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Elevated levels of food insecurity persist in the northeast despite the end of harvests

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Nigeria
  • December 2015
Elevated levels of food insecurity persist in the northeast despite the end of harvests

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through March 2016
  • Key Messages
    • Households in conflict-affected Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states will continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity through at least March 2016 due to the effects of reduced market functioning, limited seasonal incomes, and little to no harvests this year.

    • In parts of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states that have been less affected by conflict, households were able to participate in the recent growing season, although at below-average levels. These agricultural activities provided low levels of food stocks and seasonal incomes, which have helped improve food availability and access. However, these households are still unable to meet their essential non-food needs without atypical coping and will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity through March 2016.

    • Preparations for off-season cropping (vegetables, sugar cane, rice, and wheat) on major floodplains are underway in most areas. During this year’s off-season, farmers are expected to increase production as the government is providing substantial assistance (ex. credit and inputs) and water levels in local ponds and rivers are above average. Harvests of these crops, beginning in April, will likely be above average in most areas, increasing income and food diversity.

    Current Situation

    The National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services’ (NAERLS) annual production survey for the main season harvest revealed that total 2015/16 cereal (rice, maize, millet and sorghum) production is estimated to be slightly above last year’s levels and 13 percent above the five-year average. These production increases were driven primarily by a 15 percent increase in rice production compared to last year’s levels, which offset declines in production of maize (-3 percent), millet (-3 percent) and sorghum (-6 percent). The survey also found that farmers are shifting towards high value crops, such as sesame, ginger and soybeans, whose production increased by 21, 5 and 13 percent, respectively, over the same time period.

    Dry season fishing and farming activities (mainly wheat, rice, onions, peppers, tomatoes and sugarcane) are underway in most areas with the government providing substantial input and credit support for rice and wheat production. Most water points in flood-affected areas are filled to capacity, increasing opportunities for dry season farming and fishing, as well as providing good water availability for livestock. Across the country, households who were affected by floods during the last rainy season and who have yet to fully recover will likely engage in above-average levels of labor work during the dry season to access to income and food to cover basic needs.

    The recent end of main season harvests has improved household and market-level food stocks while reducing consumer demand. As a result, staple food prices on most markets in both surplus and deficit production areas are declining compared to pre-harvest periods. For example, the price of millet in November declined by about 17, 18 and 33 percent on Biu, Aba and Saminaka markets, respectively, compared to last month’s levels. Likewise, the price of local rice has declined by about 14, 6, 23 and 24 percent on Saminaka, Biu, Gombe and Mubi markets, respectively, during the same period. These falling prices are helping to increase food access for poor market-dependent households at this time.

    Conflict-affected northeast Nigeria

    Boko-Haram-related conflict in the northeast is slightly declining compared to recent months, with attacks mainly restricted to localized rural areas. Reports from FEWS NET’s field informants indicate that, in December, the insurgents attacked villages in Chibok, Damboa and Biu local governments in Borno state, Gulani local government in Yobe state and Madagali local government in Adamawa state. During these attacks, insurgents destroyed houses and carted away livestock and foodstuffs, and many additional people were displaced. The affected communities have been relocated to relatively safer areas in Mubi, Maiduguri and Damaturu, and are dependent on support from host communities, NGOs, and the government.

    Currently, there are over 1.6 million IDPs in Maiduguri, Borno state and the population continues to increase due to IDP returnees from Cameroon, Niger and Chad. For example, there are over 5,000 returnees from Cameroon currently living in transit camps in Yola, Adamawa state waiting to be transited to IDP camps in Maiduguri. Additionally, the ongoing military operations have led to liberation of more communities that were previously inaccessible, which in turn have allowed affected populations to be evacuated. For example, in Dikwa and Bama local governments in Borno state, over 18,000 and 4,000 people, respectively, have been moved to camps since the start of military actions in August. Meanwhile, in relatively safer areas, particularly in Adamawa state, IDPs are beginning to return to their home communities. However, these households will continue to depend on government and humanitarian support as they have yet to rebuild their livelihoods.

    Due to their displacement, IDP households are unable to fully participate in their normal livelihood activities (ex. farming, petty trading and casual labor work) to earn income and access food. As a result, they are mainly reliant on limited support from the government, humanitarian actors, and family members for food and non-food items. However, this support has been insufficient to cover basic needs and these populations are currently experiencing food consumption gaps. Also notable, the government’s programs through NEMA and SEMA to help support the recovery of conflict-affected households in the northeast are focused primarily on Borno and Adamawa states and in comparison, victims in Yobe state have received relatively limited support.

    The preliminary report of the National Health and Nutrition Survey, conducted between July and September 2015 before the main harvests, revealed that the global acute malnutrition (GAM) prevalence (WHZ <-2 and/or oedema) for children 6 – 59 months of age using a systematic random sampling method was elevated in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno[1] states at 7.1 (95% CI: 5.0 to 10.1), 10.9 (95% CI: 8.6 to 13.7) and 11.5 (95% CI: 8.8 to 14.9) percent, respectively. Though these results do not suggest a significant change compared to GAM prevalences during previous years, the GAM levels in Yobe and Borno states remain above the WHO GAM warning threshold (10 to 15 percent).


    [1] Due to security issues that limited access to 20 LGAs, the SMART survey data is not representative in Borno State

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation is in line with the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for October 2015 to March 2016. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the October 2015 to March 2016 Food Security Outlook.

    Projected Outlook through March 2016

    Despite the main harvest, most households in conflict-affected areas of the northeast continue to face difficulties accessing food. This is mainly due to several consecutive below-average harvests during recent years, limited income opportunities, relatively high food prices, and restricted humanitarian support. The main harvest only led to a slight increase in staple food availability, and household food stocks will be exhausted three to four months earlier than usual in affected areas. The worst off households in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states will resort to an atypical depletion of assets in an attempt to meet food needs but will still experiencing food consumption gaps in line with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity through March 2016. Households less affected by the conflict in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states have higher levels of crop production and income opportunities. However, their below-average harvest will still only minimally meet food consumption needs and households will still resort to atypical coping strategies to meet non-food expenditures. Consequently, these households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity through March 2016.

    In areas not affected by conflict, households have engaged in normal crop production and income generating activities. Market food flows will be normal and off-season activities will begin in December as the water levels recedes, improving income, food availability and the diversity of diets for affected households. These areas, therefore, will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through at least March 2016.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Northeast Nigeria market and trade route activity – week of December 14, 2015

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. Northeast Nigeria market and trade route activity – week of December 14, 2015

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3


    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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