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Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions in pastoral areas

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Niger
  • February 2018
Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions in pastoral areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The reportedly Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes for poor households in pastoral areas in February 2018 could extend into the month of September 2018 with the premature deterioration in pastoral conditions as a result of the pasture deficit. Certain poor households in agricultural and agropastoral areas will be facing these same conditions through September 2018 due to the premature depletion of their food stocks and their weak purchasing power.

    • The civil conflict with Boko Haram is continuing to disrupt local livelihoods and markets in the Diffa region, hindering trading opportunities with Nigeria and Libya. The persistent Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity in this region will extend through at least September 2018. Without assistance, certain poor pastoral households could be facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions in June-July.

    • Supplies of rainy season crops and ongoing off-season crop-growing activities are helping to give most agricultural and agropastoral households average food access. Employment opportunities serving as sources of income for farm laborers are helping to facilitate nonfood spending in these areas, where there will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity through September 2018. 

    • Markets are well-stocked with staple foods from supplies of locally grown crops and regular imports from neighboring countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin, and Nigeria). However, price increases on major source markets are driving prices on domestic retail markets above the seasonal average, working against efforts by poor households to maintain adequate food access. 


    Current situation

    This year’s early lean season in pastoral areas already underway could last longer than usual. The Livestock Department of the Government puts this year’s aggregate pasture deficit (for the third consecutive year) at 10,941,003 metric tons of dry matter. The lean season for pastoral populations is already underway in certain areas and appears harsher than usual due to the poor pastoral conditions. However, purchases of feed supplements and supplies of crop residues are keeping animals in average physical condition, adding to the expenses of pastoral households. Current market demand for livestock, though still low, is better than it was in February 2017 with the relative improvement in the exchange rate for the naira but still below the five-year average with the small presence of (Nigerian) exporters. Prices and terms of trade are declining as a result of the more limited demand for exports to Nigeria.

    Based on the outcome of the 2017/2018 growing season, the cereal balance sheet should be in equilibrium, with cereal availability meeting household consumption requirements. Official estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture put national cereal production (millet, sorghum, maize, and rice production) at 5,854,623 metric tons, representing a surplus of approximately 28,000 metric tons compared with total human consumption requirements. These figures are close to figures for 2016/2017 but approximately 14 percent above the five-year average. There has been a sharp increase in millet production, to the detriment of cowpea (showing an across-the-board decline), sorghum, and maize crops, which are generally imported. This is improving food availability, food access, and income levels for farming households. However, there have been reports of production deficits in farming and agropastoral areas attributable to civil security problems (in Diffa), dry spells or floods, infestations of crop predators, and the premature end of the rains. These shortfalls in crop production are limiting the food access of poor households in these areas.

    Off-season crops (vegetables and market garden produce) and other seasonal economic activities are providing adequate food access and income-earning opportunities. Market gardening activities are going normally, with harvests of watermelons, melons, cabbages, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and other crops strengthening food availability on markets and at the household level. Current daily wage rates for crop maintenance work in market gardening operations are between 1,500 and 2,000 francs per person. The sale of terracotta bricks is bringing in 35 to 50 francs per brick (with an average daily production rate of 200 bricks) and milk is selling for 400 to 600 francs per liter. Other sources of income such as petty trade, craft trades, and the sale of wood and straw are also performing normally and generating average levels of household income helping households maintain adequate food access. However, there are below-average levels of income from livestock exports (to Nigeria) and migration income (from Nigeria and Libya) due, in the former case, to the poor exchange rate for the naira and, in the latter case, to the ongoing civil conflicts. This is limiting the purchasing power of households dependent on these sources of income.

    Ongoing institutional procurements are outstripping the five-year average. There is a 60 to 75 percent larger than average aggregate institutional demand to meet existing needs and improve the food basket for the country’s increasingly large at-risk populations. The Food Crisis Unit (CCA) expects to purchase 35,000 MT of cereals during the course of the 2017/2018 crop year, including 10,000 MT to be purchased directly from farmers and 25,000 MT through competitive bidding processes. There is a remaining inventory of 12,500 MT of cereals and 2,500 MT of cowpeas, which brings the level of its food stocks to 50,000 MT, compared with the average of 30, 000 MT. Expected procurements by the OPVN (the National Produce Board) to rebuild the country’s Strategic Food Reserve are estimated at 150,000 MT, compared with the average of 80,000 MT. This heightened demand for the rebuilding of national food security stocks is attributable mainly to the start-up of subsidized cereal marketing programs in February instead of in May/June, which is the norm.

    There has been an improvement in the magnitude of continuing fluctuations in the exchange rate for the naira and their impact on cross-border trade since last year. The exchange rate for the naira vis-à-vis the CFA franc has been relatively stable since August 2017, after a succession of sharp devaluations between 2015 and 2016. More specifically, the exchange rate went from 1000 francs to 850 nairas in January 2017 to 1000 francs to 630 nairas in January 2018, which helped trigger a slight improvement in food imports into Niger and exports of livestock and cash crops to Nigeria compared with last year. However, the exchange rate is still below its average level of 1000 francs to 300 to 350 nairas. This is continuing to hamper trade and is keeping the incomes of actors dependent on trade between the two countries below the seasonal average. However, these fluctuations in the exchange rate are less noticeable on terminal markets such as Doungass (Zinder), where transactions are conducted in nairas on both sides of the border.

    Market behavior is improving with the slight pick-up in trade with Nigeria. In general, there is adequate cereal availability on practically all reference markets, though there are reportedly low supplies of maize and sorghum with the limited flow of trade from Nigeria and low supplies of cowpeas due to this year’s poor crop production. There is an average, relatively low, household demand thanks to the performance of the growing season. There is a slightly below-average commercial demand due to the reportedly high price of crops and the discouraging economic problems, which do not bode well for a good local demand. Differences in transportation costs between this year, last year and the average are marginal at best, with no major changes in these figures. There is a steady normal flow of cross-border trade (with Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin, and Ghana). However, the ongoing civil conflict is continuing to disrupt cross-border trade in the Diffa region.

    Prices on most markets were generally stable between December 2017 and January 2018. A comparison with figures for January 2017 shows moderate to large increases in prices. The sharpest rise in prices was the reported 40 percent jump in millet prices in Abalak, driven by the high demand from pastoral households. January prices were generally only moderately above the five-year average, with millet prices in Téra reportedly at the most critically high levels, or 24 percent above-average.

    The security situation is deteriorating and the affected area is expanding. The security situation in the Diffa region is a continuing source of concern with the new wave of attacks on military and security personnel sites and civilian populations. This is continuing to interfere with the free movement of people and goods and the economic recovery, and to limit the access of humanitarian organizations to the area. According to the updated status report by the Regional Bureau of Civil Status, Migration, and Refugee Affairs (Direction régionale de l’Etat civil, des migrations et des réfugiés) as of October 2017, there were still 252,305 displaced persons (including 129,015 IDPs) at camps or receiving centers in the Diffa region. These displaced persons are largely dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their most basic needs. There are also security concerns in the northern reaches of the Tahoua and Tillabery regions, which are the scene of repeated terrorist attacks and internal population displacements.

    Seasonal trends in nutritional conditions are indicative of a serious situation. The last SMART survey collecting nutrition data in August 2016 put the national global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate at 10.3 percent, below the rates reported in the five previous surveys. In addition, according to the data published in the last Health Department bulletin, the annual number of admissions to integrated treatment programs for acute malnutrition dropped by 13 percent in 2017 compared with the figure for 2016. However, the troubling nutritional situation during the current post-harvest period is not unusual. Based on the current average staple food availability, the national GAM rate should be somewhere between 10 and 15 percent, in line with the seasonal average.

    Food security outcomes. Food security conditions are generally indicative of Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels of food insecurity, with an escalation in food insecurity to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in pastoral areas and to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in the Diffa region affected by the conflict with Boko Haram.


    The most likely food security scenario for February through September 2018 is based on the following underlying assumptions with regard to trends in the nationwide situation:

    • Preliminary forecasts show average to above-average levels of rainfall across the country between May and September 2018.
    • There will be normal levels of off-season crop production with the help of the government and its partners and the good water levels on major rivers and streams. There should be average to above-average levels of crop production from market gardening activities, generating average amounts of income for poor households enabling them to maintain their food access and improving dietary diversity and the nutritional status of children under five years of age.
    • The shortfall in pasture production for the third consecutive year is sharply limiting the availability of pasture resources. This will trigger an earlier and harsher than usual lean season beginning in February instead of in March and a deterioration in the physical condition and market value of livestock. However, there should be good pastoral conditions by June with the outputs from the rainy season and the programs mounted by the government and its partners. Milk production could pick up and improve incomes in pastoral areas.
    • With traders, organizations, and government agencies beefing up their food stocks between March and September, this could keep movements in prices in line with seasonal trends, though prices could outstrip seasonal averages between August and September 2018, thereby limiting the food access of poor households.
    • Poor households will continue to generate income from work in the average to above-average harvests of flood recession and off-season crops through April 2018. Other sources of income such as petty trade, work in craft trades, and the sale of wood and straw will strengthen household purchasing power and sustain household food access.
    • The state of emergency in the Diffa, Tillabéry (Ouallam, Ayorou, Bankilaré, Abala, and Banibangou) and Tahoua (Tassara and Tillia) regions will be extended and, thus, will remain in effect for the entire outlook period (February through September 2018) due to the continuing civil conflicts in northern Mali and northeastern Nigeria. Clashes between farmers and pastoral communities will continue, in line with normal seasonal trends.
    • The relative improvement in the value of the naira against the CFA franc will maintain a smooth flow of staple foods to local markets in Niger during the outlook period between February and September 2018. However, there will be a smaller than average volume of exports of livestock and cash crops to Nigeria with the well below-average exchange rate for the naira and the CFA franc.
    • The ongoing civil conflicts in Nigeria and Libya will continue to disrupt the flow of migration to these countries between February and September 2018. There will be a limited flow of cash remittances falling short of the seasonal average.
    • Based on food prices on source markets in Nigeria, there will be below-average food supplies between February and September 2018. Thus, the resulting decline in staple food availability on both rural and urban markets should outstrip seasonal trends in spite of the good performance of the growing season.
    • The availability of institutional food stocks and household stocks of home-grown crops will stabilize local demand at average levels between February and September 2018, particularly with the practice of replacing high-cost foods with more affordable locally grown crops.
    • There will be a continued normal flow of cross-border trade (with Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Mali) keeping local markets in Niger stocked with supplies. However, there will be a smaller than average volume of imports from Nigeria due to the high prices on source markets and the exchange rate for the naira and the CFA franc. There will be a normal flow of domestic trade servicing markets in remote areas and areas with structural deficits.
    • Cereal prices on most markets should stay above the five-year average between February and September 2018. The same trend applies to the prices of cash crops with the larger than average exports of chufa nuts and limited volume of cowpea production.
    • Livestock prices will stay below the five-year average between February and September 2018 in spite of the relative improvement in the exchange rate for the naira due to the below-average volume of exports to Nigeria.
    • The implementation of national and humanitarian assistance plans could help provide at-risk households with free food supplies and cash payments beginning in March, until the end of the lean season in September 2018. These operations would help maintain good household food availability and help facilitate access to cereals for poor households in structurally deficit areas.
    • The numbers of admissions to treatment centers for acute malnutrition are expected to rise during the lean season between June and September 2018, in line with normal seasonal trends. However, there could be high GAM rates in areas affected by the conflict with Boko Haram from the food shortages and water supply, hygiene, and sanitation problems in these areas.

    Most likely food security outcomes 

    The good levels of crop production and the average income-earning opportunities afforded by the usual types of farm labor and nonfarm employment are helping to give most households in agricultural and agropastoral areas of Maradi, Tahoua, Zinder, and southern Tillabéry relatively easy food access. There will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity in these areas through at least September 2018. However, the earlier than usual lean season, the rising prices of cereal crops, and the slowdown in livestock exports to Nigeria will trigger food security problems for poor households in pastoral areas of the Tahoua, Agadez, Maradi, and Zinder regions between March and July. This will create Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions with livelihood protection deficits in these areas. The ongoing conflict affecting pastoral areas of Diffa is expected to create even more severe conditions, producing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity.

    The unstable civil security situation in pepper-growing areas of the Diffa region is continuing to disrupt household livelihoods, where food insecurity will remain at Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels through at least September 2018 with the below-average yields from normal sources of food and income. 


    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Projection de prix, mil au marché de Maradi

    Source: SIMA

    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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