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Population displacement and assistance needs remain elevated in the northeast during the harvest

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Nigeria
  • October 2019 - May 2020
Population displacement and assistance needs remain elevated in the northeast during the harvest

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Most populations in parts of Borno, northern Adamawa and southern Yobe states that are the worst affected by the insurgency are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Outcomes in inaccessible areas are likely similar or may be worse than neighboring accessible areas, and there remains a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in these areas. Extreme levels of acute food insecurity, including Famine (IPC Phase 5) are also possible in a worst-case scenario in which conflict shifts and significantly restricts humanitarian access and household movement.

    • The 2019 main harvest is underway across the country. Preliminary results from the annual production survey led by the National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaison Services (NAERLS) revealed that maize, millet, rice, and sorghum production will be relatively stable compared to the previous year, and higher than the five-year average. Yam production is greater than in the previous year and the five-year average.

    • Displaced persons residing in camps within Greater Maiduguri and environs remain accessible to humanitarian actors and are dependent on humanitarian assistance and some income earning opportunities such as agricultural labor, petty trading, construction labor work, and local crafts. Some others are engaged in water hawking, begging, and domestic labor to earn limited income and are unable to meet non-food needs and will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes until at least May 2020.

    • Currently, households affected by farmer/pastoralist conflict, communal conflict, banditry, kidnapping, and cattle rustling in the northwest and central parts of Nigeria are facing limited food access in localized areas and are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Flood affected households who remain displaced across the country are similarly facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. However, other households across the country are engaged in the main harvest and have access to their usual income earning opportunities and are experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Flooding: Reports from the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) revealed that thirty-three states and the Federal Capital Territory have been impacted by flooding with varying impact levels between June and October 2019. (Figure 1).

    Main harvest: The main season harvest for 2019 is underway across the country. Preliminary results from the annual production survey led by the National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaison Services (NAERLS) revealed that the major cereal staples including maize, millet, rice and sorghum production will be relatively stable compared to the previous year (Figure 2). However, maize, millet, rice and sorghum production will be higher by 18 percent, 22 percent, 9 percent and 6 percent respectively compared to the 5-year average. Similarly, yam production will increase by 7 and 10 percent relative to the previous year and the 5-year average, respectively, while cassava production declined slightly by about 2 percent relative to last year but increased by about 18 percent relative to average. Legumes and oilseed crop (cowpea, cotton, groundnut and soybean) production will slightly increase by 2 and 12 percent respectively relative to last year and the average.

    Market and household food stocks: Markets are well supplied across the country with cereal staples including maize, millet and sorghum. Traders have substantial staple and cash crops stocks in their warehouses and are releasing these stocks in anticipation of the new harvest starting in October. Households are replenishing their stocks with the new harvest underway. However, imported rice stocks is at the lowest level as the land border remain closed since August 20, 2019 restricting rice flow into the country.

    Staple food prices: Staple cereal prices are lower than last year and the five-year average. Staple prices are lower in northwest and central states mainly due to lower demand. However, prices are higher in northeast Nigeria due to the substantially below average harvest, low market supplies, and high transaction costs.

    Labor and income sources: The main harvest is providing labor opportunities to a substantial population of poor households and who are earning normal incomes across the country. Agro-pastoralists are selling their livestock at favorable prices to earn income. The livestock-cereal terms of trade are in favor of pastoralists. Some vulnerable households are earning income through firewood sales, petty trading, sales of crafts, while others are participating in construction work and other unskilled labor to earn income.

    Insecurity and displacement in Northeast Nigeria: The persisting insurgents attacks and military operations have continued to increase population displacement, restrict population movement, markets and trade, and other livelihood activities in the northeast of Nigeria. The recent IOM-DTM round 28 assessment conducted between July 1st and 16th across the six northeast states of Nigeria revealed that 2,018,513 internally displaced people (IDPs) remain displaced - an increase of 2 percent compared to the previous round released in May 2019. Borno state – the epicenter of the Boko Haram conflict recorded over 1.4 million IDPs, the highest in the country. Adamawa and Yobe states had over 200,000 and 130,000 IDPs, respectively within the same period. Taraba state, which is most affected by the Tiv/Jukun communal conflict as well as farmer/pastoralist conflict had over 131,000 IDPs in July. However, Bauchi and Gombe states had fewer IDPs within the same period.

    Recent insurgent attacks in Gubio, Magumeri, Bama, Nganzai (Borno state), Babangida and Buni Yadi (Yobe state) increased population displacement. The recent IOM-ETT report covering October 7th to 13th indicates that a total of 1,137 population movements were recorded, composed of 856 arrivals and 281 departures across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Approximately 132 persons arrived, and 46 others departed Askira/Uba LGA in Borno State. Similarly, 117 arrivals were recorded in Bama LGA.

    With the increasing number of IDPs and persisting conflict in the northeast, humanitarian food assistance is declining relative to previous year, though actors remain responsive. In August 2018 over 1.93 million people received food assistance in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, while in August 2019 only 1.47 million people received food assistance across these states. The activities of two major humanitarian actors in the northeast have been suspended by the military since September 2019, further limiting food assistance access in the area. General food distribution, WASH, and nutrition activities in over 18 LGAs in Borno and Yobe states are affected by the restriction of these actors. In September 2019 the food assistance beneficiaries declined by over 300,000 in the northeast (20%) of total assistance relative to August 2019.

    Insecurity and displacement in Northwest and Central states: The farmer/pastoralist conflict, kidnapping, communal conflict, and armed banditry in Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states in the northwest as well as Plateau, Kaduna, Benue, Niger, Taraba and Nasarawa states in the northcentral are ongoing. From July 25th to August 4th, UNHCR and the Government through the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) conducted a joint assessment across Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara states to ascertain the impact of the conflict. The assessment revealed that there were 210,354 IDPs across 171 towns and villages across the three states. Zamfara  state was the worst affected and had 144,996 IDPs, Sokoto recorded 35,941 IDPs, and Katsina state had 29,417 IDPs. Most of these displaced persons are residing in host communities while others are in public buildings such as schools, and uncompleted buildings. Over 40,000 displaced persons from these three states have crossed into Niger. These IDPs and refugees, who were mainly farmers and pastoralists before their displacement, have currently lost their livelihoods and are reliant on unskilled labor opportunities, petty trading, limited assistances from the community, government and humanitarian actors, for income. Children are also engaged in hawking and begging to earn income for their families.

    The tribal conflict between the Tiv in Benue state and the Jukun people in Taraba state in northcentral is also ongoing. On October 9th substantial populations were further displaced to neighboring locations. Affected communities are either unable to cultivate or unable to harvest their crops.

    FEWS NET field informants also indicate that border closures, kidnapping, and banditry have impacted market supplies and cross border activities. Transportation costs from Maradi to Jibia which usually costs NGN700/bag before the closure now cost NGN1,200/bag through informal routes.

    The Nigerian Government through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is planning to release 5,000 tons of assorted staple foods, targeting affected populations in Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara and Benue states.



    The most likely scenario for October 2019 to May 2020 is based on the following national level assumptions:


    • Main harvest: The national main harvest will likely be average to above average, though localized areas of deficit are expected. The current growing season was impacted by several factors that may affect the prospects of the main season harvest across the country. These include flooding which occurred in several locations across the country (northeastern, west-central, and downstream in the eastern parts of Nigeria) that resulted in damage to farmland, infrastructure, livestock, and displacement of populations. There were also localized instances of pests, birds infestations and dry spells that affected crop development. Widespread conflict in the northeast, and armed banditry, kidnapping, communal and farmer/pastoralist conflicts in northwest, and central states impacted households’ ability to access their regular agricultural holdings. These factors combined with lower than average prices of both staples and cash crops during the consumption year have negatively impacted access to land and consequently reduction in land area put under cultivation, as well as reduced levels of cultivation and reduced harvest prospects in affected areas.
    • Flooding risk: The forecast for additional rain at the end of the season through the beginning of November will lead to a sustained elevated risk of flooding in areas along the major river floodplains. Sustained rainfall upstream in the Niger and Benue rivers will lead to an elevated risk of flooding in the west-central parts of Nigeria and downstream in the eastern parts of Nigeria as the water heads to the Atlantic Ocean. The sustained rainfall along the Cameroon border with Nigeria will likely increase risk of flooding in the east central part of Nigeria through the beginning of November. The likely release of water from the Lagdo dam in Cameroon will further exacerbate the flooding situation in Nigeria.
    • Flooding impacts: Considering expected rainfall and flooding through the beginning of November there will likely be continued damages to infrastructure, houses, livestock and farmlands. More population, particularly those living along major floodplains will be displaced. Crops such as rice, maize and vegetables thriving along floodplains will be flooded and damaged.
    • Start of the 2020 rainy season: The 2020 rainy season and consequently the growing season is expected to begin normally across the country. The season will begin in February and March as usual in the bimodal areas of the south and in April and May in the central states. In the northern areas the rainy season will likely begin in June and July.
    • Conflict: Conflict in the northwest and central areas related to armed banditry, kidnapping, communal and farmer/herder will persist, and more population will be displaced to neighboring areas. Similarly, conflict related to Boko Haram in the northeast will continue and the both the insurgents and military will intensify, displacing more population to urban areas and increasing assistance needs.  

    Markets and trade

    • Exchange rate: The continued monthly propping of the naira by the central bank, restriction of foreign exchange for 41 prohibited items sustained, and favorable crude oil prices in the international market, will continue to strengthen the naira against other foreign currencies. The ongoing border closure will also limit imports, particularly for rice and demand for forex. Similarly, remittances around the Christmas and New Year period will increase forex inflow and further support the value of the naira. However, from February to May 2020 the implementation of the national budget, including the anticipated salary increase for workers will increase cash flow and is expected to slightly weaken the naira.
    • Oil Prices: Crude oil prices will remain elevated through the next two to three months. The increased oil demand during the upcoming winter and reduced supply from Saudi Arabia will lead to increased oil prices. There is also speculation that increased tensions in the middle east region will likely lead to further reduced market supply from Saudi Arabia coupled with the ongoing sanctions on market supply from Iran. Thus, crude oil prices will remain elevated throughout early next year.
    • Inflation rate: Nigeria's inflation rate dropped to 11.02 percent year-on-year in August 2019 and slightly increase to 11.24 percent in September, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The Central Bank of Nigeria had projected the economy to grow by 3 percent in 2019, higher than the 1.93 percent recorded in 2018, and expecting inflation moderation to a single digit towards the end of the year. Additionally, the anticipated main harvest beginning in October will lead to reduced food prices, a major component of the calculated basket. The stable exchange rate of the naira and favorable crude oil prices in the international market will favor a lower inflationary trend.
    • Market food supplies: Market supplies will continue to increase as the main harvest peaks through December. Coupled with the impending new harvest beginning in October, market supplies will increase as demand decreases. Prices will also decline and remain below those of the previous year and the 5-year average (Figure 4).
    • Trade flows with neighboring countries: The border closure with neighboring countries will be prolonged through at least the end of the year. Thus, cross border trade activities with Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin will continue to decline and commodity flow will also decline. These include cowpeas, imported rice and livestock flow into Nigeria and cereals such as millet, maize, sorghum and other imported commodities into Niger, Benin, Chad and Cameroon depending on country.


    • Household stocks: Household food stocks will continue to increase as the main harvest begins in October. In northern areas these will include maize and millet, followed by sorghum in December. Other crops include legumes (cowpeas and groundnuts in the northern and central areas) as well as tubers (cassava and yams in central and southern areas) will also be harvested within the period. Conflict affected households will deplete their stocks in March and flood affected households will have limited stocks in the north starting May/June and in March/April in the south.
    • Income sources: From October to December most poor households will engage in labor related to the main harvest to earn income. Households will start selling cash crops such as cowpeas and groundnut to earn income for the Christmas and New year celebration, while others will sale their staples. Cash crop sales will be normal, and agro-pastoralists will sell livestock including shoat and cattle as usual. Others will engage in unskilled labor work including construction, water hawking, and wild food collection to earn income. During December, off-season activities including dry season farming and fishing activities will begin normally, providing income opportunities. Dry season harvests will occur normally in April/May providing additional labor opportunities. Remittances for those households who engaged in migratory labor will provide income from December to May as usual. Exceptions will be in areas affected by conflict and flooding where displaced households will compete with host households to earn income and wages, that will be lower than average.
    • Farm and non-farm labor availability and rates: Agricultural labor opportunities will increase in October as the main harvest intensifies through January. Flood-affected households who remain displaced will engage in labor during the harvest. Similarly, dry season activities starting in December will provide additional labor opportunities through April/May, the peak harvest period. Dry season labor opportunities will likely be above average, particularly rice cultivation across the country, though mainly in northern areas along major floodplains, dams and other water bodies due to government support. Unskilled labor work during the off-season period will provide labor opportunities. Wages are likely to be slightly above average from October to December when borders remain closed and migratory labor is unavailable, decreasing labor competition. Wages will decline during the off-season period when more labor is available and increased competition will lead to lower wages.
    • Pastoral conditions/transhumance: Favorable rainfall during the entire growing season will lead to abundant pasture and water resources for livestock grazing in most areas. Remnants from the main harvest will increase access to grazing materials. With the anticipated normal onset of the rainy season pastoralists are expected to return to their homestead starting in June 2020. Pastoralist movements from neighboring countries including Niger, Chad and Cameroon will be below-average due mainly to border closures, persisting conflict, cattle rustling, and the favorable rainfall season in these neighboring countries. However, transhumance will likely begin slightly earlier than usual in January due to the persisting conflict in the northern areas that is limiting grazing areas and restricting normal access to pastoral resources. Grazing areas in the central states will be restricted due to the persisting conflict and these pastoralists will move southwards starting in January to access pasture earlier than normal.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Most households across the country are gradually replenishing their food stocks and market dependence is declining normally as the main harvest peaks. Thus, most households will consume their own food and depend less on markets.  As such, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity is expected for most areas of the country between October 2019 and May 2020. However, households affected by communal conflict, herder/farmer conflict, armed banditry, kidnapping, and cattle rustling in the northwest and central parts of Nigeria and who remain displaced in Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, Niger, and Adamawa states will face limited food access in localized affected areas. Households in Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina states, that are the worst affected by armed banditry and kidnapping for ransom are only able to meet their basic food needs and will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcome. Similarly, flood-affected households in parts of Jigawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, and Niger states that were the worst affected and those who remain displaced during the recent harvest will only be able to minimally meet their basic food needs and will also be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    In areas worst affected by the Boko Haram conflict in the northeast livelihoods for most households remain heavily disrupted. The main harvests remain substantially below the pre-conflict period and other income-earning opportunities will remain restricted due to the conflict and substantial populations remain displaced. In many cases, households will remain highly dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic food needs, particularly the IDPs in major urban areas and those who resides in camps, are expected to continue facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes. Much of the communities outside of the IDP settlements and outside of the main urban centers in the northeast will likely remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), as they receive limited or no humanitarian assistance and are dependent on their own limited harvest and markets for food. Worst-affected areas, where there are the highest restrictions on agriculture, other livelihoods activities, access to markets, and assistance provisions, are expected to face larger food consumption gaps and they will continue to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Areas where populations are affected by significant losses 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, including Famine (IPC Phase 5) are possible in a worst-case scenario shift in which conflict would significantly restrict humanitarian access and household movements.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.



    Impact on food security outcomes


    Early transhumance towards the southern areas

    • Increased level of herder/farmer conflict during the main harvest period.
    • Increased population displacement in affected areas.
    • Early depletion of pastoral resources in destination areas.



    Prolonged cross border closure through the new year

    • Increased trader speculation and elevated food prices.
    • Reduced commodity flow into the country
    • Reduced level of cross border trade activities and income opportunities.


    Escalating conflict in northeast, northcentral and northwest

    • Reduced level of dry season cultivation and elevated food prices.
    • Increased food assistance needs in affected areas.
    • Increased market demand for staple food
    • Increased population displacement.


    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 Comparative Hydrograph of Niger River at Lokoja for 2012, 2018, and 2019, showing different Alert Levels: 2019/20 was in Red

    Figure 1

    Figure 1.

    Source: NIHSA

    Graph of Nigeria cereal production forecasts (000' MT): 2019 forecast is almost the same as 2018 and above the five year aver

    Figure 2

    Figure 2.


    Map of LGAs most affected by banditry and communal conflict the Northwest of Nigeria

    Figure 3

    Figure 3.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Map showing the September monthly retail price of maize in Nigeria: In most of the north of the country prices are <90, excep

    Figure 4

    Figure 4.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Table showing the Displaced population across the affected LGAs in northwestern part of Nigeria in October 2019:
Zamfara sta

    Figure 5

    Table 1.

    Source: IOM Nigeria

    Graph of the Price projection for Kano-Dawanau (Nigeria), Maize-white (NGN/100Kg) for 2019/2020: Prices in 2019/2020 have bee

    Figure 6

    Figure 5.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Title: Nigeria seasonal calendar
Description: In the north, land preparation is from February to May. Planting is from May u

    Figure 7

    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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