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Increased food insecurity in pastoral areas following an atypical lean season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Niger
  • July - December 2014
Increased food insecurity in pastoral areas following an atypical lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that can Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • The lean season will extend through July in pastoral areas due to poor pasture conditions and water shortages. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity in July could fall to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in August and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) from September through December if the above-average rainfall levels observed in late July continue through late September 2014.

    • In agriculture and agropastoral zones, household food insecurity remains on the whole Stressed (IPC Phase 2) but has been kept from deteriorating further by government food distributions and humanitarian assistance. However, if funding for the national assistance plan remains low, food insecurity could reach Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels in localized areas.

    • Rainfall forecasts are calling for average rainfall activity in all of the Sahel countries, including Niger. However, there is also a high probability of longer dry spells during the crop reproductive phase, which could lead to reduced crop production levels in late-planted areas.

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Growing and pastoral season performance

    This year's growing season started earlier than both last year and typical years. However, early rains in May were followed by long dry spells, causing planting failures in most areas planted. After the dry spells, which persisted through the third week of June, rainfall activity rose to regular and above-average levels in July, but the cumulative seasonal rainfall total is still below average. New spells of rainfall improved planting rates, which reached 89 percent, down from 94 percent in 2013 and an average of 95 percent for the period. The highest planting rates were observed in Niamey, Dosso, Maradi, Tillabéry, and Tahoua, where 100 percent of villages had planted crops, followed by Zinder, with a planting rate of 78 percent. Diffa had the lowest planting rate of 41 percent, down from 64 percent during the same period in 2013. However, according to the average planting dates determined by Agrhymet and the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, seasonal performance in this region is still average, even though no agriculture village in the Nguigmi department had planted crops as of July 20, 2014 due to a lack of rainfall.

    In terms of crop growth and development, most crops are in the advanced sprouting stage, although some are in the more advanced flowering and seed-setting stages in certain areas of Gaya and Dogon Doutchi departments.

    On the whole, the crop pest situation is calm. However, flower-feeding insect infestations have been observed in Gaya, Falmey, Dioundiou, and Tibiri departments (1,760 ha infested, of which 444 ha have been treated), while cereal leaf beetles were observed feeding on millet in the Dan Issa and Djirataoua areas (152 ha infested, of which 98.5 ha have been treated) during the second dekad of July. In Kantché, Dungass, Magaria, and Mirriah departments, aphid infestations were observed on cowpea and groundnut crops in the sprouting and growth stages during the third week of July.

    Crop performance aside, there are still concerns regarding the pastoral situation, as shortages of water and pasture have made it difficult for people in pastoral zones to feed themselves and their animals. This is translating to the deterioration of the main livelihoods in these zones, namely livestock and the production and sale of livestock products (milk and butter).

    Pasture and water availability in pastoral zones is very low, particularly in zones with pasture production deficits, such as Abalak, Nguigmi, Aderbisnat, and northern Dakoro. The situation in these pastoral zones, especially when combined with the disruption in cross-border migration by transhumant livestock herds caused by the sociopolitical crisis in Nigeria, led to an early and prolonged lean season, which began in February. In zones with surplus pasture production, pressure on available pastureland following the arrival of herds from other zones is accelerating the depletion of pasture resources. The physical condition of cattle and sheep is poor to critical in concentration areas in northern Dakoro, Abalak, Aderbisnat, Ingal, and Nguigmi. There have even been cases of animal mortality, particularly among livestock belonging to poor households without the means to ensure the availability of animal feed and watering holes.

    With the significant improvement in rainfall conditions during the last two dekads of July, new pasture is beginning to grow and animal watering holes are forming in pastoral zones, which will lead to favorable pastoral conditions in the coming three to four weeks.

    Cereal and livestock markets

    Cereal markets are marked by average food supplies. The markets are being supplied by importers and surplus crop producers who have begun to sell their own extra stocks with the start of the growing season for rainfed crops. Cereal trade flows are functioning normally except for those from Nigeria to Diffa, which continue to take a longer route due to persistent security problems on normal trade routes.

    While demand for foodstuffs is increasing with the return of seasonal migrant workers and transhumant livestock herds, increased farm labor, and the celebration of Ramadan, it is being somewhat mitigated by the distribution of free food rations under the government’s social safety net program. This situation is the result of subsidized sales programs and targeted distributions of free food rations, which have increased cereal supplies and reduced market demand from poor households.

    In June 2014, average national prices of millet, sorghum, and maize were down 11 percent, 9 percent, and 8 percent, respectively, from the same period in 2013. Prices of these cereals remained stable or were 1 to 8 percent higher than both last month and the average. However, millet prices were significantly higher than the five-year average on the markets in Diffa (up 19 percent), Nguigmi (up 19 percent), and Ingal (up 20 percent). Millet prices are up in Diffa and Nguigmi due to security problems in Nigeria, which have not only reduced cross-border trade but have also increased transportation costs because of changes in commercial marketing channels. Increased millet prices in Ingal are the result of demand from transhumant pastoralists, who began the move toward pastoral zones with the start of the growing season. In the coming months (August-September), prices could rise, as is typical, with the gradual depletion of household and merchant stocks, resulting in lower market supplies. Beginning in October, prices will fall with the arrival of early crops, which will cause market supplies to rise and household demand to fall, while demand from traders will increase.

    On livestock markets, despite the deterioration in livestock body conditions due to below-average pasture availability, prices on the whole remain above average because of the high demand for meat to be consumed during Ramadan. Nationally, average prices of bulls, male sheep, and male goats were 23 percent higher in June 2014 than both the average and the same period in 2013. However, compared to the average for the period, in Diffa, male goat prices were down 59 percent and male sheep prices were down 52 percent, and in Tchirozérine, bull prices were down 28 percent due to decreased demand for exports to Libya and Nigeria.

    Household food access

    The ongoing distribution of free food rations, blanket feeding programs, and cash transfers for food insecure households in vulnerable zones are helping to increase household food access and are preventing the deterioration of food security conditions, despite higher prices. Food assistance in the form of distributions of free food rations and subsidized sales programs have improved food access but are not enough to cover the food needs of nearly 80 percent of households in Diffa, Tillabéri, and Tahoua, which are also the main host areas for Malian and Nigerian refugees and returnees.

    In the pastoral zone, the animals that households depend on for food security in times of food shortages have poor body conditions due to a lack of pasture resources in July. Animal care costs are nearly twice the average. Poor households in pastoral areas are resorting to distress sales of livestock at significantly below-normal market prices to ensure the survival of both themselves and their livestock. Despite these massive sales, some poor households in areas of southern Agadez, northern Dakoro, central and western Tahoua, and northern Diffa will not be able to access enough cereals to meet their food consumption needs in July.

    Nutritional situation

    An analysis of the nutritional situation based on trends in the number of cases of admission of malnourished children to nutritional rehabilitation centers shows that nationally, admissions were 14 percent lower in June 2014 than in May 2014 and 11 percent lower than during the same period in 2013. This improvement could be the result of blanket feeding operations which have been conducted since May and will continue through September/October.

    However, compared to the five-year average, the number of cases of admission to these centers, which is up an average of 33 percent nationally, indicates a significant deterioration in the nutritional situation. The most significant increases have been reported in Maradi, Diffa, and Tillabéri, where cases are up more than 40 percent. This situation could be related to the fact that there are now a greater number of nutritional rehabilitation centers and therefore more integrated malnutrition management activities aimed at screening more children. However, the gradual depletion of household stocks and a poor diversification of food sources could also have contributed to the increase in the number of cases of admission of malnourished children observed in July.


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

    • There will be an increasingly strong market demand from growing numbers of households and for the observance of Ramadan in July/August.
    • There should be adequate market supplies of crops from traders, consisting largely of imports from Burkina Faso, Benin, Nigeria, and Mali. There will be a larger than usual flow of trade between Niger and source countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali) to cover shortfalls in cereal availability, except in the case of trade flows from northeastern Nigeria.
    • Movements in prices are in line with normal seasonal trends, but price levels are still above the five-year average. Even with these normal seasonal price trends, the price of millet on the country’s least expensive markets (Maradi) could be about 250 CFA/kg and as much as 350 CFA/kg on its most expensive markets by July-August 2014.
    • The government assistance plan for the outlook period will not be carried out as scheduled due to funding gaps. Certain components of the plan will be partially implemented, including subsidized sales programs and targeted distributions of free food rations.
    • Seasonal rainfall forecasts have projected normal rainfall totals in the country's agriculture and agropastoral zones, suggesting an average 2014/15 growing season.
    • With no major shocks affecting the growing season for these crops, the expected average harvests of rainy-season irrigated rice crops in December will strengthen household food security in riverine areas.
    • According to seasonal rainfall forecasts, the agropastoral season should progress normally. The expected good rainfall conditions during the growing season will create a normal demand for labor at normal wage rates in crop-producing areas for the maintenance and harvesting of rainfed and irrigated crops in July-September 2014.
    • There will be a below-average supply of pasture resources until July in areas affected by the pasture production deficit. Based on the outlook for a normal rainy season, there will be an adequate supply of surface water for the watering of livestock in August-September and a good supply of pasture in pastoral zones.
    • There will be normal levels of milk production and consumption in August-September 2014 with the recovery in pastoral resources.
    • Livestock prices will be stable until July, followed by a normal upward trend in prices from August through September 2014 with the improvement in livestock body conditions and the high demand for slaughter animals for the celebration of Tabaski in August-September. Terms of trade for livestock/cereals will be 15 to 30 percent below average in July 2014 and average to above-average in August-September 2014.
    • There will be a normal to above-normal volume of migration and remittance income in November-December, with larger numbers of migrant workers concentrating in urban areas of the country and the usual destination countries, where economic and political conditions have improved. The sole exceptions are northeastern Nigeria and Libya, which will attract less migration labor due to the sociopolitical crises in both countries.
    • There will be a normal seasonal deterioration in nutritional conditions between July and September with the depletion of household cereal stocks, the termination of irrigated crops, and the high rates of seasonal disease (malaria, cholera, and meningitis). Atypical cases of admission could be seen in certain nutritional rehabilitation centers, not necessarily due to food security problems but rather to behaviors related to periods of increased field labor, during which farming concerns take priority over child care.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    The main source of cereal supplies for poor households from July through September 2014 will be market purchase. During this period, distributions of free food rations and blanket feeding and subsidized sales programs will increase food availability on the markets and for poor households, who will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of acute food insecurity from July through September. These households will be primarily concentrated in agriculture and agropastoral areas in Mainé Soroa, Diffa, Gouré, Mayahi, Illéla, Keita, Bouza, Tchintabaraden, Loga, and Filingué departments.

    However, the above-average number of households depending on assistance will lead to insufficient coverage of household consumption needs. Given the high prices of cereals in July and even August 2014, poor households will be unable to meet their food consumption gaps through market purchases. These households will be concentrated in agriculture and agropastoral zones and pastoral areas of Ouallam, Tahoua, Abalak, Tchirozérine, and Nguigmi departments. They will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity in July-August 2014.

    Crop harvests will begin in September-December 2014 and conclude with average levels of production. Market dependence will decrease, as is normal, and cereal prices will follow seasonal trends, remaining close to the average. Income drivers will behave normally, except for livestock prices, which will be bolstered by the good body condition of livestock and high demand for slaughter animals for the celebration of Tabaski. This will improve the food security situation in pastoral areas, where households will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity, except in certain parts of Diffa, in which, with the sharp decline in sales revenues from livestock exports, poor households will have just enough income to cover their spending on food needs only.

    Areas of Concern

    Pastoral Zone of Nguigmi

    Annual rainfall in this primarily livestock-raising area ranges from 100 to 200 mm. On average, very poor and poor households have one or two large animals, four to six small animals, and a few head of poultry. The main sources of income are sales of animals and animal products, the tending of livestock herds, sales of wood/charcoal and straw, and migrant remittances. The main sources of food for household consumption are market purchase, household animal production, gifts/charity, and in-kind wages. Household expenditures are on 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

    Drivers of the current household food security situation include:

    • The rapid depletion of pasture resources and the late start to the pastoral season in the zone;
    • A persistently high concentration of animals along the shores of Lake Chad with the massive influx of livestock herds from Nigeria and the disruption in cross-border transhumant movements;
    • Animal watering holes that have not yet been replenished, driving animals to wells, boreholes, or the lake; and
    • A sharper than usual deterioration in livestock body conditions due to the pasture deficit in this area, resulting in a significant drop in the market value of livestock.

    Drivers of market conditions include:

    • Markets primarily supplied with locally grown maize, though most millet and sorghum supplies would be coming from Nigeria, where security problems are disrupting normal trade channels;
    • June 2014 prices for millet exceeding the five-year average by 19 percent due in part to the civil security problems in Nigeria, disrupting trade between this area and Nigeria;
    • A slowdown in camel exports to Libya to more than 30 percent below-normal; and
    • Some livestock, in particular bulls weakened by feed shortages, not able walk to weekly markets, resulting in animals being sold in villages at prices ranging from 25,000 to 50,000 CFA a head, compared to more than 200,000 CFA normally.

    Drivers of livelihood conditions include:

    • A more than 50 percent decline in terms of trade for livestock/millet in June 2014 compared with the same time last year;
    • A reduction in the volume of migrant remittances to more than 40 percent below-average due to the social problems in destination countries (Nigeria and Libya);
    • A stabilization in income from the tending of livestock herds due to the high demand for labor with the presence of more animals in the zone; and
    • An average stream of income from the sale of straw, with the doubling of sales prices making up for the lower volume of sales.

    As of January of this year, there were an estimated 37,332 displaced persons in the Diffa area, concentrated mainly in Bosso/Nguigmi, Diffa, and Mainé Soroa departments. According to the NGO IRC, this figure is currently up to approximately 70,000 displaced persons from northern Nigeria.


    The most likely food security scenario for the period from July through December 2014 was established based on the following assumptions:

    • The conflict in Nigeria will continue to disrupt cereal flows along normal trade routes. Trade flows will continue along longer routes, however, driving up prices in general and cereal prices in particular between July and September.
    • Average levels of production from maize crops in the Lake Chad area and millet and sorghum crops in other areas in October-December will help stabilize prices between October and December. Movements in prices could even be in line with normal seasonal trends.
    • Pasture availability is expected to improve in July-August. Conditions will recover between August and September with the growth of fresh pasture in October-December in the wake of what is expected to be a normal rainy season.
    • The deterioration in livestock body conditions will drive down livestock prices between July and August. This decline in livestock prices in the face of rising cereal prices will keep terms of trade 15 to 20 percent below the five-year average.
    • In August/September-December, improved livestock body conditions and demand for livestock for Tabaski and year-end holiday celebrations will cause prices to rise and improve livestock terms of trade, especially in light of lower cereal prices.
    • Income from the tending of livestock will remain normal due to the presence of fewer numbers of transhumant livestock herds.
    • Based on the outlook for a normal rainy season, there should be a normal demand for labor at normal wage rates for rainfed and flood-recession cropping in the southern reaches of the area between July and September 2014. There were average levels of wage income from pepper growing activities and income from sales of wood/charcoal and straw for the month of April 2014.
    • Migrant workers are expected to move toward Lake Chad, where the continuous availability of water for flood-recession cropping, fishing, and pirogue transport will provide significant economic opportunities all year.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    In July/August 2014, poor households will sell livestock through informal channels and earn significantly below-average revenues from these sales. They will have below-average levels of income from cash remittances and will have to both eat and feed their animals on account of the pasture deficits in this area. Above-average cereal prices will weaken household purchasing power, leading to livelihood protection deficits and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity in this area. However, a small group of very poor households will have fewer animals to sell and therefore not enough income to meet food expenditures. This minority group of poor households will begin to experience food consumption deficits in July/August and will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity. While this concerns only a small group of households, a large percentage of them will be concentrated in Nguigmi department, northern Dakoro, Aderbisnat, and Abalak.

    Local pastoral conditions will improve and gradually recover between August and September until October-December, but the disruption in trade with Libya and Nigeria, the main importing countries for local livestock, will sharply reduce sales revenues and remittance income. Thus, while the number of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) households will come down, a large percentage of local households will be forced to continue to limit their nonfood spending to meet expenditures for staple food purchases and will therefore remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, this year's particularly long and difficult lean season was also marked by animal losses during the months of May, June, and July, which particularly affected poor households. Because of this situation, the improvements that are expected to begin in August and accelerate from September through December 2014 will only benefit better-off households who were able to save their herds from dying by providing them with animal feed and watering holes.


    Agropastoral Zone 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, goats, and dairy products). Annual rainfall varies widely from year to year, ranging 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 the majority of local households.

    Current situation
    • The growing season has been marked by regular rainfall since early July, allowing crops to be planted throughout the department. Crops and pasture are in a normal state of growth and development, and animal watering holes are being replenished at normal levels.
    • With millet and sorghum production levels well below the five-year average, household cereal stocks are being depleted six to seven months earlier than usual. The main source of cereal supplies for households is market purchase.
    • Targeted distributions of free cereal rations to food insecure households will take place from July through September 2014.
    • The main sources of income are wages from farm labor for planting and crop maintenance activities. Labor wages are average, at between 1,500 and 2,500 CFA per day.
    • Trade of cereals and other cash crops is functioning normally. There are adequate supplies on local markets, the largest of which are Ouallam and Mangaïzé. The main cereal crops sought after in this area are millet, sorghum, maize, and rice, which are available in adequate quantities on local markets. The sources of supply for local markets in this department are, as usual, markets in the country's surplus production zones, particularly Filingué and Kollo, but cereals are also imported from Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Benin, and other countries through Niamey.
    • Millet prices in May 2014 were 295 CFA/kg, in line with normal trends for this time of year.
    • Trade flows are normal on livestock markets, where all of the main types of animals are for sale, particularly goats, sheep, and cattle. Prices for bulls and male sheep remain 11 to 31 percent above the five-year average, driven by high demand on the department's reference markets.
    • The nutritional situation is marked by a 14 percent increase from the five-year average in the number of malnourished children admitted to nutritional rehabilitation centers in May 2014. However, this rate is the same as that observed during the same period last year and 43 percent lower than in April 2014.

    The most likely food security scenario for the period from July through December 2014 was established based on the following assumptions:

    • Normal rainfall activity in July-September, with conditions favoring average crop production;
    • Average demand for and wage income from farm labor in July-September for crop maintenance activities and in October-December for harvesting activities;
    • Market supplies of cereals and livestock in line with normal seasonal trends from July through December;
    • Normal demand and prices for wood and hand-crafted goods during the outlook period;
    • Normal pasture regrowth and animal watering hole replenishment in July;
    • Annual assistance programs (subsidized sales programs, targeted distributions of free food rations, and blanket feeding programs) implemented according to plan in July-September 2014;
    • Increased cereal demand and consumption with the celebration of Ramadan in July;
    • Above-average cereal prices in July, August, and September following high demand for celebrations during and at the end of Ramadan and price movements closer to seasonal trends in October, November, and December;
    • High demand for slaughter animals from July-September through December for Tabaski celebrations in October and year-end holiday celebrations in December;
    • Increased livestock and poultry prices with livestock/cereal terms of trade improving in August-September and reaching above-average levels in October-December.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    Very poor and poor households will purchase food on credit and in cash from wages from farm labor and donations from religious organizations in July and from social welfare and humanitarian assistance in July-September. On the whole, these resources combined will be enough to cover food needs despite the increase in food consumption needs after the month of Ramadan. Poor households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity conditions in July-August, when assistance will be critical in ensuring their access to food.

    In late August and September, households will consume wild foods (leaves and wild fruits) to fill the gaps in available food, which will primarily come from assistance programs. However, they will not have the resources necessary to cover nonfood spending, and a minority group of poor households will not be able to meet their food consumption needs in July-August without suffering livelihood losses. The nutritional situation will follow normal seasonal trends from July through September 2014, when the number of malnourished children normally peaks. Very poor and poor households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity conditions in July, August, and September 2014, but a minority group of poor households – particularly those with no labor opportunities – will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from July through September 2014.

    Based on the outlook for a normal rainfall activity, average crop production levels should improve food access in October-December with the availability of harvested crops. Income from farm labor and animal sales should be used to meet nonfood needs once households can spend less on food expenditures. Children's food security will improve and only cases of malnutrition related to seasonal disease should be admitted to nutritional rehabilitation centers. The area as a whole will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity in October-December 2014.


    Agropastoral Zone of Tahoua

    Trends in food security indicators in this area are in line with the assumptions presented in the Food Security Outlook for April 2014.

    Cereal prices will remain high between July and September, but annual government assistance programs in the form of subsidized food sales and targeted distributions of free food rations, along with inflows of migrant remittances and income from local labor, will give households the means with which to meet their food needs. However, households will have unmet nonfood needs and will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity conditions from July through September.

    From October through December, households will be able to meet their consumption needs with average levels of their own production and seasonal income, and the majority will be able to fully meet their food and nonfood needs. These households will be facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels of acute food insecurity between October and December.

    Events that can Change the Outlook

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



    Impact on food security conditions


    Higher cereal prices

    • Greater difficulty meeting food needs could develop into livelihood protection deficits or small survival deficits in certain areas.

    Poor start-of-season conditions for the 2014-2015 growing season for rainfed crops

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

    Limited implementation of the national assistance plan from July through September

    • Limited mitigation of food security problems
    • Persistent food insecurity

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

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

    Agropastoral Zone of Tahoua

    Stronger than expected cereal demand or

    limited flow of food products from source countries for imports

    • Limited flow of imports and higher than expected cereal prices

    Pastoral Zone of Nguigmi

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

    • Suspension of trade
    • Rises in prices

    Higher than expected animal mortality rates due to shortages of pasture or animal health problems


    • Less bargaining power to meet food needs
    • Erosion in livelihoods


    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes for July 2014

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes for July 2014

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3


    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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