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Crisis levels of food insecurity persist in conflict-affected areas of the northeast

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Nigeria
  • July - December 2013
Crisis levels of food insecurity persist in conflict-affected areas of the northeast

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • The Boko Haram conflict, as well as a declared state of emergency, continue to cause population displacements, restricted market functioning, and reduced household income levels in Borno and Yobe states. Combined, these factors are making food access difficult and as a result, households in these states will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity until the next harvests in October. 

    • Households who suffered flood-related losses to their productive assets and crop production during the 2012 rainy season have yet to recover their livelihoods. Due to an early depletion of household food stocks, below-average income levels, and atypically high prices, these households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until the end of the lean season in late September. 

    • Despite a slow start to the agricultural season in some areas, a normal main harvest is expected for September/October. This will replenish household and market food stocks, cause food prices to decline, and improve food access. Consequently, poor households across the country will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity during the second half of the Outlook period (October to December). 


    National Overview
    Current Situation

    The 2013 rainy season began in February in southern Nigeria, in April/May in central areas, and in June/July in the extreme north. According to USGS’ satellite imagery, the start of season was one to four dekads[1] late in localized areas of the north, with the most significant delays in parts of Katsina, Kaduna, Bauchi and Gombe states (Figure 2). Since the start of the rains, the season has progressed normally in most areas, with major staple food crops (ex. yams, potatoes, cassava, millet, sorghum, and maize) developing well and farmers are currently engaged in weeding and fertilizer application activities. In some areas of northeastern and central Nigeria, localized dry spells were observed in May/June (see, for example, Figure 3) delaying cereal planting activities. However in these affected-areas, rainfall levels returned to near normal levels during the first half of July, which allowed farmers to continue their planting activities.

    For the current agricultural season, the government is subsiding fertilizer with prices ranging from NGN1,000 to NGN3,000/bag. However, similar to a normal year, the quantities of this subsidized fertilizer is not sufficient to meet farmers’ needs. In addition, the fertilizer this year is being distributed later than usual in July/August compared to April/May in a normal year. Consequently, most households have resorted to the open market to purchase additional fertilizer at a higher, but seasonally normal, prices (NGN4,000 and NGN6,000/bag). The Nigerian government’s growth enhancement scheme (GES) is also providing agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer and improved seeds, and is trying to reach more farmers this year.  

    Early green harvests of maize, yams, cassava, and wild foods, are currently underway in the south, similar to a normal year. In addition, groundnuts, wild foods, and potatoes are being harvested in the north central areas of the country. These harvests have improved household food access in localized areas and have caused tuber prices in the south to stabilize or slightly decline. For example, the price of yams was stable at NGN400/kg in Lagos between May and June. However, these early green harvests are not significant enough to have an impact on food stock levels or prices in the north, where the ongoing lean season will continue until the main harvest begins in September.

    Conflict relating to Boko Haram has been ongoing in northeastern Nigeria, which caused the government to declare a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states in May. There has also been localized Boko Haram and unrelated communal conflict in Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Nasarawa, Plateau, and Taraba states. This civil insecurity, along with related security measures, have caused both internal and cross-border population displacements, reduced market functioning and trade flows, and below-average household incomes in affected areas.

    Intense flooding during the 2012 agricultural season caused significant crop losses with national 2012 tuber and cereal production levels down 6 percent compared to the five-year average. This, combined with conflict-related market disruptions and increased food demand from the ongoing Ramadan holiday, has tightened market supplies and put upward pressure on food prices. As a result, both tuber and cereal prices are well above last year’s levels in many areas and are continuing to rise. For example, both millet and maize prices at Dawanau market in Kano state – the largest cereal market in West Africa – increased 13 percent in June compared to the previous month, and were up 20 percent and 42 percent, respectively, compared to June 2012 levels. Similarly, the price of white gari (processed cassava) in Ibadan was 119 percent above last year’s levels.

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario for the July to December 2013 period is based on the following national level assumptions:

    • Lean season: Households who were not directly affected by either conflict or flooding will experience a normal lean season. In southern areas, this lean season will end in July while in the north, it will continue until late September.  
    • Civil insecurity: Civil insecurity related to Boko Haram, as well as unrelated kidnappings in the south, will persist at status quo levels throughout the scenario period. This will continue to restrict market and trade activities, especially in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in the northeast.
    • Rainy season: According to seasonal forecasts from major forecasting centers (NOAA, ECMWF, AGRHYMET, NIMET), rainfall levels will be normal across the country. FEWS NET is assuming that the season will not have any atypical dry spells and will end on-time.
    • Flooding: During the peak of the rainy season between late July and September, normal levels of flooding will occur in flood-prone areas. Household who are displaced by this flooding will receive short-term food and nonfood assistance from the government and other humanitarian agencies.
    • Pest attacks: Based on the FAO’s Locust Watch, no significant locust problems are forecasted for Nigeria. As a result, FEWS NET is assuming normal levels of pest-related crop losses during the main agricultural season.
    • Main harvest: The 2013 main harvest of most staple and cash crops will be average and on-time in September/October. Sorghum harvests, which normally occur slightly later in November/December, will also be average.
    • Agricultural labor: Wages from agricultural labor activities are expected to be within normal levels in most areas of the country and will follow typical seasonal trends. Wages will peak during periods of high demand for weeding and fertilizer activities (July/August) and for harvesting activities (in September/October).
    • Livestock body conditions: Animal body conditions will follow normal seasonal trends with improving conditions during the rainy season (July to September) and then stable conditions between October and December as pasture and water availability remain good in the post-rainy season period.
    • Livestock markets: Livestock demand will remain relatively strong with three peaks during the scenario period: 1) Ramadan-related peak for beef and poultry in July/August, 2) Tabaski-related peak for small ruminants in mid-October, and 3) Christmas-related peak in December for all types of livestock. Due to this seasonally high demand, livestock prices will be favorable for pastoralists during the entire outlook period.
    • Transportation costs: Fuel subsidies will continue at status quo levels throughout the outlook period. However, poor road conditions during the rainy season will increase transportation costs compared to the dry season. 
    • National security stocks: The government is expected to release limited quantities of grains from its strategic reserves at a subsidized rate in August, due to the Ramadan holiday and atypically high food prices. These released stocks will be targeted towards flood and conflict-affected communities.
    • Trade flows: Domestic trade activities will be below normal, particularly in northeastern areas, due to increased security measures and roadblocks relating to the state of emergency. Northeastern sections of the border with Chad, Cameroon, and Niger will also be closed, limiting trade with neighboring countries. However, above-average cereal imports, particularly of maize, from Benin and Niger will continue until the next harvest in September/October.
    • Import tariffs: Tariffs on rice imports from international markets will remain at status quo levels.
    • Market supply of cereals: Market cereal supplies will be below-average between August and September due to flood and conflict-related disruptions to agricultural production and market activities. Between October and December, new harvests will supply markets and improve stock levels. However,  the rate of replenishment will be slower than normal as households who had below-average carryover stocks will first replenish their own stocks before selling their production to local markets.
    • Household market demand for cereals: Cereals demand, particularly for maize, millet, and sorghum, will be atypically strong during the July/August period due to Ramadan and an earlier than normal dependency on market purchases for flood and conflict-affected households. Between October and December, main season harvests will enable most poor households to rely on their own food stocks to meet consumption needs, causing market demand to seasonally decline.  
    • Food prices: Staple food prices, particularly for cereals, will continue to increase at an atypical rate during July and August as Ramadan-related demand coincides with the peak of the lean season. Then starting in August/September, two factors will cause prices to stabilize or decline: 1) early green harvests will begin to reach markets, 2) the end of Ramadan will reduce demand from both households and poultry farmers (who use maize for animal feed). During the harvest and post-harvest period (October through December), prices will continue to decline but at a slightly slower rate than normal due to below-average carryover stocks.  
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Despite atypically high prices, households in areas that were not directly affected by either conflict or flooding will be able to use normal livelihood strategies (ex. staple and cash crop production and sales, casual labor, livestock sales, crafts, remittances, gifts, and indebtedness) to access food normally, either through market purchases or own crop production. Consequently, poor households in most areas of the country will face Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity during the entire outlook period (July to December).

    Exceptions to this are poor households who have either been affected by conflict or flooding. These households became market dependant two to three months earlier than normal this year and have yet to fully recover their livelihoods. As a result, they will have difficulties accessing food at atypically high prices between now and the next harvest in September/October. In flood-affected areas, households will use atypical coping strategies, such as distressed sales of small ruminants and firewood, intense labor work, and/or indebtedness to meet essential food and nonfood needs and will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food security outcomes. Meanwhile in Borno and Yobe states, the Boko Haram conflict has been ongoing for several years and has reduced poor households' ability to cope. Consequently at least twenty percent of the population in these two states will resort to an accelerated depletion of livelihood assets, such as livestock, farmland, and farm tool sales, to marginally meet food needs, and will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food security outcomes.

    The main harvests in September/October will replenish household and market food stocks, provide labor opportunities for poor households, and will cause market prices to fall. Once these harvests begin, most poor households will be able to access food normally through their own crop production. In addition, declining prices and relatively normal income levels will improve the purchasing power of households who do continue to access food through local market purchases.  During the second half of the outlook period (October to December), households in all areas of the country are expected to face Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.


    [1] Dekad: a technical term that designates a ten-day period for the first (days 1 to 10) and second (days 11 to 20) dekads of the month and an 8 to 11 day period for the third dekad of the month, depending on the length of the month.


    Areas of Concern

    Northeast Millet and Cowpea Livelihood Zone in the extreme northern parts of Borno and Yobe states

    Current Situation

    According to FEWS NET enumerators located in this zone, as well as USGS satellite imagery, the start of the rainy season was on-time or slightly late (one to two weeks), with the onset of the season generally occurring sometime in June. In certain areas, slight to moderate rainfall deficits during the month of June delayed cowpea land preparation and planting activities. However, a return to relatively normal to above-normal rainfall levels in July has since allowed farmers to finish up these activities. Currently, farmers are occupied with weeding activities and/or applying fertilizer to their millet fields.

    Boko Haram-related conflict in Borno and Yobe states persists with approximately 123 violence-related deaths during the month of June, according to the Nigeria Security Tracker. In addition, a state of emergency was declared on May 14th, 2013 in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, bringing an increased number of troops, airstrikes, roadblocks, disruptions to telecommunication network and curfews to the region. According to FEWS NET enumerators, many rural households have been harassed by security agents, distracting households from their normal livelihood activities. Others have abandoned their farms to move to safer areas. The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) currently remains unknown, although UNHCR has reported over 6,000 persons displaced into Niger Republic and 3,000 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon. Recently, some of the security measures implemented during the state of emergency have been relaxed, with shorter curfews and the restoration of telecommunication networks in Yobe and Adamawa states. This is helping to improve market functioning and trade within the zone.

    According to FEWS NET enumerators in the zone, ongoing civil insecurity caused 2012 agricultural activities to be disrupted, reducing the zone’s total crop production levels. Consequently, poor households’ food stocks were exhausted two to three months earlier than normal (in April/May), resulting in an early dependency on market purchases and atypically high market cereal demand.  

    The conflict has also disrupted market functioning with trade flows and market food stocks at below-average levels, as traders avoid the area due to security concerns and high transaction costs. In addition, the Nigerian borders with Cameroon, Chad and parts of Niger remain closed, limiting cross-border trade with neighboring countries. Traditionally, this region is along a key livestock marketing corridor but due to the conflict, demand has been diverted elsewhere, leading to below-average livestock incomes.

    Due to market disruptions and strong consumer demand for cereals (with Ramadan and an early depletion of household food stocks), prices for key food commodities, particularly millet, are at atypically high levels and are continuing to rise. For example at the Damasak market near the border with Niger, June millet prices increased 15 percent compared to May 2013 levels and was 40 percent above the five-year average. Given relatively below-average income sources as economic activities have been disrupted, these abnormally high prices are limiting poor households’ purchasing power and food access.

    Assumptions

    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 the July to December 2013 period is based on the following zone level assumptions:

    • State of emergency: Security measures relating to the declared state of emergency will continue to be relaxed throughout the scenario period, improving population movements, income levels, and market functioning.
    • Displacements: Due to continuing civil insecurity, population displacements will continue at status quo levels, both to other areas within Nigeria as well as to neighboring countries (Niger, Chad, and Cameroon).
    • Border closures: The borders with Chad, Niger and Cameroon near Borno and Yobe states will remain closed during the entire outlook period due to the continued conflict within the zone.
    • Trade flows: Due to the effects of civil insecurity and the state of emergency, trade flows for both cereal and livestock will continue to be below-average. This will negatively impact cereal supply and livestock demand at local markets. Consequently, livestock incomes from animal sales will be below-average. 
    • Household food stocks: Due to below-average crop production during the 2012 growing season, household stocks were exhausted two to three months earlier than normal. As a result, households will rely on market purchases to a greater extent than normal to meet their consumption needs until the next harvests in October. However, once the main harvest begins, households will rely on their own crop production for the remainder of the scenario period.
    • Cereal supply: Market supply levels for cereals will follow normal seasonal trends with relatively low supply until the next harvests in October and then improving during the post-harvest period. However, early green harvest in other areas of the country in August/early September will not have any impact on market supply levels in this zone due to trade flow disruptions.
    • Staple food prices: Local prices will follow the national price trends outlined in the national-level assumptions section. However due to conflict-related market disruptions and increased transaction costs, prices will remain above both last year’s levels and the five-year average during the entire outlook period.
    • Transhumance movements: Pastoralists and their herds will enter the zone normally in July, although at below-average levels as security concerns will divert some pastoralists to other areas of the country that are perceived to be safer. However, pastoralists who do return to the zone will stay through the end of the outlook period in December.
    • Dry-season activities: Off-season activities, including fishing and dry-season farming, will begin normally in December.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In Borno and Yobe states, the epicenter of the Boko Haram-related conflict, the ongoing lean season has been unusually difficult as household food stocks depleted two to three months earlier than normal and atypically high food prices, coupled with below-average incomes, have limited household food access. Displaced households who have yet to recover their livelihoods are particularly having difficulties. Through the end of the lean season in late September, over twenty percent of the population within the area will resort to atypical coping strategies (intense labor work, increased levels of indebtedness and/or migration levels), as well as an accelerated depletion of productive assets (livestock, farmland, and farm tool sales), to access food and will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food security outcomes.

    Starting in October, the main harvests will replenish household and market food stocks, and most households will access food normally through their own crop production. In addition, a reduction in household cereal demand at local markets and improving market supply, will cause food prices to decline, improving food access for households who are relying on market purchases for their consumption needs (such as IDPs). Between October and December, most households are expected to face Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes throughout the zone.

    Northwest Millet and Sesame Livelihood Zone in Katsina State

    Current Situation

    During the 2012 agricultural season, this livelihood zone experienced a prolonged rainy season and widespread flooding that caused below-average harvests. In addition, a change in water use policies by the management of the Jibia dam irrigation project reduced the number of hours that farmers had access to water (from 10 hours/day previously to  6 hours/day this year). This caused off-season cultivation (December to March) to decline approximately 45 percent compared to average. As a result, poor household food stocks generally depleted earlier than normal (in February compared to April during a normal year). Consequently, households have been more reliant on market purchases to meet their food consumption needs is compared to a normal year.

    USGS satellite imagery shows that the onset of the 2013 rainy season occurred in mid-June, approximately 15 to 30 days late (Figure 2). Similar to other regions, the season started slowly with sizable rainfall deficits compared to normal (see, for example, Figure 6).

    Most farmers waited until the rainy season was established in June before starting planting activities, and most farmers are currently weeding their major staple food crops (millet, maize and sorghum). Normal and on-time cowpea planting activities are also ongoing. Local informants have reported that crops are developing normally and that recent rainfall deficits have not yet had any major impacts on crop growth and development.

    Household income levels from agricultural labor activities have been below-average in this zone. Despite increased agricultural opportunities relating to sowing, weeding, and fertilizer application activities, the number of people seeking these opportunities has been atypically high, as households attempt to cope with last year’s below-average harvests. As a result, agricultural wages have declined by about 25 percent compared to last year’s levels.

    Most markets in this zone are assembly markets that do not typically hold large levels of stocks. However, market stocks level are currently below-average due to the negative impacts of last year’s floods, below-average off-season production, and trade disruptions at source markets in Borno and Yobe states. Prior to the state of emergency declaration in the northeast, sorghum was reportedly flowing to this zone at relatively normal levels from source markets. However more recent security measures, such as roadblocks and distributions in telecommunications in Borno and Yobe states, have significantly reduced these trade flows since May 2013. 

    At Jibia market, June prices for most staple food commodities were stable compared to last month, with the exception of sorghum whose prices increased 10 percent due to strong demand from Nigerien traders and limited supply from northeastern source markets. However, cereal prices  have, in general, been approximately 8 to 25 percent above last year’s levels. This, coupled with below-average incomes from activities such as casual labor, have caused poor households’ purchasing power to decline.

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario for the July to December 2013 period is based on the following zone level assumptions:

    • Sorghum demand from Niger: Due to atypically high millet prices at markets in structurally deficit areas of Niger, many Nigerien households will continue to substitute towards sorghum (a cheaper alternative) and away from millet. This will cause above-average demand for sorghum at cross-border markets in northern Nigeria through the remainder of lean season.
    • Staple food prices: Prices for maize, millet, and sorghum will generally follow normal seasonal trends but will remain above last year’s levels through the lean season. However, sorghum prices will likely increase at a slightly faster rate than normal due to atypical demand from Niger. Once the main harvest begins in October, food prices will decline seasonally through the remainder of the scenario period.  
    • Transhumance movements: With the establishment of the rainy season, pastoralists and their herds will continue to move northward and into this zone through August. However, an atypically large number of transhumants will settle in this zone this year, as many try to avoid Boko Haram-related conflict in the northeast and pastoralist/farmer conflicts in west-central Nigeria (Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Benue and Taraba states). This will increase pressure on pastoral and water resources and increase the risk of pastoralist/farmer disputes.
    • Timing of off-season activities: Off-season activities, which include fishing and dry-season farming, will begin normally in December.
    • Agricultural labor wage: Due to an atypically high number of laborers seeking work this year as a coping strategy, agricultural wages and income levels will be below-average during the 2013 agricultural season.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Due to flood-related crop losses during the 2012 growing season and below-average off-season production, households in this zone exhausted their food stocks two to three months earlier than normal. This, combined with atypically high food prices and below average labor incomes, will cause households to have difficulties accessing food between July and September. During this period, poor households will resort to atypical coping strategies (intense agricultural labor, additional livestock sales, consumption of wild foods, increased migration, etc.) in order to meet food consumption needs. Consequently, at least 20 percent of the population will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes until the next harvests in October. However, once these harvests begin and households are able to rely on their own food stocks, poor households will face Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes through at least the end of the outlook period in December. 


    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Area

    Event

    Impact on food security outcomes

    National

    Prolonged dry spells during the 2013 growing season

    • Below-average crop production levels
    • Traders would withhold stocks during the peak of the lean season, reducing market supplies and causing further price increases
    • Reduced pastoral resources (water and forage) for livestock, causing below-average body conditions, milk availability, and livestock incomes
    • Reduced agricultural labor opportunities

    Increased electricity tariffs

     

    • Increased prices for processed foods, reducing household purchasing power

     

    Above-normal levels of pest infestations

    • Below-average crop production levels
    • Traders would withhold stocks during the peak of the lean season, reducing market supplies and causing further price increases
    • Reduced pastoral resources (water and forage) for livestock, causing below-average body conditions, milk availability, and livestock incomes

    Reduced agricultural labor opportunities

    NW Millet and Sesame Livelihood Zone in Katsina state

    Conflict levels increase in the northeast

     

    • Trade flows from source markets would be further restricted, causing additional price increases during the peak of the lean season
    • Displaced populations enter the zone, increasing humanitarian needs

     

    Above-average rainfall levels during the rainy season

    • Below-average crop production levels
    • Flood-related populations displacements would increase humanitarian assistance needs

    NE Millet and Cowpeas Livelihood Zone (the extreme northern parts of Borno and Yobe states)

     

    Conflict levels decline and/or the state of emergency ends

     

    • Levels of food and income generated from livelihood activities (crop production, casual labor, etc) would improve
    • Borders with neighboring countries would reopen
    • Market functioning and trade flows would improve, causing food prices to be lower than is currently anticipated in the most likely scenario
    • Displaced households would return home, reducing humanitarian assistance needs

     

    Conflict levels increase

     

    • This would further reduce trade and economic activities and cause food prices  to increase at a faster rate than is projected in the most likely scenario
    • Additional population displacements increase humanitarian assistance needs

    Above-average rainfall levels occur during the rainy season

    • Below-average crop production levels
    • Flood-related populations displacements would increase humanitarian assistance needs

    Traders have higher levels of food stocks than is currently anticipated

     

    • Food prices would increase at a slower rate than is currently projected in the most likely scenario, improving food access during the peak of the lean season
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes for July, 2013

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes July, 2013

    Source: FEWS NET

    Onset of rains (SOS) anomaly, July 2 2013

    Figure 3

    Onset of rains (SOS) anomaly, July 2 2013

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    2013 dekadal rainfall estimate compared to average - Shiroro, Nigeria

    Figure 4

    2013 dekadal rainfall estimate compared to average - Shiroro, Nigeria

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    2013 dekadal rainfall estimate compared to average - Mashi, Nigeria

    Figure 5

    2013 dekadal rainfall estimate compared to average - Mashi, Nigeria

    Source: USGS/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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