP), an alliance of rebel forces, there are fears of further forced population movements towards Mauritania, which could intensify the flow of refugees into the various camps.

    Projected Outlook to May 2024

    Figure 1

    Trends in the number of Malian refugees arriving in 2023 in the Mbéra camp
    Evolution du nombre de réfugiés maliens arrivés en 2023 dans le camp de Mbéra

    Source: UNHCR data

    Figure 2

    Trends in the number of Malian refugees arriving in 2023 in the Mbéra camp
    Anomalie d'évapotranspiration cumulée en pourcentage de la médiane, juin - octobre 2023

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 3

    Livestock concentrations and body conditions at the end of November 2023
    Concentration animaux et état embonpoints en fin de novembre 2023

    Source: ACF suivi veille pastorale

    The period from December to May, which is characterized by a dry-cold period followed by a dry-warm period, will be marked by the large migration of able-bodied people to the big cities in search of income to buy food and goods. It is also the peak period for livestock sales (January-March) and for additional income-generating activities, notably petty trade, artisanal labor, opportunities for local laborers to work in the fields, maintaining rice plots, and so on.  Sale of bush items, in particular leaves and grasses, will also be practiced. However, in the southeast, the early migration of animals is likely to reduce opportunities for pastoral work earlier than usual. Continued limited seasonal employment opportunities in urban areas, as well as insecurity in Mali, will also reduce the resources in kind and cash sent by migrants. In addition, the low demand for daily labor due to the sluggish economy will make it difficult to satisfy rising demand. In the peri-urban areas of Nouakchott, Nouadhibou, and Zouérate, which depend solely on markets for their food and basic needs, employment opportunities will remain low, while prices will remain above the five-year average.

    Market supplies will be adequate throughout the country until May 2024, thanks to regular and sufficient supply of imports. The volume of wheat imports will rise sharply, replacing traditional cereals (millet, sorghum) whose stocks will dwindle over the period, particularly in the central and eastern agropastoral zone, the eastern and central rainfed zone, and the oasis zone. In addition, the volume of imports of traditional cereals from Mali will be reduced, with the risk of CSP blocking the main roads in northern Mali.

    From February to May, certain localities in the rainfed and agro-pastoral zone, which have recorded a deficit in agricultural and forage production, will experience Stress (IPC Phase 2) outcomes during this period. However, with the measures taken by the government to guarantee the regular supply and operation of solidarity stores, they will be able to obtain foodstuffs at a lower cost. In addition, an increasing number of pastoral households in the southeast will likely experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) with the earlier than normal start to the lean season. However, poor outcomes will be mitigated by improvements in livestock prices which will remain above average until April/May, due to demand for Ramadan in April. The terms of trade will be in favor of livestock farmers, which will improve their access to markets. Poor households in peri-urban areas of major cities will also remain in Stress (IPC Phase 2).

    In the valley area, where flood recession cereal production is expected to increase by 86 percent compared with the average for the last five years, the food situation of poor households will improve, with most in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) after the harvest in March-April.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Mauritania Remote Monitoring Report December 2023: Forage deficits lead to early livestock migration, 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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