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Acute food security is improving with the arrival of new harvests

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Sierra Leone
  • October 2015
Acute food security is improving with the arrival of new harvests

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  • Key Messages
  • Projected Outlook through March 2016
  • Key Messages
    • According to the World Health Organization’s October 21st Ebola situation report, there have been no new confirmed Ebola cases over the past 21 days in Sierra Leone. The absence of new Ebola cases, along with the removal of internal movement restrictions, is favoring a slow economic recovery and improved household income levels.

    • Harvesting began in October and will continue until the end of December for rice, sweet potatoes, cassava, maize, groundnuts, and vegetables. These average to above-average harvests mark the end of the lean season (June-August) as they reduce the need for market purchases and are strengthening poor households' food access.

    • Food security will significantly improve in the next three months compared to previous months with average availability of food at the household level, higher market stock levels, stable food prices, and increased income opportunities through farm labor and the sale of farm products. Consequently, many areas are expected to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through at least March.

    • However, due to a slower recovery from Ebola-related shocks, poor households in Kenema, Kailahun, Kambia, Pujenhun, Port Loko, Tonkolili, and Kono continue to face reduced purchasing power, which is preventing them from fully meeting their non-food needs, such as education and healthcare costs. These seven districts, therefore, are projected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through March 2016.

    Projected Outlook through March 2016

    According to FEWS NET’s most recent SMS-based trader survey of 262 small to large-scale traders conducted in early October 2015, 76 percent of respondents reported that agricultural activities, mostly weeding and harvesting, in their local communities were ongoing at normal levels while approximately 23 percent indicated below average agricultural activities. Reports from key informants also indicate that October harvests are, in general, gradually improving food supplies of cereals, legumes, and tubers at both the household and market levels compared to previous months’ levels. Consequently, food consumption in most areas has improved both in terms of quantity and quality.

    Labor opportunities relating to the harvests and land preparation for off-season cropping have strengthened households’ income sources. Other household income-generating activities such as petty trade and charcoal sales are also relatively normal and providing households with average incomes to maintain their food access. However, sales of bush meat are still restricted, resulting in below average incomes for households engaged in these activities. Nevertheless, given the overall improved food availability and income levels, households will be able to replenish their food stocks to normal levels.

    WFP’s mVAM prices collected in September suggest that food prices have remained relatively stable compared to past months, which is helping to facilitate household food access. Also, the import of rice - a major foodstuff in the country - from the international market is regular and at normal levels in October. However, cross-border trade flows remain limited compared to average levels given the absence of many foreign traders from Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Senegal at numerous markets due to persistent Ebola-related fears.

    According to a joint CILSS/FEWS NET/WFP/FAO crop assessment mission in September 2015, the current supply of food products on domestic markets has generally improved compared to previous months and to its level in September 2014. FEWS NET’s most recent countrywide trader survey confirmed the steadily increasing availability of food stuffs: 31 percent of traders indicated inadequate food availability in local markets compared to 47 percent of the over 400 traders surveyed one year earlier in November 2014. This is due to the gradual recovery of local economies and the lifting of internal trade and market restrictions, facilitating the transfer of commodities like rice between surplus and deficit production areas. Regardless, the continued ban on Sunday sales limits trading activities particularly at certain weekly markets whose official market day is Sunday, such as Bamoi international market.

    However, the food security of poor households in the districts of Kenema, Kailahun, Kambia, Pujenhun, Port Loko, Tonkolili, and Kono has not seen the same level of improvement as other areas. Harder-hit by the market disruptions and agricultural livelihood interruptions following the Ebola outbreak, households in these areas experienced reduced incomes from various sources including agricultural revenues and petty trade. These revenue impacts from the 2014/2015 consumption year created negative enduring effects in these areas including reduced household purchasing power compared to an average year and lower recovery capacity.

    Given the limited revenue from last season, poor households in these areas – despite the average harvest – will continue to recover economically over the upcoming year. As a result, they will have fewer resources to purchase essential supplies and will likely prioritize spending on immediate food needs over nonfood needs like health and education. Furthermore, lingering fear and apprehension regarding areas harder hit by Ebola and some government restrictions on certain exports (rice and gari) mean reduced trade flows with important international trading partners, Guinea and Liberia, continue to impact certain border regions such as Kenema and Kailahun.

    The overall challenges to food security for the districts of Kenema, Kailahun, Kambia, Pujenhun, Port Loko, Tonkolili, and Kono are expected to persist through March 2016, resulting in a classification of Stressed (IPC Phase 2), due to poor households’ inability to fully satisfy their nonfood needs. In other areas of the country, many poor households will generally earn normal income levels from their agricultural harvests and other income-generating activities such as petty trade, the selling of farm products (ex. vegetables and cash crops, such as tobacco), the selling of forestry products (ex. wood, charcoal, wild fruits), local labor, and mining activities. These livelihood strategies will help ensure adequate food access during the 2015/16 consumption year and consequently, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity is likely to occur in these zones through at least March 2016.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar in A Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in A Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    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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