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Improved household food security continues across the country due the main season harvests

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Sierra Leone
  • December 2016
Improved household food security continues across the country due the main season harvests

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The dry season is beginning in December with the cessation of rains and the harvesting of the main season’s food crops.  Harvests of vegetables and staple cereals is increasing food availability for poor households, while farm labor is providing wages that are improving their access to food. Most areas in the country will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through January 2017. 

    • Harvests are allowing for increased economic recovery from EVD related shocks in both Kailahun and Port Loko Districts. However, continuing economic shocks including closed mining operations, trade disruptions during the rainy season, and increased petrol prices since November, is affecting purchasing power and recovery for poor households. Both districts will remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity through January 2017.

    • The current harvesting of lowland (boliland and IVS) rice is reported to be above-average in the northern region, while the IVS rice harvests concluding in January are also expected to be above-average. Off-season crop cultivation is beginning and will supplement household and market food stocks.  Food availability and access will remain stable throughout the scenario period, allowing all districts to be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity from February to May 2017.


    The 2016 rainy season was characterized by above-average rainfall, which did not affect cultivation, but did disrupt trade and transport at atypically high levels around the country. The rains are receding across the country marking the normal start of the dry season. Both upland and lowland, boliland rice harvests are complete with reports of above-average harvests in almost all of the regions in the country. Improved production is due mainly to increased areas cultivated and improved government and non-government support for cultivation. The 2016/17 main season harvesting of inland valley swamp (IVS) rice, vegetables, cassava and sweet potato will continue through December 2016. The current average to above-average production of food crops has positively affected food availability, access and utilization for poor households at both at household and market levels.


    Cash crop production in the eastern region of the country is also moving into the main harvest stage.  Although early cocoa harvest were reported to be below-average due to heavy rains, the current harvesting, processing and marketing of cocoa are at above-average levels, allowing for improved incomes for cocoa producing households.  Coffee harvesting and processing has also started, but at a smaller scale than cocoa. Farm labor on coffee plantations is generating some income for poor households.  The harvesting and sales of banana and oranges is also on-going and providing income for poor households. Palm fruit harvesting and processing is currently at the seasonal low point, leaving households dependent on carryover stocks and market purchase for palm oil consumption.


    Off-season production activities for vegetables have started in almost every area in the country, especially in the northern district of Koinadugu where vegetable production is a main livelihood. Vegetable seeds (onions, tomato, eggplant, cabbage and lettuce) are currently being distributed to farmers and nursing of the seeds have already started in most areas in the country. Planting of off-season lowland cassava and sweet potato, which started in November, is ongoing especially in the rice bowl areas in the Northern and Southern regions.  There has been sightings of young grasshoppers in both Moyamba and Bo districts in the southern region.  Above-average grasshopper attacks were reported last season in most districts in the Southern region, but overall production was not affected.


    Markets are functioning normally across the country since the lifting of most EVD related restrictions since 2015. Market stock levels of local food crops are typically high due to harvesting of rice, cassava, sweet potato and vegetables. Market stock levels of imported rice and other imported food commodities also remain stable across the country, although prices are reported to be escalating because of the continued depreciation of the Leone. The Leone declined by 13 percent against the dollar since 15 September 2016 (BSL).  Trade flows within and across districts has improved due to improved road networks as a result of the start of the dry season. Although trade flows have normalized, the government increase in the price of petrol (60 percent) across the country is causing an increase in commodity prices, especially for imported rice and some non-food items.


    Despite inflation and depreciation, there has been improvement in household income through harvests, trade, and wage labor.  Some poor households are being employed by middle and high income farmers to harvest rice and cash crop farms (cocoa and coffee).  Pastoralists’ income from sales of livestock (cattle, goats and chicken) and livestock products is increasing normally during the December holiday season. Fishing communities across Western Area Rural, Port Loko, Moyamba and Bonthe Districts are experiencing typical increases in household income due to increased fish catch as a result of the start of the dry season. 


    This season’s above-average rains across the country has provided sufficient water to support above-average main season harvests, typical livestock rearing and the beginning of what is expected to be sufficient off-season production. Household and market stocks of local commodities are expected to be adequate through the month of May 2017. These harvests, along with improved market functioning and zero reported new EVD cases, is most likely to contribute to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity across most of the country through at least January 2017.

    Food access and income opportunities have been limited in both Port Loko and Kailahun Districts due to slow economic recovery relating to EVD shocks. Recovery in these Districts has been further affected by flood damage during the rainy season, the closure of mining operations in Port Loko, and the fact that cash crop harvests in Kailahun will not be complete until February. Additionally, the recent increase in the price of petrol across the country will most likely affect food access in these two districts more strongly than elsewhere- particularly in Kailahun where the price of a liter of petrol has been even higher than government rates. Kailahun and Port Loko districts are most likely to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity through January 2017.

    Above average main season IVS rice production will complete in January 2017 and is expected to provide sufficient household rice stocks. Additionally expected above-average off season production of second cropping of IVS rice, cassava, sweet potato and vegetables across the country including Port Loko and Kailahun, is expected to stabilize household and market stock levels of local commodities. Income from coffee and cocoa harvests concluding in February in the eastern region is also expected to improve to normal levels.  It is therefore expected that all the district in the country will improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through May 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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