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Despite forecasts for favorable rainfall, well below-average harvests again expected in northeast Nigeria

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Nigeria
  • June 2018 - January 2019
Despite forecasts for favorable rainfall, well below-average harvests again expected in northeast Nigeria

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • Humanitarian actors have provided sustained food assistance delivery in 2018, reaching 2.5 million people in April 2018 across the three northeast states. In May, food assistance deliveries reached 15 percent fewer households, meeting targets closer to what was seen in March 2017. As of late June, the humanitarian response plan was only 45 percent funded, and it is expected current funding for operations will run out before the end of 2018.

    • With the continuing military offensive, new arrivals continue to be identified in the northeast. As of May, IOM identified 1.8 million people displaced by conflict in northeast Nigeria. Between late November 2017 and April 2018 an estimated 100,000 new arrivals across Borno and northern Adamawa States were identified. The current weekly average for new arrivals is 4,500 individuals, many of who are fleeing to LGA headquarters from newly liberated areas.

    • In most of Borno, eastern Yobe and northern Adamawa Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes prevail. Significant areas within these regions remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors, and outcomes are likely similar or worse than in adjoining accessible areas. Additionally, there is continued concern that in a worst-case scenario displaced population, who are often centered in urban areas, could become cutoff due to flooding and/or a shift in conflict, leading to more extreme outcomes.

    • Outside of the northeast, the main agricultural season is progressing favorably in much of the rest of the country, and harvests are expected to be average to above-average. Most households will have seasonally typical access to food and income and remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. However, areas worst-affected by farmer/pastoralist conflict are facing greater difficulty accessing basic needs and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Progress of agricultural season: Rainfall performance to date has been near-average across most of the country. The onset of rains has been generally typical, with seasonal rains beginning in March in the south, and by May in the north. However, localized delays to the start of season (one to three weeks) was noted in some central and northern areas, which in turn delayed the start of agricultural activities in some areas (Figure 1).

    Various stages of cultivation activities continue throughout the country. In the south and some central areas, they have begun harvesting early green maize and tubers. In other areas of central Nigeria, planting, weeding, and fertilizer application for maize, sorghum, and legumes is underway. Planting of staples such as millet, sorghum, and maize, as well as groundnut, cowpea, and sesame cash crops, is progressing in most northern areas. Government support through the Anchor Borrowers’ Program continues to contribute to farmers’ access to improved inputs.

    Agricultural activities in northeast Nigeria continue to be disrupted by insecurity and displacement. Nearly two million people remained displaced in northeast Nigeria, and those who have returned often remain in larger cities in their local government areas. In displaced settlement areas and larger cities, affected populations have restricted access to land for cultivation. Additionally, ongoing insecurity is again in 2018 keeping many from engaging or participating fully in cultivation.

    Pastoral conditions: Water and pasture availability are gradually increasing across the country as the rainy season becomes established. Livestock body conditions are generally good, and pastoralists are moving back from the southern areas to the north, as is typical. However, these movements are partly restricted by the communal conflict in the central states, cattle rustling activities in the northwest and by the insurgency in the northeast, limiting access to some important rangelands in the affected areas. Some pastoralists have chosen to remain in southern states due to the pastoral-linked violence in central and northern areas. Livestock prices are generally above average, resulting in increased incomes for pastoralists, but livestock to cereal terms of trade remain only generally average due to persistently high staple food prices.

    Labor and income: In most parts of the country, agricultural wage labor is providing typical levels of income for poor households during the cultivation season. In rural areas, other households are engaging in other unskilled labor, petty trade, and generally typical levels of livestock sales. Most households across the country are dependent on market purchase this time of year as household stocks for even most agricultural households have become exhausted in advance of the next harvest in September/October. Even with typical access to income, households purchasing power remains lower than normal for this time of year due to the high costs of goods impacted by the depreciation of the naira. Food prices remain elevated and above average. However, the normal green harvests from southern and some central areas, gifts during Ramadan, and wild food collection have supplemented household food access. In conflict-affected areas in the northeast, access to income-earning opportunities remains very low. In Mubi in Adamawa State, for example, farm labor wages have reduced by about 33 percent relative to average and labor demand is well below average due to sharp reductions in area cultivated and the high availability of labor supply.

    Market supplies and household food stocks: Market availability is generally good throughout most of the country. Traders and farmers who usually stock and sell during the cultivation period are releasing such stocks to earn income to hire labor and to purchase inputs such as fertilizer and seeds. Remaining trader stocks are expected to be released in late August through September in anticipation of a favorable harvests and to create space for restocking. Market supplies for cowpeas on major northern markets have increased due to higher trade from Niger. The traders are in turn procuring millet for resale in Niger during its ongoing lean season. Household stocks in Nigeria are low, which is typical for this time of year, as production stocks from the previous harvests become exhausted at the end of the consumption year. Households impacted by ongoing conflict and displacement in northeast Nigeria continue to experience severely restricted levels of production stocks.

    Economy: Macroeconomic indicators in Nigeria continue to improve. Foreign exchange reserves continue to grow as global crude oil prices increase. After reaching a peak value in January 2017, the consumer price index has continued to decline for more than one year, reaching its lowest level since early 2016 by May 2018.

    Staple food prices: Staple food prices still remain well above average in many places, attributable in part to the depreciation of the naira against regional and international currencies. However, prices for staple cereal declined by between 4 and 78 percent relative to previous year at the same time. At the same time, staple food prices in conflict-affected northeast Nigeria remain relatively higher than in other neighboring markets. For example, maize and millet at Monday market in Maiduguri sells for about 10 percent more than in neighboring Kano and Gombe. Staple food prices in central and southern areas are below last years’ prices and closer to average in most cases.

    Conflict: Conflict in northeast Nigeria continues to impact millions throughout the region as fatal attacks by Boko Haram continue. Direct attacks and joint military operations in the northeast continue to keep many from their typical livelihoods, leading to continued displacement and disruption in economic activity. While most of the northeast remains impacted, Mobbar, Kukawa, Monguno, Ngala, Kala Balge, Dikwa, Bama, Abadam, Guzamala, and Marte LGAs are among the worst-affected.

    Heavy conflict between pastoral and farming communities in central and northern areas of the country also continue. These conflicts have left hundreds dead and lead to the destruction of property. These conflicts are also leading to the displacement of households and keeping many from their livelihoods. Both cultivation activities and pastoralists’ herd movements are affected.

    Displacement: As of May 2018, IOM identified over 1.8 million people in the northeast displaced due to ongoing conflict. Only about forty percent of displaced are in camps or camp-like settings.  While the number of identified IDPs increased by two percent, however, the number of identified returnees was three times higher. While returns continue to be registered in the northeast, many continue to return to LGA headquarters or other larger cities, making resettlement difficult for the many who previously had agricultural-based livelihoods.

    Cholera out-break: The Nigeria Center for Disease Control revealed a total of 13,009 suspected cholera cases with 116 deaths from twelve (12) States across the country between January and late June 2018. Bauchi State has reported 8,413 cases, which is the highest in the country so far, followed by Adamawa with 1,325 cases, and Borno with 1,212 cases. The overall Case Fatality Rate (CFR) for all cases is 0.89 percent. The most affected age groups are 1-4 years (29.2%) and 5-14 years (24.8%).

    National Rapid Response Teams (RRT) have been deployed to support surveillance, case management, risk communication, WASH and laboratory testing in Bauchi, Zamfara and Plateau states. Surveillance, active case search and hygiene promotion are ongoing, and public health advisory notes and risk communications messages on cholera have been disseminated.

    Humanitarian assistance: The 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan for the food security sector is 45 percent funded as of late June. Humanitarian actors provided food assistance to 2.5 million people and livelihood support to 1.2 million people in April 2018, reflecting targeting that is slightly higher than the previous month. In May, food assistance declined significantly and only about 1.9 million people received food assistance and 1.5 million received livelihood supports in the three northeast states.


    The most likely scenario for June 2018 to January 2019 is based on the following national level assumptions:

    • Conflict in the northeast: For the purpose of this scenario, it is assumed Boko Haram related conflict in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States will continue at levels similar to what has been seen in recent months. The high caseload of displaced populations is expected to remain very high, but household returns are also expected to continue, with most returning to local government area headquarters or other larger cities. With the continuation of the offensive targeting Boko Haram, more areas of the northeast are expected to continue to become accessible.
    • Conflict in central and northwestern areas: Farmer/pastoralist conflict, particularly in central and northwestern states, will intensify as the growing season peaks. Adamawa State will continue to experience both Boko Haram related conflict as well as the farmer/herder conflict.
    • 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 to harvests in October (Figure 3).
    • Flooding and dry spells: Seasonal flooding is expected along major floodplains across the eight hydrological areas across the country. The 2018 annual flood outlook forecast by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) indicated a high probability of flooding in 318 local government areas across 35 states in Nigeria. Water releases from local ponds and rivers from neighboring countries such as Cameroon will likely aggravate flooding in some affected areas. Blocked and limited drainage will aggravate urban flooding. Thus, there will be 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. The short dry spells during late July to early August will occur normally, particularly in the southern areas.
    • Cessation of the rainy season: The Nigeria meteorological agency and other international forecast agencies revealed the normal end of the rainy season in October in the northern areas and December in the southern areas. Localized areas across the country will experience early and late cessation of the rainy season as is typical, with minimal impact on crop performance.
    • Main agricultural season: The agricultural season is expected to progress normally. The main season harvests will start normally in September/October across the country. Harvests are expected to be average to above average in most areas. Exceptions are in northeast areas affected by the insurgency and localized areas across the country where conflicts between farmers and pastoralists are disrupting cultivation. Main harvests will be substantially below average in the northeast and likely below average in areas impacted by the farmer/pastoralists conflict mainly in the central states such as Kaduna, Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba as well as in Zamfara. As with most years, it is also likely that there will be some crop loss due to excessive flooding along major floodplains.
    • Transhumance and pastoral resources: Pasture conditions and water availability will continue to improve normally across the country as the rainy season progresses. Livestock movement back to the northern areas from the southern areas through the central states will continue as water and pasture availability increase in the northern areas. Pastoralists will evade areas prone to conflict in the northeast and central states and converge more in areas towards the northwest of Nigeria.
    • Dry season activities: Off-season activities will begin normally in December as the water recedes along major floodplains. Restrictions on the importation of rice will likely lead to increased local rice production in many 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 both land and water bodies. Affected, dry season farmers along Benue river in Adamawa and Benue States will likely engage in below average farming activities due to the farmer/herder conflict in the area.
    • Market supplies and household food stocks: Between June and September, household and market stocks will continue to deplete normally. However, the lean season will be prolonged and more severe for households in the northeast affected by the conflict. Traders and farmers who usually stock and sell during the cultivation period will release such stocks to earn income to hire labor, purchase inputs such as fertilizer and seeds. Remaining trader stocks will be released in late August to September in anticipation of favorable harvests and creating space for restocking with new harvest. Household stocks will increase normally in October when main harvest begins. The exception will be households in conflict-affected areas of the northeast where household and market stocks will remain below average as the conflict persist in the area.
    • Food prices: Staple food prices will continue to rise through the lean season, which ends in September 2018, as market demand increases, and trader stocks decrease. However, while prices will remain above average, they are likely to be below levels observed last year throughout much of the country. Main harvests in October will increase household stocks and consumption of own production, and lead to a decline market dependence and decrease in market prices through at least January 2019.  
    • Livestock supply, demand, prices: Livestock supply from Niger, Chad and Cameroon will increase as the Tabaski holiday in August approaches. However, market supplies will likely be below average due to limited purchasing power from Nigerian traders. Prices will likely be average to above average due to limited market supplies. Intermittent livestock market closures in the northeast, particularly in Borno and Yobe states will further reduce market supplies and livestock trade across the country.
    • Humanitarian assistance: The food security sector response plan was only 45 percent funded in late June. Funding constrain will likely persist through the end of the year, at the same time food security needs remain high and new displacement continues. As current funding for assistance delivery will likely run out in September, no assistance deliveries are assumed for the last quarter of the year and early 2019 for the purpose of this scenario.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Most households across the country are engaging in typical livelihood activities for the time of the year as the 2018 rainy season becomes established. While market dependence is seasonally high, most households are able to access income normally from agricultural activities, livestock sales, and other petty trade. Others are engaged in other unskilled labor activities or are accessing seasonal loans to access markets. Given the likely good progression of the 2018 rainfall season, household food stocks from harvests will begin to be replenished by September/October, with average to above-average production expected in most areas. Similarly, pasture and water conditions for pastoral households are also expected to improve throughout the growing season. As such, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity is expected for most areas of the country between June 2018 and January 2019. However, many households affected by herder/farmer conflict in the northwest and central parts of Nigeria and who remain displaced in Plateau, Benue, Zamfara, Taraba, Adamawa and Katsina states are facing more difficult access to food and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the lean season period through September 2018.

    In Boko Haram conflict-affected areas of the northeast, livelihoods for most households remain heavily disrupted. Agricultural and other income-earning opportunities remain restricted due to the direct impacts of the conflict and by the high levels of displacement. This is exacerbated by atypical market functioning and high prices. In many cases, households remain highly dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic food needs. Much of the northeast is likely to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until at least early 2019. Worst-affected areas, where there is the highest restrictions on agriculture, other livelihoods activities, access to markets, and assistance provision, are expected to face larger food consumption gaps.  As such, poor households in worst-affected areas of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states will face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity. Areas where populations are affected by complete loss of livelihoods activities and who remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors are likely facing similar or worse food security outcomes as neighboring, accessible areas. Extreme levels of acute food insecurity are possible in a worst-case scenario where displaced populations become cutoff due to a shift in conflict and emergency assistance provision is halted, a situation similar to what occurred in Bama LGA during the first half of 2016.


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

    Figures Most of the country is in IPC Phase 1, Minimal. Isolated areas of central and northern Nigeria are in IPC Phase 2, Stressed.

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, June 2018

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    This agricultural start of rainfall season anomally map show how the start of rains was generally on time. In some central ar

    Figure 3

    Figure 1

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    This chart showing reported cholera cases highlights how Bauchi, Adamawa, and Borno have the highest numbers of cases reporte

    Figure 4

    Figure 2

    Source: Nigerian CDC

    Rainfall is forecast to be above average for most of Africa for the June to September period. The exception is for Senegal, w

    Figure 5

    Figure 3

    Source: NOAA/CPC

    Market and trade route functioning disruptions are most prevelent in eastern and northern Borno state. There are also signifi

    Figure 6

    Figure 4

    Source: FEWS NET

    This map indicates that most of Borno State is in IPC Phase 3, Crisis, with northeastern Borno in IPC Phase 4, Emergency. Mos

    Figure 7

    Northeast Nigeria projected food security outcomes, June to September 2018

    Source: FEWS NET

    This map indicates that most of Borno State is in IPC Phase 4, Emergency. Most of Yobe and Adamawa is in IPC Phase 2, Stresse

    Figure 8

    Northeast Nigeria projected food security outcomes, October 2018 to January 2019

    Source: 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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