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Populations in the northeast remain highly dependent on humanitarian assistance

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Nigeria
  • June 2017 - January 2018
Populations in the northeast remain highly dependent on humanitarian assistance

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • Through September, poor households are facing a period of high market dependence for food access and high food prices. In much of the northeast, income-generating opportunities are extremely limited due to conflict-related disruptions to normal livelihoods patterns. Large populations in accessible areas are highly dependent on humanitarian assistance for food access. Large areas of the northeast are expected to continue face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, although some moderate improvements in food security outcomes for some are expected after harvests in October.

    • Despite some improvement in the security situation in areas near major towns in northeastern Nigeria, many areas remain inaccessible to humanitarian agencies. It is likely civilian populations remaining in these areas are experiencing similar or worse conditions to neighboring, accessible areas, and as such there is an ongoing risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in inaccessible areas of Borno State.

    • Humanitarian agencies have scaled-up their response to the food security situation in the northeast, reaching over two million people with food assistance in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States in June 2017. However, the response plan elaborated by the food security sector for 2017 was only 24 percent funded as of May 2017, and humanitarian agencies have already reduced operations in some LGAs. As many households in accessible areas of the northeast have very few income-generating opportunities and face very high food prices, they will remain highly dependent on humanitarian assistance throughout the outlook period.

    • The rainy season has started with near-normal timing and cumulative rainfall across most of Nigeria. Outside of the northeast, staple harvests that begin as late as October in northern areas are likely to be greater than last year, due to increased access to inputs as well as strong production incentives for farmers due to very high staple food prices.

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Northeast Nigeria

    Conflict related to the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast continues. Although the number of reported conflict events is similar as in previous months, the frequency of direct conflict deaths has decreased, as has the geographic extent of armed hostilities. However, sporadic attacks by the insurgents continue, particularly on “soft targets” such as checkpoints, markets, and centers of worship.

    The May 2017 displacement tracking matrix from IOM/NEMA estimated that the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the six northeastern states (Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi and Taraba) increased by three percent relative to March 2017, to 1,884,331 people. Large-scale displacement of people in the northeast has been ongoing since 2013. Borno State has the greatest number of displaced people, with approximately 79 percent of the total, or ~1,500,000 people. Most of the remaining IDPs are located in Adamawa (8 percent/~150,000 people) and Yobe States (6 percent/~115,000 people). Most of the IDPs (~65 percent) are residing in host communities, while the remaining 35 percent are in camps.

    Reports continue of households returning to eastern Borno from Cameroon. There has also been an increase in rate at which previously internally displaced people are returning to their local governments of origin, although they most often are only able to reach the local government headquarters. Between March and May 2017, there was an increase of seven percent in the rate of return across the six states. Adamawa State recorded the highest rate of return, followed by Borno and Yobe States, respectively. About 74 percent of those returning had been internally displaced, while 26 percent were refugees returning to the country, mainly from Cameroon. The same survey revealed that in 70 percent of the IDP sites monitored, residents and representatives indicated that the most critical unmet need remained adequate food.

    Humanitarian assistance

    On June 8th 2017, the government of Nigeria initiated a Special Relief Intervention to distribute 30,000 metric tons (MT) of assorted food to 1.8 million people suffering food insecurity in the northeast. The distributions have been planned by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to provide each household with 50 kg of grains per month, with food supplies being replenished on a quarterly basis throughout the year. By June 16th, 12,691 households had been assisted across the three worst-affected states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. The distribution process is supported by 636 police and 1,376 military personnel to provide security on transit and during the distribution process. Half of the food distributions in the Special Relief Intervention will be allocated to Borno State (15,000 MT). Adamawa and Yobe States will receive allocations of 6,000 MT each, while Bauchi, Gombe, and Taraba States, whose residents are less impacted by the insurgency, will receive 1,000 MT each for the current quarter.

    The response plan elaborated by the food security sector for 2017, which is part of the broader Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for the northeast, is only 24 percent funded as of May 2017. Despite the shortfall in funding of the food security sector under the HRP, humanitarian actors did reach up to 3.1 million people with assistance between January and May 2017. During the month of May 2017, partners provided food assistance to 2.3 million people in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States, including 2,098,932 IDPs, 172,238 people in host communities, and 17,780 returned refugees. The vast majority of these people (2,099,562) received in-kind food distributions and cash-based transfers, while 189,388 were provided agricultural support. In collaboration with WFP and other partners, FAO has assisted over 141,000 IDPs in the northeast with agricultural inputs for the 2017 farming season. The program includes 67,000 participants in Borno, 41,000 in Yobe, and 32,000 in Adamawa. Under the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria, the FAO is seeking USD 62 million to assist 1.9 million people. FAO has so far secured about USD 17.5 million, which it intends for various agricultural programs aimed at targeting 1.1 million farmers in the northeast as a means of revitalizing agrarian communities that have lost their livelihoods in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States.


    Onset of the rainy season: The rainfall that marks the beginning of the main agricultural season has begun normally, progressing from the southern areas towards the northern zones between February/March and June/July. Localized areas of the north, including the far northern parts of Borno, Yobe, Jigawa, Katsina, Kano, Zamfara, and Sokoto States, are still expecting the onset of the rainy season on-time in July. However, there are localized areas with early or late onset of the season across the country, but within 1 to 3 weeks of normal.

    Progress of main agricultural season: Land area under cultivation for staple crops is likely to be greater than last year across much of the country. This is in part attributable to the government’s Anchor Borrowers’ Program, where farmers have access to more inputs such as fertilizer, improved seeds, chemicals, and implements. Additionally, high staple food prices are expected to incentivize agricultural activities across the country. Similarly, restricted imports of major food staples including rice have also led to increased demand for domestically-produced food. In the southern areas, farmers are engaged in weeding and fertilizer application activities, as well as the harvest of early green maize and yams. Similarly, planting, weeding, and fertilizer application for maize, sorghum, and legumes is underway in the central states. The early green harvest of maize and potato is also underway in the central states. Planting of staples such as millet and maize as well as legumes (groundnut, cowpea) and sesame is underway in localized northern areas. Farmers in many states across the geo-political zones of the country are also facing increased expenditure on control of the African armyworm (Spodoptera exempta) infestation, particularly on maize and horticultural crops.

    Labor wages and income: Across most of the country, wage labor in agricultural activities is providing typical levels of income for poor households. Many poor households have exhausted their stocks of own-produced grains heading into the lean season, typically from July to September. This seasonal dependence on wage labor for food access is exacerbated by above-average staple food prices, which has limited household purchasing power. Poor households have been somewhat helped by the normal early green harvests, gifts during Ramadan, labor opportunities, and wild food collection, which have contributed to improved household food access.

    Livestock, poultry, and fishing: Pastoral resources are gradually increasing across the country as the rainy season becomes fully established. Livestock body conditions are generally reported as normal, and transhumant movements of pastoralists back from the southern areas to the north is also underway, as is typical. However, these movements are partly restricted by the communal conflict in the central states, and by the insurgency in the northeast, which have limited access to some important rangelands in the affected areas. Substantial livestock populations and pastoralists are moving towards the northwestern zone, while others are remaining in the southern areas. Livestock prices are generally above average and last year’s levels, resulting in favorable incomes for pastoralists. However, livestock to cereal terms of trade remains relatively normal due to high staple food prices.

    Markets and trade

    Macroeconomic indicators: The rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), has declined for four consecutive months, but remains high at 16.25 percent in May 2017. Foreign exchange reserves increased by about eight percent between January and April 2017, reaching their highest level since January 2016. The naira traded for NGN 384.48/USD in May 2017, reflecting a strengthening in value of 28 percent between January and May 2017. This has narrowed the gap between the official inter-bank exchange rate and the parallel Bureau-De-Change (BD

    Food prices: Staple food prices are well above average and last year’s level across the country, primarily attributable to the depreciation of the naira (NGN) against regional and international currencies since June 2016. Prices for primary staples are between 40 and 100 percent above last year and the long-term average. Prices of major staples such as maize, sorghum and millet increased by about 10 to 15 percent on monitored markets relative to April. Similar price trends are also observed on most monitored markets and for most commodities across the country.

    Market functioning in the northeast: Major urban markets such as Biu, Monday markets (Borno State), Damaturu, Potiskum (Yobe State) and Yola, Mubi markets (Adamawa State) are functioning. Most semi-urban and rural markets are either functioning below average or not functioning due to threats from the insurgents or military operations in the area. Markets in Marte, Abadam, and Guzamala LGAs in Borno State are not functioning. Other markets across the three states are functioning at below average levels (Figure 2).


    The most likely scenario for June 2017 to January 2018 is based on the following national level assumptions:

    • Rainfall: The rainy season is expected to progress normally in most parts of the country. Seasonal forecasts from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicate a likelihood for average to above-average cumulative rainfall through the beginning of the main season harvests in October, with the exception of coastal areas, which are expected to receive average to below average rainfall (Figure 3).

    • Main agricultural season: The growing season is expected to progress normally. Producers will engage in weeding, fertilization and pesticides applications during June to July and early green harvests of groundnut, maize and potatoes in August. In central/northern zones, the main harvests will start in September/October and are expected to be average to above average in most areas. However, harvests are expected to be well below average in areas of the northeast affected by the Boko Haram insurgency, and below average in localized areas across the country where conflicts between farmers and pastoralists are disrupting cultivation.

    • Cessation of the rainy season: The rainy season is expected to end normally, in October in the northern areas and December in the south. Localized areas across the country will experience early and late cessation of the rainy season as is typical, with minimal impact on crop performance.

    • Flooding and dry spells: Flooding is expected along major floodplains across the eight hydrological areas across the country. The recent annual flood outlook forecast by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) in June 2017 indicated a high probability of flooding in 95 LGAs in 29 states. Water releases from local ponds and rivers from neighboring countries such as Cameroon will likely aggravate flooding in some affected areas. Urban flooding will be aggravated by blocked and limited drainage. Thus, there will more detours as roads become waterlogged and impassable. Intermittent dry spells are expected normally in localized areas across the country with limited impact on crop development.

    • Conflict in the northeast, central, and northwestern areas (Boko Haram, communal, cattle rustling): For the purpose of this scenario, it is assumed conflict related to the Boko Haram insurgency will continue in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States at similar levels. Persisting communal conflict in the central states, including Kaduna, Nasarawa, Taraba, Benue, and Plateau, will intensify as the growing season peaks. In the northwest and central states, cattle rustlers will continue to restrict the movement of pastoralists and limit access to pastoral resources.

    • Dry season activities: Good water availability in local ponds and increased government support for dry season activities with inputs such as fertilizer and seeds will lead to increased dry season activities during December to May. Rice and wheat production will likely be above average in most areas. Off-season activities will be below average in conflict areas along the Komadugu-Yobe River and Lake Chad basin, due to restricted access to land and the bodies of water.

    • Labor demand, supply, and wages: Labor demand will increase compared to last year in areas outside of the northeast. This is attributable to the anticipated increase in cultivation across the country resulting from strong producer incentives. These incentives are due to high staple food prices, as well and improved access to inputs such as fertilizer and improved seeds and “single-digit” loans through the government’s Anchor Borrowers Program. High staple food prices will lead to increased production, both for household consumption and for selling on the market. Labor supply is expected to be average to above average, depending on the area. However, labor incomes are expected to remain very limited in conflict affected areas due to the limitation of opportunities.

    • Transhumance, pasture, and water availability: Pasture conditions and water availability will continue to improve across the country as the rainy season progresses. Pastoralists’ movement back north from the southern areas through the central states will continue through August as water and pasture availability increase in the northern areas. However, pastoralists are likely to evade areas prone to conflict and converge more in areas towards the northwest of Nigeria, leading to increased conflict and cattle rustling activities in the northwest.

    • Food prices: Staple food prices will continue to rise through September 2017 as the lean season progresses and market and household food stocks are depleted. Main season harvests in October will lead to an increase in household stocks and consumption of own production, reducing market dependence and leading to a decline in prices for staples through at least January 2018.

    • Livestock supply, demand, and prices: Livestock supply from Niger, Chad, and Cameroon will increase towards the Tabaski feast in September. However, supplies will likely be below average due to the limited purchasing power of Nigerian traders with the weakened value of the naira (NGN) against the CFA franc (XOF). Livestock-to-staples terms of trade will also be unfavorable for pastoralists, due to limited purchasing power in the market and high cereal prices.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Despite limited availability of own-produced foods and the seasonally high degree of market dependence, most poor households outside of the conflict-affected areas of the northeast will support their food needs through labor income during the growing season, livestock sales, the collection of wild foods, and the sale of firewood and charcoal. Agro-pastoralist and pastoralist households will sell livestock normally to earn income and access food. Beginning in October, most households will consume their own food from main season harvests, which are likely to be greater than last year. Thus, most areas of the country are expected to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between June 2017 and January 2018. Some poor households in northern states will continue to be impacted by the high staple food prices through the end of the lean season when they are more market dependent. These households are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through October.

    A severe food security emergency continues in areas of the northeast affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. The impact of the conflict, which has severely limited the agricultural livelihoods in the northeast for several consecutive years, has been exacerbated by atypically high food prices, restricted commodity flows into the area, and below-average income opportunities. Consequently, many poor households in the worst-affected areas of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States continue to experience large gaps in their basic food needs and are expected to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity between June 2017 and January 2018. Additionally, less accessible areas, likely experiencing similar or worse conditions to neighboring, accessible areas, face an elevated risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in 2017. Households in other areas of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States, where conflict-related disruptions to livelihoods and markets have been less severe, will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity through the lean season. With harvests beginning in October, seasonal improvements in food security are expected in some of these less-affected areas of the northeast where household are able to engage to an extent in typical agricultural livelihood activities.


    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures Estimated food security outcomes, June 2017

    Figure 1

    Estimated food security outcomes, June 2017

    Source: FEWS NET

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Number of conflict-related fatalities in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states, January – June 2017

    Figure 3

    Figure 1

    Source: ACLED

    Figure 2. Lake Chad region market and trade route activity, June 2017

    Figure 4

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3. NMME Precipitation Anomalies (mm/day) for June to October 2017

    Figure 5

    Figure 3

    Source: NOAA

    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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