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Household access to food limited by insecurity and inflation

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Niger
  • June 2022 - January 2023
Household access to food limited by insecurity and inflation

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  • Key Messages
  • NATIONAL OVERVIEW
  • Key Messages
    • Food access remains a major challenge for poor households in the country, not only because of civil insecurity, which is severely disrupting livelihoods, but also because of rising food prices, which are reducing households' purchasing power.

    • The 2022/23 growing season is gradually getting under way throughout the country, with sowing already completed in 51 percent of the country's agricultural villages by June 20, 2022, compared to 26 percent by the same date in 2021. This beginning of the growing season offers opportunities for local employment and average incomes for poor households. However, the amount of rainfall recorded in the country's pastoral zone is very low, meaning that grazing conditions are unlikely to improve.

    • Households are becoming dependent on markets at an earlier stage and to an increasing extent, against a background of reduced availability and a significant increase in food prices. The early dependence on markets follows the depletion of household stocks from last year's below-average agricultural production. Trade is also below average due to the restrictive measures taken by some countries and security crises in the subregion. The situation has been further aggravated by the crisis in Ukraine, which has disrupted the supply chain for manufactured and imported products.

    • Despite higher-than-average food assistance needs, response plans continue to be poorly implemented due not only to security restrictions limiting humanitarian space but also to concerns related to the Ukrainian crisis, on which the attention of humanitarian partners is focused.


    NATIONAL OVERVIEW

    Current Situation

    Conflict and insecurity: Niger continues to deal with a security crisis that is generating three active terrorist fronts in the Lake Chad Basin, Liptako Gourma, and northwestern and north central Nigeria. Deadly terrorist acts committed by armed groups engaged on these fronts have steadily increased since they began in 2015. According to ACLED, during the period of terrorist activity from 2015 to 2022, a total of 1,449 recorded security incidents caused 5,830 fatalities. There was a large increase in security incidents during the period from 2020 to 2022 (Figure 1). The majority of incidents and casualties occurred from 2020 to 2022, with this period accounting for 92 percent and 52 percent of all security incidents and casualties, respectively. An average of 40 to 50 percent of security incidents and casualties have been recorded during the period from January to May each year (Figure 2). This is the dry season, characterized by the drying up of the rivers and streams which form natural obstacles to the mobility of armed groups. Since the beginning of 2022, there has been a relative lull in the Diffa region and in the northwestern part of the Maradi region due to the strengthened operational capacities of the defense and security forces. In the Tillabéri region and northern Tahoua, located on the Liptako Gourma front (Figure 3), however, terrorist activities have intensified and spread.

    As an immediate consequence of terrorist activities, populations from the affected areas are displaced to safe areas: the departmental and regional capitals of Tillabéri, Niamey, Diffa, and Maradi. As of mid-May 2022, statistics validated by the Ministry of Humanitarian Action and Disaster Management indicate a total of 293,181 internally displaced persons (IDPs), or 52,936 households, hosted in the urban or peri-urban centers of Diffa, Tillabéri, Maradi, and Niamey. Recorded IDPs in the Tillabéri region make up 39 percent of the country's total IDPs. In addition, a large proportion of the IDPs in Niamey are from Tillabéri, where terrorist acts are increasing and spreading to new areas in the south of the region.

    COVID-19: According to a World Health Organization (WHO) update on June 28, 2022, there have been 9,031 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 310 deaths. The number of new cases was relatively stable at the beginning of this year, with only 1 percent of cases recorded since January 2022. A total of 2,703,493 vaccination doses have been administered, i.e., 11.17 percent of the target population estimated at 24,203,160 people, and 1,556,817 people have been fully vaccinated with the single-dose or two-dose vaccine, i.e., 6.43 percent of the target population.

    Given the favorable evolution of the COVID-19 situation, with a significant decrease in the spread of the virus at the national level, the government has taken measures to ease restrictions. The authorities announced the lifting of the COVID-19 state of health emergency on May 1, 2022. The relaxation of restrictions is helping to further boost economic activities that provide employment opportunities for migrants in urban centers.

    Rainy season: The growing season is gradually getting under way in the country. The first rains were recorded in the third dekad of May 2022, enabling sowing to be undertaken in several agricultural areas. According to the monitoring carried out by the Directorate of Agricultural Statistics on a dekad cycle, of the 13,191 agricultural villages in the country, 6,712 had sown millet by the second dekad of June 2022. This amounts to 51 percent, compared to 26 percent for the same period in 2021 (Figure 4). Except for the Diffa and Zinder regions, with rates of 3 percent and 30.6 percent, respectively, all regions had completed between 54 percent (Tillabéri) and 100 percent (Niamey) of sowing by June 20, 2022. The rainy season has arrived against a backdrop of security tensions in several agricultural areas of the country and nearly 300,000 people have been displaced, abandoning their rainfed crops. In the Tillabéri region, seven out of a total of 13 departments are affected by terrorist attacks, leading to population displacement and the abandonment of rainfed crops. The rains have not yet arrived in the pastoral area, where livestock are fed mainly through aerial grazing and food supplements, the prices of which have also been affected by the various security crises. The price of agroindustrial by-products is currently averaging 12,000 XOF per 50 kg bag, more than double the five-year average. The physical condition of livestock is at an average level due to wealthy and middle-income livestock farmers purchasing feed for their large ruminants. Poor households tend to have small ruminants that require less expenditure on feed.

    Food availability: Irrigated crop production is proceeding normally thanks to seeds and agricultural equipment provided by the government and its partners. Harvesting of tomato, lettuce, potato, watermelon, onion, and rice crops is under way. These harvests will provide income opportunities for poor households through sales, and are also a source of food.

    Last year's harvest is estimated at about 3.4 million tonnes of cereals (millet, sorghum, maize, rice, and fonio), leaving a cereal deficit of nearly 700,000 tons. This agricultural deficit has resulted in low household stocks and very early depletion of these stocks in December 2021, instead of February/March, as is typically the case. In addition, poor households did not earn their normal agricultural income, given the decline in production of cash crops such as cowpeas caused by the rainfall deficit, which resulted in reduced demand for local agricultural jobs.

    Markets and prices: In the markets, the supply of cereals (maize and sorghum) is stable overall due to the reopening of Nigeria's borders with Niger in early May 2022 (routes: Jibia—Maradi, Illéla—Birni-N'Konni, and Maïné Soroa—Gaidam) and the lifting of the export ban by the Beninese authorities. This supply remains below average, however, due to export bans, especially on maize from Burkina Faso, which is reducing the inflow of products into Niger. Demand for consumer products such as millet, maize, and sorghum comes primarily from local consumers and traders in Niger. In May 2022, average prices for dry cereals (millet, sorghum, and maize) remained almost constant compared to April 2022, due to the continuation of reduced-price cereal sales and targeted free distribution operations that began in February 2022 and are ongoing. However, prices are above the levels reached last year and the five-year average. Cereal prices (millet, sorghum, and maize) are very high in all markets, particularly those in Tillabéri and northern Tahoua, where levels vary between 340 XOF and 400 XOF per kg of millet, due to the production deficit recorded this year and ongoing conflict/civil insecurity, which is significantly reducing (by 50 to 60 percent), the supply flows to markets compared to usual levels (Figures 5 to 7). Dry cereal prices (millet, sorghum, and maize) have risen: by 14 percent for millet, 10 percent for sorghum, and 7 percent for maize compared to the same period last year. Prices have also risen significantly compared to the five-year average: by 24 percent for millet and maize, and by 22 percent for sorghum. Livestock supply is also stable overall for large ruminants, but slightly up for small ruminants in most markets, thanks to Eid al-Adha, a period when there is high demand for small ruminants. This demand comes from local traders, and from exporters in Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, and Côte d'Ivoire. It is primarily for small ruminants in preparation for the Eid al-Adha holiday. The average prices for small ruminants have risen 6 percent while cattle prices have remained stable compared to last month. There have been increases of 10 percent for goats, 4 percent for bulls, and 3 percent for rams compared to the same period last year. Compared to the five-year average, prices have risen by 27 percent, 22 percent, and 12 percent for goats, rams, and bulls, respectively. Demand for sheep is increasingly being replaced by demand for goats in all of the country's markets due to the elevated cost of sheep during Eid al-Adha, when they are in high demand. The terms of trade for goats and millet have worsened compared to last year and/or the five-year average, because of high cereal prices.

    In addition to the increase in the price of basic necessities, which has increased food expenditure, household purchasing power has been significantly impacted by the increase in the prices of other food products, particularly manufactured and imported products such as vegetable oil, the price of which has been rising gradually since January 2022. In May 2022, the price of vegetable oil had risen by 33 percent compared to 2021 and by 80 percent compared to the five-year average (Figure 8). Wheat flour also recorded increases of 25 and 14 percent in Agadez and Tahoua, respectively, due to the significant reduction in flows from the Maghreb region, particularly Algeria, following the closure of the border since the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Regarding sources of cash income, current agricultural work offers local agricultural employment opportunities at a rate of 1,500 XOF to 2,500 XOF per day per person for sowing operations, compared to an average of 1,000 XOF to 2,000 XOF. Poor households also earn cash from the sale of timber and straw, providing 1,000 XOF per day compared to the average of 750 XOF per day. This period also coincides with the return of migrants, bringing financial resources estimated at between 50,000 and 100,000 XOF earned through gold mining, which has become the alternative activity following the COVID-19 travel restrictions.

    Food assistance: According to a status report on the implementation of the food assistance plan, free food distribution operations were conducted from February to April 2022 and reached 357,000 people in 39 priority communes. These free food parcels, consisting of 100 kg of cereals, 10 kg of legumes, and 5 liters of oil and salt, targeted people in the Diffa, Maradi, Tahoua, and Tillabéri regions, and were carried out in two phases at a rate of 5,100 tons per phase, i.e., 10,200 tons in total and the equivalent of 2,100 kcal per person per day. However, this assistance continued to be concentrated in the accessible parts of the areas in which populations in need live. It remains limited to the main towns of several departments and communes in Tillabéri. Restrictions and repeated attacks mean that it has not been possible to reach the communes of Tondikiwindi and Mangaizé (Ouallam), Makalondi (Torodi), and Sanam (Abala). In the Tahoua region, the areas of Tassara and Tillia are also difficult for humanitarian organizations to access.

    Food products and markets: Food products are available in markets, but in below-average quantities due to the decline in national agricultural production, export restrictions or bans imposed by some countries, and security crises in the subregion. In addition, the crisis in Ukraine is further disrupting supply channels, particularly for manufactured and imported products, whose import costs have increased sharply. Consumer demand for all cereal products is high and above average due to lower production last year, and the resulting low carryover stocks. Prices are higher than average due to reduced supply resulting from limited local availability and declines in imports. Poor households that earn income through agricultural work, migration, and the sale of forest products are unable to access sufficient quantities of consumer goods because the prices of food and other food products, particularly vegetable oil, have more than doubled. The majority of poor households are resorting to borrowing from traders to access products for their consumption in sufficient quantities. Food assistance is being provided, but security constraints are preventing access to people in insecure areas, particularly those far from the main departmental and regional towns.

    The overall rainfall deficit during the 2021 growing season led to below-average biomass production in pastoral and agropastoral areas, and satisfactory filling of temporary and permanent ponds. This situation, coupled with insecurity in fallback areas and border closures, is limiting transhumance and continues to affect livestock feeding. Pastoralist households are facing a dual crisis: the rise in food prices and the increased price of livestock feed. This dual crisis is reflected in the fact that food spending largely dominates total household expenditure, with households financially incapable of meeting their non-food expenses. Furthermore, this situation leaves no income-earning opportunities for poor households, who are unable to find local jobs as they normally would.

    Overall, food security outcomes are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in the livelihood zones of the country characterized by reduced food availability and high prices, which are reducing access to food for poor households without stocks and with incomes that are not sufficient to purchase consumer products. These households are resorting to borrowing and sending more people, including children, to seek work in wealthy households to meet their food needs. The response plan developed and implemented by the government and its partners will increase food availability and improve access to food for poor households in secure areas near urban centers. In areas affected by conflict and insecurity in Diffa and southwestern Maradi, where security conditions allow for the implementation of food assistance operations, helping to meet the food needs of at least 20 percent of households, food security outcomes are Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!). Tillabéri and northern Tahoua — where in addition to a lack of their own resources, security constraints are limiting the provision of food assistance to poor displaced households in secure areas to less than 20 percent of those in need — are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The results of a nutrition survey conducted in September/October 2021 using the Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) methodology found that the prevalence of global acute malnutrition was 12.5 percent, which is high by WHO standards. The prevalence of severe acute malnutrition was 2.7 percent, exceeding the emergency threshold (2 percent). A more significant than average deterioration in the nutritional situation could be observed during this period, given the reduction in food consumption in the country due to the decline in agricultural production, leading to the early depletion of household stocks, the atypical increase in market prices for food, and the poor level of health care services due to insecurity, coupled with a high prevalence of childhood illnesses with the onset of the rainy season (malaria, diarrhea, etc.).

     Assumptions

    The most likely food security scenario for June 2022 to January 2023 is based on the following key assumptions about how the national context will develop:

    • It is assumed that insecurity will continue at the same rate until early July 2022 before experiencing a lull in late July, August, and September due to the swelling of rivers that will create a natural obstacle to the mobility of armed terrorist groups. Security incidents will resume in October, November, and December 2022 and January 2023, and terrorist acts could reach or exceed the levels recorded in July, August, and September due to the end of the rainy season and the ease with which armed groups will be able to move around following the drying up of some of the watering holes that constitute natural barriers.
    • Based on the results of the initial forecast analysis, a normal rainy season is likely to arrive, with average to above-average rainfall expected across the country between June and August 2022. This average to above-average rainfall, coupled with an end to the season that is expected to be late, will enable a normal growing season for crops.
    • However, with flooding expected to impact agricultural production, reduced acreage due to insecurity limiting access to crop fields, and likely reductions in yields because of reduced fertilizer use given the disruption of import channels, overall results for the growing season could be average to below average.
    • Cereal and cash crops, as well as pastures, will benefit from good water conditions for plant growth. This is conducive to at least average agricultural and pastoral production, except in Tillabéri, Diffa, and northern Tahoua, where difficulties in accessing crop fields due to insecurity will lead to a decrease in acreage and agricultural production.
    • Analysis of the COVID-19 situation shows that recorded cases have been trending downwards, falling from 10 to three daily cases in April 2022, and from two to zero daily cases in May 2022. This justifies the relaxation and/or lifting of some of the mitigation measures, such as required testing upon arrival and departure from Niger and self-isolation. Migrant workers in urban centers and host countries will find job opportunities but not at the same level as usual because opportunities in industrial units, tourism companies, and other commercial businesses are taking time to reach their usual level of operation.
    • The impact of the Ukrainian crisis will be felt in the availability of manufactured goods, whose prices will be at least twice as high as the average due to disruptions in the international market.
    • With favorable rainfall forecasts that will allow good groundwater replenishment in October through December 2022 and in January 2023, water availability will be better guaranteed for irrigated lettuce, tomato, watermelon, and rice crops. Average and declining market garden crop production is expected to result in average income opportunities for poor households, enabling them to maintain their access to food and diversify their diet.
    • With assistance needs that have expanded to a huge scale this year due to conflict and the shortage of cereal and fodder, institutional stocks and those of humanitarian partners working to help vulnerable populations will be exhausted. As there are populations in need of assistance every year, purchases will be made in October, November, and December 2022 and in January 2023 to replenish humanitarian stocks. The tonnages that will be purchased will be at least equal to the average, i.e., 80,000 to 100,000 tons.
    • Food trade will not function as usual due to a combination of several factors, including major disruption to regional and subregional trade in cereal products (millet, sorghum, maize) resulting from local conflicts (in Liptako Gourma and the Lake Chad Basin), combined with export restrictions and bans imposed on food products by some countries in the subregion. The dysfunction in the international market will continue to reduce the availability of manufactured and imported products (imported rice, wheat, wheat flour, vegetable oil, pasta) because of the war in Ukraine.
    • The supply of cereals in rural and urban markets will remain below average due to disruption resulting from conflict and road harassment, which will hamper cross-border transactions and trade. The supply of manufactured and imported products on the international market will remain below average and below the level seen last year because of the ongoing disruption in source countries and protectionist measures taken by links in the supply chain, such as Algeria. However, the supply of dry cereals may improve if the season takes a favorable turn, encouraging traders and other commercial stakeholders to increase market supplies. Supply will also benefit from new harvests in October, November, and December 2022 and in January 2023, to reach average levels.
    • Demand for food is expected to increase gradually as poor households and those in typically deficit areas increasingly turn to markets. Households' dependence on markets in the conflict-affected regions of Diffa, Tillabéri, and northern Tahoua will persist and will result in demand that is comparable to the average over the past three to five years. In the event of a drastic decrease in the availability of imported products on the international market, substitutions may occur, resulting in additional demand for local cereal products.
    • Price levels will continue their atypical upward trend. They will be above the five-year average due to the dysfunction that is becoming widespread in supply channels.
    • Livestock markets will continue to be busy and livestock prices will remain similar to last year due to high demand from pastoralist households and coastal countries for religious holidays.
    • Humanitarian actions are planned and have funding but will be implemented in a limited geographic area due to the Ukrainian crisis, which is drawing the attention of humanitarian organizations. More specifically, the volume and scope of interventions will be limited in the Tillabéri and Tahoua areas, where access to populations in need will continue to be a challenge because of terrorist attacks and the security measures taken by the government. However, they will be conducted in such a way as to cover the energy requirements of populations in need in the conflict-affected areas of Diffa and Maradi.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The normal onset and progress of the season and its estimated normal end are conducive to overall average agricultural and pastoral production in the country. These favorable agroclimatic conditions will provide agricultural employment opportunities, including sustained demand for agricultural labor to carry out sowing and maintenance work. This will benefit poor households, who will be able to earn incomes at least equal to the five-year average in June, July, August, and September 2022. Livestock herding and the sale of timber and straw will also be sources of income for poor households, with incomes likely to be at the average level throughout the scenario period. This will be supplemented by opportunities to sell wild products and handicrafts, boosting the incomes of poor households in July, August, and September 2022. This situation will not be favorable in areas affected by conflict and insecurity where, given the restrictions related to security measures and the difficulties of accessing markets and production areas, income opportunities will be very limited compared to the average. Prices of consumer products will peak in July, August, and September 2022 in all markets because of reduced supply and the heavy rainfall that will be recorded and will cause flooding, damaging crops and household property located near rivers and streams. The government and its partners will implement their humanitarian response plan through low-cost food operations and targeted free distribution of food that will help mitigate the effects of rising prices and improve access to food in July, August, and September 2022. This will benefit poor households throughout the country, including those who have been affected by flooding and internally displaced populations.

    Overall, food security outcomes will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in July, August, and September 2022. Household incomes will generally improve with the new harvests that will provide food and income from agricultural labor and the sale of cash crops, livestock, and livestock products from October 2022 through January 2023. Livestock will be in good physical condition with good milk production, giving pastoralist households sufficient access to feed and income. However, consumer prices will remain at above-average levels due to demand from institutions and traders to enable them to replenish stocks. The government and its partners will continue their humanitarian interventions from October 2022 through January 2023, benefiting poor and flood-affected households as well as internally displaced populations. Overall, food security outcomes will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in October, November, and December 2022 and in January 2023, although 10 to 15 percent of poor households in flooded areas will continue to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes and 5 to 10 percent will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    In Diffa, southwestern Maradi, Tillabéri, and northwestern Tahoua, insecurity associated with terrorist acts will leave poor resident and displaced households unable to carry out livelihood activities and will also disrupt markets. However, security conditions will be conducive to enabling access to Diffa and Maradi, where there are plans to distribute food for free, covering at least 50 percent of the energy requirements (in kcal) of the majority of people in need. This will keep the areas in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) conditions in June, July, August, and September, then from October 2022 to January 2023. Security tensions will persist in Tillabéri and northwestern Tahoua, hindering access to the populations, so it will only be possible to distribute free food as planned to poor displaced households in urban and peri-urban centers, who represent no more than 10 to 15 percent of the population in need. These areas will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) throughout the scenario period.

    Figures SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Figure 1

    SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Source: FEWS NET

    Number of security incidents from January 2015 to May 2022

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: ACLED

    Number of security incidents and casualties from January to May, 2017 to 2022

    Figure 3

    Figure 2

    Source: ACLED

    Number of internally displaced persons, updated in May 2022

    Figure 4

    Figure 3

    Source: Ministry of Humanitarian Action and Disaster Management

    Figure 5

    Figure 4

    Source: Directorate of Agricultural Statistics

    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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