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Extended lean season in pastoral areas means some households are facing food insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Niger
  • June 2018 - January 2019
Extended lean season in pastoral areas means some households are facing food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The pastoral area is experiencing a longer and more difficult lean season than normal. Livestock is hard to sell, terms of trade for cereals continue to worsen and livestock farmers are being forced to reduce the size of their herds, placing some households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), as observed in June and July 2018.

    • Land was sown in 46 percent of agricultural and agropastoral villages as of June 10, 2018. Most poor households in agricultural areas can cover their food needs using income from agricultural labor. They were facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity in June 2018 and will do until January 2019.

    • Markets are stocked with staple foods – both local products and products from neighboring countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin and Nigeria) – but at a lower volume than normal. Prices on the main markets are above the seasonal average, where they are likely to remain throughout the lean season.

    • Displaced populations in the Diffa region continue to suffer the effects of the civil conflict related to Boko Haram, which is impacting their livelihoods and their access to food. Their inability to undertake their livelihood activities coupled with the reduced level of food aid puts them in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), which could persist in the region until January 2019 at the earliest.


    Current Situation

    The pastoral area is experiencing an unusual lean season that is impacting poor households’ livelihoods and access to food: in April 2018, a meeting to re-evaluate the food, nutrition and pastoral situation held in Dosso highlighted the depletion of natural pastures and crop residues, deterioration in the livestock body conditions of and a worsening of terms of trade for livestock and cereals.

    The pastoral situation is particularly difficult in locations where herds are concentrated, in the departments of Bermo, Bélbedji, Aderbissenat, Ingall, Tchintabaraden and Abalak, where water sources and some strategic forage reserves remain. The situation is even more critical in N’Gourti, in the Diffa region, given the inaccessibility of the Lake Chad and Komadougou reserves following the introduction of security measures.

    Market demand for livestock is weak, and prices and terms of trade have seen a significant decrease. The food situation of poor livestock-farming households is marked by reduced access to food and significant pressure on livestock capital to cover food expenses in the face of price hikes for consumer goods.

    The agricultural growing season for irrigated rice and market garden crops concluded with average harvests and gave way to a rainfed crops campaign that is gradually beginning in the country’s agricultural and agropastoral zones: this growing season enabled households in areas with irrigated land to access income and food, helping to cover their needs up to June 2018. These areas have also provided employment opportunities for people from areas with no access to irrigation, and the income they earn there has been transferred to their original households. Day laborers cultivating market garden crops are paid between XOF 1,500 and 2,000.

    The beginning of the rainfed agricultural season has been similar to last year. The first rains allowed for partial sowing in several of the country’s agricultural areas. Of the 12,464 agricultural villages monitored by the Department of Statistics, around 46 percent had sown millet by 10 June 2018, compared with 46, 68 and 32 percent in the same period in 2017, 2016 and 2015, respectively.

    The markets are benefiting from improved trade with Nigeria and from government interventions: the availability of cereal on the market is generally satisfactory. Supply is guaranteed by provisions from the network of importers of millet, maize and sorghum, coming mainly from Nigeria, Benin and Burkina Faso. Supply is also bolstered by the Government’s stock of 80,000 tons of cereals, which has been put on sale at reduced prices by the Government since February 2018 throughout the country. Demand comprises mostly households, particularly livestock farmers, who purchase for their own consumption. The normal cross-border flows from Nigeria to the Diffa region are relatively inactive owing to the civil conflict affecting the road network.

    Compared with the average over the last five years, prices are following an unusual seasonal trend, fluctuating between 16 and 30 percent above average in markets in agricultural areas.

    Developments in the security situation suggest that conditions are worsening, and the affected areas are expanding: the security situation remains a cause for concern in the north of the Tillabéry region, as well as in the Diffa region. According to the situation report, updated in October 2017 by the Regional Directorate for Civil Status, Migration and Refugees, 252,305 people (including 129,015 internally displaced persons) remain displaced in the Diffa region, either in camps and host areas. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, attacks between communities along with military security operations in the area have caused the internal displacement of around 15,000 people in the Tillabéry region, mainly in the departments of Ayorou, Ouallam and Banibangou. Displaced persons depend largely on humanitarian assistance to cover their basic needs.

    The nutritional situation is evolving according to the seasonal trend, indicating a serious situation: the last Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) survey, data for which were collected in August 2016 by UNICEF in collaboration with the National Institute of Statistics, the Système d’Alerte Précoce (SAP) and technical partners, revealed an overall acute malnutrition rate of 10.3 percent at the national level. This rate is a decrease on the different rates identified by the previous five surveys. Additionally, according to the results of the Health Directorate’s last report, there was a 13 percent decrease in the annual number of admissions for integrated care for acute malnutrition in 2017 compared with 2016. Nevertheless, the nutritional situation remains a cause for concern during this lean season, particularly given the increased number of severe malnutrition cases this year, following poor funding for care for moderate cases.

    Food aid to mitigate the worsening of households’ food situation: the Government, with the aid of its partners, has drawn up and implemented an annual plan to support vulnerable households, selling 80,000 tons of cereals and 23,000 tons of livestock feed at reduced prices. In areas with significant levels of food insecurity, the targeted distribution of free foodstuffs was undertaken between March and June 2018, in the form of 100 kg of cereals per household per month. Households in areas with extreme and moderate levels of vulnerability received emergency aid in the form of seeds; seven tons were distributed at a volume of 15 kg per household (10 kg of cereal seeds and 5 kg of legume seeds). In areas where households are deemed to be moderately vulnerable, assistance consisted of ‘cash for work’ and benefited around 1 million people, amounting to XOF 1,300 per person per day between February and May 2018.

    Food security outcomes: in agricultural areas, food access and consumption are guaranteed by food and income from rice and market crop harvests, indicating Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. On the other hand, food needs in part of the agropastoral zone are hardly being met because stocks have been exhausted, and some strategies, such as the sale of wood and straw, have become impossible owing to security measures and the state of emergency that has been declared in some areas. This situation, together with the lack of resources for non-food spending, is leading to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity outcomes. In pastoral areas, consumption in poor households is barely sufficient, despite crisis strategies such as the mass sale of livestock (two to three times more than normal), placing them in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    • The most likely food security scenario from June 2018 to January 2019 is based on the following assumptions:
    • According to the forecasts of international and national meteorological agencies (including the United States Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), normal to excess cumulative rainfall is expected across the country throughout the season.
    • Market availability will be supported by traders anticipating the good agricultural growing season, but stock could be retained during dry spells.
    • From October 2018, harvests from the rainy agricultural growing season should be around average or above.
    • Household stocks will return to normal levels following the October harvests and should last until at least January 2019.
    • Public and institutional stocks will return to optimal levels between November 2018 and January 2019 and should exert pressure on demand and on prices in local markets.
    • State institutions and structures will have sufficient stock to implement support plans for vulnerable populations and those in crisis between June 2018 and January 2019.
    • Poor households will benefit from average income from agricultural labor related to rainfed crops.
    • Other sources of income, such as small-scale trade, crafts and the sale of straw and wood, will boost households’ purchasing power.
    • The state of emergency will be extended in the regions of Diffa, Tillabéry and Tahoua, and will remain in place throughout the scenario period. Communal disputes between livestock farmers and crop farmers will also continue.
    • Ongoing civil conflict in Nigeria and Libya – destination countries for migrants – will continue to disrupt income from this migration between November 2018 and January 2019.
    • Cross-border flows (Benin, Togo, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Mali) will continue normally and will supply Niger’s local markets.
    • Flows from Nigeria will be below average due to an increase in prices in source markets and in exchange rates.
    • Internal flows will behave normally and will serve isolated markets and those in areas with structural deficits.
    • Cereal prices should remain above the five-year average in most markets between June and September 2018 owing to the high demand caused by poor harvests the previous year. They will then stabilize between October 2018 and January 2019, but remain above average.
    • Cash crops will follow the same trend because of export demand.
    • In line with the seasonal trend, an increase in admissions of acute malnutrition cases is anticipated in care centers during the lean season between June and September 2018.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Income-generating opportunities from normal agricultural and off-farm labor activities will enable most households in agricultural areas in Maradi, Tahoua, Zinder and the south of Tillabéry to access food and cover their food needs. Throughout the scenario period, households in these agricultural areas will be at Minimal (IPC Phase 1), for the most part.

    However, poor households in the agropastoral zone in the regions of Tillabéry and Tahoua cannot meet all of their food needs without the food aid given each year to the most vulnerable households during the lean season. And even then, poor households cannot meet all of their non-food needs. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes will therefore be felt in most poor households in this agropastoral zone from June 2018 to at least January 2019.

    In pastoral areas, food conditions will be most difficult in June and at the beginning of July, following an early and prolonged lean season. However, August will begin to see improvements with the establishment of pastures and the progressive improvement of the livestock body conditions of, as well as their market value; these areas will therefore gradually move from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Minimal (IPC Phase 1).

    Figures Land preparation is from April to June. Weeding and planting is from June to October. The main harvest is from October to Jan

    Figure 1

    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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