Food Security Outlook

Poor pastoral conditions in northern Mali reduce pastoral incomes

April 2015 to September 2015
2015-Q2-1-1-ML-en

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • Poor pastoral conditions are limiting animal production and income from the sale of livestock in certain parts of northern Mali. It is also posing an above-average risk of animal mortality.

  • In the absence of humanitarian assistance programs, very poor and poor households who experienced shortfalls in their income and crop production this year in riverine areas of Gao and Bourem, the lake area of Goundam, the Haoussa area of Niafunké, and northern Youwarou will have difficulty meeting their food needs without resorting to negative coping strategies. These households will be facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity from July until the next harvest in September.

  • A cereal surplus of more than one million metric tons is helping to provide markets across the country with adequate supplies of foodstuffs at prices close to the five-year average. This is also helping to improve market access for most households, enabling them to meet their current food needs. Thus, households in most other parts of the country should experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between now and September.

National overview

Current situation

Overall food availability

The final results of this year’s agricultural survey put national cereal production at 12.6 percent above-average. The over one million metric ton surplus in cereal production suggests good cereal availability for the 2015 consumption year. However, cereal production in certain parts of northern Mali and northern Kayes, Mopti, and Koulikoro regions is below-average by as much as 15 to 30 percent. As a result, household cereal stocks are expected to be depleted one to two months early, making these households dependent on market purchase for their food supplies longer than usual.

The generally average harvests of off-season market garden crops in all parts of the country, the maize harvest in Kayes, and the ongoing wheat harvest in the Timbuktu region are helping to improve food availability and are generating average to slightly above-average levels of income in these areas.

Pastoral conditions

In general, there are average levels of pasture in pastoral areas, except in the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kayes regions, where there is a below-average supply in localized areas. The smaller than usual supply of pasture is responsible for atypical herd movements to relatively lush grazing areas in the same regions and in neighboring regions, which is putting heavy pressure on these pasturelands and degrading their condition faster than usual. In addition, prematurely large concentrations of livestock herds from Mauritania and Niger have been sighted in Nara and Gossi, respectively, driven there by pasture deficits in their home areas.

Livestock prices in most areas are near-average, but prices in areas with poor pastoral conditions are below-average. Thus, prices for livestock in Rharous and Bourem, for example, are 10 and 14 percent below-average, respectively. There are also lower than usual levels of milk production.

Market supplies and trade

In general, there are adequate market supplies of locally grown and imported cereals in all parts of the country. In production areas, there are reportedly large stocks of maize. In addition, supplies on certain markets in riverine areas have tightened, as usual, with the river’s falling water levels. The steady flow of food to high-consumption areas, particularly in northern regions of the country, is helping to maintain good cereal availability in these areas despite occasional disruptions in shipments due to security problems within these areas.

Food access

Seasonal increases in cereal prices are smaller than usual, both in crop-producing areas and in areas with little crop production. Millet prices on all markets in regional capitals are virtually unchanged from last month, except in Bamako, where they are up by 10 percent. In general, prices for millet are below the five-year average, particularly in Koulikoro (-29 percent), Ségou (-18 percent), Timbuktu (-4 percent) and Gao (-5 percent). The current levels of cereal prices are helping households maintain their market access, except in the case of poor households in certain areas with reduced incomes.

Even with the stabilization of cereal prices, terms of trade for goats/millet in areas with poor pastoral conditions are below-average by as much as 17 percent in Niafunké, 21 percent in Gourma Rharous, 33 percent in Goundam, and 30 percent in Bourem.

Humanitarian assistance

Humanitarian assistance programs continue, particularly in northern areas of the country, although there are fewer of these programs compared to the same time last year. Most ongoing programs are designed to build resilience through grants of animal feed and farm inputs, free vaccinations, and distributions of small ruminants. Over 30 percent of the population in Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions received food assistance between October 2014 and February 2015 (National Food Security and Nutrition Survey, February 2015). However, repeated security incidents across the northern areas of the country are limiting the scope of humanitarian assistance efforts. The ICRC, for example, has momentarily shut down its operations.

Assumptions

The most-likely food security scenario for April through September 2015 was established based on the following underlying national assumptions:

Farming activities:
  • Crop pests: Average levels of damage to seedlings from crop pests are expected between June and August. Without treatment, grain-eating birds are expected to cause heavier than unusual damage to off-season rice crops in riverine areas of Timbuktu and Gao, where large swarms of these birds have been sighted. According to the Desert Locust Control Center, the reportedly low breeding rates in normal locust breeding areas should keep the desert locust situation relatively stable.
  • Harvests of off-season crops: The average farming conditions for off-season rice and wheat crops point to average levels of crop production in village-level irrigation schemes across the country. The expected average to good harvests in June-July will improve the availability of rice in these areas. The average incomes earned by poor households from crop planting, maintenance, and harvesting activities will help improve their market access. However, the shortage of power-driven pumps and poorer than usual availability of water in lake areas of Timbuktu will limit yields of pulses and tuber crops in April and maize production in June.
  • Rainfall: Current seasonal forecasts by various meteorological agencies (NOAA/CPC, IRI, UK Met, and ECMWF) are showing very different outcomes for the 2015 rainy season in Mali ranging from above-average to below-average levels of cumulative rainfall (Figures 2, 3, and 4). Based on these conflicting forecasts, FEWS NET is assuming that the 2015/2016 rainy season across the country will get off to a timely start (in May in the southern reaches of the country and in June-July in the north), with near-average levels of cumulative rainfall which, in turn, will lead to average levels of crop production.
  • Cost of inputs: The main crop grown in riverine areas is submersion rice. After a poor crop year, the price of a large sack of locally grown rice necessary for the planting of one hectare of land in rice crops usually ranges from 10,000 to 20,000 CFAF during the growing season, which limits seed access of poor households.
  • Growing season: The timely start of the rainy season will allow land preparation work and crop planting activities to get underway in May-June, creating income-earning opportunities for farm workers. The continuing government subsidies for farm inputs and deliveries of assistance by partner organizations engendering the planting of larger than average areas in crops and helping to improve crop yields point to average to above-average levels of crop production for the 2015/2016 growing season in September-October. However, with the low water levels in the lake areas sharply reducing the size of viable cropping areas, the outlook for flood-recession crop production in Timbuktu in August-September is not good.
Other sources of food and income:
  • Herd movements: Normal herd movements to dry season holding areas will continue between April and June with animal herds moving around pasture-deficit areas in search of lusher pastures. The resulting large concentrations of animals in “bourgou” grassland areas and around year-round watering holes will quickly accelerate the deterioration in the condition of these rangelands. Normal herd movements to rainy season holding areas will resume in June-July with the recovery of pastures and the replenishment of animal watering holes. The expected deterioration in pastoral conditions starting in May will be accompanied by higher than usual animal mortality rates.
  • Fishing: As usual, fish catches will increase between April and May with the falling water levels in rivers and seasonal lakes and ponds (fishing collectives). The reportedly average fish breeding conditions during the rainy season bode well for an overall average volume of fish production from the river and near-average production levels in lakes and seasonal lakes and ponds. The average incomes generated by these activities between April and June and the consumption of fish and fish products will improve market access and diets of fishing households.
  • Migration: Normal labor migration movements will continue. As usual, cash and in-kind migrant remittances in May-June will help ease hardships for recipient households. In general, there will be an above-average volume of such remittances in areas with poor crop production with migrant workers extending their stay in destination areas longer than usual (for eight to nine months instead of five to seven months), which will improve the food access of poor households.
  • Other economic activities/income: Self-employment, brick-making, the sale of wood and charcoal, the gathering of wild plant products, and petty trade in southern areas of the country will generate average levels of income to help meet household needs. Economic activities in the northern part of the country will continue to suffer from the after-effects of the security crisis in that area, which are interfering with the free movement of persons and goods, thereby limiting employment opportunities. Thus, poor households in particular will earn below-average incomes from craft-making, brick-laying, materials handling, and trading activities in this part of the country.
  • Humanitarian programs: The pursuit of humanitarian food and nonfood assistance programs serving more than half the population of northern Mali and expected new programs this year, particularly by the government (including the distribution of 15,000 MT of cereals), will help limit recourse to negative coping strategies (atypical cutbacks in the number of daily meals, sales of productive assets, cuts in health spending, etc.) Planned resilience-building programs (cash transfers, distributions of livestock, farm inputs, and farm equipment, and subsidies for income-generating activities) will help poor households with livelihood protection deficits in northern areas of the country better rebuild their severely depleted livelihoods after three difficult years. However, security incidents could negatively affect the smooth operation of these humanitarian programs. Assistance programs designed to improve crop production and nutrition in other parts of Mali will continue.
Agricultural and pastoral lean seasons:
  • Agricultural lean season: There will be a normal lean season for farming households in most agropastoral areas of the country. However, the earlier than usual depletion of food stocks in February-March instead of April-May and the one-to-two-month longer than usual market dependence of poor households with below-average incomes in riverine areas of Gao and Bourem and lake areas of Goundam and Niafunké will make the lean season for these households harsher than usual, particularly between July and August. The usual availability of green crops (short-cycle cereals and pulses) in September will mark the end of the lean season for farming households.
  • Pastoral lean season: The early lean season for pastoral populations in pasture-short areas of the Timbuktu and Gao regions and the northern Nioro and Yélimané areas will be harsher than usual. In these areas, the sharp decline in or lack of milk production and the associated poor physical condition of livestock between April and June will reduce incomes of agropastoral households and trigger unusually large losses of animals, particularly in areas where security problems are disrupting herd movements. However, in other pastoral areas, the lean season will be normal. Beginning in June, new pasture growth will help revive milk production and spur the physical recovery of livestock. This in turn will improve the diets, incomes, and market access of agropastoral households, marking the end of the lean season.
Markets:
  • Cereal markets: The 1,775,696 metric ton cereal surplus should help provide for an average supply of cereals on markets across the country for the 2015 consumption year. Even with the usual seasonal tightening of cereal supplies between April and September, there will still be large enough supplies to meet consumption needs in high-production areas as well as northern and western Sahelian areas with production shortfalls. There will be higher than usual levels of demand in deficit areas of the Timbuktu and Gao regions, the northern Kayes region, and areas along the Mauritanian and Senegalese borders that experienced a large shortfall in their 2014/15 crop production. The normal rise in prices will be tempered by the large carry-over inventories from 2014. Prices will peak in August-September. This will be followed by a seasonal decline in prices with the unloading of inventories in the face of forecasts for average harvests. Prices will stay close to average throughout the outlook period.
  • Livestock markets: In general, there will be an average supply of animals on livestock markets. However, there will be larger than average market supplies of livestock in localized pasture-short areas of the Timbuktu, Gao, Kayes, and Mopti regions between April and June with pastoralists looking to cut their losses in the face of poor pastoral conditions in those areas. In these areas, the deterioration in the physical condition of livestock between April and June will drive prices below-average. The decline in prices and resulting reduced market access will affect poor pastoralists in particular, who lack the means to maintain their small herds. The physical recovery of livestock in June-July and normal rise in demand, particularly for the month-long observance of Ramadan (in June/July) and the celebration of Tabaski (in September), will drive prices back up above-average.
Other important issues:
  • Security situation: The security situation in northern areas of the country will remain volatile for the entire outlook period, impeding the free movement of persons and goods and negatively affecting the economic recovery in this part of the country. The slowdown in economy activity is limiting investments and employment opportunities, particularly for poor households dependent on wage labor.

Most likely food security outcomes

Most agropastoral and pastoral households are currently earning average incomes from their normal activities which are enabling them to cover their food needs, particularly for those in southern agropastoral areas who have fairly good food access due to their remaining stocks from own production. Thus, these households are experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. In spite of the premature depletion of food stocks and longer than usual market dependence of households in areas with poor crop production (in the Timbuktu, Gao, northern Kayes, Mopti, and Koulikoro regions), near-average food prices are helping to give households limited food access at the expense of cutbacks in nonfood spending. With the below-average terms of trade for livestock/cereals, pastoral households have poorer than usual food access. Higher than usual levels of borrowing, cutbacks in nonfood spending, and/or sales of assets to meet household food needs will create Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes in these areas.

As the lean season in pastoral areas sets in between May and June, pastoral households faced with dwindling incomes from animal production and deteriorating terms of trade will ramp up their sales of animals to above-average levels to maintain their food access. The expected larger than usual sales and higher than usual mortality rates will decimate the livestock herds of small-scale pastoralists unable to meet their food needs without selling off their animals. Ongoing humanitarian assistance programs in the Timbuktu and Gao regions will keep the food insecurity of poor pastoral households, who are currently facing reduced incomes and difficulties affording essential nonfood expenditures (ex. medical expenses), at Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) levels of food insecurity. In the case of agropastoral households still hobbled by the effects of the security crisis on the local economy, the ramping up of farming activities and a heightened reliance on migrant remittances will help improve their market access, again, keeping food insecurity at Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels.

Between July and September, seasonal increases in prices will limit household access to local markets and will heighten the usage of negative coping strategies. Very poor and poor households in the Bourem, Gao, Goundam, Niafunké, and Gourma Rharous areas unable to meet their food and nonfood needs will resort to larger loans, culling their herds, cutting their food intake, and, in some cases, skipping meals. They will also be unable to invest in purchases of rice seeds, whose limited availability will make them extremely expensive to buy this year. Thus, poor agropastoral households in these areas will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity. The availability of green crops in September will mark the end of the prolonged lean season, downgrading the food insecurity of this group of households to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels in September. The recovery in pastoral conditions and associated improvement in the market value of livestock and the availability of milk will strengthen the food security situation of pastoral households, reducing food insecurity in nomadic pastoral areas to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels and in transhumant pastoral areas to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels.

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.

About Scenario Development

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.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
Learn more About Us.

Link to United States Agency for International Development (USAID)Link to the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) FEWS NET Data PortalLink to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Link to National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Earth ObservatoryLink to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service, Climage Prediction CenterLink to the Climate Hazards Center - UC Santa BarbaraLink to KimetricaLink to Chemonics