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The decline in income from remittances and migration negatively affecting poor households’ incomes

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Mauritania
  • February 2021
The decline in income from remittances and migration negatively affecting poor households’ incomes

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Average or above-average food stocks from self-produced crops, additional harvests anticipated from off-season production, and ongoing cash distribution enabling poor households to compensate for the loss of income from migrant remittances and the informal sector, will support typical food access for households until May and Minimal ! (IPC Phase 1!) food insecurity.

    • Between June and September, livelihoods will continue to be under pressure, particularly in agropastoral areas (MR07), rain-fed crop areas (MR09) and urban areas, due to the decline in migrant remittances, the negative impact of flooding, the Rift Valley fever and speculative behaviors which maintain imported product prices at levels higher than the previous year, thereby lowering household purchasing power. Poor households in these areas will face a Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity during this period.    

    • The availability of pastoral resources is satisfactory and will foster normal livestock migration from deficit areas in the north and the southern areas. From May onwards, cross-border livestock migration to neighboring areas in Senegal and Mali could be typical with returns expected in July/August with the regeneration of pasture lands. These conditions will promote typical small ruminant reproduction, from the second quarter in the year. However, for cattle and camels, the return to normal birth levels may not be before next year, due to the effects of malnutrition during the last two lean season periods.

    • Good pastoral conditions reduce livestock farmers' reliance on supplemental market purchases. Likewise, cash distributions, received by around 41 percent of households, enable them to limit seasonal sales.  Livestock/grain terms of trade are in their favor, and will likely be maintained during the upcoming months because increased demand for animals during Ramadan in May and during Tabaski in July will allow for prices above the seasonal average between February and September.





    Since the end of January, the country has been emerging from its second wave of COVID-19, with a drop in cases of community transmission. As of February 22, the cumulative number of confirmed cases was 17,110, including 16,438 cured, 435 deaths and 237 being treated. The curfew has been eased, but land borders remain closed. Despite average market supply of staple food products and price controls, the existing speculation fosters price increases, particularly for imported products.

    Apart from the negative impact of seasonal shocks (floods, local harvest losses, Rift Valley fever) on livelihoods, the pandemic continues to foster declines in or cessation of economic activities, particularly in urban centers. In one year, the drop in incomes has affected most households whose sources are paid work in the private sector, non-agricultural companies, including family businesses, and remittances (ONS, Bulletin No. 3, February 2021).

    With above-average food stocks from rain-fed production, average or above-average additional production expected from the cold and hot off-seasons, and typical grain flows coming in from Mali, food product supply on the markets will remain at average or good levels throughout the lean season until September. Additionally, ongoing food distribution will contribute to reducing household demand. As a result, local food prices are likely to follow the average seasonal trend. On the other hand, disruptions in the transport chain, currency fluctuations and global price increases, may continue to spark speculative behaviors in the trade of imported products, especially rice, oil, and milk.

    Below-average economic activities will continue to limit job prospects, particularly in urban centers, and result in declining seasonal migration incomes. Remittances sent to departure zones, particularly rain-fed crop and agropastoral areas will remain below average. This will reduce household purchasing power at a time when they are more reliant on food purchases from the markets, between April and July.


    At the end of the rainy season, the dams and the Senegal river had good water levels, which made for a timely start to off-season activities. Moreover, the disruptions in the importation of fruits and vegetables from Morocco, recorded between last October and December, revived market gardening activities through an increase in cultivated plots compared to the average. Consequently, with more readily available labor, the outlook on market gardening production (between January and March) and grain production (between April and June) could be above average, and bolster local food availability. Currently, the supply of sorghum and millet on the markets is above average due to good local production and typical incoming trade flows from Mali. However, the local rice supply is below average due to declining food reserves over the past three years, and Senegal's stringent export controls.

    Household demand is typical and their food source is primarily from their own production in rain-fed crop and agropastoral areas and the market in pastoral and urban areas. Thus, on the Kaedi and Ould Yengé markets, in rain-fed crop areas, sorghum and millet prices are stable or falling slightly in February, compared to the same period last year. Conversely, local rice prices have shown increases of 11 and 39 percent respectively, compared to last year. In the capital, Nouakchott, wheat flour and imported rice prices are stable. However, there have been slight increases in the prices of cooking oil (18 percent), sugar (15 percent) and powdered milk (11 percent). Traders use increased customs charges and import costs to justify these price hikes. They also allude to global competition, which reduces food stocks and puts pressure on the prices.

    Apart from west of the agropastoral area and the livestock migratory area where there are feed shortages, pastoral conditions are, by and large, similar or even better than those of an average year. Despite these favorable conditions, milk production is below that of a normal year, due to the 2020 mediocre pastoral conditions that are negatively impacting cow reproduction. The impact of this season's favorable conditions on birth and the milk supply will only be felt in mid-2021 for small ruminants and next year for cattle and camels. For livestock farmers in deficit areas, internal livestock migration to the southern areas has already begun. However, in light of the favorable pastoral conditions, the atypical cross-border livestock migration that generally takes place from May onwards should not occur. Furthermore, despite closed borders, agreements with neighboring countries will facilitate livestock movements and trade with these countries.

    On account of the good harvests obtained in agropastoral areas, the favorable pastoral conditions limiting reliance on supplemental market purchases and ongoing cash distributions, livestock farmers have decreased seasonal sales. The supply of livestock on the markets is below average. Demand for animals is also typical for sheep, camels and cattle, but on the rise for goats, whose meat is increasingly preferred in the towns and on the Senegalese market. On the whole, demand may increase in the lead-up to the next Ramadan festival in May and Tabaski in July. Livestock prices (all species combined) are on the rise, compared to last year. For instance, in the Ould Yengé market, prices are up by 18 percent for young bulls, 58 percent for average-sized sheep, and 25 percent for average-sized goats. Higher livestock prices and stable local food prices foster favorable terms of trade for livestock farmers.

    Households in rural areas earn their income primarily from post-harvest agricultural work, the sale of agricultural products (rain-fed and agropastoral areas), the sale of livestock (pastoral areas) and ongoing cash distributions from the government. Typically, from May/April, income from agricultural labor and the sale of harvested crops diminishes, and households are more reliant on migrant remittances. However, with reduced demand for migrant labor and the loss of jobs in urban centers (which serve as receiving areas for seasonal migrants) due to COVID-19, it is unlikely that this would compensate for the decline in income. In urban areas, lackluster economic activities continue to negatively impact household incomes, particularly those of the informal sector. In this respect also, poor households are relying on the ongoing cash distributions.  Based on the results of the survey conducted from December 25, 2020, to January 6, 2021, (ONS, Bulletin No. 3, February 2021), 41 percent of households experienced a pandemic-induced decline in income between the end of 2019 and the end of 2020. The households that were hardest hit were those reliant on income from non-agricultural companies, including family businesses (50 percent). It is also noted that 46 percent of households experienced a drop in remittances received from abroad and 42 percent of households for remittances from within the country.

    Ongoing cash distributions (approximately 63 USD per beneficiary) since January are likely to reach 210,000 households, i.e., 41 percent of the population. Excluding the Nouakchott wilaya where coverage is 15 percent, in the other wilayas, it varies between 23 and 64 percent. This distribution enables poor households to compensate for income losses, and will also likely facilitate typical food access until May, and their classification in Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) from February to May.

    With average or above-average food stocks, household food access is likely to remain typical during the lean season. The prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) may be stable and similar to the lean season median, for which the national rate is around 12 percent, with rates generally higher in the Brakna, Assaba, and Gorgol wilayas. The global decline in migrant remittances could reduce household purchasing power, particularly in rain-fed crop and agropastoral areas where these remittances typically contribute to food purchases during the lean season. Two exacerbating factors are the negative impact of the floods during the last season (Gorgol, Hodh el Chargui, and Hodh el Gharbi) and the Rift Valley fever (Tagant, Brakna). In urban areas, persistent speculative behaviors regarding food prices could further reduce poor households' purchasing power. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity will prevail between June and September in urban, agropastoral (MR07) and rain-fed crop areas (MR09). In pastoral areas, access to milk will remain typical, particularly after births of small ruminants and enhanced livestock nutrition. Additionally, favorable terms of trade will enable households to make sufficient food purchases to remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity during the period.


    Figure 1


    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.

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