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Poor households in Tillabéry and Tahoua find themselves in a Crisis situation (IPC Phase 3) due to the depletion of their stocks, which has led to increased pressure on demand, especially for the month of Ramadan, which is a period of high consumption demand. These poor households have food consumption deficits due to their low purchasing power and poor access to food assistance which is irregular and covers less than 20 percent of households due to access restrictions imposed by insecurity. Despite the conflict also in Diffa and Maradi Sud, poor households are facing acute food insecurity Stressed ! (Phase 2!) outcomes due to regular and secure access to food assistance, covering 2,100 kcal per day of energy needs.
Current prices for staple foods such as millet, maize and sorghum are high and above the five-year average, due to the difficulty of obtaining supplies because of the slowdown in cross-border flows. The rise in food consumption needs and the rapid decline in supply from small local producers are due to the simultaneous timing of the Ramadan fast this year. Abnormal seasonal price rises of 15 to 30 percent have been recorded on markets located in conflict-affected areas, reducing the supply of commodities. Abnormal seasonal price rises of 15 to 30 percent have been recorded on markets located in conflict-affected areas, reducing the supply of basic commodities.
The animals maintain a good body condition, and their market value surpasses the five-year average due to the surge in demand during Ramadan. This coincides with the start of the lean season when supplies are scarce. Average increases of 15 percent, 14 percent and 11 percent were recorded for rams, bucks and bulls respectively, compared with the average for the last five years. The terms of trade are estimated at 123 kg of millet, compared with 114 kg in 2022 and 119 kg on average over the same period. While numerous livestock farmers engage in transhumance, the present rise in feed prices, caused by the scarcity of natural pasture, poses challenges for those who do not partake in this practice, which can affect livestock production.
According to ACLED (The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project), the regions of Tillabéry, Diffa, North Tahoua and South Maradi continue to suffer security incidents resulting in civilian and military casualties, although the number has decreased compared with the first few months of 2023 and with previous years. Overall, the security situation remains unstable and dependent on the security situation in neighboring countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria.
Food availability: Despite cereal production being higher than last year and the five-year average, households are suffering from a shortage of food stocks. This is due to the retroactive effects of the previous year's poor production, which meant that no carryover stocks were available, reducing the duration of cereal stocks in 2022, and forced households in deficit to take out loans.
However, the current off-season for vegetables (lettuce, tomato, potato, sweet potato, cabbage) and cereals (rice and maize) is benefiting from good water conditions. Crops are currently at the ripening and harvesting stage at most sites. Unfortunately, production is below average due to a reduction in the area planted caused by insecurity, which hinders access to certain market garden sites. The decline in its use and the high cost of agricultural inputs, particularly fertilizer, have also contributed to a reduction in the area sown and yields below the five-year average.
Markets and prices: In April 2023, the supply of local food products, such as millet, sorghum and maize, is broadly assured by local supplies due to the good harvests recorded by the major producers in 2022 and cross-border flows. However, the level of supply is lower than normal due to the current restrictions on food exports to neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali. Availability in poor households is also at below-average levels as their stocks from the 2022 harvests are depleted, not only because of consumption but also due to the deductions made from the harvests to repay debts incurred to meet food requirements in the 2021-2022 consumption year. As a result, poor households are turning to the markets for their food, increasing demand, especially given the extra household consumption due to Ramadan. This significant increase in demand is leading to an atypical rise in staple food prices, which is higher than last year and 10 to 15 percent higher than the average for the last five years. This situation leads to a reduction in the purchasing power of poor households.
On the other hand, livestock market prices and the terms of trade in relation to consumer products are better than the average for the last five years, due to the good condition of the animals and the strong demand linked to Ramadan and the prospect of Tabaski in June 2023.
Sources of household income: Poor households mainly have access to seasonal sources of income, such as temporary opportunities on off-season farms, self-employment (selling hay, firewood, or charcoal), and the sale of poultry, which is very much in demand during the month of Ramadan. However, insecurity directly affects the areas impacted by the reduction in the area under cultivation during the off-season, leading to lower demand and lower prices for agricultural labor. In addition, insecurity limits access to straw and wood collection areas, resulting in reduced supply and below-average income from sales. With the abnormal rise in commodity prices and below-average incomes, poor households are suffering a sharp decrease in their purchasing power.
The pastoral situation: Feeding and watering conditions for animals have been maintained at a satisfactory level due to the movement of herds to areas with a better supply of pasture and the use of feed supplements. These favorable conditions have enabled the animals to maintain good body conditions, resulting in sustained demand for fattening animals for Tabaski and prices above the five-year average. All livestock markets are operational and showing prices above the five-year average, except for markets located in conflict zones, where prices are down following a strong offer from livestock farmers fearing theft and looting perpetrated by armed groups in these areas.
The security situation: The persistence and scale of the security crisis is reflected in a steady rise in the number of security incidents and civilian and military casualties, as well as in the number of internally displaced persons. According to ACLED, the number of security incident cases reached 94 in January, February, and March 2023, compared with 87 in 2022 and 84 in 2021 in the same period: an average increase of 10 percent over the previous two years. However, the number of victims of terrorist attacks in 2023 was lower than in 2022 and 2021, with 119 people killed in the first three months of the current year, compared with 215 and 470 respectively in the previous two years. Terrorist acts continue to cause population displacements, which continue to grow in number, with 20,000 people expected to be internally displaced in the first quarter of 2023 in the Tillabéry and Tahoua regions. According to OCHA, with these new IDPs, the total number of IDPs will rise to more than 372,000 in March 2023, compared with 275,000 in March 2022 – an increase of 35 percent.
The hotbeds of security tension in the Tillabéry and North Tahoua regions are the worst affected, with the highest number of terrorist attacks and IDPs. These areas are also facing infiltration by armed groups and an influx of refugees because of the deteriorating security situation in northern Mali and Burkina Faso.
The assumptions in the April to September 2023 Food Security Outlook report remain unchanged, with the exception of those updated below:
- Attacks by EI Sahel and JNIM in the Tillabéry and Tahoua regions are expected to continue until September 2023, with an increase in the number of security incidents reported but with fewer fatalities overall than in previous years. This is partly due to the fact that EI Sahel is likely to concentrate on operations in neighboring Mali while using the border areas in Niger as a rear base of operations. Furthermore, militant activity is expected to follow past seasonal trends, with an increase in attacks until the peak of the 2023 rainy season, followed by a relative decrease due to increasing constraints on movements associated with flooding.
- Continuing sporadic attacks by armed groups in the Tillabéry and Tahoua regions are likely to lead to further population displacements. On the other hand, the attacks in neighboring Mali, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria will lead to continued flows of refugees into Niger.
- The expected further increase in Nigerien and international military operations should continue to prevent armed groups from concentrating large forces in localized areas, thereby limiting their ability to carry out large-scale attacks against military personnel and civilians. However, despite the recent loss of some leaders, armed groups are expected to maintain the capacity to carry out sporadic attacks and intimidate civilians.
- A peace agreement concluded in January 2023 between members of the Zarma and Peul communities of Banibangou (Tillabéry region) is likely to lead to a drop in levels of inter-community violence in the Ouallam department in 2023.
- Violence in the Diffa region is expected to continue at current levels until September 2023, with attacks by Jamaatu Ahli is-Sunnah lid-Dawati wal-Jihad (JAS) and ISWAP occurring sporadically in the Diffa and Bosso departments. However, levels of violence are expected to remain well below those seen in 2019-2020.
- Security incidents involving bandits are likely to continue to be a problem in the Maradi region and could probably lead to an increase in population displacement in the area. Although their frequency was seasonal, an increase was observed after the 2022 rainy season. As a result, incidents are expected to fall again until August 2023, but at higher levels than in previous years. This is a worrying trend, as it could lead to an increase in population displacement in the Maradi region. Another concern is the increase in attacks by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the neighboring states of Sokoto and Kaduna in Nigeria. This deteriorating situation over the coming months could lead to an increase in population displacement in the Maradi region, as people seek refuge from these attacks.
Projected Outlook through September 2023
Market demand will continue to rise as stocks are depleted, humanitarian agencies purchase food products, and households turn to the markets on a massive scale. Prices could increase seasonally and exceed the five-year average. Unfortunately, the majority of poor households will not be able to obtain enough food to meet their daily energy needs. On the other hand, food assistance will be sufficient to fill the food consumption gaps in all livelihood zones and enable poor households to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes until September 2023.
From August to September 2023, the pastoral situation should improve, as the pasture regenerates and the watercourses fill up during the rainy season. Feeding and watering conditions will be more favorable to improving animal body condition, the terms of livestock/cereal exchange, and milk production and sales. Farming households will be able to earn average incomes that will enable them to meet their food and non-food needs. As a result, they will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes.
Unfortunately, the situation in the Tillabéry and Tahoua regions is worrying because of the multitude of terrorist actors, the diversity of operating methods, and the extent of the armed groups' areas of influence. The increased use of explosive devices and other security incidents are limiting military operations to secure areas and reducing humanitarian access to populations in need for the distribution of food aid. This situation will exacerbate civil insecurity and reduce food consumption by poor households, as they will have exhausted their cereal stocks. As a result, poor households in these two regions will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.
On the other hand, in the Diffa and Maradi regions, there are no obstacles to conducting military operations to secure areas and distribute food aid. As a result, at least 50 percent of poor households regularly receive food rations covering more than 25 percent of their caloric needs in order to continue to cope with Stressed ! (IPC Phase 2 !) food insecurity.
Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Niger Food Security Outlook Update, February to September 2023: Deteriorating purchasing power of poor households has reduced their food consumption, 2023.
This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.