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The direct and indirect effects of the security and health crises on the movement of people, goods, livelihoods, and markets are being seen and will persist, leading to food insecurity in the country.
Food availability is conducive to adequate household food consumption owing to agricultural production. This is also the case in the pastoral zone, owing to an overall surplus in feed production, sufficient to cover the animals' needs until March or April 2021.
Thanks to the above-average production of cash crops (cowpea, peanut, sesame, sorrel), animal products and garden produce, households are earning average incomes. Household purchasing power is bolstered by contributions from labor, pastoral and self-employment activities in most livelihood areas.
The areas impacted by persistent conflict are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity in the northern part of the Tillabery and Tahoua regions and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity in the Diffa region and the south of Maradi, thanks to the assistance provided. In most livelihood areas, households are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity, which will continue until September 2021.
The security context was very turbulent in the last months of 2020 and at the beginning of 2021. The prevailing situation is characterized by a relative increase in security incidents perpetrated through incursions by non-state armed groups (NSAGs) involving assassinations, kidnappings, zakat (imposed tax) collection, physical assault, and death threats.
Armed groups' activities are particularly prevalent in the Liptako Gourma area, especially along the border with Mali and Burkina Faso, but also along the border with Nigeria in the Lake Chad basin and in northwestern Nigeria.
This deterioration of the security situation has especially affected the Tillabery and Tahoua regions where 1,316 security incidents have been recorded, according to the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency). There have been at least 100 incidents per month since June 2020, reaching a peak in September, with 169 security incidents. Since October, these incidents have been on a downward trend following increased military patrols; nevertheless, they have been on the rise again since January 2021. In both regions, security incidents have targeted the host populations as well as internally displaced persons and refugees. Additionally, these incidents primarily involve extortion, physical assault, kidnappings, robberies, and looting.
The worsening security situation in the areas bordering Nigeria, Mali, and Burkina Faso led to the displacement of 567,000 people at the end of December 2020, including approximately 300,000 internally displaced persons compared to 187,000 persons and 158,000 persons in 2019 and 2018, respectively.
The resurgence in non-state armed groups' activities has resulted in increased internal migration, as was the case in the Tillabery region, where the number of internally displaced persons grew from 57,080 at the end of December 2019 to 82,604 at the end of December 2020.
In the wake of these conflicts at the borders, with incursions within the country, a security state of emergency was declared in 22 out of 63 departments. These departments are located in the Tillabery, Tahoua, and Diffa regions, i.e., three out of the country's eight regions. Measures related to the security state of emergency have led to a more robust military presence in the areas concerned, and contributed to restricting the movement of people and goods.
The impact of these security incidents and of the measures taken by the government to combat non-state armed groups' activism on the markets, the populations' livelihoods, and state infrastructure has extended to include restricting the movement of humanitarian actors in the areas concerned, particularly in the Tillabery and Tahoua regions where humanitarian assistance is limited to accessible areas.
Niger is also dealing with the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, whose second wave, which began in November 2020, has been worse in terms of new cases and mortality. From November 1, 2020, to February 8, 2021, a total of 3,405 new positive cases were reported, out of an overall total of 4,621, i.e., 74 percent of all cases. However, as of this date, there has been a significant drop in the number of new cases. The weekly cumulative impact went from 1.8 per 100,000 inhabitants from the first week of January, to 0.43 per 100,000 inhabitants from the first week of February 2021, i.e., four times less. Even if this new wave had not sparked the implementation of quarantine and isolation measures in the areas hardest hit, the closure of entertainment venues, bars and night clubs, in effect from December 2020 to early February 2021, has caused certain populations in urban centers to lose their jobs and incomes.
By and large, food availability is favorable due to a projected grain production estimated at 5,576,371 tons, i.e., five percent higher compared to 2019, and two percent lower relative to the five-year average. When added to the initial grain stocks of the farmers, traders, both public and private, grain availability could approach 6 million tons.
As for cash crops, production is showing increases varying between 8 percent for Bambara groundnuts, 13 and 14 percent respectively for cowpeas and peanuts, and up to 73 percent for sorrel, compared to the five-year average. This February period typically coincides with the irrigated vegetable crop growing season, which is underway, thanks to adequate availability of water for irrigation and frequent support provided by partners. These horticultural crops, which are in the ripening/harvest stages in all production areas, with projected average production, provide great opportunities to diversify food consumption and constitute sources of income for poor households in exchange for their agricultural labor.
Cash crop exports to Nigeria, the primary destination, has experienced a decline, compared to previous years, following the fall in the value of the naira. Cowpea selling prices are below their seasonal average, particularly in high production areas, and especially in the Zinder region, and that has contributed to reducing household agricultural incomes.
The local grain supply is average and comprises grain as well as cash crops predominantly from local production, except in deficit areas where imported grain, especially maize and, in certain markets, sorghum dominate. However, the imported grain supply is below average due to trade flow disruptions and decreased production in Nigeria. Local household demand is average and is in line with the seasonal trend, but demand from traders and institutions is well above average due to depleted stocks following operations conducted to deal with the effects of multiple shocks experienced last year. Grain prices are on an upward trend compared to previous months, but also compared to seasonal averages and last year. Prices are particularly high as a result of the relatively low supply to markets due to a spike in demand, disrupted trade flows linked to declining production in Nigeria, and insecurity on the corridors.
Surplus rainfall has resulted in satisfactory water levels of both permanent and temporary ponds, and normal regeneration of plants grown for fodder. The pastoral situation is characterized by abundant pasture lands and surface water in most of the area. This has improved the animals' physical condition and milk availability, which has supported food availability and income for livestock farming households. The livestock's health situation is stable overall, with a few cases of disease reported on some sentinel sites. Fodder availability is also good, with livestock benefiting from production assessed at 31,636,950 tons of DM (dry matter) compared to 17,232,850 tons of DM during the previous season, i.e., an increase of 45 percent. Thus, the provisional fodder assessment for the 2020-2021 pastoral season highlights a surplus of 1,738,950 tons of dry matter (DM). Moreover, the livestock markets are considerably buoyant and animal prices are average, with seasonal demand in coastal countries to support the Christmas celebrations, and local demand for livestock fattening.
Food security outcomes: The food situation experienced by the majority of the population is Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity, albeit with pockets in all agricultural and agropastoral areas where the effects of the 2020 floods have destroyed agricultural production and reduced the purchasing power of households which have had to face multiple expenses to rebuild their assets, especially in the peri-urban area of Niamey, and in the Tillabery and Tahoua regions. Despite average incomes overall, high commodity prices have resulted in significant food expenses, which do not allow for non-essential expenses. The food situation in insecure areas, particularly in the Diffa and Maradi regions is facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity, owing to the food assistance provided, which enabled most people in need to meet their food needs. However, the situation is more critical in the northern parts of the Tillabery and Tahoua regions where food insecurity is in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In these regions, humanitarian assistance, which only covers a tiny proportion (eight to twelve percent) of households due to access issues caused by conflict and insecurity, has not mitigated food deficits and protected livelihoods.
The nutritional situation in Niger remains concerning with the combination of unfavorable factors such as conflict and armed violence, which have led to the displacement of populations en masse, significantly limiting their access to basic social services, including nutrition and humanitarian assistance programs. The nutritional situation is characterized by a high prevalence of global acute malnutrition at the national level, 12.7 percent, compared to 10.7 percent in 2019, and by a prevalence of 2.7 percent for severe acute malnutrition compared to 2.6 percent in 2019.
The most likely food security scenario from February to September 2021 is based on fundamental suppositions related to changes in the national context, specifically:
- Rainfall forecasts: Based on the North American Multi-Model Ensemble Project (NMME) forecasts, the rains will arrive on time, from June. Cumulative rainfall will be normal to above average during the rainy season, from June to September 2021.
- Off-season crop projections: Adequate water availability bodes well for a good market gardening season, good harvest prospects for flood recession crops, and average income opportunities for the households that depend on these activities.
- Pastoral situation: The combined effects of the wildfires in the pastoral areas of Maradi, Zinder and Tahoua and sustained insecurity in northern Tillabery and Tahoua, as well as in the Diffa region where livestock theft and non-state armed group (NSAGs) attacks continue to disrupt livestock migration and access to pasture and water resources for the animals, could cause pastoral conditions to deteriorate and an early lean season at the beginning of March 2021. COVID-19-related border closures are also a factor limiting cross-border livestock migration. Additionally, this situation will combine with the insecurity situation to cause limited grazing areas for livestock.
- Security situation: Insecurity in the Diffa region and the Liptako Gourma area will continue based on the observed trend of an increase in events that are increasingly deadly and increased displacement at a similar pace to that observed within recent years.
- General elections in Niger: In Niger, despite the arousal of a few passions, violent actions sparked by election results are not expected. Thus, the transition will be non-violent and well coordinated.
- COVID-19: Given the high sensitivity of certain restrictive measures during this election period, reactivation of containment/quarantine measures regarding people and some localities in the country are not expected (particularly in urban centers). Hence, the anticipated effects on household livelihoods and the country's economic opportunities will be minimal, compared to the situation observed last year, during the same period.
- Impact of the naira's depreciation: The naira's depreciation against the CFA franc will support the transfer of staple foods such as millet and sorghum from Nigeria, and increase their availability on local markets in Niger, throughout the entire projection period. However, availability will be below average, given sustained closure of the Nigerian border due to progression of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, Niger's livestock and cash crop trade with Nigeria could benefit from the reopening of the Nigerian border, but the naira's depreciation could make the importer and exporter traders reticent to invest in trades whose volumes could be below the average for the period.
- Labor: Agricultural work will continue until April for flood recession and off-season crops, as in a normal year, and they will begin in May for rain-fed crops. By and large, labor availability and accessibility for the next growing season will be average, except in conflict zones, because the tightening of the COVID-19 health measures, which would include limiting the movement of people, as in the last year, is not anticipated. Demand for this labor will be normal in February to April 2021 for maintenance work and the harvesting of rice and other irrigated crops, thanks to an increase in these supplementary crops to absorb the grain deficit caused by climate hazards in some places. The availability of and income from agricultural labor will be similar to the average level in February to May 2021, and even in May to September 2021, including in riparian areas along the Niger river in Niamey.
- Migration: Domestic and cross-border migration may also decline, relative to normal, due to COVID-19 consequences, which have resulted in a downturn in the domestic economy and in that of the migrants' host countries such as Benin and Cote d’Ivoire. However, the number of migrants and the income earned will be above last year's levels, thanks to the easing of measures restricting movement related to COVID-19. Furthermore, local opportunities for self-employment such as selling straw, wood and artisan products, exist and will be exploited to generate income to purchase staple food products and meet vital needs.
- Flows: Internal flows will be maintained at normal levels, thanks to average harvests. From March to September 2021, cross-border flows from the regional market of countries such as Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, and Burkina Faso will help supply Niger's local markets. However, with border restrictions related to COVID-19, which have reduced trade flows, and conflict in the Lake Chad Basin and the Liptako Gourma region, the flows will remain disrupted, and the lead times and transaction costs will become longer and higher than average.
- Supply: The local and imported dry cereal supply will decline compared to last year, and the average, due to the weak flows from Nigeria following the depreciation of the naira and the estimated decline in production in Northern Nigeria. The supply will continue to be lower than the demand because of the stable local production against the atypically high demand. Additionally, the high cost of imports on the international market as a result of the restrictive measures related to COVID-19 could contribute to reducing the supply, which will especially be reduced in the conflict and insecure areas of Diffa, Tillabery, and Tahoua.
- Demand: Local demand for grain for household consumption will be average during the February to March 2021 period, and above average from April to May, until September, due to stock depletion and most households' return to the markets. An atypically elevated institutional demand is expected, which will continue until stocks which have been depleted for various reasons (food assistance in the COVID-19 context, large quantities distributed to flood victims), including unplanned ones, have been replenished. Trader stock replenishment is currently at average to below-average levels; that of agricultural organizations, institutions and state structures are at above-average levels, and will continue until March 2021.
- Food prices: Prices will remain at levels higher than the seasonal average due to supply and flows disrupted as a result of production declines in some importing countries, conflicts, and closure of the Nigerian border.
- Livestock prices: From February to March 2021, cattle prices could decline from the five-year average due to the low export demand for large cattle. However, small ruminant prices will follow the normal seasonal trend at levels that are average to above average.
- Humanitarian assistance: Humanitarian operations implemented by the State and its partners will begin, and will continue until September in the Diffa and Maradi regions affected by insecurity. These operations will become more wide-scale, and will concern all vulnerable areas in the country, except northern Tillabery and Tahoua, from June to September to provide assistance during the lean season, which will be characterized by disasters caused by flooding and conflict.
- Nutritional situation: The nutritional situation in Niger is still concerning, and will persist due to an increase in the cases of child malnutrition, even during post-harvest periods. The nutritional situation will further deteriorate during the lean period (June, July, August) due to poor households' difficulties accessing sufficient food. Additionally, the floods and stagnant waters due to the heavy rainfall typically observed during this period constitute nests for the proliferation of pathogenic germs and would further expose children to a health crisis related to malaria, diarrhea, and cholera. This situation could have a negative impact on the latter's nutritional status.
Most likely food security outcomes
Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity will prevail for most households in February to March 2021, albeit with a change to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in April to May 2021 for most groups of poor households with agricultural production and income deficits, and who will be confronted with high consumer goods prices, albeit representing less than 20 percent of the population in these areas.For these household groups in agricultural and agropastoral areas, the livelihood protection deficit will further persist in June to July and August to September 2021, due to depleted stocks and a decline in purchasing power.
Furthermore, specific groups, such as children below the age of five, will experience a "Crisis" nutritional situation, with high prevalence due to nutritional factors such as food deficits among some household groups, unfavorable health factors (inadequate prevention and treatment activities, limited access to health care services), and poor hygiene conditions.
In the pastoral area, there will be difficulties to access pasture lands from March until June 2021, following the seasonal deterioration of pastoral conditions, mobility issues regarding Nigeria, and areas of insecurity. Poor households in these areas will have reduced purchasing power as a result of high food prices and lower livestock prices due to the deterioration of the animals' physical condition. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity will be observed from March to May 2021. From July, the regeneration of plants grown for fodder, with the onset of the rainy season, will improve the livestock's physical condition and increase prices, which will lead to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity in the area.
The displaced persons and host households in the Diffa, Tillabery, Tahoua, and Maradi regions, where insecurity has led to below-average production and higher prices, will be dependent on humanitarian assistance that is planned and will be distributed to vulnerable households in the Diffa and Maradi regions where they will remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity. In the northern parts of the Tillabery and Tahoua regions, access to the areas is limited even for humanitarian actors, and the displaced persons in need will have reduced access to food and will be affected by Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity during this entire scenario period.
Events that could change the scenario
Possible events over the next six months that could change the most likely scenario.
Impact on food security conditions
Greater security tension
Resurgence in the number of COVID-19 cases and the renewal of restrictions to combat COVID-19.
Violent actions following the results of the general elections
Closure of land borders
Delayed establishment of agricultural campaign and rainfall deficit
Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
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.