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Crisis food insecurity will continue through the end of the lean season in September

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Sierra Leone
  • June 2015
Crisis food insecurity will continue through the end of the lean season in September

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  • Key Messages
  • Projected Outlook through September 2015
  • Key Messages
    • The agricultural season is progressing normally with ongoing land preparation, sowing, and crop maintenance activities in a context of average to above average rainfall. However, below-average incomes and restrictions on the gathering of people are limiting agricultural labor, which could cause a decline in 2015/16 agricultural production compared to average.

    • With the onset of the lean season, the food stocks of vulnerable households are completely depleted, and most households are currently dependent on local markets to meet food needs. However, the Ebola-related economic slowdown has resulted in atypical low income levels and weak household purchasing power, which is limiting food access for affected households.

    • In areas with the most severe disruptions to agricultural production and market activities, poor households will continue to reduce their food intake through the lean season and are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity. Elsewhere, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity will continue between June and September.





    • Ebola outbreak
    • Below average incomes from many sources
    • Atypically weak cross-border trade flows due to continued Ebola-related fears
    • Various market disruptions including the closure of shops at 9pm, a ban on Sunday sales, and the official closure of weekly markets
    • Cases of Ebola will continue to decline compared to previous weeks throughout the outlook period
    • Sierra Leone’s economy will slowly recover as the number of new Ebola cases declines. This will contribute to an improvement in household incomes and market activities although levels will still remain below average

    Projected Outlook through September 2015

    According to the World Health Organization’s June 17 situation report, there has been a total of 41 new confirmed Ebola cases over the past 21 days within the districts of Kambia, Port Loko, and the Western Area-Urban. There are currently no restrictions on population movements at the national level, although there are a few localized quarantines in the districts of Kambia and Port Loko due to recent cases there. During the scenario period (May to September 2015), the number of new Ebola cases will likely decline, which will favor a slow economic recovery and improvements in household income levels.

    WFP and the MOHS are still providing food for operating Ebola holding and treatment centers throughout the country, as well as to quarantined homes or communities in Port Loko and Kambia. They are also providing food for work and seed protection for emergency post Ebola support (1000 Mt of lowland seed rice and 27 Mt of Upland seed rice) to farmers under the Ministry of Agriculture/West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program. In addition, the National Commission for Social Action and many other NGOS and private organizations are providing cash for work to vulnerable households in selected districts. These interventions are contributing to enhanced agricultural productivity and are reducing the vulnerability of poor households.

    As of June 20th, satellite-derived imagery shows moderately to significantly above-average cumulative rainfall totals across much of the country with some slight deficits in western zones with no major impacts on seasonal progress. These rainfall conditions are favorable for ongoing agricultural activities, such as land preparations (upland rice), planting activities (rice, cassava, tobacco, pepper, sweet potato, yams and vegetables), weeding (groundnut, maize, and millet) and harvesting (cassava and cashews). Regarding the remainder of the season, certain seasonal forecasts from major meteorological agencies are showing an increased probability of above-average rainfall (UK MET) while others showing an increased probability of below-average rains (NOAA/CPC, IRI, ECMWF). However, given the large quantities of precipitation that falls over Sierra Leone in a normal year, below-average rainfall would not necessarily result in a decline in crop yields.

    Despite favorable rainfall conditions to date, key informant reports indicate that, in some cases, ongoing agricultural activities continue to occur at slightly below-normal levels because of restrictions on agricultural group work due to the enforcement of EVD bylaws. FEWS NET’s SMS-based trader survey in late May 2015 also highlighted that 28 percent of interviewed traders reported that current rice cultivation activities in their local communities were taking place at below-average levels. Similarly, 58 percent of respondents reported that current agricultural labor opportunities were less than in a normal year (Figure 4). The highest proportion of traders reporting below-average opportunities were observed in Bombali, Kailahun, Koinadugu, Pujehun and Western Area Urban. Key informant reports also indicate that other typical livelihood activities, such as charcoal sales, hunting, petty trade, handicrafts, palm oil exports to neighboring countries, and casual labor work on rubber plantations, remain at below-average levels due to reduced market activities and low household purchasing power.

    Similarly, a national cell phone survey conducted by the World Bank and Sierra Leone Statistics in May 2015 found that overall employment rates had improved in both rural and urban areas compared to November of last year and early 2015 and were similar to rates recorded during a pre-Ebola August 2014 Labor Force Survey. However, this survey also found that economic disruptions remained as respondents reported that their hours worked per week and revenues from wage work and non-farm household enterprises remained below August 2014 levels. Although economic activities will likely improve as the number of Ebola cases declines, below-average incomes are expected to continue for at least the short-term, limiting household food access throughout the outlook period (June-September 2015).

    Restrictions on market activities are slowly being lifted although market functioning still remain at below average levels. For example, the government has extended shop hours so they can now operate until 9pm (compared to 6pm during the peak of the outbreak) and commercial bike riders are allowed to operate from 6 am to 10 pm. However, an official ban on periodic markets is still in place. According to the results of FEWS NET’s SMS-based trader surveys conducted in late May, 46 percent of surveyed traders reported that the main market where they worked (either daily or weekly) was either closed or operating at reduced levels (Table 1). These figures remain fairly stable compared to the results of the previous month’s survey.

    For cereal markets in particular, supplies have decreased in June due to a seasonally normal decline of trader stocks on rural and urban markets, high transportation costs, and limited cross border trade due to residual Ebola-related fears. However, prices between April and May generally remained stable or increased slightly, following their typical seasonal trends. However, significant price increases of more than 25 percent were noted for imported and local rice in Tonkolili and Kambia due to high demand at the beginning of the lean season and Ramadan celebrations in June. Compare to May 2014, prices have generally increased, with some of the largest increases seen for local rice in Bombali (37 percent) and Tonkolili (50 percent).

    Below-average household stocks at the beginning of an early and atypical severe lean season, along with reduced incomes from many typical sources, have limited household purchasing power and food access for poor households. As a result, many of these households are reducing their nonfood expenditures in order to try to meet their basic food needs. In addition, in areas where disruptions to agricultural production and market activities were particularly severe earlier in the consumption year, poor households are reducing the quantity and quality of their meals. Consequently, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes, depending on the zone, are expected to continue across the country between June and September 2015.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar in A Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in A Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Cumulative rainfall estimate (RFE) anomaly (percent of normal) – June 10 to 20, 2015

    Figure 2

    Cumulative rainfall estimate (RFE) anomaly (percent of normal) – June 10 to 20, 2015

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Current agricultural labor opportunities compared to normal, as reported by traders in late May 2015

    Figure 3

    Current agricultural labor opportunities compared to normal, as reported by traders in late May 2015

    Source: FEWS NET SMS-based surveys

    Status of daily and weekly markets, as reported by traders in late May 2015

    Figure 4

    Status of daily and weekly markets, as reported by traders in late May 2015

    Source: FEWS NET SMS-based surveys

    Figure 7


    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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