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In addition to the security crisis, COVID-19 is exacerbating food insecurity and livelihoods

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Niger
  • June 2020
In addition to the security crisis, COVID-19 is exacerbating food insecurity and livelihoods

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Security crises continue to affect the regions of Diffa, Tillabéry, Tahoua and Maradi. Between January and May, 347 security incidents were recorded in the Tahoua and Tillabéry regions. Some 540,045 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been identified, half of them in the Diffa, Tillabéry, Tahoua and Maradi regions.

    • COVID-19 persists, with an estimated 1,016 confirmed cases as at June 16, 2020. The measures taken to control its spread are negatively impacting food insecurity, including in urban centers.

    • The agricultural growing season started with sowing in 61 percent of agricultural villages. The forecasts suggest favorable conditions compared with the averages calculated over the past 30 years, but the positive effects of these climatic factors could be reduced as a result of the impact of COVID-19 measures on the availability of migrant labor, including border closures.

    • The rainy season has not yet begun in pastoral areas, where the combined effects of last year’s feed shortage, security crises and COVID-19 travel restrictions are resulting in limited access to pasture areas and places that offer better economic opportunities for selling livestock at profitable prices.

    • The majority of the population in the central and northern Tillabéry region and northern Tahoua are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The Diffa region and the far south of the Maradi region are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), thanks to the assistance already planned and implemented. People in other parts of the country are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) but could move toward Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity from October 2020 until January 2021.


    Current Situation

    Security: The security situation is characterized by new developments in the Diffa, Tillabéry, Tahoua and Maradi regions, where attacks and other incidents continue to increase and cause population displacement. In the Tillabéry and Tahoua regions, the security situation is continuing to deteriorate, with an increase in incidents that reached 52 cases in January 2020, 68 in March 2020 and 81 in May 2020. The same upward trend was observed in the Diffa region, where according to the United Nations Department for Safety and Security (UNDSS), 22 incidents were recorded in May 2020, compared with six in April 2020. These incidents in Niger and neighboring countries (Nigeria, Mali and Burkina Faso) have displaced an estimated 540,045 people, including 265,522 IDPs in the Diffa, Tillabéry, Tahoua and Maradi regions. In the Diffa region, the number of new IDPs registered in the first five months of 2020 has fallen, with displacement during this period mostly related to secondary displacement from one site to another, under pressure from armed groups or in search of food assistance. On the other hand, new IDPs in the Tillabéry, Tahoua and Maradi regions are in addition to former displaced persons and currently account for 50 to 100 percent of the total internally displaced population in these regions in recent months.

    COVID-19: Since March 2020, Niger has been facing a health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of June 17, 2020, there were 1,020 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 893 people who have recovered, 60 receiving treatment and 67 deaths. Developments indicate a downward trend in confirmed cases, the number of which has varied between zero and four cases per day since the end of May 2020, despite a peak observed on June 15, 2020, when 36 confirmed cases were recorded. All regions in the country have confirmed cases, but Niamey remains the hardest hit by the pandemic, followed by Zinder and Tahoua. All of these regions and their populations are suffering from the measures taken by the authorities in Niger to combat the disease, such as the extension of the health state of emergency, social distancing and health precautions. These are the only measures currently in force following the lifting of restrictions on travel and public transport and the lifting of the lockdown in certain cities.

    Agroclimatic situation: The agricultural growing season remains in the establishment phase, with the first rains recorded since May 2020. As a result of the rainfall, 7,760 of the 12,813 agricultural villages (61 percent) monitored by the Directorate of Statistics had planted millet by June 20, 2020, which is in line with the same period in 2019. The regional variation shows that out of the country’s four main agricultural regions, the rate of sowing is higher than last year in the Dosso and Tillabéry regions and below last year in the Maradi, Zinder and Tahoua regions.

    Despite crop-friendly agroclimatic factors, the agricultural growing season has been adversely affected by limited access to seeds for poor households in deficit, since the measures taken to combat COVID-19 in March, April and May prevented the timely distribution of free seeds. In addition, border closures in destination countries for migrant workers have prevented them from returning as usual to take on agricultural work.

    Pastoral situation: In line with seasonal trends, the season is not yet fully underway in pastoral areas. The few rains recorded in the pastoral area have led to the localized germination of herbaceous plants in this area, which has a large feed deficit. These adverse local conditions are compounded by the effects of security and health measures, such as border closures and bans on gatherings. These have restricted the mobility of livestock farmers and animals inside and outside the country. In its May 2020 monthly monitoring bulletin on the impact of COVID-19 on pastoral and agropastoral households, Action Against Hunger reported that 51 percent of outreach workers in Niger noted a reduction in livestock movements due to the increased risk of gatherings, which runs counter to health measures designed to curb the spread of the virus. The combined effects of the feed deficit and the impossibility of internal and cross-border transhumance are leading to a sharp deterioration in the physical condition of livestock, an increase in upkeep costs and a significant decline in the market value of animals and purchasing power for food and non-food products.

    Markets and prices: Markets are well supplied with staple food, and showing a slight increase compared with last year, despite the seasonal deterioration in local conditions following the decline in agricultural production in 2019 in some areas, including Maradi, Zinder and Tahoa. Market availability of cereals is ensured by commercial imports, which are exempt from bans on the movement of goods and people in connection with COVID-19. However, they are still declining compared with the five-year average, following the closure of the border with Nigeria in August 2019. In the Diffa, Tillabéry and North Tahoua regions, meanwhile, internal and cross-border movements remain below average due to insecurity at the borders and on trade routes within those areas. According to the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), 64 percent of the supply of local cereals (millet and sorghum) is provided by traders in Niger (compared with 70-80 percent in the previous year), 17 percent by local producers and 19 percent by foreign traders. In the case of maize, 74 percent is supplied by traders in Niger and 26 percent by foreign traders. Demand is low, despite the fact that most households have depleted their stocks due to the negative impact of COVID-19 on their purchasing power. Low demand at the local level is due to free food distribution operations implemented by the Government and its partners between June and September, as a way of mitigating the impact of the pandemic on households’ access to food. However, there has been an increase in demand of about 30 percent due to traders in Niger, who account for about 40 percent of market demand. Dry cereal prices remain slightly higher than in the same month last year. Millet prices are also slightly higher than the five-year average. Compared with the five-year average, the prices of dry cereals (millet, sorghum, and maize) rose by 15 to 40 percent in the markets in Belbédji and Gouré (Zinder), Mainé Soroa (Diffa), Arlit (Agadez), Gararé (Maradi), Gothèye and Abala (Tillabéry) and Tchintabaraden (Tahoua). However, cowpea prices are significantly lower compared with May 2019 and the five-year average, due to good harvests in 2018 and 2019, which have boosted household and government stocks.

    In livestock markets, the level of supply in May 2020 shows a general decline for all species and categories, which according to the Livestock Market Information System (LMIS) varies from 10 to 17 percent for small ruminants to 21 to 28 percent for large ruminants, compared with last year. The decline in supply has followed the trend in demand, which is also declining by 21 to 25 percent for small ruminants and 33 to 38 percent for large ruminants; this is thought to be linked to the decline in exports, which are falling by 40 to 44 percent for small ruminants and 47 to 48 percent for large ruminants.

    Livestock prices are generally stable compared with the previous month, but are falling compared with the same period last year and the five-year average as a result of declining demand, following border closures affecting the movements of exporters. The largest decreases (20 percent and more) compared with the five-year average are found in the markets of Aderbissenat and Agadez Commune (Agadez), Birni NKonni, Abalak, Tchintabaren, Tahoua Commune and Tamaské (Tahoua), Nguigmi, Nguel Kolo and Kindjandi (Diffa), Tanda, Béla and Bagagi (Dosso), Soubdou and Bakin Birdji (Zinder), Sabon Machi (Maradi), and Téra and Ayorou (Tillabéry).

    Income sources: The sale of milk, wood and straw, income from migrant workers, agricultural labor and animal herding are typical seasonal sources of household income, including for poor and very poor households. The price of agricultural labor has increased as a result of limited availability following border closures preventing the return of the migrant workforce. Demand and prices for pastoral labor are low because of the use of family labor as a result of restrictions on the usual movement of animals. Income from migrant workers is lower than average as a result of the loss of income-earning opportunities in host cities and countries as a result of movement restrictions, and a limited return of migrants who have been blocked in host countries that have implemented restrictions and even complete bans on the movement of people. Income from milk production is below average because of the poor physical condition of the animals. However, sales of straw and timber are generating above-average incomes because of the large deficit and mobility restrictions, making food supplements essential for feeding livestock. Other sources of seasonal income for poor households are labor-intensive work, usually part of the food assistance programs run by public and private actors, but these were not funded this year because their implementation schedule coincided with the application of restrictive measures against COVID-19.

    Food assistance: The results of the Cadre Harmonisé analysis of March 2020 led to the identification of about 2 million people in acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 and above) in June, July and August 2020. A joint analysis is being carried out to assess the change in the food situation following the appearance of COVID-19, with the first confirmed cases in March 2020 and the measures taken by the Government to control its spread, which have implications for food security and household livelihoods. This update of the Cadre Harmonisé analysis found that the dysfunction in livelihoods and markets caused by the indirect effects of COVID-19 has resulted in an increase in food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 and above) for nearly 700,000 people in June, July and August, bringing the population in need to 2.7 million. A government-partner assistance plan is being developed and funding and implementation secured for 2 million people who are already receiving the first free cash or food distributions, including in urban areas, which are becoming new areas of food insecurity following the pandemic.

    Nutritional situation: The nutritional situation in Niger is typically marked by a high prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM), amounting to between 10 and 14 percent during the lean season. The median calculated from the Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) surveys of the last 10 consecutive years (SMART: 2010–2019) reflects a GAM rate of 13.6 percent. The effects of COVID-19 are reflected in a deterioration in the food situation and sanitary conditions, and have led to an incidence of GAM above the median for the lean season of 14 percent.

    Food security outcomes: The deterioration of the security situation manifested by the increase in security incidents, in addition to having an adverse impact on people’s livelihoods, limits humanitarian access for the distribution of assistance in conflict-affected areas, particularly in Tillabéry region and the northwest Tahoua region. As a result, these areas, where in addition to the loss of livelihoods, people are unable to receive assistance because of the prevalence of higher security tensions impeding humanitarian action, are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In the Diffa regions and in the far southwest of the Maradi region, where food assistance reaches people in need, prioritizing displaced persons and the host populations in these areas, food security outcomes are Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!). In the rest of the livelihood zones, the household food economy is characterized by depleted food stocks and a return to markets to buy cereals. Purchasing power for cereals on the markets has been severely affected by the measures taken to control the spread of COVID-19, which do not normally allow income-generating activities to be carried out. Households find themselves with insufficient financial resources for necessary non-food expenditure and the majority of urban and agricultural areas are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes. However, small numbers of poor households in the pastoral and agropastoral areas of northern Dosso and Zinder are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).



    The most likely food security scenarios for June 2020 to January 2021 are based on the following underlying assumptions regarding the trends in nationwide conditions:

    • Measures to combat the spread of COVID-19: The introduction of health and social measures and strict monitoring of compliance with these measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 by the population have resulted in an increasingly downward trend of new confirmed cases of the virus. Preventive health and restrictive measures will be eased and gradually lifted throughout the country, though the Government will look at reintroducing measures in the event of a deterioration in the pandemic. The indirect effects of COVID-19 and the direct effects of preventive measures on food security and people’s livelihoods will persist beyond the period of controlling the pandemic and the lifting of the measures put in place, but cannot go beyond September 2020. The Government has indicated that the country’s land borders will reopen from June 1.
    • Climate forecast: The results of the seasonal climatic forecasts for rainfall over the period July/August/September 2020 predict a wet or surplus rainy season in the country's agropastoral band, with overall rainfall exceeding the cumulative average for the period 1981-2010. The expected excess cumulative rainfall in most parts of the country, coupled with the likelihood of severe rainfalls (especially in late July-early September) and the ongoing locust crisis in East Africa and the Horn of Africa, point to flooding and the invasion of swarms of desert locusts.
    • Agricultural production outlook: Agricultural production will be at least average in most of the agricultural and agropastoral zones as a result of the significant volume of rain and generally short to medium-term breaks in rainfall. However, the high risks of flooding and desert locust invasions are threats to the average to good level of agricultural production expected. Irrigated rice production will be average on the rivers (Niger River, Komadougou Yobé, etc.), with the harvest taking place in May/June 2020 for the dry growing season and in October/November 2020 for the winter season. This will contribute to sources of food and income for the local population.
    • Off-season crops outlook: Hydrological forecasts indicate an average to surplus situation in the Niger River basin, which would lead to an acceptable availability of water for irrigated crops, starting in October and continuing until January 2021 and beyond with the beginning of the harvest. This suggests average to better opportunities for market gardening and a good outlook for the harvesting of flood-recession crops. Sources of food and income from market gardening and flood-recession crops will be average.
    • Outlook for pasture and the physical condition of livestock: Feed production has been in deficit for several consecutive years, resulting in significant declines in the availability of pasture and vulnerabilities in most pastoral zones. However, favorable pastoral conditions are expected from July 2020, with the help of wintering and interventions by the Government and its partners. An improvement in animals’ physical condition from July will support a resumption of milk production and increase the market value of animals, which will return the seasonal incomes of pastoral farmers to average levels.
    • Security: Conflict and the state of emergency will continue in the Diffa, Tillabéry and Tahoua regions throughout the scenario period. The influx of refugees from Nigeria into the Maradi region as a result of intercommunity conflicts in the states of Sokoto and Zamfara will persist and the number of displaced persons in the country as a result of these conflicts will continue to increase during the scenario period.
    • Outlook for institutional purchases and stocks: Traders and state institutions and organizations will continue to increase stockpiles. However, given the closure of some of the borders with countries from where supplies are sourced, the purchase prices plus transaction costs will result in cost price increases. As a result, the level of replenishment could remain below average and lead to low market availability. This could support price increases above seasonal norms between July and September 2020 and limit access for poor households.
    • Outlook for labor and other main sources of income: Supply and demand for labor for rain-fed crops and animal herding should be sustained as a result of the coincidence of field preparation work, and the establishment and maintenance of sowing, with religious festivals. However, COVID-19 and the measures taken to prevent its spread, including social distancing and restrictions on the movement of people, are having a negative impact on the internal and external mobility of the labor force, and on the availability and supply of labor, which are significantly lower than the seasonal average, while demand remains at an average level. Local employment opportunities for animal herding and local self-employment options, such as selling straw and wood, are operating below their normal seasonal trend despite the early start of the pastoral lean season, as a result of the direct and indirect effects of COVID-19. Other sources of income, such as small-scale trade, handicrafts and other informal-sector activities are slowing and will continue to decelerate further as a result of the continuing effects of social distancing measures, travel restrictions and limited operating hours. All of these local jobs will continue to generate below-average incomes in the coming months, even in the event of easing and/or lifting of the restrictive measures that have had a sudden and ongoing impact on livelihoods.
    • Impact of naira depreciation: The depreciation of the naira and the relative improvement in the value of the CFA franc will encourage the transfer of staple foods to local markets in Niger during the scenario period. However, exports of livestock and cash crops to Nigeria will be below average as closures of certain borders and travel restrictions linked to COVID-19 will result in limited presence of and demand from exporters.
    • Migration and remittances: Ongoing civil conflicts and, above all, sustained lockdown measures related to COVID-19 in countries receiving migrants will continue to disrupt migrant labor and other migrant activities, as well as remittances. Money transfers will remain low and below the seasonal average.
    • Food Availability: Given average agricultural production in 2019-2020, average carry-over stocks and commercial imports (actual and forecast), internal circuits will operate and provide a local source of supply that will be comparable to the average during the lean season and harvest period. However, the cross-border trading opportunities that exist thanks to good availability of cereals in the countries from which Niger imports (Benin, Togo, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Mali) are being negatively affected by the closure of the border with Nigeria and COVID-19 measures, resulting in higher-than-average transaction costs and cost prices.
    • The availability of staple food in remote rural markets is expected to decline in line with the seasonal trend as the lean season (June-September) approaches, following high cost prices and weak local demand due to a deterioration in purchasing power.
    • Demand: Purchasing to replenish public and institutional stockpiles to meet food assistance needs that have become more significant than usual as a result of additional needs related to COVID-19, and purchases by populations from areas with significant production deficits will contribute to an increase in demand above the usual level from June to September 2020. However, the deterioration in consumer purchasing power as a result of the effects of COVID-19 measures on livelihoods could lead poor and structurally weak households to make limited use of markets and below-average purchases in July, August and September. Demand will stabilize at its usual level from October 2020 until January 2021, as products from the new harvest become available.
    • Food prices: Cereal price levels will continue on an upward trend, compared with the five-year average in most markets in May and June, because of the effects of public and institutional purchases made in a trading context impacted by the pandemic. Prices for cash crops will move in the opposite direction while export demand remains weak, especially in the case of cowpeas, the price of which is already falling as a result of oversupply following good production and high levels of carry-over stocks. Prices will gradually evolve in line with the seasonal trend as a result of a steady decline in public, institutional and local demand in light of free food distribution and sale of moderately priced food products.
    • Livestock prices: Low naira exchange rates means that livestock prices will remain below the five-year average from June to July because of weak exports to Nigeria. In addition, the poor physical condition of animals resulting from the shortage of feed will not stimulate local demand. Increases in local demand and exports thanks to good grazing conditions and religious holidays (Muslim in August and Christian in December) will push the market value of livestock upwards, but prices may remain at average levels.
    • Humanitarian assistance: Response plans have been updated to take into account the new needs of new socioeconomic groups, including urban groups, which have been added to the vulnerable households that will start to benefit from humanitarian assistance provided by the Government and its partners from June to September. This assistance will reach 1.9 million people for whom distributions are already being funded.


    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From June to September 2020, the majority of households in most livelihood zones in agricultural and agropastoral areas will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) food security outcomes as a result of the continuing effects of COVID-19 on purchasing power. However, food assistance that has already been planned and acquired will cover consumption needs in most areas. From October 2020 to January 2021, improvements in food availability and household incomes will be seen as the new cereal and cash crop harvests come through at average to higher levels, thanks to the high likelihood of good agroclimatic conditions. Non-food expenditure will be covered by sales of surplus cereals, cash crops and seasonal income-generating activities as a result of the marginal/negligible effects of COVID-19 during the scenario period.

    In the pastoral zone, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes will be observed as a result of difficulties in accessing food among poor households, whose purchasing power will be affected by the fall in livestock prices, the main source of income for the population in June, July and August. However, these outcomes will improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) from September/October to January 2021, thanks to the improved physical condition of animals, which will allow for a resumption of milk production and a recovery in selling prices.

    In conflict-affected areas, the food situation will continue to be dominated by disruption of food and income sources and increased reliance on external assistance to meet food needs. Households in the Diffa region will have access to food assistance and will face Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes, as will displaced households from the southern Maradi region throughout the scenario period. In the Tillabéry agropastoral and pastoral zone, security barriers and activism by armed groups will limit travel, including that of humanitarian organizations, leading to a reduction in the availability of food and access to food for the majority of the population in the area. Resident and displaced populations in those areas will continue to face a serious deterioration in their livelihoods, as they have very limited ability to produce and generate income due to insecurity, which also affects the operation of markets. They will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) throughout the scenario period with a minority of about 10,000 to 15,000 people facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) conditions from July to September in Banibangou, Ayorou, Bankilaré, Ouallam, Abala, Tillia and Tassara.

    In the urban area of Niamey, the results of the livelihood analysis updated in June 2020 show that incomes have fallen by 17 to 24 percent, respectively, for poor and very poor households. This is due to the restrictions on self-employment and small-scale trade caused by COVID-19. Income declines could worsen, as even in a typical year, poor and very poor households experience a 24 percent shortfall in protection for their livelihoods. However, the lifting of restrictive measures is allowing households to resume their income-generating activities. In addition, ongoing distribution will facilitate improved food security conditions. From June to September, for example, these households will experience Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes, and from October, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes.

    Usually, acute malnutrition and child morbidity peak between June and September, during the lean season and the rainy season in Niger. Data from the national SMART survey collected between August and September 2019 showed a high overall prevalence of acute malnutrition (10.7 percent) among children under five years of age. The COVID-19 crisis could further aggravate the deterioration of the nutritional situation expected in 2020. Coupled with increased food insecurity, poor infant and young child feeding practices and residual insecurity in some parts of the country, this situation could lead to a deterioration in the nutritional status of children and an increase in the number who are malnourished. The Technical Working Group on Food and Nutrition Security has estimated that the number of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) could increase by 35 percent and the number of children suffering from moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) by 27 percent, with 533,384 SAM cases and 1,071,501 MAM cases expected in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.


    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario. 



    Impact on food security outcomes






    Increased security tensions

    Significant reductions in the flow of consumer, cash and livestock products, and a decrease in migration and remittances would increase the number of people in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Rainfall deficit

    Decrease in agricultural production and household supplies, significant reduction in market supplies and higher prices

    Decrease in feed production with an impact on the incomes of pastoralist households, whose purchasing power will be reduced and whose current situation is unlikely to be improved.

    Locust invasion

    Decrease in agricultural and pastoralist production, resulting in lower food and market supplies, lower livestock prices, and deteriorating terms of trade and access to food.

    Reimposition of COVID-19 restrictions

    Significant decline in both rural and urban incomes, leading to food insecurity for households dependent on informal activities.



    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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