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Household food security improves as early harvests of staple crops begin

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Sierra Leone
  • August 2016
Household food security improves as early harvests of staple crops begin

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Heavy rainfall (> 100mm) was recorded in the last two weeks of July, although there have been no reports of damage for recently planted 2016/17 main season crops. Normal agriculture activities including harvesting minor crops, weeding of main season crops, and planting of lowland rice are ongoing with near-average harvest levels expected this season. Most areas will be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity from October through January once harvests arrive.

    • Market functioning continues to improve as economic recovery from the Ebola crisis continues. However, a longer than average lean season, starting in May as opposed to June, along with continued depreciation of the Leone is causing above-average prices for food commodities. As a result, most districts will remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity through September.

    • Port Loko and Kailahun districts were the worst hit by the Ebola epidemic and residual shock is slowing their economic recovery. Poor trade flow into and around Kailahun and the closure of two iron ore mines in Port Loko will continue to limit income for poor households. These districts are expected to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity through January 2017.      

    • Bo and Western Area Urban and Rural Districts are experiencing economic recovery as new businesses are being established and income opportunities improve around casual labor, petty trading and security. Improved trade flows in Bo is allowing traders to move to rural communities to buy agricultural goods. These districts are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through January.


    Significant rainfall (>100mm) and heavy downpours (FEWS NET/NOAA), were observed across the country during the last two weeks of July.  Heavy rains are typical for this time of year and no significant damage on already planted crops was reported. Agricultural activities are ongoing and crops continue to develop typically for the growing season.  In most parts of the country, livestock are being fattened from sufficient water and forage across the country. There are reports of atypical disease outbreak among goats (Peste des Petits Ruminants), affecting assets for animal owning households in Kailahun and Bo districts.

    Across the Northern and Southern regions, in Bombali, Kambia, Port Loko, Tonkolili, Bo, Moyamba and Pujehun Districts, planting of upland rice is complete. Weeding of upland rice, groundnut and the long duration millet (6 to 7 months) is in progress along with broadcast planting of short duration millet (3 to 4 months). Land preparation for inland valley swamp (IVS) rice cultivation has been ongoing since early July and is at the ploughing stage in most parts of the country.  Palm fruit and mango harvesting has ended across the country, while harvesting of lowland cassava and maize continues in most regions. Minor backyard harvesting of vegetables including cassava and sweet potato leaves, okra, cucumber and pepper is also facilitating some food availability for poor households across the country during this lean season.

    Under-brushing of coffee and cocoa plantations has been in progress since April.  Flowering of coffee trees, which started in June, is reported to be ongoing. There are reports that early harvesting of cocoa started in mid-July, but at a minimal scale.  Early marketing of these harvests is providing some income for producing households, but significant income will not be seen until the main harvest from November to February. Cocoa yields are expected to be above-average this season as a result of improved plantation management and processing in many areas.

    In the fishing livelihood zone along the coast in parts of Port Loko, Bonthe, Moyamba and Western rural districts, small scale fishermen are currently mending their fishing gear, outboard motors and boats. Fishing activities in the months of June and July remain typically low due to rough seas during the rainy season.

    Both household and market staple food stocks are below-average compared to a normal year after a below-average main season harvest in 2015.  Most food stocks, however, are beginning to recover as early harvests continue and the lean season subsides. Current palm oil stocks are reported to be below-average, as market supplies contain the holdover from the below-average March to May 2016 harvests.  Stock levels of imported agricultural commodities, particularly rice, remains normal and adequate across the country.

    Market functioning in the country continues to improve as most the EVD related restrictions since August 2015. The restriction on Sunday trading is being implemented lightly as some traders continue to sell their goods. It is reported, however, that in Kailahun district roads have become less accessible due to heavy rains, which is affecting trade flows and further limiting availability and access to food for poor households. Although washed out road conditions are typical at this time of year, they are further slowing economic recovery in Kailahun, where the price of rice and fish has gone up by 23.5 and 132.6 percent respectively since July 2015. The price of petrol per liter in July was 33 percent higher than the government set price of 3,750 SLL seen in most other areas of the country (SL-SCI).

    Despite near-average market functioning, food access remains limited due to seasonally increasing prices and the depreciation of the Leone. From March to July, the currency has depreciated by 4.2 percent against the dollar, while it has gone down by 37 percent as compared to the 5 year July average (Bank of Sierra Leone). Seasonal price increases have also been above-average, due to below-average harvest in the 2015/16 main season. The national average retail price of local parboiled rice increased by 11 percent from March to July of 2016, while the price of imported rice, which is typically stable at this time of year, increased by 14 percent in the same period (MAFFS).

    Economic recovery is continuing in the key urban districts of Bo, Western Rural and Western Urban which is improving livelihood opportunities for poor households in these areas. New businesses are being established, which is creating income opportunities around casual labor, petty trading and security. Bo district serves as the economic hub of the Eastern region, with trade flow into and within the district helping rural farmers to sell their produce, particularly cassava and maize. This is generating income for poor households in the district and increasing their access to food during the lean season.


    Sufficient rainfall for this cropping season, 2016/17 will ensure the normal development of crops and animals. It is expected that the main 2016 harvest (September to January) will improve to near-average levels due to increases in land area cultivated following an almost full recovery from EVD. Harvests will allow for food availability and access while significantly reducing market dependency for poor households. Almost all of districts will improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity by October.

    Port Loko and Kailahun district were severely hit by the EVD crisis and residual shocks are still limiting economic activity, agricultural production and purchasing power. Trade flow to and within Kailahun district continues to be limited due to poor road conditions and reduced purchasing power.  Port Loko District, which is also suffering from the closure of two iron ore mine, has seen limited growth of livelihood opportunities. These two districts are therefore expected to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity through January 2017. 

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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