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Food Security Outlook for Oct 2011-March 2012

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Niger
  • October 2011 - March 2012
Food Security Outlook for Oct 2011-March 2012

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  • Key Messages
  • Most-likely food security scenario for October 2011 through March 2012
  • Outlook for March through September 2012
  • Key Messages
    • In general, the 2011/12 growing season is expected to produce average grain harvests (millet and sorghum) and good harvests of cash crops (cowpeas, groundnuts, sesame, and chufa nuts). 

    • However, most parts of the Tillabery region are expecting extremely poor millet and sorghum harvests, and poor households will be facing food gaps. 

    • There have been reports pests causing fair amounts of localized damage to crops in the Maradi region. 

    • The combination of carry-over inventories from the last growing season and of fresh crops from this season will continue to ensure normal household food availability and normal-to-good levels of income from sales of cash crops. In general, there will be average food access.

    • At least 80 percent of the population of all livelihood zones is currently in IPC Phase 1 (no or minimal acute food insecurity). On the whole, there will be average rates of food insecurity for the 2011/12 consumption year. 

    Most-likely food security scenario for October 2011 through March 2012

    Nationwide situation in early October

    As of the end of the winter growing season, harvest forecasts for millet and sorghum crops are generally average and forecasts for harvests of cowpeas, groundnuts, and sesame are good, except in the Tillabery region where the combined effects of the late start of the rains and subsequent poor rainfall conditions are preventing crops from maturing normally.

    Conditions in pastoral areas have been marred by a string of droughts, especially in the west and in the Tadress area. In fact, conditions in pastoral areas of Tahoua, Tillabery, and Tadress are critical in terms of biomass production and water availability. However, there are lush pasturelands in Dakoro, Mainé Soroa, and northeastern Abalak. Animals are still being watered at available watering holes, though low water levels suggest that they will be drying up earlier than usual. Thus, in general, pasture production is expected to be mediocre to average, with an estimated deficit of approximately 10 million metric tons of dry matter, which is better than the production figure for 2009, leaving an estimated fodder deficit of over 16 million metric tons of dry matter.

    An examination of streamflow conditions shows the levels of most hydrologic systems (rivers and seasonal lakes and ponds) beginning to fall. Local water levels along the Niger River, which had been steadily rising up until the second dekad of September, leveled off in the third dekad of the month with the lack of rainfall in watershed areas. However, the daily flow of the Niger River at Niamey is above the mean rate of 1250 cubic meters per second. Thus, in the absence of water stress or flood damage to crops, there should be an average winter rice harvest. However, according to current estimates, there is insufficient water availability to ensure a normal irrigated rice harvest during the dry season.

    Markets are well-stocked with grain thanks, in part, to carry-over inventories from the 2010 growing season. There are already supplies of fresh grain and cash crops from recent harvests on markets around the country, and farm-gate prices are in line with normal seasonal trends. Prices for livestock are higher than they were last year due to a sustained demand engendered by last year’s good grain harvests, which allowed pastoralists to sell fewer animals than usual to earn the same or more cash and in-kind income.

    There are more and more fresh crops in the household diet. Normal food intake among poor households is currently being ensured by:  on-farm production and purchases of grain with income from cash wages for local employment, sales of cash crops (cowpea), and in-kind payments.

    Trends in global acute malnutrition rates are still in the normal range for this time of year, which is generally above 10 percent in areas outside of Niamey.

    Basic assumptions for October 2011 through March 2012

    The scenarios outlined below are based on the following underlying assumptions with respect to trends in the nationwide situation:

    • Current forecasts based on monitoring indicators are calling for an average harvest of approximately 3.8 million metric tons of grain (in line with the five-year average of between 3.7 million and 4.0 million metric tons since 2004/05) and a good harvest of approximately one to two million metric tons of cash crops.
    • The Maradi area is expecting average to good harvests of grain and off-season crops, topping the 2010/11 record harvest in certain parts of the area. Localized losses from pests should not affect the average-to-good harvest outlook for this area, since they have not caused any significantly above-average damage to crops, except in Aguié, where losses are estimated at 15 percent, which is slightly above average.
    • Grasshopper infestations in late September with the end of the rainy season were larger than usual. However, the only losses suffered were limited to grain crops still in the maturation phase. There was no major damage from grasshoppers to crops in any part of the country other than Tillabery.
    • Demand pressure from direct government procurements of 63,000 metric tons of cereals and purchasing by traders and cooperatives looking to rebuild their inventories will drive up prices in November, December, and January, in line with normal seasonal trends. Prices should then stabilize at above-average levels in February, March, April, May, and June, followed by seasonal rises in prices by 10 to 15 percent in July, August, and September.
    • The rapid growth in demand for small animals for the Feast of Tabaski and the year-end holiday season, spiking in October-November, will put prices 25 to 35 percent above average.
    • Acute malnutrition rates for Niger will approach emergency thresholds, hovering at around 10 to 15 percent between October and March. Acute malnutrition rates in Tillabery will be slightly above the national average and the five-year average and could possibly top 15 percent, which is unusual.
    • There will be a normal local demand for labor between October and December for the harvest and between June and September for the farming season.
    • As usual, cash- and food-for-work programs will help create employment opportunities between January and May of next year. There will be a normal availability and supply of wage labor.
    • Off season cultivation, which typically runs through April/May, will end by February/March due to limited water availability.
    • There will be a normal demand for straw and wood in urban areas.
    • The late-season rains in October should not have any major impact.
    • Fodder deficits will be offset by seasonal migration and should not significantly weaken the physical condition of livestock.
    • A normal flow of domestic and foreign trade will keep markets well-stocked. Heavy pressure on market prices will cause them to rise.

    Average harvests in the country’s main crop-producing areas (Maradi, Dosso, and Zinder) should ensure a normal flow of domestic trade and adequate market supplies, though demand pressure from government procurements (of 63,000 MT of grain) for the replenishment of national food security reserves and stock-building (by traders, pastoralist households, food-short households, etc.) in December and January will keep prices high. Production forecasts in grain-importing countries (Nigeria, Benin, etc.) point to a normal flow of cross-border trade to shore up domestic trade flows.

    However, there will be localized food crises, mainly in agropastoral areas, where about 3.4 million people – close to the five-year average – will have difficulty meeting their food needs due to shortfalls in crop production and insufficient coping strategies. Most of this population is concentrated in Filingué, Tillabery, and Téra departments in the Tillabery region. By February/March, the food security situation will be marked by a depletion of on-farm inventories, high food prices on local markets, and a shortage of gainful employment for migrant workers from very poor and poor households, who will find themselves competing with the labor pool from other poor households (from Ouallam) that have comparative advantage in this livelihood strategy.

    Thus, in the most-likely scenario, food reserves from on-farm production will meet food needs between October and January (Figure 2). In general, households will be in Phase 1 of the IPC Acute Food Insecurity Phase Scale (no or minimal food insecurity), with livelihood protection deficits arising  in Filingué, Tillabery, and Téra departments beginning as of January due to shortfalls in crop production and insufficient coping strategies. With the limited pasture production in livestock-raising areas of Tahoua and based on past experience during the pastoral crisis of 2010, local households could resort to the use of strategic herd thinning strategies to minimize the foreseeable effects of the pasture deficits in these areas (Figure 3).

    Outlook for agropastoral areas of Filingué, Tillabery, and Téra departments

    Right now, the main sources of food for household consumption until the next round of harvests are carry-over grain inventories from last season (which was excellent), the gathering of wild plant foods, and purchasing. Food availability is being bolstered by sales of grain from government reserves and the grain inventories of cooperatives in all parts of the country.

    Very poor and poor households have normal-to-good sources of income (such as farm labor).  Daily wage rates in these areas are up from 1000 XOF to 1500 XOF, or 50 percent above average. Terms of trade for livestock/grain are in favor of households selling livestock. The sale of a male goat brought in the equivalent of 180 kg of millet in September of this year, compared to 151 kg on average and 163 kg in September of last year.

    Markets are well-stocked and prices are close to the seasonal average. There is a good balance between supply (from traders) and what is currently an average demand, thanks to the good performance of the previous winter’s growing season and the food aid programs for very poor and poor households in July and August.

    Though the western agropastoral zone lies on the 300-400 mm isohyet, this year, cumulative seasonal rainfall totals ranged from only 160 to 300 mm, with a poor spatial-temporal distribution of rainfall. Thus, water conditions for rainfed crops (millet, sorghum, and cowpeas) failed to meet crop water requirements during critical stages of plant growth and development. These rainfall conditions have also put the levels of animal watering holes well below average and created large water deficits for fodder plants.

    Agropastoral areas will be facing the largest crop production deficits. These areas occupy 30 to 40 percent of the total surface area of the Tillabery region, with farming areas occupying another 15 to 20 percent, pastoral areas covering 5 to 15 percent, and waterside areas along the Niger River occupying the remaining 15 to 20 percent.

    The main expected shocks between October and March are as follows:

    • This year’s rainfall anomalies should not significantly affect farming and riverside areas of the Tillabery region.
    • Grasshopper infestations in Tillabery, coinciding with the maturation stage of millet crops, will reduce crop production in agropastoral areas by an additional estimated 15 percent.
    • Harvest forecasts put millet and sorghum production 60 percent below average and cowpea production 50 percent below average, at levels comparable to figures for 2009.
    • Coarse grain and cowpea prices will be higher than they were this past year, but are unlikely to exceed nominal price levels for 2008/09 or 2009/10.
    • The low levels of water points will sharply limit the duration of water availability in January and cause them to dry up earlier than usual, or by February, putting an end to dry season farming activities in February/March instead of March/April, as is normally the case. As a result, off-season crop production will be 25 to 50 percent below-average. Average income levels from sales of fruits and vegetables should still be normal, with low supplies boosting their market value, but this income will be earned at the expense of the contribution of these off-season crops to the diets of very poor and poor households in terms of caloric intake.
    • This area will also be facing a fodder production deficit in grazing enclaves as a result of the inadequate levels of rainfall in farming areas for the satisfaction of plant water requirements. Prices for hay will be 30 to 50 percent above average by February, as was the case in 2009.

    The magnitude of crop production shortfalls will cause poor households to use up their grain reserves by December/January (approximately two months earlier than usual). Very poor and poor households will resort to purchasing grain supplies on local markets earlier than usual (by December instead of February, as is normally the case), thereby extending their reliance on market-purchase as a source of food by two to three months. This will drive grain prices up earlier than usual by 10 to 15 percent between January and April, compared with the average five to 10 percent rise in prices at that time of year. However, with the expected high price of cowpea crops, any losses of income from sales of these crops beginning in December should be minor.

    Very poor and poor households will resort to coping strategies such as the selling of wood and straw, but their weak integration in firewood collection and sales networks in urban areas and employment centers for migrant workers will sharply curtail the effectiveness of these strategies in closing their food gaps. There will be a limited availability of crop residues and straw for sale, which normally account for 15 to 20 percent of the income of very poor and poor households. This will increase the daily cost of maintaining livestock from an average of 750 XOF to between 950 and 1200 XOF as of March and reduce demand for animals for terminal fattening by very poor and poor households unable to profit from the steep rise in livestock prices.

    Harvests of millet and sorghum crops will cover household consumption needs between October and December/January (instead of until March/April, as is generally the case in an average year). There will be normal food access through December, without the need to resort to negative coping strategies. Thus, acute malnutrition rates should not be much above average [nationally]. Very poor and poor households should be in IPC Phase 1 (no or minimal acute food insecurity) between October and December.

    There will be isolated purchases of food supplies with income from sales of cowpeas and straw and gainful local employment between October and December/January, with households becoming virtually entirely dependent on purchasing by January/February, instead of March, as is normally the case. Prices are expected to be well above-average, forcing very poor and poor households to severely cut back their grain purchasing between January and March. There could be a sharp deterioration in food intake between January/February and April/May. Stocks of cowpeas and straw and the coverage of cash and food-for-work programs will not suffice to provide all very poor and poor households with enough income to allow them to buy grain.

    Though markets will be well-stocked, prices will stay high, peaking in July and August. There will be above-average numbers of migrant workers, but demand for migrant labor should stay high enough to absorb supply. The expected large volume of labor migration will leave some households with no able-bodied household members to benefit from the cash and in-kind wage payments offered by cash and food-for-work programs.

    The “Crisis” levels of food insecurity expected by June/July will continue into August in the absence of a sufficient volume of aid for the above-average numbers of at-risk households in this area.  Wage rates will be within normal ranges; this is the main source of income at this time of year for the area’s larger-than-usual food-insecure population.

    Child malnutrition rates will be just below the emergency threshold between January and May, and at the emergency threshold between June and September.

    Very poor and poor households in Ouallam department experiencing these same crop and animal production shocks will not face acute food insecurity during the outlook period. Local livelihoods in Ouallam are relatively more dependent on local markets and less dependent on crop production. Moreover, these shocks will not significantly affect their sources of household income (sales of wood and straw, domestic employment, and cash remittances), which should continue to provide them with a normal income. Thus, very poor and poor households in Ouallam are not expected to face any food gaps or livelihood protection deficits between October and March and will not require outside assistance. 

    Outlook for March through September 2012

    The outlook for March through September 2012 is based on the following underlying assumptions:

    • The expected average rainfall conditions in 2012/13 could mean a high prevalence of seasonal diseases, particularly malaria and, to a smaller extent, cholera, in July, August, and September. However, programs for the prevention and treatment of malnutrition could keep nutritional conditions in line with normal seasonal trends.
    • There will be government-subsidized marketing programs and targeted distributions of free food aid between May/June and August 2012.
    • Grain prices will be 10 to 15 percent above average in April/May and 15 to 20 percent above average between June and September.
    • By March, livestock maintenance costs will increase from an average of 750 XOF/day to 950 to 1200 XOF/day. This will reduce demand for animals for terminal fattening by very poor and poor households unable to profit from the steep rise in livestock prices.
    • Food aid programs in July, August, and September will strengthen food access, but will not meet the needs of all very poor and poor households. Thus, this food aid will significantly lower neither the average-to-high levels of grain demand between January and April, nor the even higher levels between June and September following the return of migrant workers.

    Food demand for household consumption will begin to rise in April with the return of migrant workers and grain needs for the farming season between May and September. Local markets will continue to be the main source of food for a population consisting mainly of very poor and poor households. There will be market disruptions and frequent shortages of market supplies in isolated and food-short areas in July, August, and September. June, July, August, and September prices will be above average and higher than 2011 prices. The main source of income for grain purchases during this period will be on-farm employment. Normal price levels will allow for a certain amount of grain purchasing, with this limited volume of purchasing supplemented by food aid from assistance programs mounted in July, August, and September. The intensification of activities such as on-farm employment and food aid programs will help make up for the deterioration in food intake in April, May, and June with the depletion of household food reserves. In general, income from on-farm employment and benefits from food aid programs (targeted distributions of free food aid) should suffice to generate needed food resources.

    On the whole, food insecurity levels will remain at IPC Phase 2 (stressed) for the entire period. However, in spite of the aforesaid assistance, the greater-than-usual market dependence of residents of Téra, Tillabery, and especially Filingué,  will put very poor and poor households at risk of experiencing crisis levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) between April and August/September.

    Table 3. Less likely events that could change the above scenarios in the next six months



    Effects on food security conditions


    Unusually heavy pressure from traders and government agencies looking to build record large inventories and reserves

    Limited flow of trade from surplus to deficit areas, particularly between June and August, and steeper-than-expected rises in prices.

    Sharp rise in the value of the Nigerian naira

    Growth in Nigerian demand for grain from Niger, above-average domestic market prices.

    Agropastoral areas of Filingué, Tillabery, and Téra

    Larger than expected volume of food aid

    Good program coverage, larger-than-expected improvement in income and food supplies.

    Steady rainfall into October favorable to crops; large-scale flooding

    Average harvests, with a normalization of prices and improvement in food access compared with the most-likely scenario.

    Longer-than-expected availability of water resources compared with the most-likely scenario; longer-than-expected growing season for off-season crops, with better food availability and diversity and higher income levels for farming households than projected in the most likely scenario.

    Large availability of fodder and straw for sale. Lucrative prices for livestock, better-than-expected terms of trade for livestock/grain, and average demand for animals for terminal fattening activities.

    Figures Seasonal calendar and timeline of critical events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar and timeline of critical events

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Current estimated food security outcomes, October 2011

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. Current estimated food security outcomes, October 2011

    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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