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The ongoing harvests improve food security except in the conflict zones

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Niger
  • October 2020
The ongoing harvests improve food security except in the conflict zones

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • The food security conditions have improved overall with the generalization of harvests, the beginning of seasonal price declines, and increased income opportunities with the sale of crops, annuity products, and livestock. Most households are in acutely Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) as of October 2020.

    • Some agricultural and agropastoral areas are experiencing declines in cereal production and farm income due to flooding. The loss of market grain stocks and income from agriculture and the informal sector has reduced food access for most of the households in the rice producing areas of Niamey who find themselves in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) food insecurity between October and January 2021 thanks to support already planned by the government and partners. Good prospects for dry season irrigated crops will improve the situation from February 2021.

    • The livelihoods in most pastoral and agricultural areas will function normally between October 2020 and May 2021 thanks to good fodder production enabling good livestock production with favorable terms of trade for pastoral households. However, the purchasing power of livestock producers will decline in April to May 2021 due to below-average prices resulting from the effects of restrictions on mobility and the export sales of animals.

    • The conflicts in the Lake Chad Basin, Liptako Gourma, and Northwest Nigeria, and the civil insecurity continue to be the main threats to household food insecurity in the regions of Diffa, northern Tillabery, northern Tahoua, and southern Maradi, which are the most affected areas. The security incidents persist and will continue to persist with the end of the rainy season which could lead to increased displacement of people with loss of livelihoods, disruption of markets, and reduced access for humanitarian interventions. However, thanks to the humanitarian access provided in the regions of Diffa and Maradi, the food insecurity will be in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) while in Northern Tillabery and Tahoua, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will persist.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    The continued above-average rainfall through the end of September (Figure 1) allowed crops to complete their vegetative cycle normally throughout most of the country. The mid-term evaluation of the winter crop season by the Directorate of Agricultural Statistics estimated that 89 percent of the area sown will yield an average-to-above average agricultural production. The prospects are also good for the production of cash crops.

     However, the rainfall was particularly heavy and caused flooding in all regions of the country with huge losses of materials and rice, millet, and sorghum crops mainly in the regions of Maradi, Tillabery, Niamey, Tahoua, and Dosso. This is the case for flooding of the Niger River whose waters reached an exceptional flood level of 699 cm recorded at the Niamey station in September 2020 against a red alert level estimated at 620 cm. The population affected by this year's floods is estimated at 61,253 households or 516,216 people. The livelihood losses are estimated at 2,575 hectares of millet, sorghum, and cowpea, or 0.03 percent of area lost; 2,000 hectares and 15,000 tons of irrigated rice, or 17 percent production loss; 2,908 hectares of market gardening crops estimated at 24,588 tons.

    On the pastoral level, the good rainfall favored the normal development of herbaceous plants with fodder production estimated to be average to good in the pastoral areas of the country. This allowed the animals to regain favorable body conditions and to improve their market value. The movements of the animals are currently normal and the main water points have sufficient levels.

    The humanitarian situation in the region of Diffa continues to be dominated by the continued incursions and kidnappings by Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs). This continues to result in population displacements, the majority of which are secondary displacements to the interior of the region according to the Multisectoral Assessment Reports (MSAs). The categories of displaced persons in the region are IDPs with 102,726 persons, Nigerian refugees totaling 126,543 persons, and returnees from Nigeria of 34,324 persons.

    In the regions of Tillabery and Tahoua, the persistence of insecurity is manifested by an increase in security incidents. In September 2020, 169 incidents were recorded in the two regions (Figure 2) compared to 67 cases in September 2019. This insecurity is leading to an increase in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) estimated at 140,763 in September 2020. Furthermore, the presence of armed groups in Burkina Faso has caused the displacement of at least 3,514 refugees to Niger in the Tillabery region. These same regions also received refugees from Mali, estimated by the UNHCR Niger at 55,656 individuals, following the outbreak of conflict in 2012.

    Insecurity related to the activism of the NSAGs in northwestern Nigeria, particularly in the states of Zamfara and Sokoto, characterized by killings, looting, and kidnappings forced 70,000 people to seek refuge in southern Maradi in Niger. Also, the repeated NSAG incursions into Niger have resulted in 23,016 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region.

    The situation of the COVID-19 in Niger, as of October 15, 2020, shows a favorable evolution with a total of 1,207 confirmed positive cases, including 69 deaths out of 30,162 PCR tests performed. The social and sanitary measures as well as the closure of land borders are maintained but the closure of air borders was lifted with the obligation to test passengers on departure and arrival at the airport. Despite the easing and/or lifting of some restrictions, the long period of confinement of people and certain localities in the country, especially urban centers has had persistent effects on household livelihoods and the country's economic opportunities. Below average employment in the industrial and hotel sectors and increased debt by some households in urban centers continues to negatively affect poor households.

    As of September 20, 2020, 34,286 tons of cereals and 3,429 tons of cowpeas were distributed for the benefit of 1,200,000 people, under the Free Targeted Distributions planned by the government through the Food Crisis Unit. These Free Targeted Distribution operations were coupled with the "Blanket Feeding" operation in certain communes, including 264 tons of fortified flour distributed to 23,740 children in 21 communes in the regions of Zinder, Maradi, Tahoua, Dosso, Tillabéri, and Niamey. Given the difficulties in mobilizing stocks and the end of the lean season, the third phase of this distribution is planned only in specific areas, notably the regions of Niamey, Diffa, and pastoral areas,: 460 tons of millet for the internally displaced persons of Diffa and 2861.8 tons of cereals to support both the populations of vulnerable villages and people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the region of Niamey. Additionally, as of September 14, 2020, 67.20 tons of millet and 638.05 tons of imported rice have been distributed respectively to 22,523 households and 32,451 households out of 61,253 flood affected households.

    Market supply continues to gradually improve with the arrival of new harvests. The aggregate household demand for cereals has stabilized relative to the average. The cereal prices show an overall trend to stability compared to the past months, and price trends are following the seasonal norms in most markets. They are, however, higher in September 2020 than the level of the same month last year and the five year average for all cereals.  The increases are more than 30 percent for local cereals in the majority of markets compared to the same period last year and more than 20 percent compared to the average following the disruption of flows due to the closure of the Nigerian border and high transport costs for products imported from Benin and Burkina Faso. The local supply was also low due to the decline in production in 2019. 

    Food security outcomes: In general, the food security conditions are improving in the country with the ongoing harvests in October and the restoration of pastoral production at the end of September, and an intensification of market gardening crops expected from December allowing a diversification of food and income sources. Also, the sources of income from milk sales and agricultural labor are average across the country. In urban centers, however, this income does not provide poor households with sufficient purchasing power and access to basic foodstuffs because of debt incurred to adapt to the drop in income caused by the restrictive measures related to COVID-19. Additionally, due to the degradation of income and food sources related to the conflicts in the Lake Chad basin and in Liptako Gourma, households are unable to meet all their food needs in Tillabery and Tahoua, while humanitarian assistance covers food needs in the Diffa and Maradi regions. The flood-affected populations have access to food through assistance, but the majority lack access to non-food items.

    The nutritional situation is marked, as usual even during harvest time, by the high prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) between 10 and 15 percent. However, with the high incidence of malaria this year, the reopening of schools in this context COVID-19 and the poor functioning of health structures due to COVID-19, the situation is likely to be at least at crisis level.

    The prevalence of food insecurity is Minimal overall (IPC Phase 1), thanks to humanitarian assistance in flooded areas. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist in the insecure areas of Tillabery and Tahoua, while Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) affects the vulnerable households in the Diffa region and the southwestern part of the Maradi region.


    The most likely scenario from October 2020 to May 2021 is based on fundamental hypotheses related to the changes in the national context, which are:

    • Given the good rainfall recorded, the agricultural production will be average overall, including cereals and cash crops.
    • The overall above-average rainfall has caused crop losses along the riverbanks, but it will promote a satisfactory level of filling of the country's main rivers, resulting in acceptable water availability for the irrigated crops, which are scheduled to start in December to January. This bodes well for a good market gardening season, good harvest prospects for flood recession crops, and average income opportunities for the households that depend on these activities.  
    •  The favorable grazing conditions could continue until January to February 2021, but could deteriorate and cause an early pastoral lean season in March 2021 due to the high concentrations of herds that will be observed in good and secure production areas, which will accelerate the depletion of fodder stocks and impact the body condition and market value of livestock.
    • The seasonal patterns of conflict indicate a seasonal increase in attacks in Diffa and Tillabery from the end of the rainy season in late October because when the rains stop, the mobility of armed groups increases and they are able to move around and carry out the plans made during the rainy season. Thus, it can be anticipated that the insecurity in the Liptako Gourma region will continue on the observed trend of an increase of about 30 percent per year in events that are increasingly deadly and lead to increased displacement. In the Diffa region, the insecurity will persist at the same rate as that observed in recent years.
    • Economic activity will continue to operate at below average levels and will be unfavorable to the development of activities in the informal sector which employs the poor, particularly in the urban centers.
    • Trade flows will be below average as a result of the border closure and reduced production in Nigeria, and there will continue to be disrupted trade channels and high product transportation costs.  On the other hand, exports of livestock and cash crops to Nigeria from Niger markets will decline following the border closure and the low incentive value of the Naira. These will generate small price differentials that will not encourage importing and exporting traders to invest in these activities. This could result in a generalized decline in incomes to below average amounts and atypical declines in purchasing power for livestock and cash-crop producers.
    • Agricultural labor opportunities will begin in October for rainfed crops and will continue until April for flood recession and off-season crops as in a normal year. The demand for this labor force will decrease in October to December 2020 due to declines in the production of rice and other rainfed crops in flooded areas, but could increase to the average level in January to May 2021 due to an intensification of these cash crops. Income from agricultural labor will be below average in October to December and similar to the average level in January to May 2021 because the income usually earned for maintenance and harvesting of irrigated crops (rainfed and irrigated rice and vegetables) will decrease as a result of floods that have destroyed crops and cause a lack of demand for labor in October to December 2020. Also, purchasing power will be low because of the repayments they will have to make for the credits contracted in October to December 2020. 
    • Domestic and cross-border migration could also decrease due to COVID-19-related movement measures and the socio-political instabilities related to elections in the migrant-receiving countries. The economic recessions caused by the effects of COVID-19 are also unfavorable factors for employment opportunities for migrant labor in the urban centers where the seasonal migrants are usually employed in the informal sectors. 
    • The supply of dry cereals on the rural and urban markets is expected to increase seasonally in the coming months as harvests are carried out from October to January. It could still be lower than last year and the average due to the weak flows from Nigeria following the closure of the border and the estimated decline in production caused by decreases in area due to the flooding and insecurity in Northern Nigeria. The high cost of imports on the international market as a result of the restrictive measures related to COVID-19 could contribute to reducing the supply, which will also be reduced in the conflict and insecure areas of Diffa, Tillabery, and Tahoua.
    • The local demand for cereals for household consumption will be average to low during the period October 2020 to January 2021, but an atypical institutional demand is expected from October/November 2020 for rebuilding stocks to meet the intervention needs for the benefit of flood victims and displaced persons from conflict zones. A gradual and seasonal increase in demand in February to March due to direct institutional purchases and the use of markets by poor households and those in agricultural deficit areas.
    • Internal trade flows will be maintained normally thanks to the average harvests between October and December that will supply the remote markets and those in structurally deficit areas. From January to May, the cross-border flows from the regional market of countries such as Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, and Burkina Faso will help supply Niger's local markets. However, with the closure of the Nigerian border and the conflicts in the Lake Chad Basin and the Liptako Gourma region, the flows will remain disrupted, and the transaction times and costs will become longer and higher than average.
    • As harvests become more widespread, price levels are likely to begin to fall seasonally from October onwards in most markets. However, prices will remain at levels higher than the seasonal average due to supply and flows that will be disrupted as a result of production declines in some importing countries, conflicts, and the closure of the Nigerian border.
    • The livestock markets will remain buoyant and animal prices will remain average between October and December with the expected demand in coastal countries to support the Christmas and New Year celebrations in December. This could result in increased revenues and terms of trade favorable to the livestock producers. Starting in January, prices could decline from the five-year average due to the weak export demand to Nigeria, which remains the most important destination market.
    • The humanitarian interventions by the State and its partners will begin very early in October/November and will continue until at least the end of May for food and non-food responses to the disasters caused by the floods and the humanitarian situation created by the conflicts.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    The floods and stagnant waters related to the heavy rainfall of the last two months constitute nests for the proliferation of pathogenic germs and would further expose the children to a health crisis related to malaria, diarrhea, and cholera due to poor hygienic and sanitation conditions.It is then expected that the epidemiological situation will deteriorate, which could lead to an increase in global acute malnutrition rates.The prevalence of global acute malnutrition is likely to exceed the seasonal averages of the harvest and post-harvest periods. The deterioration of the nutritional situation could be even worse in the conflict-affected areas that cause massive displacements of people of all ages subject to food deficits and hygiene and sanitation problems. In these areas subject to insecurity and affected by natural disasters, the prevalence of acute malnutrition could significantly exceed the national seasonal averages for the period October to December and January to May, especially with the unfavorable security conditions that will impact the prevention and care activities.

    From October 2020 to January 2021, the food situation of households in agricultural and agropastoral areas will be dominated in the majority of livelihood zones by Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity due to food availability and household income from new cereal and cash crop harvests. However, in the flooded areas of agricultural and agropastoral livelihood zones, the agricultural production and purchasing power will be reduced because of the expenditure on shelter construction and repayment of debts incurred during the COVID 19 containment period. However, the populations will benefit from food assistance, the financing of which is planned and acquired and which will make it possible to cover the consumption needs in most of the flooded areas, which will remain in Minimal (ICP Phase 1). In February to May 2021, the food and income opportunities will be created through irrigated farming and migration that will ensure food access conditions for farm and agropastoral households that will be able to meet other non-food expenditures and their food situation may evolve to a Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) during this period.

    In the pastoral zone, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity will be observed from October 2020 to January 2021 due to improvements and strengthening of the local pastoral conditions. In February to May 2021, difficulties of access to pasture will arise due to the seasonal degradation of pastoral conditions and difficulties of mobility to Nigeria, and the insecure areas and poor households will have reduced purchasing power as a result of high food prices and lower livestock prices due to the deterioration of livestock body conditions. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity will prevail.

    The displaced households in the regions of Diffa, Tillabery, Tahoua, and Maradi will be cut off from their typical sources of food and income and will be dependent on humanitarian assistance that is planned and will be distributed to vulnerable households in the regions of Diffa and Maradi where Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes will persist.   In the northern parts of the Tillabery and Tahoua regions affected by insecurity, the access to areas is limited even for humanitarian actors, and the displaced persons in need will have reduced access to food and will be affected Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity.

    Events that could change the scenario

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



    Impact on the food security conditions







    Highest security tension

    • Significant reduction in the flow of consumer, cash crop, and livestock products,
    • Reduction of the migration and transfers
    • Reduction of the humanitarian space
    • They will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Recurrence of COVID cases and the renewal of restrictions against COVID-19.

    Significant drop in income in both rural and urban areas leading to a food insecurity among households dependent on informal activities.

    Violent actions following the results of the general elections

    Implementation and application of security measures restricting the movement of people and goods

    Significant price increases for all products

    Reopening of the border with Nigeria

    Resumption of product flows

    Variations in migration and transfer

    Departure on transhumance and access to areas provided with pasture guaranteeing improved pastoral conditions.

    Decrease in migrant remittances due to the insecurity in the host countries.

    Elections may be contested in Côte d'Ivoire, which is a host country for seasonal migrants from Niger who, as a result, will not be able to migrate to the country or may migrate in small numbers and earn low and insufficient incomes to make remittances.

    Locust invasion

    • Reduction of the agricultural production in the dry season
    • Reduction of green fodder along water flows and lowland areas
    • Decline in the demand and income of farm labor
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 3

    Source: UNHCR

    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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