Remote Monitoring Report

Restrictive measures will continue to hinder transhumant migration and negatively affect the income of the poor

June 2020

June - September 2020

October 2020 - January 2021

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • The government is maintaining restrictive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country. These measures are adversely affecting income opportunities of urban poor in the informal sector, as well as income and remittances linked to seasonal migration. Transhumant herders are also continuing to experience the negative effects of border closures, while the deterioration in resources along the border with Mali and Senegal is adversely impacting the physical condition of their animals.

  • Around 69 percent of poor households are expected to receive sufficient cash transfers to meet their basic needs between June and September and will therefore have improved access to food. Poor households in the rainfed agricultural zone most exposed to the combined effects of the early lean season and lost income due to COVID-19 restrictions will therefore experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) food insecurity.

  • Poor households in Nouakchott and other urban centers have seen their employment opportunities and income decline as a result of the restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19, including the closure of trade points and restaurants, the curfew, and travel restrictions. Although some restrictions were eased in June (reopening of shops and restaurants subject to compliance with protective measures), the economic slowdown continues to affect households, especially those working in the informal sector. These households are currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) food insecurity, due to in-kind distributions since April and ongoing cash transfers.

  • The timely arrival of rains in the country and normal seasonal progress will lead to average harvests and typical access to milk and animal products, supporting an improvement to household food security outcomes between October and January. However, the economic slowdown, below-average demand for labor, and job losses could continue to adversely affect the income of poor households, especially in urban centers and agricultural areas.

ZONE

CURRENT ANOMALIES

PROJECTED ANOMALIES

National

COVID-19 has spread rapidly in Mauritania since 29 April. As of 27 June, the country had recorded 4,149 confirmed cases, including 2,604 active cases, and 126 deaths. The disease has reached the capital plus seven other wilayas. As a result, the government extended the restrictive measures until the end of June, including a ban on travel between wilayas, the curfew between 8 pm and 6 am, continuing border closures, and the closure of markets at 5 pm.

As a result of the border closures, there is a high concentration of livestock in the regions of Gorgol and Guidimaka along the border with Mali and Senegal. The deterioration of pastures and difficulties accessing water in areas that have yet to receive sufficient rainfall are adversely affecting the physical condition of animals and sale prices at markets

The COVID-19 pandemic could remain a cause for concern in the short to medium term given the increase in community transmission and the high number of active cases throughout the country. The government’s decision to keep the restrictive measures in place will continue to have a negative impact on transhumant herding activities, household income in rural and urban areas, and the normal functioning of markets.


Pending the new pasture growth in July, overgrazing and water shortages in some parts of Gorgol, Guidimaka, Trarza, Hodh Ech Chargui and Hodh El Gharbi will continue to adversely affect the physical condition of animals and production of milk. The ongoing ban on travel between wilayas could hinder the return of transhumant herders to their places of origin between August and October.

PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH JANUARY 2021

Since the start of June, early rains totaling 20–60 mm have been recorded locally in most regions. According to seasonal forecasts by the Regional Climate Outlook Forum for Sudano-Sahelian Africa (PRESASS), the rains will arrive on time, with average to above-average rainfall between June and September. A normal season would support average agricultural production in October/November and average fodder availability in July and January. Despite the negative impact of COVID-19 on the economy, the government is planning to step up support for producers by increasing agricultural initiatives and providing improved seeds. The country has also reactivated its locust prevention and control plan. According to forecasts by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), a large-scale locust infestation is unlikely. Some swarms are expected, but not on a scale large enough to severely compromise harvests.

Some parts of Gorgol, Guidimaka, Trarza, Hodh Ech Chargui and Hodh El Gharbi have yet to receive sufficient rainfall to address local water shortages. Moreover, high numbers of livestock along the border with Mali and Senegal, due to the closure of the land borders, are leading to overgrazing, leaving animals in worse physical condition than during a typical period. The shortage of water and pastures is also affecting milk production, which typically serves as a source of income and food for poor households. The timely arrival of the rains is expected to promote new pasture growth from mid-July and support the gradual return of transhumant herders to their places of origin between August and October. However, their return could be hindered by the ban on travel between wilayas without authorization. In agricultural and agropastoral areas, continued pressure on water resources and pastures, and damage to fields caused by animals, could increase the risk of conflict between farmers and livestock herders if the restrictions delay their departure. In transhumant herders’ places of origin, the lack of livestock is expected to continue to reduce access to milk for households who have not migrated.

Markets are open, but protective measures must be observed at least until the end of June. With markets required to close at 5 pm, and with a curfew and a ban on travel between regions, opening hours are reduced and visitor numbers are down. In the capital and other urban centers, the Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) was up 3.1 percent last month relative to May 2019, due mainly to price increases for fresh marine fish (up 6.8 percent) and higher health care costs (up 9.8 percent). Fish is in shorter supply due to reduced fishing hours because of the curfew, resulting in price increases of 11 percent and 25 percent in Niouadhibou and Nouakchott respectively. Households have had to increase their spending to comply with the protective measures, including purchasing soap, hand sanitizer gel and masks. Speculative practices have caused the price of imported rice to increase by 14 percent and 33 percent in the urban centers of Aioun and Rosso respectively.

Outside urban areas, prices remain generally stable relative to last year as a result of price-control measures and food distribution programs in April and May. However, reduced inflows of cereals from Mali, localized reductions in supply and speculative practices by traders have pushed up prices at some markets. At Boghé market in the region of Brakna, for instance, prices are up 48 percent for imported rice, 38 percent for maize and 22 percent for millet. At the markets in Lexeiba (Gorgol) and Sélibaby (Guidimaka), the price of sugar is up 20 percent and 25 percent respectively. Meanwhile, at Adel Bagrou market (Hodh Ech Chargui), the price of millet is up 15 percent.

At the same time, the ongoing sale of livestock feed (88,000 metric tons) at subsidized prices has caused the price of Rakhal to remain stable or even fall slightly, other than in areas with high concentration of livestock, where demand is greatest. In Sélibaby, for instance, the price is 20 percent higher than it was last year. Livestock prices are falling due to the poor physical condition of animals, excess supply relative to demand, and market disruptions. At Adel Bagrou market, for example, prices for sheep are 19 percent lower than last year. Increased demand in the run-up to Eid al-Adha in late July typically pushes up prices. The governments of Mauritania and Senegal have agreed to temporarily open the land border for 90 days (45 days either side of Eid al-Adha) to support livestock trade. Traders will also receive special authorizations allowing them to transport animals along the corridor. However, the reduced purchasing power of households both within Mauritania and in Senegal and Mali (common export destinations) could lead to weaker demand and prevent significant price rises. Although new pasture growth from July onward will improve the physical condition of animals and the availability of milk, it will lead to a decline in feed purchases and livestock sales by households. As a result, livestock prices are expected to stabilize in line with seasonal averages between August and January.

The restrictive measures are also affecting the income of poor households, especially in the rainfed agricultural zone, where remittances from seasonal and permanent migration represent over one third of household income. Men earn income by minding and tending to animals for wealthier households, while women and young people typically migrate to urban centers between December and April to work as domestic workers or day laborers in trade, at ports and on irrigated farmland. They transfer approximately 30–40 percent of their income in remittances to support the rest of the family. The outbreak of the pandemic in March has reduced their access to urban centers and weakened demand for labor. Those who migrated to urban centers before the restrictive measures were introduced have been unable to return to their places of origin to assist with preparations for the new growing season.

The curfew and the decline in tourist activity have also slowed down income-generating activities in handicrafts, leisure and hospitality, negatively affecting the income of the urban poor. Some people have been able to resume activities in the informal sector due to the reopening of trade points, although the pace of activity is slow due to weaker demand. Other people are earning a daily income from small trades or working as laborers at construction sites. The food, cash and feed distribution programs introduced in April are an additional source of employment opportunities (guarding stores, and transporting, handling and distributing goods). With the ongoing assistance programs, these households are facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) food insecurity.

According to the Mauritanian News Agency (AMI), the food distribution program reached approximately 200,000 people, or 11 percent of the poor population, in April and May. The government is currently making cash transfers to 186,293 families, or approximately 1,300,000 people (around 69 percent of the poor population). These transfers, worth MRU 22,500 each, should enable recipients to meet their basic needs between June and September. As a result, between June and September, households in the rainfed agricultural zone will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!). The transfers should also improve access to food for households in urban centers and in other regions. In addition, the beginning of the date harvests in Adrar (where production is reportedly good) will also provide a further source of food for households between June and August, although income from sales and tourist activities could be below average due to the travel restrictions. 

Between October and January, average harvests and typical access to milk and animal products are expected to support a normalization of household food security outcomes. However, the economic slowdown, weaker demand for labor and job losses could continue to adversely affect the income of poor households, especially in urban centers and agricultural areas. The livelihoods of these households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

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The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
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