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Strong improvement in food security

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Niger
  • January - June 2013
Strong improvement in food security

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  • Key Messages
  • Nationwide Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events Liable to Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Overall, good food security outcomes observed in October/November continued into January across the country. Harvests of irrigated rice and other crops in December and January improved food security from previous months, particularly in flood-stricken departments such as Kollo, Say, Téra, Gaya, Boboye,  and Tillabéri. 

    • This year, approximately two to three million people, including refugees, will require food assistance under social programming or resilience-building programs scheduled to start up in February, compared to an annual average of four to five million. However, a 30 percent larger than usual volume of aid is earmarked for Tillaberi Department to mitigate the effects of two consecutive years of production shortfalls.

    • With the resumption of hostilities in Mali, security threats could disrupt normal seasonal migration patterns by transhumant livestock from the western part of the country into northern Mali between December and June.  Monitoring anomalies in pastoral systems is important, given the beginning of the lean season for pastoral populations between April and June.

    • Low local market supply, with a stable to high demand, kept cereal prices in general and millet prices in particular above normal average levels in January (by 10 to 20 percent) due to delays in the progress of the marketing season, which was dominated by cash crop sales through the end of December.  However, above-average prices have not curtailed cereal access, with markets not yet feeling pressure from local demand. 

    Nationwide Overview
    Current situation

    Food security in Niger is marked by sufficient cereal availability thanks to a good growing season and adequate crop marketing levels. Net cereal availability (for millet, sorghum, corn, fonio, rice, and wheat) from nationwide harvests for the 2011/12 crop year is estimated at 4,427,434 MT, based on preliminary data from the pre-harvest assessment by the Farm Statistics Bureau in November 2012. Adding an average of 300,000 to 430,000 MT of commercial cereal imports increases nationwide cereal availability by nine percent, to 4,840,592 metric tons. Setting these food resources against aggregate consumption needs of approximately 4,034,854 MT, the cereal balance sheet suggests a 805,738 MT surplus, confirming projections by FEWS NET in October/November 2012. The balance sheet puts across-the-board annual per capita cereal availability (for millet, sorghum, corn, fonio, rice, and wheat) at 287 kg, versus an estimated normal annual per capita consumption requirement of 231 kg. However, harvests in certain farming-oriented departments like Ayorou, Torodi, and Tillabéri, still feeling the effects of two consecutive years of production shortfalls, will meet only 30 to 40 percent of local needs.

    The rice harvest was below average following flooding in August and September of last year, resulting in an estimated 247,523 MT production deficit. Rice availability is insufficient to meet normal consumption needs, which is of particularly concern in areas like Tillabéri and Ayorou where local households rely on rice as the mainstay of their diet. Projected commercial rice imports to meet nationwide consumption needs are estimated at 300,000 metric tons, in line with the five-year average. Poor households in localized areas impacted by these losses of rice crops will turn to substitute cereals such as millet and sorghum until the next rice harvest in May/June of this year.

    Current cereal availability in all parts of the country is bolstered by market garden and flood-recession crops, resulting from continuous cropping activities and harvests since the early growing season for irrigated crops in October. According to the forecast for this growing season, a total of 100,000 hectares will be planted in irrigated and flood-recession crops, producing 500,000 metric tons of cereal equivalent between December 2012 and April 2013. Cabbage, tomatoes, and lettuce are currently available on local markets, with prices are up by five to 10 percent from last year and 20 to 25 percent above-average due to the losses of winter vegetable crops.

    Market availability is characterized by increasing cereal supplies from surplus-producing farmers and traders, which are up from previous months due to the depletion of cash crops (cowpeas and groundnuts) inventories. Income generated by this year’s extremely lucrative sales of cash crops during the post-harvest period allowed farmers to meet their household expenses and conserve cereal crops for household consumption and sale at a more advantageous time in the marketing year. Normal flows from surplus to deficit areas continue, particularly with the comparatively low demand in surplus producing areas of the Maradi and Zinder. Cereal demand is generally in line with normal seasonal trends, and is primarily driven by household consumption needs in deficit areas, and by pastoralists and traders.

    December prices for millet and sorghum (local cereals) were above the five-year average by 18 and 12 percent, respectively. These price levels, down from last year’s higher levels of 38 and 29 percent above average, respectively, and above the five-year average for the same time last year, may not be significantly above-average, but are still noteworthy in a consumption year marked by such good harvests. With this pattern (10-20 percent above the seasonal average for the next few months), prices are not expected to decrease significantly enough in the next three to six months to align with  seasonal averages, particularly in the case of millet. However, prices may settle in to seasonal norms in the case of sorghum and corn prices, which were nine to 10 percent above the seasonal average as of December, compared with 24 percent last year. Household market access, (in deficit areas and among pastoralists) is sustained by income from livestock sales, with a male goat bringing in an average of 120 kg of millet in December, 30 to 60 percent more than in 2011 and six to 10 percent above average. Other sources of income are market garden crop sales and wages from casual labor, giving households access to another three to five kg of millet, (10 to 15 percent) more than last year.

    Data from individual biometric refugee registration surveys in November 2012 and estimated returnee data put the size of the current population of refugee camps and spontaneous settlements at approximately 46,511, compared with an estimated 65,012 residents in October 2012. According to UNHCR performance indicators in December, food security assessments in the Abala and Tillia refugee camps reveal food deficits, with distributions of food rations providing an average of 1849 kcal per person per day. The current humanitarian assistance plan for refugee camps provides for blanket feeding programs for children between the ages of six and 23 months, the treatment of (severe and moderate) acute malnutrition at near-by health facilities, screenings and referrals of cases of acute malnutrition, the treatment of childhood diseases, access to a safe water supply, and the construction of sanitation facilities.

    Government social programs include two components this year, including emergency response and early recovery, resilience- building programs. The emergency operations for a target population of approximately two million people, including 865,000 program recipients over the period between December 2012 and May 2013, are designed to prevent deterioration in the food security and nutritional situation of households impacted by short-term shocks. In addition, close to 1,082,000 individuals will be targeted for assistance between June and September of this year to maintain the food access of at-risk households, whose numbers are below-average according to current estimates. The government’s social assistance programs for 2012/13 include 127,216 recipients in Tillabéri Department (not including aid to refugees), compared with the five-year average of 98,111, reflecting the approximate 30 percent increase in the number of residents of that department at risk for food insecurity.

    Ongoing government procurement of 70,000 metric tons of cereal are designed to meet demand for subsidized cereal sales and food aid distribution, and the reconstitution of national food security stocks to a level of 100,000 MTs, of which 20,000 MTs (10 000 MT of sorghum and 10 000 MT of maize) are in the process of direct purchase.  These direct procurements were first announced early last November, triggering some hoarding by traders and surplus-producing farmers to take advantage of the potential profits to be made from these purchases. Though they are heightening demand, institutional procurements are not expected to have any major or unusual impact on cereal prices.


    The most likely food security scenario for the period from January through June 2013 is based on the following assumptions regarding national-level factors and conditions:

    • Markets will operate normally, with a gradual stabilization in supply and a stable demand between January and March. Border closures or disruptions in the flow of trade between Niger and Mali are not anticipated, though movements of people and goods will be subject to closer than usual surveillance.
    • Even with a new influx of refugees (according to daily UNHCR reports, an additional 485 refugees entered the country since January 11th), the size of this population should not exceed the target figure of 100,000 for which the humanitarian assistance plan was originally designed.
    • Internal and external labor migration flows from January and April/May will be normal.  Since Mali is not a regular destination for migrants from Niger, recent resurgence of conflict will have no effect on migration or migrant remittances.
    • The usual seasonal migration patterns of transhumant herds from Niger to Mali could be disrupted (in terms of the timing and/or volume of migration), with a shift in direction to other parts of Niger with pasture surpluses and receiving countries with more stable conditions for transhumant livestock.
    • The desert locust threat has passed and is not likely to result in any damage to or losses of irrigated crops between January and March/April, largely in part to countermeasures undertaken by the government to prevent any threats to the 2012-2013 growing season, including regular surveillance.
    • There should be a normal to good demand for labor in farming areas for the cultivation of irrigated crops between January and March with the substantial assistance from the government and its partners, including the FAO, for irrigated farming activities.
    • Job creation between January and March of this year will be higher than average in areas adjacent to flood-stricken departments, in order to support the rehabilitation of infrastructure and equipment destroyed by heavy rains and to bolster construction work on hydro-agricultural development projects and irrigated farming schemes. Poor households in these rice-growing areas will have adequate access to commercially marketed food commodities despite rice crop losses this year.
    • Stock-building activities by cooperatives and for the replenishment of government reserves between January/February and March/April will proceed normally and will not have any unusual effects on demand, producing only small, localized price increases throughout this period.
    • Normal seasonal deterioration in malnutrition is expected in traditional problem areas (Maradi and Zinder) between April and June with the onset of the lean season, as well as in what are usually more nutritionally stable areas, such as urban and peri-urban areas.
    • The growing season for dry-season irrigated rice crops from January to June will evolve normally, producing an average harvest, which should stabilize food security outcomes for households hard hit by losses of flooded rainfed crops and related losses of income.
    • Good water availability will allow for the planting of 100,000 hectares of land in irrigated cash crops (a 10 percent larger area than in 2011), producing 500,000 metric tons of cereal equivalent between January and April of this year, which is more than 50 percent above-average and a 40 percent improvement over the figure for 2011.
    • Demand for straw and wood in urban areas will be normal throughout the outlook period.
    • The peak season for meningitis and measles between January/February and April will increase household expenses and drive up malnutrition rates.
    • The government assistance plan for the period from February/March to April/May/June of this year will be implemented on schedule and without any funding problems, delivering adequate amounts of food aid to populations at risk of experiencing severe levels of food insecurity. The government normally mobilizes 50,000 to 60,000 metric tons of cereal for distributions of free food aid and cereal sales at subsidized prices. This year, it will probably provide about 75,000 MT of food aid.
    • The externally funded emergency assistance program for Malian refugees in Niger will continue. As in other countries (Burkina Faso and Mauritania), though biometric survey data shows a sharp reduction in the numbers of refugees, the assistance plan was designed for a target population of 100,000 refugees.  Thus, even with a new influx of refugees between January and March, there are adequate provisions to meet their food aid needs. 
    • As usual, on-farm reserves will dwindle between April and June, with a normal uptick in market demand during the coming lean season, when prices will climb by 10 to 17 percent compared with average prices for December/January, which is normal for that time of year.
    • The rainy season is expected to start normally in May/June.
    • Cereal prices will remain above-average, and should stabilize in June/July, with localized hikes in millet prices in cereal-short areas such as Tillabéri.
    • The departure of transhumant livestock herds will create a sustained demand for livestock, producing lucrative prices for pastoralists and resulting in favorable terms of trade for pastoral households. Income from animal sales will enable poor households to meet their expenses and, in particular, pay off their debts.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    With the good harvests of cereal and cash crops (cowpeas and groundnuts) in October/November and earnings from crop sales, in general, favorable cereal availability (mainly from large household reserves) and income levels in all parts of the country as of January should provide households with enough food to meet their needs through the end of February. Conditions will generally remain favorable and, in some cases, even improve through the end of March/April with harvests of irrigated crops and social and emergency assistance programs by the government and its partners anticipated to run from February and March/April.  These programs will meet the food needs of the target group of two million program recipients, including refugees, throughout this period. By April/May/June, as is normally the case during the lean season, most households will have exhausted their cereal reserves and, with the depletion of supplies of irrigated crops, will see their food resources sharply reduced, turning to market purchase for their  food needs, using income from casual agricultural labors. The closing of some kinds of social assistance program activities such as cash and food-for-work activities will curtail the food access of poor households, whose numbers will increase with the return of migrant workers. Very poor and poor households will be facing food consumption gaps in April/May and June, particularly households in Tillabéri, Ayorou, and Torodi departments, which will be classified in IPC Phase 2:  Stress. 

    Areas of Concern

    Agropastoral areas of Tillabéri, Torodi, and Ayorou

    Current situation

    The pre-harvest assessment by the Farm Statistics Bureau corroborated by the joint CILSS/FAO/WFP/FEWS NET/Government mission in October-November 2012 puts food availability for residents of Ayorou, Torodi, and Tillabéri departments at approximately 59,682 metric tons of cereal. Human consumption needs in these departments are estimated at 98,909 metric tons, which translates into a 40 percent deficit. This puts food availability well below figures for 2011 and 2010, by approximately 54 and 74 percent, respectively.

    There is adequate cereal availability on local markets, but prices are above the five-year average by 19 percent in the case of millet, 14 percent in the case of sorghum, and 17 percent in the case of corn, though comparable to prices in other regions or areas of the country. Livestock is selling well compared with last year and the average. Prices are up from 2011 by 3,000 to 5,000 CFAF due to high demand for terminal fattening activities. Heavy local and external demand has kept prices for the area’s main cash crop (cowpeas) 24 percent above the five-year average, bringing in 10 to 16 percent more millet than usual.

    Gross cereal output by very poor and poor households meets 60 percent of their energy needs, compared with the norm of 80 percent. However, these crops are used for numerous purposes, including the settlement of debts, which can take half the harvest, with the remaining crops meeting household needs for only three instead of the usual four to six months. As a result, households are net buyers and have been dependent on the market since early January to meet 100 percent of their needs, whereas food stocks would still be meeting 20 percent of their needs in a typical year. Household purchasing power is supported by a more or less normal revenue stream from primary income sources, mainly agricultural labor in irrigated farming schemes, but also from sales of livestock, cash crops, and wild plant foods (palm hearts, doum palm dates, and jujubes or red dates). Wild plant product sales generate between 500 and 750 CFAF per day, in addition to income from other sources such as forest products normally gathered at this time of year. The stream of revenue generated by brick-making activities and brick sales and by the weaving and sale of straw fences (sékos) puts household income well above-average at this time of year with the high demand for these products for home construction and the building of storehouses for millet crops. This flow of income helps households cover the cost of food, health care, and tuition for their children without depending on social assistance and humanitarian programs. As of January, even very poor and poor households are classified in IPC Phase 1 (minimal food insecurity).


    The most likely food security scenario in these areas for the period from January through June 2013 is based on the following assumptions:

    • In pastoral areas, conditions will be normal during the lean season, which will get off to an early start in agropastoral areas of Tillabéri.
    • The presence of Malian pastoralists and their livestock in pastoral areas of Niger will aggravate pasture shortages in areas of Tillabéri, which will be offset both by seasonal migration to alternative pasture by transhumant herds, and by assistance programs.
    • The small surpluses in neighboring departments after last year’s deficits will limit cereal trade flow within these areas, but markets will run smoothly given other sources of supply in other parts of Niger and northern Nigeria.
    • The government and its partners will provide substantial assistance for irrigated vegetable crop cultivation between January and June. Harvests of these crops should generate adequate income and mitigate food deficits.
    • Normal demand for farm labor is expected for irrigated crop cultivation between January and March and for land preparation and weeding between April and June, with normal income levels for farm workers.
    • Livestock prices will remain above-average in response to a more sustained demand for animals between January and June for herd rebuilding and terminal fattening activities and with the shift in demand from Malian livestock to livestock from Niger.
    • There will be normal levels of gift-giving.
    • As usual, migration and migrant remittances between January and May will help strengthen food availability and income.
    • The national social assistance plan will be drawn up and implemented over the period between January and May/June, delivering a 30 percent larger than usual volume of aid to this department through this year’s resilience-building and early recovery programs and with the aid earmarked to meet Malian refugee food needs. 
    • The government and its partners will successfully implement an effective assistance plan for refugees and their livestock to prevent any deterioration in food security outcomes in these areas and protect local livelihoods.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    Very poor and poor households, who normally have little if any cereal reserves will be continually reliant on market purchase between January and June, which is more or less typical of normal trends in these areas. However, their level of dependence will be nearly 20 percent higher than usual, with poor households reliant on local markets for 100 percent of their needs. With normal prices variations during the lean season driving already abnormally high price levels up to higher levels, prices will be above-average.  As usual, food supplies will be supplemented with wild plant foods. Income from poultry sales and small animals will be supplemented by earnings from sales of straw and wood, wild plant products, and craftwork and wages from laborer jobs in irrigated farming schemes. Seasonal labor migration by household members between January and March will reduce consumer demand. The high labor demand for crop cultivation in irrigated farming schemes between January and March/April, food aid under cash and food-for-work programs, and continuing sales of straw, wood, craftwork, and wild plant products between January and March will strengthen cereal purchasing power.

    Food security among very poor and poor households in IPC Phase 1:  Minimal food insecurity between January and March will begin to deteriorate, propelling them into IPC Phase 2: Stress, between April/May and June with the beginning of the lean season and the return of migrant workers, the erosion in their purchasing power with the tightening of market supplies, and the rising prices on local markets impacted by the conflict in Mali. The seasonal end in agricultural labor in irrigated farming areas will mean less income for local households.  

    Rice-growing areas of Tillabéri, Dosso, and Niamey

    Current situation

    With floods having destroyed 75 percent of winter rice and vegetable crops, riverine populations along the Niger River in the Tillabéri, Dosso, and Niamey regions suffered losses estimated at the cash equivalent of 8.5 billion CFA francs, compared to about 1.8 billion CFA francs in these same areas in 2010, the last year of comparable damage. In response, the government and its partners drew up and implemented a humanitarian assistance plan to meet the food needs of flood-affected households between September and December of last year, and an ongoing resettlement program is providing relocation to serviced sites. The effects of the flooding on health and nutrition are reflected in the high prevalence of diseases such as cholera and malaria, with 39 reported cases of cholera in the Tillabéri region in December, up from 23 cases in November and an average of 50,000 reported cases of malaria in the Tillabéri, Dosso, and Niamey regions in December. This steady deterioration in health conditions contributed to the more than 47 percent jump in reported cases of malnutrition in the Tillabéri and Dosso regions between November and December of last year according to admissions data for treatment centers.

    Evacuated flood zones are currently receiving government aid and are being incorporated into traditional farming schemes to expand the area planted in irrigated vegetable crops, which should boost demand for farm labor for the tending of market garden crops. Laborers in these irrigation schemes are paid a daily wage of 1250 CFAF per person, or the equivalent of five to six kg of millet or sorghum or three kg of imported rice, compared with the average wage of 1000 CFAF. These 1250 CFAF bought access to seven kg of sorghum or 3 kg of rice in December, enough to meet energy needs. Income from other sources such as sales of fish and chicken eggs is helping households cover social expenses such as health care and tuition costs for their children.


    The most likely food security scenario in these areas for the period from January through June 2013 is based in the following assumptions:

    • Dry-season rice-growing activities between January and June should proceed normally, with average yields of five to six MT/ha and an average annual output of 40,000 MT.
    • No further humanitarian assistance programs for flood-stricken rice-growing areas are expected between January and June, but assistance under social programs scheduled to start back up after the end of January should meet food consumption needs.
    • The growing season for market garden crops between January and April should evolve normally.
    • Markets should have normal supplies of millet and sorghum throughout the outlook period, between January and June.
    • There will be a sustained demand for livestock between January and June, with favorable prices.
    • Fish catches and sales between January and June will be above-average, peaking between March and May, bolstered by good water availability.
    • Conditions in June/July during the lean season will be in line with the norm.
    • Poor households will have normal access to credit in April-May.
    • The government and its partners will furnish farm input assistance for irrigated crops. 
    • Community self-help programs will be organized between January and June for the provision of fishing equipment and housing construction. Assistance for the rehabilitation of farm infrastructure will be made available between January and March.
    • Resilience-building programs between January and March will bolster efforts to construct suitable housing and assure livelihood recovery activities (purchases of fishing equipment). 
    • Humanitarian agencies will continue to conduct education and awareness-building activities for the prevention of malnutrition and water-borne diseases.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    The main sources of food will be market purchase, combined with food aid between January and April, and in-kind wage payments. Food purchases will be funded by income from laborer jobs, which will also help cover child health care and tuition costs between January and June. Other purchases for livelihood-building activities, mainly of fishing nets and other types of fishing equipment, will be made between February and March, which is the height of the harvesting season for market garden crops and the high season for fishing activities. Assistance programs designed to improve personal hygiene and sanitation, combined with blanket feeding programs, will strengthen local conditions to promote better child health. The availability of fish and market garden produce will help diversify the local diet, with a positive impact on child nutrition, which will help bring malnutrition rates back in line with the seasonal average between February and June. Earnings by very poor and poor households, combined with government food aid beginning as of February, will help maintain adequate food access and should protect local livelihoods through the end of June of this year.  Households will meet their energy needs and, thus, will be classified in IPC Phase 1 (minimal food insecurity) for the entire outlook period. 

    Events Liable to Change the Outlook



    Impact on food security conditions


    Escalation and expansion of the conflict in Mali

    • Limited flow of food commodities
    • Larger than expected number of refugees
    • Closure of the country’s border with Mali
    • Food access deficit for poor urban and rural households
    • Higher than usual prevalence of malnutrition as of March
    • Disruption of pastoral systems

    Limited employment opportunities between January and March due to smaller planted areas in irrigated crops with the record flood levels along the Niger River between January and March

    • Less household income
    • Food shortages for poor households highly dependent on wage income from laborer jobs
    • Abnormally high prevalence of acute malnutrition as of February

    Underestimation of flood damage to crops in Nigeria

    • Smaller flows of crops, including cereal crops
    • Atypical rise in prices and unaffordable price levels


    Agropastoral areas of Tillabéri, Téra, Ouallam, and Filingué

    Delay in the delivery of assistance programs (until after February)

    • Mass sales of wood and straw between January and March driving prices down below-average
    • Rapid depletion of the cereal reserves of poor households in November-December and food shortages  for poor urban households by January and throughout the entire outlook period

    Unusual sharp drop in prices for cash crops between January and March

    • Mass cereal sales by poor households between October and December driving prices down below-average
    • Rapid depletion of the cereal reserves of poor households in November-December and food shortages as of January

    Riparian areas along the Niger River

    Unusual rise in the level of the Niger River between November-December and February-March after an abnormally high local flood stage

    • Flooding of irrigated farming areas
    • Sharp decline in irrigated fruit and vegetable and rice production, driving up prices for these crops
    • Less income for vegetable farmers
    • Less demand for labor in irrigated farming schemes and lower wage rates for seasonal migrant workers
    • Food insecurity for households dependent on market garden crops

    Inadequate assistance in terms of farm inputs and equipment

    • Smaller area planted in crops
    • Smaller vegetable harvest and less income from crop sales
    • Moderate to high levels of food insecurity for poor households
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, January 2013

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, January 2013

    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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