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Conflict-related food insecurity continues in the northeast

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Nigeria
  • April - September 2014
Conflict-related food insecurity continues in the northeast

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Escalating Boko Haram conflict continues to displace significant populations, disrupt livelihoods, and reduce incomes in the northeast. Additionally, household stocks have depleted earlier than normal due to below-average harvests. Consequently, households in Borno and Yobe states, epicenter of the conflict, will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through September as they begin to experience food consumption gaps, while households in Adamawa State face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.
    • Households in Niger State, most severely impacted by dry spells during this last rainfed cropping season, are affected by a second year of below-average production. Most poor households have also become market dependant two to three months earlier than normal and are having difficulties accessing food due below-average household stocks and high market prices. As such, Niger State faces Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity through September.
    • Most households across the country not affected by conflict or dry spells have normal household harvest stocks and will depend on their own production through about May. With the ongoing seasonal increase in agriculture labor opportunities, households will access food through market purchase normally through the rest of the consumption year, ending in September. Thus households across most of the country face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through September.

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Households across the country are currently engaged in various agricultural activities for the upcoming main agricultural season. Most households in the north are engaged in land preparation activities in preparation for the rains beginning in May/June, while in the south, planting of yams, maize and cassava has been underway normally since March.

    Dry season activities, such as irrigated rice, sorghum, vegetable and cowpea cropping in lowland areas, as well as fishing activities, are also continuing across the country. Production from these off-season activities is generally above-average due to increases in land under cultivation and high water levels in local ponds and rivers. The federal government has also provided additional assistance, particularly for rice cultivation, increasing potential for above-average harvests. The dry season harvests begin around April in many areas and will span, as in a typical year, through May.

    Livestock body conditions are normal for this time of the year throughout most of the country due to favorable pastoral resources across the country. There is, however, limited access in central states to substantial pastoral resources due to farmer/pastoralist conflicts. Livestock trade is also generally average through most of the country, though with limited trade flows in the northeast due to the conflict.

    Market and household food stocks in most areas of the country are generally average to above-average due to good harvests during the previous main cultivation season. However, in areas affected by prolonged dry spells, particularly in Niger state, household food stocks are below-average and are exhausted already two to three months early, as opposed to June in a typical year. Similarly, Boko Haram related conflict has led to significant population displacements in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states and kept many farmers from their usual livelihood activities (mainly agricultural activities) during the last main cultivation and recent dry seasons. This has led to significantly below-average household production stocks for households in this area.

    Staple cereal prices are indicating mixed trends on many markets monitored across the country. At Dawanau market near Kano (the largest cereal market in West Africa) maize and sorghum prices in March were respectively 10 and 5 percent above February prices and 21 and 29 percent above the five-year average. These price increases can likely be attributed, at least in part, to the persisting fuel scarcity, and below-average trade flows from northeastern Nigeria. The price of sorghum increased by eight percent compared to last year, though maize and millet prices declined by three and nine percent, respectively, relative to last year on the same market. On Bodija market in Oyo state, a deficit cereal production area, sorghum prices declined by 14 percent in March against February and eight percent against the same time last year. However, maize prices remained relatively stable between February and March, and were up 17 percent compared to the same time last year.

    Staple food prices on most other monitored markets are generally lower than last year’s levels, a year strongly affected by widespread flooding, below-average main harvests, and resulting high staple food prices. Good market and trader stocks, low industrial demand, and reduced trader speculation are all thought to contribute to market prices returning to levels more near the five-year average.

    Boko Haram conflict persists in the northeast, with a recent attack in Abuja as well. The violence continues to lead to more population displacements throughout affected areas. Typical dry season cultivation and fishing activities are disrupted, particularly in Borno State, as households are reluctant to work in their fields or on the water due to security concerns. Increased security measures, including curfews, security checkpoints, and a ban on motor cycle hire in affected areas also continues. Similarly, trader fears are reducing food and livestock trade flows into the region.

    Communal related conflicts, mainly between herders and farmers, have also resulted in significant casualties and population displacements in other parts of the country. According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), IDP camps have been setup in north central areas, sheltering IDPs mainly from Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, and Taraba states.


    The most likely scenario for the April to September 2014 period is based on the following national level assumptions:

    • Household food stocks: For households throughout most of the country, food stocks will begin to deplete normally around May in the south and around July in the north. However, in Niger State households affected by production losses this last season, as well as conflict-affected households in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, will continue to meet or attempt to meet their food needs through market purchase through September.
    • Market supply/trade flows: Market supplies of cereals and tubers will be typical due to good harvest production stocks and trade flows in many areas of the country. The exception is northeastern Nigeria, where below-average trade flows will contribute to below-average market supply at least through September. Cross border trade activities in this area will also be below average with Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
    • Household food demand: Household market demand for staple cereals, particularly maize, millet, and sorghum, will be atypically strong during between April and September as household food stocks are exhausted earlier than normal in conflict and dry spell affected areas. Millet demand will be particularly strong in June and July in preparation for Ramadan.
    • Industrial demand: Demand for sorghum by malting and food processing industries within Nigeria will likely be below normal as conflict persists in surplus cereal production areas. Traders will avoid conflict prone areas due to security and high cereal prices will likely also limit purchases. Maize demand will increase atypically during June and July for Ramadan, when maize demand will be atypically high as poultry and livestock producers intensify their animal feeding.
    • Institutional purchases: Institutional purchases for the national security stocks is underway normally. These reserves are expected to be released earlier than normal across the country in June/July due to public pressure to sell stocks at a subsidized rate during Ramadan and due to expectedly high staple food prices during the lean season.
    • Transportation costs: Though fuel subsidies are expected to continue, high, informal fuel prices will persist likely until May/June due to the continuing fuel scarcity, leading to increased transportation costs.
    • Cereal prices: Millet prices will likely remain stable through May. In June millet prices will increase faster than normal due to the additional demand for Ramadan. This will persist through July for the Ramadan fast. In August, millet prices will decline, but remain high relative to average during the lean season through September. Maize prices are expected to follow a similar trend, but will decrease sharply in July and resume their seasonal trend once demand for poultry feed during the Ramadan period ends. Sorghum, a major cereal substitute, will decline slightly in May and June as the dry season harvest of Masakwa sorghum comes in in the north. As the dry season harvest of sorghum will be below-average as it is grown in areas affected by Boko Haram conflict, the effect of the harvest on sorghum prices is not expected to last through September.
    • Green harvests: The early green harvest of yams and maize in the south will begin normally in May/June, slightly tempering lean season difficulties in the area. In many parts of north-central Nigeria, harvests of potatoes and groundnuts will also begin normally in June and July, increasing food access.
    • Tuber prices: Gari and yam prices will continue their atypically high levels through May before the early green harvest. Between June and July, prices will decline when the early green harvests begin and then will remain stable, though at high levels, through September. Due to high prices, many poor households will likely substitute cheaper foods, including cereals, sweet potatoes, cocoyam, and wild foods for gari and yams.
    • Livestock demand and prices: Livestock demand will peak in June/July relating to Ramadan and another peak in small ruminant demand in August/September in preparation for Tabaski (October). Livestock prices will increase during the two holidays. Conflict in northeastern areas and cattle rustling and herder/farmer conflicts in northwest and central states will lead to below-average trade. As a result, livestock supply will be reverted to other areas of the region and livestock prices will be atypically high in the conflict affected areas. Livestock prices will be favorable to pastoralist and agropastoralists in the northeast through September.
    • Transhumance: In June/July, pastoral movements will begin northward as the rainy season intensifies. However, a larger number of migrant livestock herders will travel to parts of west-central areas of the country due to limited access to pastoral land in central states, where there have been communal conflicts between pastoralists and farmers.
    • Agricultural activities: Land preparation, planting and weeding activities are expected to continue normally, given that forecasts for the rainy season call for typical levels and distribution of rainfall. This is expected to increase typically labor opportunities and income levels for poor households. Poor households in conflict prone areas of the northeast, however, are not expected to participate as they typically would in agriculture labor opportunities due to security concerns.
    • Civil insecurity: There is no indication Boko Haram related conflict will end between now and September. Farmer/pastoralist conflicts in north-central states are also likely to continue as pastoral movements continue between April and September during the rainy season.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Most households throughout the country are participating normally in their livelihood activities, enabling households in areas not affected by either continuing conflict or the impact of dry spells during the last season to access food regularly through own production and/or market purchases. As a result, most households across the country face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between April and June. In conflict affected northeast Nigeria and Niger State affected by dry spells during the past rainfed cropping season, production losses, early market dependency for food, and atypically high food prices have limited household food access. Between April and June, Niger State faces Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity, while Borno and Yobe states are classified in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Similarly, Adamawa state, where households are also impacted by Boko Haram conflict, is Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    The rainy season is expected to progress typically across the country, leading to seasonally typical labor demand, pasture growth, and for southern households, harvests beginning in June. This will help to maintain most households in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through September. Generally, households will rely on their own food stocks until about May and will then use typical strategies, such as casual labor, sale of livestock and cash crops, as well as food substitution and consumption of wild foods, to meet essential food and non-food needs during the remainder of the consumption year (through September) without adopting any atypical coping strategies. Market dependent households affected by conflict and dry spells, however, whose income and food sources have been disrupted, will have difficulties accessing food at markets due to above-average prices. In areas affected by dry spells, particularly Niger State, households will be able to intensify the sale of small ruminants and firewood, increase their labor participation, and increase their purchase through credit to meet essential food needs, though they will still find difficulty meeting their livelihood protection needs. As such, between July and September, Niger State will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In conflict affected areas of Borno and Yobe States, many poor households will continue to begin to face food consumption gaps or resort to unsustainable livestock, farmland and farm input sales. Between July and September, Borno and Yobe States will continue to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity, as Adamawa State remains Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Areas of Concern

    Borno and Yobe States

    Current Situation

    Escalated conflict is continuing in Borno and Yobe states. According to a recent field assessment in March by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), the Nigerian Red Cross, and other state agencies, significant populations have been displaced and many rural households have abandoned their farms to move to safer areas due to the violence. A relatively small proportion of displaced populations are in IDP camps, while most are with friends, relations or host-families. NEMA, SEMA, the ICRC, the Nigerian Red Cross, and UNFPA are providing limited quantities of food and non-food items to the displaced.

    Data from the Nigeria Security Tracker on deaths attributed to the Boko Haram conflict shows a continuation of escalated violence. According to information from partners in the field, areas worst affected in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, include Konduga, Bama, Gwoza, Izge, Chibok, Damboa in Borno state, Madagali, Michika and Maiha in Adamawa state, and Gujba and Fune in Yobe state.

    Main and dry season harvests in the northeast have been significantly impacted by the conflict, either directly or as farmers have avoided working in their fields due to their security concerns. Harvest stocks for most poor households are expected to already be depleted, several months earlier than normal, with households turning to market purchase earlier in the consumption year than normal.

    Staple food prices for millet, sorghum and maize increased by 5 to 9 percent in March relative to February on Maiduguri market. Similarly, prices are 5, 28 and 12 percent above-average for maize, sorghum and millet, respectively, on the same market compared to the same time last year. Thus households meeting their food needs through market purchase earlier than they typically would are doing so at atypically high prices. These households are reliant on remittances, gifts and income from the distressed sale of productive assets such as farmland, livestock and farm tools to access food. This is slightly tempered by the limited food assistance through NEMA and SEMA in the area.

    Persisting security measures such as curfews, bans on motorcycle taxis, and roadside security checkpoints imposed on the area, have also reduced population movements and increased transportation costs. The sporadic attacks on major highways by insurgents lead to detours, longer travel distances, and limited trade flows as some traders avoid the area. This, combined with increased black-market fuel prices seen throughout the country, has also contributed to the increase in food prices at markets.

    The income of most poor households is below average in the area. Though the availability of income-earning activities is below average, labor supply is even more below average. According to reports from the field, household participation in typical casual and agricultural labor activities is below average due to household concerns for personal security.

    Dry season harvests for vegetables, cereals and legumes for are significantly below average in Borno State, reducing incomes and food access for households in the area. However, the dry season activities and harvests for similar crops and fishing are less affected in Yobe State, with greater participation by poor households in these activities. While these activities and harvest will improve food availability, access, and income levels, they will not completely offset main season production shortfalls and difficulties with market access.

    Pastoral resources are relatively average in the area, improving livestock body conditions. Livestock trade into the area from other areas in Nigeria, as well as from Niger, Cameroon and Chad, is limited. Furthermore, livestock herd sizes of households in the area are below average as households sell-off more animals than in a typical year in efforts to meet their increasing market purchase needs. Below-average livestock supply on local markets is leading to above-average prices for livestock.


    Due to the difficulty of collecting information and data from this conflict zone, this most likely scenario as outlined below is based on limited information from government and FEWS NET field enumerators. The most likely scenario for April to September is based on the following zone-level assumptions:

    • Conflict related to Boko Haram: There is no indication the Boko Haram conflict will subside in the coming months. Conflict is expected to continue to disrupt livelihood activities, contribute to decreasing trade flows and inhibit assistance programs from operating in the area.
    • Staple food stocks and prices: Food stocks are depleted by April for poor, conflict affected households, increasing market purchase. Due to security concerns, trade flows in to the region will remain below average. Between May and June, maize and millet prices are expected to increase faster than the seasonally normal, further limiting poor households' food access. Prices will then increase further between June and July as demand related to Ramadan increases consumer demand for cereals. Prices for sorghum will slightly decline during May and June as the dry season harvest peaks, increasing supply and access. As this harvest is expected to be significantly below average, though, the effect of the price decrease is not expected to last through September.
    • Transhumance: The livestock herder movements out of the area are expected to continue, limiting access to income for the pastoral households at the homestead and reducing supply of livestock products in the area such as meat and milk.
    • Pastoral resources and herd size: Pastoral resources are expected to remain average, particularly in light of the expected normal start to the rainy season in May/June, which will improve pasture and water availability for livestock, particularly due to limited stocking rates in the area. Due to below-average seasonal incomes and increased market dependency, households have already sold off atypical levels of livestock for additional income. Household ability to continue to selloff livestock at atypical levels is expected to be difficult.
    • Livestock prices: Livestock supply will continue to be below average in April through September. Livestock herder movements and livestock trade into the region from within Nigeria, as well as from Niger, Cameroon and Chad, will continue to be below average as pastoralists and traders avoid the area for security reasons. Livestock sale prices will continue to be above average, with a price spike beginning in June/July in preparation for Ramadan and Tabaski festivities.
    • Rainfed cropping activities: The onset of the rainy season, as well as rainfall accumulation and distribution during the season is forecast to be normal for the coming season. Although climatic conditions are favorable for a good main cropping season, household participation in cultivation activities is expected to be severely reduced due to their concerns for their security. This concern for security will also translate into reduced participation in agricultural labor opportunities, which would typically begin in April and continue through the harvest in October.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The Boko Haram conflict in Nigeria, which began in 2009, continues to undermine food security conditions. Since the escalation of violence in 2012, poor households in northeastern Nigeria have experienced acute food insecurity related to this conflict. Two years later, with their resilience severely weakened, they are resorting to atypical coping strategies, including increased livestock sales and the sale of livelihood assets. Below-average household harvest stocks this year contributes to limited household food access. Atypically high market prices as households are more dependent on market purchase are met with below-average seasonal incomes. As such, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity is expected to continue through September as poor households in Borno and Yobe States struggle to meet their basic food needs.

    Niger State

    Current Situation

    Households in Niger State have experienced a second consecutive year of below-average production. In 2012/13, flooding significantly damaged main rainfed season crops. This last year, household crops were impacted by prolonged dry spells during the main rainfed cultivation season. The unseasonable dryness this year resulted in significant damages to crops and a below-average harvest. Crop damages are most significant in Bida and Kontagora local governments in Niger State. Affected households have depleted their household stocks by April, two to three months earlier than normal.

    Dry season harvests, which constitute an important proportion of food and income sources, are underway normally in April. The harvest will continue through May, and is expected to be average leading to seasonable increases in income and food stocks for households. The expectedly average dry season harvest is due to good water availability for irrigation, and an increased area of land under cultivation as government intensifies sensitization campaigns and increased funding for the dry season activities in the area. Overall, the dry season harvest for vegetables and rice will be relatively above average.

    Largely due to below-average main harvests for most crops in the area, cereal market supply is low. Markets are sufficiently supplied, though, through a combination of local stocks and trade flows from other areas of the country. According to the Minna Traders Association, staple food prices have been at relatively stable levels compared to the last two to three months, although they are above last year's levels. The price increases are mainly attributable to the below-average production during the main harvest and increased demand for staples as most households return early to market purchase for their food needs. Prices for brown sorghum, white maize and millet increased by 20, 15 and 10 percent, respectively on Minna market, relative to same time last year. Similarly, tuber prices for yams and cassava increased by about 20 and 10 percent, respectively, for the same period on Minna market. Prices of soybeans, melon seed and cowpea, the major cash crops in the area, have increased by 15, 10 and 10 percent, respectively, relative to last year, supporting seasonal incomes and food access.

    Farmers in Niger State are also engaged in land preparation activities for the upcoming rainy season. Labor demand is relatively average across the state. Others are engaged in drilling of tube wells, nursery establishment and field preparation for the second dry-season planting, particularly along the Wushishi floodplains. These activities are increasing agricultural labor opportunities for poor households following typical seasonal trends.

    Livestock body conditions are relatively good despite the seasonal decline in pastoral resources. Still, livestock prices are below average due to increased livestock supply in the zone from northern states where pastoralists are avoiding cattle rustlers. However, prices are similar to previous year’s level, a year when intense flooding negatively impacted pastoral resources.


    The most likely scenario for April to September is based on the following zone-level assumptions:

    • Household food stocks: Households who were affected by below-average production last season have depleted their harvest stocks and will continue to be market dependant until the upcoming harvest. While dry season harvests will contribute to increasing food access, the above-average production will not off set earlier production losses.
    • Food prices: Staple food prices will increase more quickly than normal between April to June, as most households have exhausted their stocks earlier than normal and contribute to increased market demand. Additional demand in June and July for staple cereals during Ramadan will also contribute to increased food prices. After July, food prices are expected to remain above-average through September.
    • Livestock prices: Above-average levels of migrant pastoralists are expected to remain in the area with their herds, avoiding cattle rustling and communal conflicts, and increasing livestock supply in Niger State. Generally average pastoral conditions are expected to persist through September with good pasture growth during the rainy season, forecast to be generally normal in rainfall accumulation and distribution. Livestock prices will continue to be similar to last year’s levels due to the increase in supply, and trends are expected to follow the seasonal average, with an increase beginning in July due increased livestock demand for Ramadan and Tabaski festivities.
    • Agriculture labor: Labor demand for dry season activities will continue to be average, with the peak for harvest labor occurring in May. The forecast for a typical start of the rainy season with average rainfall distribution suggests favorable condition for the coming cropping season. Seasonal demand for agriculture labor is expected to be normal, with demand for land preparation activities beginning in April. Increased labor supply by households seeking more income for market purchase will contribute to below-average wages for agricultural labor, though, between April and September.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Below-average main harvest production for poor households in Niger state has led poor households to be more market dependent than they would in a typical year. Average to below-average seasonal incomes for these households are not enough to offset the increase in market purchase while market prices remain above average. Poor households in Niger State are still expected to be able to meet their basic food needs, but will do so at the expense of minimizing their livelihood protection expenditures. As such, poor households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity between April and September.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1: Possible events over the next six months that could change the most-likely scenario



    Impact on food security outcomes


    • End to fuel scarcity
    • Reduced transportation costs, and thereby reduced market prices, for key staples
    • Election-related conflict
    • Population displacement
    • Harm to market infrastructure
    • Reduced market and trade activities
    • Increased food prices
    • Poor distribution of rain during or late start to the rainy season
    • Below-average agricultural labor demand leading to below-average seasonal labor incomes

    Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States

    • Increase in level of violence


    • Increase in population displacements
    • Decrease in agricultural labor participation and decrease in seasonal incomes
    • Further restrictions to market access and increases in market prices


    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Violent deaths attributed to Boko Haram conflict

    Figure 2

    Violent deaths attributed to Boko Haram conflict

    Source: data from Nigeria Security Tracker

    Figure 3


    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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