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Production deficits in pastoral areas and the security crisis in Diffa fuel food insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Niger
  • February - September 2017
Production deficits in pastoral areas and the security crisis in Diffa fuel food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Most households will continue to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity through the month of September, with adequate food consumption and a diversified diet, except for households in the pastoral zone where pasture production deficits and the general decline in demand for livestock will create Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions between March and July 2017. Without assistance, a small minority of poor pastoral households in localized areas will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions in June-July.

    • There will be Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity through September in the Diffa region, where the ongoing security crisis is disrupting the normal operation of markets and major livelihoods such as fishing and the sale of peppers and livestock. Despite the efforts of certain households to jump-start income-generating activities, there is a continuing need for humanitarian assistance to prevent further food consumption gaps.

    • There were sufficiently large cereal supplies available on practically all reference markets in February to fully meet current household demand. However, there are reportedly lower supplies and higher prices on certain wholesale markets compared with the same time last year with the restrictions imposed on cereal exports by Nigeria. This trend will need to be monitored, paying special attention to the effects of these restrictive measures on trade flows. 



    Current situation

    Official performance figures for the 2016-2017 growing season released by the government of Niger estimate aggregate cereal production at 5,856,530 metric tons, up nine percent from 2015-2016 and 24 percent above the five-year average. This is helping households, traders, and institutions achieve optimal stocking levels and improving the incomes of farming households through the sale of surplus crops.

    In spite of the restrictions on cereal exports by Nigeria, based on current projections, there should still be optimal cereal supplies. Procurements by the Food Crisis Unit (CCA) for the National Food Security Reserve are projected at 33,720 metric tons of cereals, of which 3,720 metric tons are currently being purchased from farmers. Of the remaining 30,000 metric tons, 29,500 metric tons have already been purchased from traders. Projected procurements by the OPVN (National Cereal Marketing Board) for the Strategic Food Reserve are estimated at 30,000 metric tons, with the tendering process already underway. The World Food Program (WFP) has also launched a procurement operation for the purchasing of 1,400 metric tons of crops from farmers to meet humanitarian assistance needs.

    Spurred by the good level of the water table and the provision of farm input assistance by the government and its partners, the growing season for dry-season crops is making normal progress, with the transplanting, maintenance, and, in some cases, harvesting of vegetable (watermelons, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, etc.) and irrigated rice crops. These farming activities offer tremendous opportunities for diversifying food consumption and gaining access to income from the sale of market garden crops and farm labor. In fact, farming activities for off-season crops are going normally and generating average levels of wage income for poor households. Current daily wage rates of between 1500 and 2000 CFAF are in line with the average in all parts of the country. Other sources of income at this time of year, including local self-employment activities such as the sale of wood and straw, short-term seasonal labor migration, and security work, are strengthening household purchasing power. However, the ongoing civil conflicts in Nigeria and Libya are continuing to limit the flow of labor migration and seasonal migration by transhumant livestock to these countries.

    There was a regular flow of cereal supplies to markets in February keeping pace with demand, which is putting increasing pressure on local markets. However, while still in line with the average, supplies of certain cereals such as millet, sorghum, and maize are down from last year with the slowdown in exports from Nigeria since October 2016. According to interviews with certain traders in Maradi, exports from Nigeria are down by more than 85 percent from February 2016. Trade routes from markets in Nigeria have gotten longer and there are growing problems with road harassment, forcing traders from Niger to take to tracks to get supplies to local markets. For example, according to cereal traders from Maradi, the cost of road harassment in shipping food supplies from cross-border markets in Nigeria such as Dan Dume to the Maradi market is up from an average of 10,000 nairas to 50,000 nairas at present. However, there is a normal, regular, free flow of cross-border trade with countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin, and Ghana. There is still a below-average flow of trade in livestock and cowpeas with the steady depreciation in the value of the Nigerian naira discouraging exports of these commodities to Nigeria. Likewise, there is a continued below-average flow of cross-border trade in the Diffa region as a result of the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram, which is disrupting the smooth operation of area markets.

    In general, prices were stable between December 2016 and January 2017, with small to moderate price increases in line with normal seasonal trends. However high demand from traders looking to rebuild their inventories triggered steep rises in prices on markets in Tounfafi, where maize prices were up by 27 percent, and in Filingué, which reported a 30 percent jump in millet prices. As a whole, price levels are higher than in January 2016, with tightening supplies as a result of the decline in imports from Nigeria triggering steep rises of 49 percent in millet prices in Bakin Birji and driving sorghum prices in Zinder up by 37 percent.  However, prices are still generally in line with the average. The steady downward trend in livestock prices has driven prices for cattle in Tanda (Dosso), male sheep in Maradi and Soubdou (Zinder), and male goats in Soubdou, Tanout (Zinder), and Sabon Machi (Maradi) as much as 40 percent below-average.

    An analysis of relevant indicators in pastoral areas shows a sharp reduction in pasture availability compared with the consumption needs of livestock. In fact, total pasture availability is estimated at around 13 million metric tons of dry matter by the Pastoral Development Office, which meets only approximately 50 percent of the needs of grazing animals across the country. This represents four to five months’ worth of consumption, compared with the usual nine months. However, livestock are still in satisfactory physical condition owing to the use of feed supplements and the earlier than usual herd movements down into farming and agropastoral areas with large supplies of crop residues and good animal watering holes. Conditions on livestock markets are marked mainly by large consignments of animals on markets in areas with large pasture deficits. The combined effects of the current market situation and the devaluation of the naira are weakening demand for livestock exports to Nigeria (their main destination) and driving down livestock prices and the purchasing power of pastoral households to below-average levels.

    The security crisis in the Diffa region continues, with the recent attacks in January in Baroua and Gueskerou claiming human lives, not to mention the high numbers of injured. This is certainly not helping to create conducive conditions for displaced populations to return to their homes. There are currently close to 250,000 displaced persons, whose food security and nutritional situation is degrading and extremely concerning. Poor local households and host households for refugees and DPs are in the same situation. On-site interviews with a few displaced households revealed that many of these households were able to benefit from borrowing land for the growing of commercial crops. In addition to these activities, they have other sources of income-generation, which are helping to slightly ease their food insecurity. However,  their below-average incomes as a result of the smaller than average areas planted in crops  and the problems moving their crops due to security threats and the general decline in purchasing power are preventing them from fully meeting their food needs. In addition, there are still 50,000 Malian refugees at refugee camps in Ayorou, Ouallam, and Filingué (in the Tillabéry region).

    According to the findings by the latest SMART survey based on data collected in August 2016, during the last lean season, the global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate for the country as a whole was 10.3 percent, which is below figures for 2015 (15.0 percent), 2014 (14.8 percent), 2013 (13.3 percent), 2012 (12.3 percent), 2011 (12.3 percent), and 2010 (16.7 percent). Based on the adequate availability of staple food supplies on local markets and the possible dietary diversity provided by harvests of off-season crops, GAM rates are not expected to rise above the national rate. The nutritional situation will be updated based on the next SMART survey scheduled to be conducted in May-June 2017.


    The most likely food security scenario for February through September 2017 is based on the following underlying assumptions with regard to trends in the nationwide situation:

    • The findings by preliminary predictive analyses show a small to moderate probability of average levels of rainfall in all parts of the country between May and July 2017.
    • With rainfall rates for 2016 generally above the ten-year average, which helped produce good water levels on major year-round and seasonal rivers and streams across the country translating into good water availability, and the assistance provided by the government and its partners, off-season crop-growing activities are going normally and this trend should continue through April-May 2017. Production prospects for market gardening activities are average to above-average. This will help generate average levels of income for poor households depending on these activities to maintain their food access and improve their dietary diversity and the nutritional situation of their children.
    • In spite of the overall rainfall surplus, there are pasture production deficits of over 80 percent in certain areas for the second consecutive year due to the effect of severe sandstorms on new pasture growth. This will exacerbate pasture shortages as of February, forcing livestock to travel unusually long distances to be able to graze. There will be a further deterioration in the physical condition of livestock through the end of May, during the lean season in pastoral areas. However, as of June, there could be an improvement in pastoral conditions, with the beginning of the rains spurring new grass growth. This will help promote normal patterns of return migration by transhumant livestock herds from southern areas to their usual home bases. There could be a rebound in milk production, improving the diets and incomes of pastoral households, as well as child nutrition.
    • On-farm food stocks are already starting to be depleted in certain areas and will continue to steadily decline through the end of August. Most households will turn to local markets for their food supplies. However, harvest of early crops in September will enable certain households to meet their food needs without resorting to market purchases, particularly in crop-growing areas.
    • As usual, harvests of flood recession and off-season crops will continue through the month of April. This will allow poor households to earn average to above-average amounts of wage income enabling them to maintain their food access.  In addition, local self-employment opportunities such as sales of wood and straw will strengthen household purchasing power.
    • The ongoing civil conflicts in Nigeria and Libya will continue to curtail the flow of labor migration and seasonal herd movements by transhumant livestock to these countries between February and September 2017. Income levels from the resulting limited employment opportunities and volume of livestock trade will be well below seasonal averages.
    • There will be continuing procurements by government agencies and institutions through February-March for stock-building purposes. Even with the ban on cereal exports by Nigeria, based on current projections, there should still be optimal cereal supplies. However, this measure could tighten market supplies which, in turn, could put pressure on markets and drive prices above seasonal averages between February and September, curtailing the market access of poor households.
    • The naira’s steady loss of value against the CFA franc should sustain the flow of food trade from Nigeria to Niger throughout the outlook period from February through September. However, the restrictions imposed on cereal exports by the Nigerian government could limit this trade, reducing the availability of cereal supplies on local markets in Niger. In addition, livestock and cowpea exports to Nigeria from markets in Niger will continue to generate below-average levels of income for pastoralists and farmers growing cash crops, with atypical reductions in their purchasing power.
    • Coarse cereal supplies on rural and urban markets should tighten between February and September 2017 with the withdrawal of farmers from these markets, In line with normal seasonal trends. However, the restrictions on cereal exports by Nigeria could sharply reduce supplies on markets in Niger and even create shortages on certain retail markets or markets in especially remote areas. 
    • There will be normal seasonal rises in prices between February and September 2017. The recent trade measures adopted by Nigeria could disrupt markets in Niger and put added pressure on already rising prices, limiting the market access of poor households.
    • Supplies on certain wholesale markets such as Maradi and Zinder will be atypically low as a result of the restrictions imposed by Nigeria on exports, which could disrupt domestic trade networks and create cereal shortages on certain especially remote markets. There could be a pick-up in cross-border trade with regional markets in countries like Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Mali, though it will not suffice to make up for the usual cereal imports from Nigeria.
    • The low demand for livestock exports to Nigeria (their main destination) and depressed local demand due to the high cost of maintaining animals will keep livestock prices below the five-year average between February and September 2017.
    • There should be a gradual rise in aggregate demand as of February-March in line with normal seasonal trends, fueled by the continued direct institutional purchasing and market purchases by poor and structurally deficit households. The ongoing conflict with Boko Haram and resulting market disruptions are expected to drive the level of demand above the five-year average.
    • The conflict with Boko Haram will continue, disrupting the smooth operation of markets, trade flows, and major sources of income such as pepper production, fishing, and livestock sales. Most households will continue to have below-average incomes.
    • The government and its partners will continue to conduct the usual humanitarian assistance programs between March and the end of May. In general, these programs will help maintain good food availability on markets and at the household level and help facilitate cereal access for households in structurally deficit areas. In the specific case of the Diffa region, food assistance will be essential throughout the outlook period (February through September).
    • There will be growing numbers of admissions to treatment centers for acute malnutrition during the lean season between June and September 2017, in line with average seasonal trends. However, any market disruption reducing food availability on markets and at the household level could create a worrisome epidemiological situation, driving global acute malnutrition rates well above the national post-harvest median rate of 12.3 percent (the median rate for the 2006, 2007, and 2010 SMART surveys). Malnutrition rates in areas affected by the conflict with Boko Haram are expected to exceed the median rate between June and September, driven up by the constant population displacements and associated shortages of food and water and health and sanitation problems.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    The currently positive food security outcomes are attributable to the good food availability from average 2016/2017 harvests and the effects of the production and sale of market garden crops. Most households in farming and agropastoral areas of Maradi, Tahoua, Zinder, and southern Tillabéry are able to meet their food and nonfood needs and protect their livelihoods without resorting to negative strategies. There will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity in these areas through at least the month of September. However, poor households in pastoral areas of the Tahoua, Maradi, and Zinder regions will start to face livelihood protection deficits between March and July, which will create Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions after two consecutive years of pasture production deficits and with their high livestock maintenance costs. In addition, the expected high price levels in June-July-August could limit food access and create food consumption gaps for certain poor pastoral households. There could be localized livelihood protection deficits in June-July until production for the pastoral season in August-September can improve conditions for livestock and their market value.

    Household food security outcomes in the Diffa region reflect Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity for the entire period from February through September, fueled by the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram, which is continuing to disrupt major livelihoods and reduce seasonal income.

    Figures Current food security outcomes, February 2017

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, February 2017

    Source: FEWS NET


    Figure 2


    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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