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The lean season is at its peak in pastoral zones, beginning in other zones

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Niger
  • May 2014
The lean season is at its peak in pastoral zones, beginning in other zones

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2014
  • Key Messages
    • The pastoral lean season is at its peak with poor households in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity. This will persist in Zinder and Diffa until September 2014 due to significantly high cereal prices. However, the expectedly favorable rainy season should lead to the regeneration of pastoral resources and allow the majority of pastoral zones to reach Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels between July and September.
    • In agriculture and agropastoral zones, the current Stressed (IPC Phase 2) level of acute food insecurity will evolve to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) for a small number of localized households in some zones between July and August 2014. This situation will be most significant in agricultural and agropastoral Ouallam, but also present in some households in agricultural and agropastoral Tahoua, Mainé Soroa and Diffa.
    • By May 10, 2014, 21 percent of agricultural villages had planted their millet. Their plantings indicate their early start to the season by up to one or two months. The early start of the season, however, will not occur for some households in certain areas who find it difficult to find millet seeds for planting.

    Current Situation

    The growing season is gradually getting underway in agriculture and agropastoral zones across the country. On average, 21 percent of farming villages planted most of their land between the ten days of April and the first ten days of May. The Dosso, Maradi, and Tahoua areas are showing the largest proportion of farming villages having successfully planted crops, at 39 percent, 29 percent, and 22 percent, respectively. A comparison of cropping rates with the average starting dates for the rainy season shows the growing season getting underway one to two months earlier than normal, depending on the area. With their limited seed access after last year’s cereal deficits and the delays in the delivery of emergency seed supplies, very poor and poor households are focusing on finding work as farm laborers rather than on planting their own crops. At most, poor households have one month in which to finish planting their crops without falling behind the average planting dates for the start of the growing season.

    In pastoral areas, this is a critical period characterized by a limited supply of pasture and animal watering holes. Unlike the usual decline in the condition of pastures beginning as of April, this year, the effects of forage deficits and disruptions in herd movements triggered a sharper and earlier than usual deterioration in the condition of pasture in most pastoral areas. The situation in pastoral areas of Diffa is especially critical, where the combined effects of the forage deficit, the disruption in cross-border migration by transhumant livestock herds, and the presence of Nigerian pastoralists and their animals fleeing the conflict in northeastern Nigeria are putting heavy pressure on the few available pasture resources in these areas.

    Market conditions

    Market supplies are deemed sufficient to meet demand, consisting mainly of household demand. These supplies are further bolstered by the release of government stocks, of which 9,500 metric tons are currently being sold at a subsidized price of 13,000 CFAF for a 100 kg sack of millet, sorghum, or maize or a 50 kg sack of rice.

    Cereal prices on local markets in April of this year were above the five-year average. The most atypically high prices for millet (15 to 25 percent above-average) were reported on the Zinder, Agadez, Bakin Birdji, Diffa, Nguigmi, Ouallam, and Niamey markets. On the other hand, maize prices are below the five-year average, except on markets in the eastern part of the country, where they are more than five percent above-average. Trends in sorghum prices on most markets with the exception of Diffa and Maradi are the same as for maize.

    Sale prices for animals on livestock markets are at yearly lows after an earlier than usual lean season in pastoral areas. However, in general, prices are still near-average in spite of the poor physical condition of livestock due to a sustained demand from exporters. Terms of trade for livestock versus cereals are still below seasonal averages due, mainly, to the significantly higher prices of cereals.

    Household food consumption

    Due to shortfalls in production, market purchase is the main source of cereal supplies for poor households, in many areas three months earlier than usual. Crops from irrigated farming activities are another source of household food consumption, though mainly for better-off households.

    Income from migrant remittances, wage labor, and sales of irrigated crops is enabling most households to meet their food needs in spite of their unusually heavy dependence on market purchase this year. However, the limited incomes of poor households in all pastoral areas, particularly in Nguigmi and Abalak, and in farming and agropastoral areas of Ouallam, Tahoua, Diffa, Mainé Soroa, Magaria, Mirriah, Mayahi, and Tessaoua are insufficient to meet their food needs while covering their livelihood protection costs.

    Updated Assumptions

    Trends in food security indicators support the projected food security outlook for the period from April through September 2014.

    Projected Outlook through September 2014

    With the earlier than usual depletion of household food stocks and the upcoming month-long observance of Ramadan, there is a higher than usual demand for staple foods. Nevertheless, markets should be fairly well-stocked, except in the southeast, where the conflict in Nigeria will disrupt the trade flows. High demand for staple foods and animals will drive up prices for cereals and livestock between now and September.

    The start-of-season in pastoral areas and increase in animal production will help improve household food consumption and cash flow for nonfood spending, except in certain areas such as Nguigmi, for example, where poor households will remain dependent on assistance programs to meet their food needs. Thus, in general, poor pastoral households currently classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between July and September with the improvement in pastoral resources during what is expected to be a normal rainy season. However, pastoral areas of Zinder and Diffa will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), where the disruption in trade and higher local prices compared with the rest of the country will make it difficult for poor households to maintain their food access. The high prices in farming and agropastoral areas of the country will translate into livelihood protection deficits for the poor, whose incomes, mainly from wage labor, will not be sufficient to meet all their needs. Thus, food security conditions in many areas will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September. Some areas will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity, particularly in Ouallam, where poor households harder hit by shortfalls in crop production will begin to experience food consumption gaps between July and September.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    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.

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