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Food insecurity persists in the north during the peak of the lean season

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Nigeria
  • August 2012
Food insecurity persists in the north during the peak of the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through December 2012
  • Key Messages
    • The 2012 cropping season is progressing favorably across the country. The recent Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) forecast indicates widespread and intensive rainfall across the country from August to October.

    • Strong rainfall increases the likelihood of normal flooding mainly along major rivers in the north and in the coastal areas in the south. In some areas, flooding has already resulted in recent population displacement in Plateau, Nasarawa and Lagos states.

    • Civil insecurity has escalated in mid-August relative to July in Borno and Yobe states—the epicenter of the Boko Haram crisis—and in Kogi state, leading to increased levels of population displacement in localized urban areas in August. 

    • The lean season is underway in the north and has ended in the south. IPC Phase 2: Stress levels of food insecurity persist in the northeast and northwest due to abnormally high cereal prices, production shortfalls in 2011, and limited food flows caused by the escalating conflict in Borno and Yobe states. Food security outcomes are expected to return to minimal levels from October to December, following the main harvest. 

    Updated food security outlook through December 2012

    The recent forecast by NIMET indicates the probability of intense rainfall between August to October and an increased probability of flooding, particularly in the north and the coastal areas.

    The lean season peaks in the north in mid-August and ends in September according to normal seasonal patterns. Food insecurity persists in the northeast and northwest due to relatively high food prices, compounded by high trader volumes serving high cereal demand in the Sahel.

    In the South

    The major staples grown in the south—cassava, maize, and yam— are progressing at typical rates of maturation.

    According to FEWS NET enumerators, the price of gari, the major staple food consumed by the poor, has stabilized since July at NGN 95/kg on Bodija market, in Oyo state. Although the price has stabilized, it is higher than last year’s August price and the 5-year average by about 37 and 33 percent, respectively. On Mile 12 market, in Lagos state, the price of yam declined in mid-August by 40 percent relative to the previous month. The price of gari and yam will decline further, increasing food access for poor households, as the early green harvest of yam, maize and cassava peaks, and the main harvest begins in September.

    During August and September, poor households are accessing food through typical coping strategies, such as food substitution with readily available and affordable cocoyam and wild food and through remittances. When the main harvest starts in late September to early October, food will be widely available, and most households will be food secure through December.

    Northeast and Northwest

    In the northwest and northeast, the performance of the cropping season is continuing favorably overall. Millet, the major crop in the northwest and northeast, is at the heading stage in most areas in the northeast. Meanwhile in the northwest, millet is at maturity stage and harvesting has begun. The normal onset of the season, coupled with farmers’ adoption of a short-cycle millet variety, has led to early crop maturity which is increasing household food access at the peak of the lean season. Millet harvests will intensify in September, increasing household food access in the northwest and northeast. A good harvest is probable if the favorable progress of the rainy season persists beyond September, which is likely according to NIMET forecasts that are predicting intense rain between August and October.

    Persistent food insecurity will be tempered by the early millet and cowpea harvest underway in mid-August, increasing food access for poor households. Furthermore, food insecurity may be partly tempered by the ongoing early green harvest of maize, yam, and potatoes (cheaper food substitutes) in the north central zone, earnings from the sale of small ruminants, and food gifts during the Ramadan period. Zamfara state government in the northwest has established free feeding centers for poor fasting Muslims throughout the 30‐days period, targeting about 1.2 million poor households. Similar feeding centers have been established in most states in the northwest and the northeast, partially mitigating the lean season food shortages.

    Staple food prices are at stable but high levels, higher than both last year’s levels and the 5-year averages. On Gusau market, in Zamfara state, the prices of major cereals (maize, sorghum and millet) are higher in mid-August by about 11 to 27 percent relative to the same time last year. On Gusau market, the price of millet, the major staple food in the area, has declined by about 9 percent in mid-August relative to mid-July. This decline is partly due to the harvest of short-cycle millet, Ramadan food gifts and the early green harvest of maize, yam and potatoes, in the north central areas. Similar conditions are obtainable on other markets in the northwest and northeast areas, except in areas prone to violence. Poor households are currently dependent on atypical coping mechanisms, such as intense casual labor and increased sale of small ruminants, to meet basic food needs and are Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Civil insecurity attributable to Boko Haram continues in Yobe and Borno states causing longer market disruptions that have lead to reduced market stocks, increased food prices, and limited food access for poor households. More people in urban areas have also been displaced relative to July, particularly in Yobe state. If the conflict persists beyond August, affected households will not be able to cultivate their farms and will resort to the market to access food earlier than normal. To address the conflict, the government has intensified security measures leading to normal market functioning and increased food flow and food access.

    Food security will begin to improve amongst the agro-pastoral households of the northwest and northeast in September thanks to favorable food security determinants, such as the stable food prices, a favorable rainy season leading to increased pastoral resources and labor opportunities, and the early harvest of millet and cowpea. Farm‐gate prices of millet, maize and cowpea may decline in early September as harvests peak, impacting staple food prices by mid‐September and increasing food access for poor households.

    In the most northern parts of Borno, Yobe and Jigawa states, agro-pastoral households within the following six livelihood zones are at risk of  food insecurity: NG11 ‐ Hadejia Valley mixed economy, NG12 ‐ NE fishing dominant, NG13 ‐ NE rice and chili peppers, NG14 ‐ NE fishing, maize, and cowpeas, NG15 ‐ NE wheat and chili peppers, and NG17 ‐ NE Yobe lowland rice. Similarly in the northwest-Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina states- there are households vulnerable to food insecurity mainly within four livelihood zones: NG01 ‐ NW fishing and rice; NG02 ‐ Rimasokoto irrigated rice, millet and vegetables; NG03 ‐ NW millet, cowpeas, and groundnuts, and NG04 ‐ NW millet and sesame.  These households are only minimally able to meet their basic food needs in August due to the combined impacts of high staple food prices, food flow restrictions due to conflict and 2011 food production shortages in the area. Poor households in these zones are currently classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2). This level of food insecurity will persist through September and then return to minimal food insecurity in October when the main harvest begins.

    North central

    In the north central zone, heavy rains were recorded as the season evolves favorably. Maize is at tasseling to silking stages, while sorghum is at tillering stage, which is normal for this time in the season. Early green maize, yam and potato harvests peak in mid-August, increasing food supply and access. However in early August, flooding displaced over 200 households in Gombe state. Similarly, flooding has affected several villages in Nasarawa state, resulting in fatalities, population displacement, destroyed homes, and damage to infrastructure, such as roads, culverts and bridges. In Plateau state, floods devastated over 100 communities in mid-August, resulting in the displacement of over 1,500 persons and damage to over 200 hectares of cropped land. Infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, were also destroyed. The affected households are in shelters and are dependent on short term assistance from government and NGOs. Poor households will resort to the sale of charcoal, indebtedness and intense labor work to access food through December.

    As the lean season peaks in August for the north central zone, household food stocks deplete normally. However, this condition has been partially mitigated by the early green harvest of yam, maize and potatoes, relatively low food prices compared to the northeast and northwest, and available labor opportunities as the season evolves favorably. In August and September, poor households in the area resort to normal labor work, remittances and the sale of charcoal to meet their basic food and non food needs, maintaining these households in the None or Minimal food security category (IPC Phase 1). If the favorable conditions continue until the main harvest in October, the lean season will be normal in the north central zone.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Source: FEWS NET

    Anomaly total RFE/average (2007 – 2011)

    Figure 2

    Anomaly total RFE/average (2007 – 2011)


    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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