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Increase in the number of "Stressed" households as an early lean season nears

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Niger
  • January - June 2014
Increase in the number of "Stressed" households as an early lean season nears

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that Can Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • This year there are localized production deficits in agropastoral areas of the Tillabéri, Tahoua, and Zinder regions, with poor households resorting to market purchase earlier than usual for their food needs. Market prices are above-normal, making these purchases much more difficult for this group of poor households, who are now facing “Stressed” levels of acute food security (IPC Phase 2) between January and June.
    • These higher prices will also affect pastoral households in the Zinder and Diffa regions, where there is below-average pasture availability. Despite increase in livestock sales, these households will still be unable to meet all their nonfood needs and, thus, will also be facing “Stressed” levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 2) between January and June.
    • Certain households in the above-mentioned areas will have trouble meeting their basic food needs between January and June of this year in spite of their efforts to augment their incomes and limit their nonfood spending. These households will experience “Crisis” levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3). However, since these crisis conditions will affect less than 20 percent of households in different regions, the zone classification remains as “Stressed” (IPC Phase 2).
    • In spite of these localized pockets of acute food insecurity, most households across the country will be able to meet their basic food and nonfood needs without resorting to irreversible coping strategies. Thus, the nationwide food security situation will be marked by “Minimal” levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) between January and June.

    National Overview
    Current situation

    National food production is estimated at 3,674,678 metric tons of cereals (millet, sorghum, maize, fonio, rice, and wheat) based on the preliminary assessment by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics in October of last year. A comparison of food availability with overall consumption needs, estimated at 4,018,219 metric tons, reveals a 343,566 metric ton shortfall attributable to a shortage of rainfall during the growing season. The largest shortfalls in crop production are in Ouallam, N'Guigmi, and Tahoua departments and other parts of the Tillabéri, Tahoua, Zinder, and Diffa regions.

    According to the preliminary findings by the joint national food security assessment conducted this past November, approximately 20 percent of the rural population of Niger is vulnerable to food insecurity. Ouallam, Mirriah, Matameye, Dakoro, Madaoua, Bouza, Keita, Tahoua, Illéla, Guidan Roumdji, Kollo, Gaya, and Tessaoua departments have the highest rates of food insecurity (at over 25 percent).

    Current food availability from market gardening activities in high-potential areas is bolstered by supplies of vegetable and flood-recession crops, where cultivation and harvesting activities for these crops has been underway since December. Expected production from this growing season for irrigated and flood-recession crops is estimated at 400,000 metric tons of equivalent cereals for the period from December 2013 through April 2014, compared with an average of 200,000 to 300,000 metric tons. These irrigated crops present opportunity for strengthening and diversifying the household diet, creating local on-farm employment, and providing access to income for very poor and poor households, except in areas with a limited water supply due to the low water table.

    There are regular, adequate market supplies of food crops, furnished mainly by importers (sorghum, rice, and maize) and local traders (millet and cowpeas). There are enough supplies, not only to meet local consumer demand, but also to meet institutional purchase needs. Cereal availability from government stocks administered by the Niger National Office for Food Production and Agriculture (OPVN) is estimated at 40,835 metric tons.

    Market purchase by deficit farmers and transhumant pastoralists for the replenishment of their cereal stocks is fueling demand. However, local demand is in line with normal seasonal trends and resulting rises in prices are in line with seasonal averages. Institutional purchase is currently underway, with 30,000 of the 65,000 metric tons of planned purchases already made.  However, these direct purchases announced early last November, while contributing to the growth in demand, thus far, have not had any major or unusual impact on cereal prices. Average December prices across the country for millet, maize, and sorghum showed no movement from previous months but, depending on the area, were above the five-year average by anywhere from 6 to 24 percent in the case of all three cereals.

    Preliminary data from the pasture assessment by the Pastoral Development Office attached to the Ministry for Livestock shows an overall 6,710,376 metric ton pasture shortfall compared with consumption by animals in the country during the previous nine-month period attributable to the shortages of rainfall in certain areas. This figure is comparable to the pasture deficit of over 5,000,000 metric tons reported in 2008, but below the figures for 2009 and 2011 of over 16,000,000 MT and 10,000,000 MT, respectively.

    The Tillabéri, Tahoua, and Diffa regions have the largest pasture deficits, at over one million metric tons. The situation in pastoral areas will be marked by a deterioration in the physical condition of livestock beginning in March rather than April, which is the norm, as the supply of pasture resources and watering holes starts to dwindle, particularly in the Tillabéri, Tahoua, and Diffa areas affected by large pasture deficits.

    Price trends on livestock markets were in favor of pastoralists throughout October, November, and December of last year due to the good physical condition of animals, which was still good as of January. December prices for male goats, bulls, and male sheep were above the five-year average by 16 percent, 12 percent, and 11 percent, respectively, facilitating cereal access for pastoral households.

    Income from sales of livestock, market garden crops, hay forage, fire wood, hand-crafted goods, wage labor, and migration is sustaining household livelihoods. Most household spending is on cereal purchases by households compensating for shortfalls in crop and pasture production. With one to two members per household engaged in seasonal labor migration and the more intensive gathering of hay forage for sale at above-average prices in the face of the limited availability of natural pasture, there is a normal to above-normal stream of income from these activities in most parts of the country. On average, the sale of an over-one-year-old male goat brought 143 kg of millet in December, four percent more than in 2012 and 10 percent more than usual. Terms of trade for income from other sources such as sales of market garden crops and hay, wage labor, and migration versus millet are giving households about-average seasonal levels.

    According to the count in the December status report by UNOCHA-Niger on the refugee situation, there were 87,000 refugees, including 50,000 Malians and 37,000 returnees from Nigeria, living mostly with host families in the Diffa region (of which 29,000 were Nigerien repatriates). This figure does not include the hundreds of thousands of Nigerien repatriates from the Central African Republic due to the serious sociopolitical conflict in that country. These repatriates from CAR are living with host families or their own families and are not currently served by any assistance programs.

    Social assistance programs mounted by the government include an ongoing preliminary assistance plan for 1,133,000 recipients of emergency relief and resilience-building assistance based on cash-for-work activities designed to help counter the effects of floods and droughts on their livelihoods and prevent and control malnutrition in children and pregnant and breast-feeding women. A more comprehensive assistance plan encompassing all aspects of food crisis mitigation is being developed to provide food assistance to over three million recipients between January and September of this year.

    Assumptions

    The most likely food security scenario for the period from January through June 2014 described below was established based on the following underlying assumptions with respect to trends in nationwide conditions:

    • On-farm stocks will be depleted by February/March and a growing market demand will drive up food prices, which are already well above seasonal averages.
    • Procurements of 65,000 metric tons of cereal will be required to meet institutional demand generated by the government for the rebuilding of national food security stocks for subsidized sales programs and distributions of free food rations, of which 30,000 metric tons worth of purchases are already in progress, which is about or slightly above-average.
    • The availability of water and sizeable volume of assistance from the government and its partners such as the FAO in the form of seeds for vegetable, cereal/pulse, and tuber crops for the growing season for irrigated crops will translate into average to good levels of irrigated and flood-recession crop production between January and April.
    • The growing season for dry-season irrigated rice crops between January and June will go normally and produce an average harvest, which will strengthen household food security in riverine areas.
    • The desert locust threat is not likely to cause any losses of or damage to irrigated crops between January and March/April due to the risk prevention measures taken by the government, including regular surveillance.
    • The government assistance plan for the outlook period will be implemented as scheduled, without any funding gaps, and will provide adequate food assistance to at-risk populations for food insecurity.
    • There will be a normal market supply of crops from traders, consisting largely of imports from Benin, Nigeria, Mali, and Burkina Faso. There should not be any official border closures and there will be a larger than usual flow of trade between Niger and its source countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali) to cover shortfalls in cereal availability, except for imports from northeastern Nigeria.
    • As usual, surface watering holes will dry up by February and animals will be watered at pastoral wells and year-round lakes and ponds between February and June. There will be very limited pasture availability in pastoral areas of eastern and western Niger between March and June.
    • Livestock prices will be stable or on the rise until February with animals still in satisfactory physical condition but, as usual, will be on the decline between March and June with the deterioration in the condition of livestock as available pasture supplies are depleted. Terms of trade for livestock/cereal between March and June of this year will be 5 to 10 percent lower than at the same time last year.
    • There will be a normal to above-normal volume of migration and remittance income with larger numbers of migrant workers heading to urban areas of the country and to traditional destination countries, where economic and political conditions have improved, except in the case of Nigeria and Libya, which will attract less migration due to the sociopolitical crises in both countries.
    • The repair of rain-damaged infrastructure and equipment will create better than usual gainful employment opportunities in flood-stricken departments between January and March.
    • With the beginning of the rainy season in May/June, there will be a normal demand for labor at normal wage rates for land preparation work between March and June and for the maintenance of irrigated crops in crop-producing areas.
    • Except in pastoral areas, there will be a normal improvement in the nutritional situation between January and March as the good output from market garden crops (tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, and carrots) strengthens dietary diversity in high-potential areas for vegetable production. On the other hand, nutritional conditions are expected to deteriorate between April and June in line with normal seasonal trends with the total depletion of household cereal stocks, the termination of irrigated crops, the high rates of seasonal diseases (cholera and meningitis), and the decline in food access.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    The cereal stocks of very poor and poor households will be sharply reduced between January and March, though cash crops will begin to make their way to market and find their way into the household diet. Market purchases of cereal will be a major source of food for very poor and poor households during the outlook period. There will be adequate market supplies, but prices will be well above seasonal averages, fueled by high demand, particularly with the added institutional demand. Very poor and poor households will have average purchasing power sustained by income from farm labor, remittances, and sales of wood, hay, and hand-crafted goods. Though households will have limited access to adequate amounts of cereal between January and March, in general, the nationwide food security situation will be marked by “Minimal” levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1). However, certain very poor and poor households in pastoral and agropastoral areas with pasture deficits and unsuitable for growing irrigated crops will be unable to meet their nonfood needs and social expenses. These households, concentrated in certain departments in the Tillabéri, Tahoua, Zinder, and Diffa regions, will be classified in “Stressed” (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.

    Cereal prices will stay above-average between April and June in spite of the smooth operation of domestic markets. The opportunities afforded by irrigated crops will be lost, consumer demand will rise with the return of migrant workers and, with the approach of rainy season, some governmental social assistance programs will end. Subsidized cereal sales by the government will not be able to significantly reduce cereal prices. Most very poor and poor households across the country will be able to purchase enough cereal to meet their needs with regular seasonal income and will continue to experience “Minimal” acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) through the end of June. However, more poor households in the above-mentioned production deficit pastoral and agropastoral areas will have difficulty meeting their nonfood needs. More specifically, very poor and poor households in Ouallam, Nguigmi, Tahoua, Matameye, Abalak, and Gouré departments will face “Stressed” levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 2).

    This “Stressed” (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity is expected to escalate to “Crisis” (IPC Phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity in certain areas after the end of the outlook period or, more specifically, between July and the end of the consumption year in September, with atypically high prices for staple foods causing households affected by production shortfalls to experience food consumption gaps.


    Areas of Concern

    Agropastoral area of Ouallam

    The mainstays of the local economy of this department are agriculture (rainy season millet, sorghum, cowpea, groundnut, and earthpea production) and livestock-raising (cattle, sheep, and goats). Annual rainfall ranges from 400 to 600 mm. Local crop production normally covers over 40 percent of household food needs and generates 18 percent of the income of very poor and poor households. Migration and sales of bush products (wood and hay) are other important sources of cash income for local households.

    Current situation

    Production from millet and sorghum crops is below the five-year average due to the poor distribution of rainfall during the rainy season. The shortfall in crop production compared with consumption needs is over 18,958 metric tons. Household food stocks from on-farm production covered one to two months worth of consumption needs, between October and November, compared with the normal three-to-five-month coverage period from October to February. Harvests of cash crops (cowpeas and groudnuts) were also well below-average.

    There are regular, adequate supplies on local markets, the largest of which are Ouallam and Mangaïzé. The main cereal crops found on these markets are millet, sorghum, maize, and rice. Due to their proximity, Niamey markets supplied with crops from Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Benin, and other areas of Niger such as Maradi and Dosso are sources of supply and/or outlets for local markets in this department. Most other food products found on markets in the Ouallam area, such as pasta, are brought in from Algeria, via Mali. While prices are high, with December prices for millet and maize on the Ouallam market surpassing the average by 12 percent and 7 percent, respectively, they are still in line with normal seasonal trends.

    Unlike the case in previous months, local traders are providing markets with supplies of cash crops. Though cowpea prices are 25 percent above-average, poor households are currently earning very little income from these crops, having depleted their stocks by October-November.

    In spite of a pasture production shortfall of 299,888 metric tons of dry matter, livestock are still currently in satisfactory physical condition. The main types of animals for sale on livestock markets are goats, sheep, and cattle and most of the traders frequenting these markets are from neighboring countries like Nigeria, Mali, Benin, and Burkina Faso. There is also heavy trading in poultry on these markets.

    Prices for male sheep, bulls, and male goats are above the five-year average by 38 percent, 27 percent, and 28 percent, respectively, driven by demand for the year-end holidays and the good physical condition of livestock. Terms of trade for male goats versus millet are 10 percent above-average.

    Local selling prices for hay, wood, and hand-crafted goods serving as other sources of income are 10 to 45 percent above-average. Compared with the average, the selling price of hay in November bought 17 percent more millet. Household incomes are generally larger than average.

    Assumptions

    The most likely food security scenario for the period from January through June 2014 described below was established based on the following assumptions:

    • On-farm cereal stocks will be depleted by January instead of February/March. Households will resort to market purchase for their staple cereal supplies by January instead of March.
    • There will be normal levels of output from market garden crops and prices will remain close to the five-year average.
    • The steady deterioration in the condition of pastures and the earlier than usual drying up of surface watering holes will contribute to decline in the physical condition of livestock and their market value between January and June. The lean season for agropastoral households will begin earlier (by March/April) and last longer than usual.
    • Livestock incomes will be about or below-average body condition of animals remain acceptable and the larger than normal supply of animals from households looking to cover their food costs. The pasture production deficit will not have a major effect on small animals, but will affect large animals. There will be normal levels of income from sales of small animals.
    • Larger than usual numbers of household members will be engaged in tending livestock, selling small animals, and selling hay between January and June of this year.
    • There will be normal levels of self-employment activities (mat-weaving, brick-making, and wood-working activities) and a normal flow of cereal imports from Niamey between January and June.
    • There will be 10 to 20 percent above-average levels of migration income from the larger numbers of migrant workers per household.
    • There will be more gathering and sales of hay than usual. The price of hay will steadily climb between January and June of this year with the shortfall in pasture production.
    • Staple food prices will be more than 15 to 30 percent above-average, with market prices already on the rise, fueled by the above-average cereal demand.
    • There will be an expansion in annual assistance programs between January and June with the shortfall in cereal production spurring the government and its partners to come to the aid of at-risk households.
    • There will be good market supplies of traditional imports from Mali, Burkina Faso, and Benin throughout the outlook period.
    • There will be normal levels of wage income from farm labor between April and June for the 2014/2015 growing season for rainfed crops.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    With their earlier than usual market dependence and cereal prices well above-average, very poor and poor households will have limited cereal purchasing power between January and June of this year, even with a normal to good income stream. These cereal purchases will be made with income from remittances and sales of wood and hay, supplemented by income from cash-for-work and food-for-work programs and labor on irrigated farms. The reduction in consumption needs with the departure of certain household members engaged in short-term seasonal labor migration and the improvement in consumption with harvests of market garden crops will enable most households to meet their food needs, though they will be unable to meet their nonfood expenses between January and June. In general, they will be facing “Stressed” levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 2). Certain very poor and poor households (representing less than 20 percent of the local population and, thus, too few to change the area’s food security classification) will find themselves unable to meet all their food needs and, thus, will face “Crisis” levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3).

    Pastoral area of Nguigmi

    Annual rainfall in this primarily livestock-raising area ranges from 100 to 200 mm. Most (56 percent) of the local population consists of very poor and poor households whose livelihoods depend on one or two large animals, four to six small animals, and poultry. The main sources of income are sales of animals and animal products, the tending of livestock herds, sales of wood/charcoal and hay, migrant remittances, and sales of hand-crafted goods. The main sources of food are market purchasing, animal products, gifts/charity, school meal programs, and in-kind wage payments. Household expenses consist of food purchases (millet and sorghum), purchases of animal feed in April-May-June, loan payments, and social spending (for feasts and other social events).

    Current situation

    Conditions in this area are marked by a 35 percent pasture shortfall compared with the average, equal to 101,893 metric tons of dry matter. This limited supply of pasture is creating large concentrations of animals in dry lake bed areas covered with green pasture. Many transhumant pastoralists began leaving the area for Nigeria and Chad extremely early. Temporary lakes and ponds have already begun to dry up after the limited rainfall activity during the rainy season and animals are beginning to be watered at wells and semi-permanent lakes and ponds. While animals were still in satisfactory physical shape in January, their condition could start to deteriorate sooner than usual with the shortfall in pasture production. There are very large supplies of animals on major markets in this area and very little demand due to the conflicts in destination countries for livestock exports (Nigeria and Libya), which are disrupting trade. Camel exports to Libya in December were down by 20 percent from the same time in 2012 with the ongoing conflict in that country. Most demand for cattle and small animals is generally from Nigeria but, with the conflict in that country, there is a much lower than usual demand for livestock. However, high demand for the year-end holiday season kept December prices for male goats 18 percent above the five-year average and 11 percent above figures for December 2012.

    Crop production (millet, sorghum, and cowpeas) from the 2013/2014 growing season for rainfed crops in the southern part of the department fell more than 70 percent short of needs and 35 percent short of the five-year average. On-farm crop production met household consumption needs for less than two months, compared with the normal three-to-four-month coverage period. As a result, household food stocks from on-farm production are practically depleted.

    Millet and sorghum supplies on cereal markets are being sustained by a smaller than usual flow of costly commercial imports from Nigeria, with the climate of insecurity in that country disrupting trade between this area and adjacent areas of Nigeria. December prices for millet were 18 percent higher than they were at the same time in 2012 and 20 percent above the five-year average. Sorghum prices were 15 percent above-average and 9 percent higher than in December 2012.

    The security situation in destination countries for labor migration (Nigeria and Libya) has reduced remittance income to more than 50 percent below-average. There is less income from the tending of livestock herds with the earlier than usual departure of transhumant livestock for seasonal grazing lands. Income from sales of hay is up, but there will be a steady decline in the volume of sales with the limited pasture availability in the area.

    The Diffa region saw an influx of 37,332 displaced persons between May and November of last year, mostly from northeastern Nigeria. Of this figure, 12,000 are receiving assistance from the UNHCR. According to a UNHCR study conducted in November of this past year, approximately 71 percent of the displaced persons are living with host families. Their two sources of food are assistance and market purchasing. The study also showed their main sources of income as agriculture (40%), small-scale trading (28%), day labor (24%), and other (8%).

    Assumptions

    The most likely food security scenario for the period from January through June 2014 described below was established based on the following assumptions:

    • The conflict in Nigeria will disrupt normal trade channels for cereal and will drive up prices in general and cereal prices in particular between January and March.
    • Though delayed planting of crops was delayed, average harvests of flood-recession maize crops in the Lake Chad area will help stabilize maize prices between March and April.
    • Input assistance (in the form of seeds for market garden and vegetable crops) and good water availability for market garden and flood-recession crops will help facilitate irrigated crop production, which will improve food availability.
    • There will be a large shortfall in pasture production and a sharper and earlier than usual decline in pasture availability in January/February with the influx of Nigerian herds.
    • Livestock prices will be on the decline between January and June with the low demand from Nigeria and the deterioration in the physical condition of animals. Terms of trade will be 10 to 20 percent below the five-year average.
    • There will be less income from the tending of livestock due to a lower than usual demand between January and March.
    • There should be a normal demand for labor at normal wage rates for the cultivation of market garden and flood-recession crops in the southern part of the region between January and June. There will be average levels of wage income from pepper growing activities and of income from sales of wood/charcoal and hay.
    • The scale of annual assistance programs between January and June of this year will be larger than usual with the presence of displaced persons from Nigeria.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    Very poor and poor households will sell more animals than usual between January and March, under pressure to meet their cereal consumption needs and from the below-average prices of livestock. They will have less income from cash remittances and the tending of livestock with which to feed themselves and their animals with the pasture deficit in this area. Above-average cereal prices will erode household purchasing power, creating livelihood protection deficits. In general, local households will have the means with which to purchase enough cereal and milk to meet just their food needs and, thus, will experience “Stressed” levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 2) between January and June.  However, the incomes of certain very poor and poor households in this area (representing less than 20 percent of the local population and, thus, too few to change the area’s food security classification) will be sharply reduced to levels too low to meet their basic food needs, exposing them to “Crisis” levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3).


    Events that Can Change the Outlook

    Table 1. Possible events in the next six months liable to change the outlook.

    Area

    Event

    Impact on food security conditions

    Nationwide

    Unusually strong pressure from traders and the government for the rebuilding of food stocks to record-high levels

    Limited flow of trade from surplus to deficit areas, driving prices higher than expected  

    Unexpectedly high cereal prices between January and June

    Livelihood protection deficits or small survival deficits expected in certain areas

    Poor start-of-season conditions for the 2014-215 growing season for rainfed crops

    • Hoarding of cereal by large farmers and traders
    • Less wage income from land preparation work

    Small area planted in crops in irrigated farming schemes

    • Limited on-farm employment opportunities between January and March
    • Reduction in food supplies from irrigated crops
    • Reduction in income

    More sociopolitical unrest in Nigeria, accelerating the rate of population displacement

    • Larger than expected number of refugees
    • Stronger demand for cereal, larger supply of labor, and higher than expected prices
    • Poorer than expected purchasing power, with livelihood protection deficits

    Agropastoral area of Ouallam

    Stronger than expected cereal demand or limited flow of foodstuffs from source countries for imports

    • Limited volume of imports and higher than expected cereal prices

    Brush fires in areas with good levels of pasture production

    • Sharper than expected decline in pasture availability
    • Sharp reduction in income from sales of hay

    New outbreak of civil insecurity in Mali

    • Population displacement
    • Growing consumer demand

    Pastoral area of Nguigmi

    Beefing up of measures designed to close the country’s borders with Nigeria

    • Suspension of trade
    • Rises in prices

    Decline in pepper sales

    • Losses of wage income
    • Depletion of livelihoods

     

     

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Source:

    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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