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Main season harvests in much of the northeast have been severely limited by the ongoing conflict

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Nigeria
  • October 2017 - May 2018
Main season harvests in much of the northeast have been severely limited by the ongoing conflict

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  • Key Messages
  • National overview
  • Key Messages
    • Boko Haram conflict in the northeast has severely limited normal livelihoods activities over several years. Many poor and/or displaced households in the region are highly dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet minimal food requirements, and remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3!). Many of those households unable to access assistance are facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes. 

    • Very limited staple harvests, high food prices, and poor labor opportunities will leave many households in the northeast heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance for food access throughout the outlook period. In the absence of continued assistance, most parts of Borno State, as well as Madagali and Michika LGAs in Adamawa State and Gujba and Gulani LGAs in Yobe State, are expected to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes between February and at least May 2018. 

    • Information about conditions for populations who remain in inaccessible areas of the northeast is very limited. However, it is likely that households in areas cut-off from humanitarian access are facing more severe constraints to basic food and non-food needs, with an elevated risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) outcomes in these areas throughout the outlook period.

    • Main season harvests are underway across the country, and are expected to be average to above-average. Outside of the northeast, most poor households are currently consuming own-produced staples. Although progression of the rainy season was near-normal, main season harvests will be below average in areas affected by communal conflict, as well as in parts of central states affected by pest infestations and areas in central and southeastern states that experienced flooding during the season.

    National overview

    Current Situation

    Markets and trade

    Staple food prices: Prices for most staples in major markets outside of the northeast, including cereals and tubers, remain 50 to more than 100 percent above prices from October 2015, prior to the devaluation of the naira (NGN). In the northeast, these prices are mostly more than 150 percent above values of two years prior. However, prices are declining marginally as the main season harvests proceed across the country. Most households are now consuming own-produced food, reducing demand on markets. For most cereals, price increases since September 2016 are within 10 percent in most markets monitored. However, millet prices have increased further in the same period, likely due to increased demand from neighboring Niger. Prices for millet are lower than in Niger markets, leading to increased demand in Niger for Nigerian millet (Figure 2).

    Macroeconomic situation

    Government revenue has increased in recent months, from both oil and non-oil sectors, including agriculture. Major economic indicators continue to improve, including positive GDP growth of about 0.55 percent in the 2nd quarter of 2017, an increase of about two percent in foreign reserve levels between June and July 2017, and the strengthening of the naira (NGN) against regional currencies. However, inflation remains high, at 16 percent as of August (Figure 5).


    Main season harvests: The growing season has progressed favorably across the country. Harvests are underway as usual for major staples such as cereals (maize, millet, and rice), legumes (cowpea and groundnut), and tubers (yam, potatoes, and cassava). Sorghum, which has a longer growing cycle, will be harvested as usual in December/January. The rainy season is expected to end normally in October in the extreme northern areas and central states, and will continue into December in the southern region. Coupled with increased land cultivated and favorable rainfall distribution and amount, as well as increased access to inputs during the growing season, national staple harvests are likely to be near average to above average for most crops in most areas. However, the preliminary crop assessment survey led by NAERLS indicates that the national millet production is slightly lower than last year.

    Areas where main season activities have produced below-average harvests include areas prone to flooding and conflict. In the northeast, harvests will be well-below average due to widespread insecurity and limited area cultivated. According to the NAERLS survey, production of sorghum declined by nine percent in Borno State and by three percent in Adamawa State as compared to last year, and remained well-below average and the pre-conflict period. Millet production also declined in Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, and Kano, encompassing the major surplus production area for millet. Kaduna, Taraba, Plateau, and Kogi states also recorded lower millet production compared to last year. However, rice production increased in most states relative to previous year, but declined in some states in the southern areas. Aggregate production is higher than average.

    Pest infestation: There have been substantial incidences of crop pests and diseases during the growing season across much of the country, particularly in the surplus-producing cereal zones in the northern region of Nigeria. It remains unclear whether infestations of army worm have mostly been the endemic African Army Worm (AAW), or the invasive Fall Army Worm (FAW). Army worm and locust infestations have been observed in parts of Kano, Yobe, Bauchi, Adamawa, Zamfara, Benue, Jigawa, and Kaduna States. Consequently, crops such as millet, sorghum, maize, and cowpea were affected. In Damaturu, Jakusko, Geidam, and Yunusari Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Yobe State, for example, an estimated 25-30 percent of the cultivated millet, sorghum, cowpea, and groundnut crops were destroyed at various growth stages by army worms and locusts. Similarly, in Bauchi State, about 50,000 metric tons of millet, sorghum, rice, and maize were destroyed by army worms. In Zamfara State, over 400 hectares of rice and maize were infected by aphids. There were also cases of quelea bird invasion in Zamfara, Adamawa, and Bauchi States. The impact of pest infestations across the country has been near-average on main season harvests, but substantial in localized areas.

    Flooding: Flooding has affected at least 22 States across the country, including Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Delta, Akwa-Ibom, Edo, Bayelsa, and Anambra in the coastal areas. Other states affected include Katsina, Benue, Kebbi, Sokoto, Gombe, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Plateau, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) towards the plains. The most significant adverse impacts on people have been reported in Benue, Lagos, Kogi, Niger, and Delta States. Water levels in the Benue and Niger rivers are rising due to high rainfall intensity within their catchment areas, coupled with releases from Kainji and Jebba dams. The water level at the monitoring station in Lokoja (Kogi State), near the confluence of the Benue and Niger rivers, was 9.34m as of 13th September 2017, comparable to the 9.64m recorded there on the same date in 2012. In early September, heavy rains led to flooding in Benue State, in north-central Nigeria. Reports indicate that nearly 250,000 people have been affected in 21 LGAs. Hundreds of houses have been destroyed and crops in the field have been damaged. The Benue State Government, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), and other humanitarian actors are managing camps for displaced persons in the state capital, Makurdi (OCHA, 6 Sep 2017). 

    Communal conflict: Conflict between sedentary farmers and nomadic pastoralist communities have been persisting across the northern and central states, though at a reduced level relative to previous years. Despite a large number of conflict events, fatalities remain lower compared to last year. In 2016, the average number of fatalities per event of farmer/pastoralist conflict was 10, while it is about four in 2017 so far. However, the number of conflict incidents is expanding towards the southern states of Delta, Abia, and Ogun. Anti-grazing laws passed by Benue, Bayelsa, Abia, and Ekiti States have intensified the conflictive environment and restricted access to grazing lands across these states. 
    Boko Haram insurgency: Conflict in the northeast has drastically limited normal livelihoods activities over several years, leading to severe acute food insecurity in much of Borno State and parts of Adamawa and Yobe States. A recently completed Emergency Food Security Assessment (EFSA) in the northeast (results pending) will provide further information on recent severity and magnitude of acute food insecurity in the area. 
    According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), the number of conflict events in Nigeria’s northeast, almost entirely related to the Boko Haram insurgency, remained similar for the eight months from February through September 2017 as compared to the previous eight months (June 2016 – January 2017). However, the number of reported fatalities were approximately 25 percent lower. This is mainly attributable to the sustained military vigilance around major urban areas. Despite Boko Haram’s current limited capacity to launch complex attacks, the group continues to carry out suicide attacks against security forces and civilians. A number of these strikes have been centered near Maiduguri, targeting checkpoints, government institutions, and IDP camps. The loss of life in such attacks has been declining in recent years: in 2015, the average fatality count for Boko Haram suicide attacks was 15; in 2016 it declined to 9 deaths per attack, and so far in 2017, an average of 3.4 people died in each suicide attack by the insurgents.
    Cholera and other water-related diseases: An outbreak of cholera, which started in Kwara State in May 2017, has become widespread across some states of north-central Nigeria. Other affected states include Kano, Kebbi, Lagos, Kaduna, Borno, Oyo, and Zamfara. Currently, the cholera epidemic is more critical and endemic in Borno State, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis there. Similarly, NCDC has reported 31 cases of monkey pox disease in seven states including Bayelsa, Ekiti, Akwa-Ibom, Ogun, Rivers, Cross River, and Lagos. Outbreak responses in affected states are led by the State Ministries of Health with support from NCDC and partners.

    Households across most of the country are engaged in main season harvest, with seasonally normal income-earning opportunities while consuming own-produced staple foods. Food prices are declining due to the main harvest, while fewer people are currently dependent on market purchases for food access. Exceptions are households impacted by the Boko Haram conflict in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, who have little or no harvests and are mainly dependent on assistance and limited market purchases for food access. Other households affected by flooding, pest infestations, and dry spells have below-normal household stocks.


    The most likely scenario for the October 2017 to May 2018 period is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    Agricultural sector

    • Main harvests: Main season harvests are expected to be average to above-average in most areas. However, localized areas have been impacted by flooding, dry spells, conflicts, and pest infestations, leading to below-average harvests in these areas.
    • Rainfall cessation for 2017 and onset of the 2018 season: The rainy season is expected to end normally between October and early November in the Sahelian/Sudanian zones, and in December in the bimodal zone. The 2018 rainy season is expected to have normal probabilities for the beginning of season timing and rainfall accumulations, beginning in the bimodal zone during February/March and later in central areas during April/May and transiting to the areas further north in June/July, as the intertropical front (ITF) moves northward. Rainfall levels are expected to be average in most areas. Probabilities for dry spells and flooding will be near normal.
    • Dry season activities: Dry season harvests in April and May 2018 will likely be substantially above average, primarily due to average to above-average water availability in ponds and rivers as well as government supports and incentives. Government support for the dry season activities, such as increased access to funding and inputs as well as import restriction policies for rice, will lead to increased farmer participation during the dry season period. The Central Bank of Nigeria, through the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) will continue to provide support to increased agricultural financing to improve agricultural production.

    Macroeconomic situation

    • Nigerian Naira (NGN) versus regional and global currencies: Since early August 2017, the value of the naira has stabilized against the U.S. dollar (USD) and CFA franc (XOF). Exchange rates are expected to remain stable during the outlook period as the Nigerian government will continue its direct intervention to supply more foreign exchange in the currency markets.
    • Cross border trade: The anticipated favorable crop production across the country will lead to increased market supplies of most staples such as maize, millet, sorghum, and tubers. The value of the naira (NGN) against the CFA franc (XOF) is expected to remain in the range of 40 to 50 percent of the five-year average. Thus, traders in neighboring countries will continue to purchase from Nigerian markets, increasing trade activity.
    • Staple food prices: Staple food prices are expected to remain high throughout the period, between 50 and 100 percent above average depending on the season. However, staple food prices will continue to decline seasonally due to the main season harvests. Prices will remain seasonally low through February, as household stocks and market supplies peak. Staple prices are likely to increase from March 2018, as traders begin to restock their warehouses coupled with institutional purchases, increasing market demand. During April/May, prices will decrease slightly due to the dry season harvest and the early green harvest, which will increase household and market supplies.


    • Labor demand, supply, and wages: Labor demand will peak normally during the main harvest between October and December, and will continue at seasonally high demand during the dry season activities starting in December with harvests expected in April/May. More households will engage in dry season activities, particularly those affected by flood to recoup their losses and access food during the dry season harvest. Labor movement from conflict-prone areas in the northeast towards other parts of the country will lead to an increase in the supply of labor. Wages are likely to be average in most areas, with the exception of much of the northeast, where wages will remain below average. Labor migration from the northern areas to the southern part of the country for unskilled work will occur as usual. However, labor movements from neighboring countries into Nigeria will be below normal levels due to the persisting conflict.


    • Boko Haram: For the purpose of this scenario, conflict involving the Boko Haram insurgency is expected to persist in the northeast of Nigeria at similar levels as in recent months, in terms of number of conflict events and fatalities. Conflict is most likely in Borno and northern Adamawa, but also in parts of Yobe State. Further population displacement is likely as well as returns of refugees from neighboring countries in the Lake Chad region, particularly as the rainy season finalizes. Most returnees are likely to arrive in urban areas rather than their original homesteads. The multinational joint task force will likely intensify their operations in difficult to access areas.
    • Community-level conflict: Conflict between semi-nomadic pastoralists and local farmers is expected to persist, as well as inter-tribal conflict. These conflicts will remain primarily in central states and localized areas of the south. Conflict between pastoralists and farmers will likely intensify during the peak harvest period.

    Livestock sector

    • Transhumance, livestock conditions, pastures, and water availability: Pastoralist movement across the country will occur earlier than is typical, due to the persisting conflicts and cattle rustling activities, which will continue to restrict access to grazing land in conflict-affected areas. However, favorable cumulative rainfall during the rainy season has generated adequate pastoral resources in most areas, leading to good livestock body conditions.


    • Flooding: Water levels in the two major rivers, the Niger and Benue, remain highly elevated. Similarly, NIMET indicated that more rainfall is expected in the central and southern parts of the country, signifying elevated flood risk along the major floodplains. This will be exacerbated by the expected water releases from Kainji and Jebba dams, upstream of the confluence at Lokoja, in Kogi State. However, flooding for the current season will be less than during 2012.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Most rural households are consuming own-produced foods as harvests begin across the country. Similarly, most households will engage in normal income earning opportunities through agricultural labor and casual non-agricultural activities. Coupled with normal livelihood strategies such as cash crop sales, livestock sales, and market purchases with income from casual labor, most poor households outside of the northeast are likely to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes at least until May 2018. However, poor households affected by communal conflict, flooding, pest infestation, and/or prolonged dry spells in Jigawa, Katsina, Niger, Bauchi, Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Plateau, Zamfara, and Kaduna States are likely to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity between February and May 2018.

    Although severe locally, conflict, flooding, pest infestations, and dry spells are not expected to have a large impact on aggregate staple production. Farmers were able to replant after the dry spells, though harvests are delayed in affected areas. Similarly, flooding has been mainly in urban areas, with minimal impact on farmlands. Some households affected by communal conflict were still able to cultivate, though at below-normal levels. Many of these households will also engage in dry season cultivation along major floodplains, while others will engage in casual labor during the same period to access income and food.

    In the northeast, including in Borno State and parts of Yobe and Adamawa States, many poor and/or displaced households affected by the Boko Haram insurgency will continue to face large food consumption gaps. At the periphery of the Sambisa forest, where humanitarian access remains difficult and sporadic and where harvests will be very limited, many households will experience wide food consumption gaps and elevated prevalence of malnutrition, and will face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity outcomes through at least May 2018. Many households in more accessible areas with improved humanitarian activities are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3), while others are almost entirely dependent on humanitarian activities and are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3!). However, parts of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States that are less affected by the insurgency and have functioning markets, and where households are able to engage in some limited livelihood activities, are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food security outcomes.

    There remains an elevated risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) outcomes in areas heavily affected by major disruptions to livelihoods activities, and where humanitarian actors are unable to operate. 


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

    Figures Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Lake Chad region market and trade route activity, October 2017

    Figure 2

    Lake Chad region market and trade route activity, October 2017

    Source: FEWS NET

    West Africa millet prices, September 2017

    Figure 3

    West Africa millet prices, September 2017

    Source: FEWS NET

    Maize prices in key markets, September 2017 versus December 2015

    Figure 4

    Maize prices in key markets, September 2017 versus December 2015

    Source: FEWS NET

    Sorghum prices in key markets, September 2017 versus December 2015

    Figure 5

    Sorghum prices in key markets, September 2017 versus December 2015

    Source: FEWS NET

    Nigeria foreign reserves, global fuel price trends and inflation (January 2015 to August 2017)

    Figure 6

    Nigeria foreign reserves, global fuel price trends and inflation (January 2015 to August 2017)

    Source: Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)

    Northeast region, projected food security outcomes, October 2017 to January 2018

    Figure 7

    Northeast region, projected food security outcomes, October 2017 to January 2018

    Source: FEWS NET

    Northeast region, projected food security outcomes, February to May 2018

    Figure 8

    Northeast region, projected food security outcomes, February to May 2018

    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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