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Outlook of «Minimal» food insecurity overall except in the Diffa area where «Crisis» persists

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Niger
  • October 2016 - May 2017
Outlook of «Minimal» food insecurity overall except in the Diffa area where «Crisis» persists

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • In general, food security has improved with the increasingly wide-spread harvests, the start of the seasonal price decline, and the growing income-earning opportunities with the sale of food and cash crops and livestock. The majority of households are able to meet their food and nonfood needs without straining their livelihoods and there will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity in most areas of the country between October 2016 and May 2017.

    • Cereal and pasture deficits, triggered by various rainfall anomalies (excessive rain, drought, and fierce sandstorms) which disrupted normal plant growth and development, are expected in the transhumant pastoral zone in Tahoua, Zinder, Agadez, and Maradi regions and farming areas of Maradi (Dakoro and Mayahi). The disruption of normal livelihoods (premature deterioration in the physical condition of livestock, early depletion of food stocks, etc.) will produce Stressed (IPC Phase 2) conditions as of March 2017.

    • Regular, adequate market supplies will persist with the continued devaluation of the Nigerian naira that is promoting a flow of commodities trade into Niger and generally below-average cereal prices, facilitating food access. However, this situation will continue to be detrimental to exports of cash crops and livestock, translating into below-average sales and prices.

    • In spite of the increasingly widespread harvests and the end of the lean season in October, the Diffa region will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity after the end of January, through at least May 2017. Displaced households and poor local households affected by the conflict with Boko Haram, which is triggering population displacements and disrupting livelihoods, will be unable to meet their food needs and will be heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance.

    National Overview
    Current situation

    The slightly above-average and steady rainfall through the end of September (Figure 1) enabled crops in most parts of the country to mature normally, completing their growing cycle, and making the forecast for average to above-average levels of nationwide crop production that much more likely.

    However, climatic anomalies such as the excessive rainfall for late-planted crops are threatening the good crop production prospects in certain farming and agropastoral areas of Dakoro and Mayahi (Maradi). Protracted dry spells followed by violent sandstorms significantly affecting the proper growth of biomass pasture are also threatening the good outlook for pasture production in the transhumant pastoral zone in Tchintabaraden and Abalak (Tahoua), Bermo (Maradi), and Tanout (Zinder). Reported flooding in the Ingal pastoral area (Agadez) have destroyed forage crops and killed animals.

    In general, food security conditions around the country are improving with the increasingly wide-spread October harvests, the increased pastoral production at the end of September, and the expected scaling-up of market gardening activities as of December, which are helping to diversify household diets and income. In addition, there are average earnings from sources of income such as the sale of milk and farm labor in all parts of the country. This is providing poor households with normal incomes enabling them to meet their basic needs and maintain their staple food access. However, there are appreciable food consumption gaps in the Diffa region where the Boko Haram conflict has eroded local sources of food and income.

    With regards to pastoral conditions, the good rainfall pattern has helped promote normal new grass growth with average levels of pasture production in many parts of the country. This has allowed animals to physically recover and maintain their market value. There are currently normal herd movements, with adequate water supplies in major watering holes. However, the climatic anomalies in certain pockets of the Maradi, Zinder, Tahoua, and Agadez pastoral areas are expected to produce below-average pasture levels. 

    At the end of October, the exchange rate for the Nigerian naira and CFA franc was approximately 750 nairas for 1000 CFA francs, which is down 50 percent from the same time last year and 55 percent below the five-year average. This continued devaluation of the naira is creating large price differentials and very good trade incentives for coarse cereal imports from Nigeria into Niger.

    On the other hand, it is negatively affecting cowpea and livestock exports to Nigeria, which is the largest outlet for markets in Niger. This is reflected in the below-average prices of cowpeas and livestock at a time when farmers and pastoralists need to sell their products in order to rebuild their cereal stocks. The price of cowpeas, for example, is below the five-year average by as much as 35 percent in Tounfafi and 48 percent in Diffa. Likewise, prices for livestock are down from all reference periods. September 2016 prices for rams were down from the same time in 2015 by 65 percent in Mokko, 52 percent in Soubdou, and 48 percent in Bakin Birji with the lower demand for exports to Nigeria. They were also under the five-year average by 53 percent in Mokko, 40 percent in Torodi, and 43 percent in Soubdou. Prices for an average sheep are down from 2015 and the five-year average by similar margins, even with the celebration of the Feast of Tabaski in September of this year driving up prices for small ruminants (Figure 2).

    Shipments of fresh crops from ongoing harvests are steadily improving the balance between market supply and demand. Aggregate household demand for cereals has stabilized at average levels. In general, cereal prices are stable. However, in line with normal seasonal trends, there were small to moderate price increases of no more than 15 percent between August and September on retail markets in certain urban areas and in areas with structural deficits which had not get gotten any shipments of fresh crops. September 2016 prices were still slightly above the five-year average due to the mixed performance of the growing season, deterring massive sales of trader inventories. However, prices have come down on certain markets such as that of Agadez, which is reporting a 13 percent drop in the price of millet.

    Turning to the security situation, according to updated figures supplied by the DREC (the Regional Registry Office and Refugee Agency), as of September 20, 2016, there were a total of 302,387 displaced persons in the Diffa region as a result of the conflict with Boko Haram. A breakdown of this figure shows that 61 percent are internally displaced persons concentrated in the municipalities of Gueskerou, Diffa, Nguigmi, Bosso, and Chetimari. In addition, security problems are keeping another 50,000 Malian refugees in the Tillabéri region.

    The government of Niger is continuing to implement an assistance plan calling for «targeted distributions of free food assistance» to 20,000 households from a supply of 1,000 metric tons of cereals (millet and sorghum) at the rate of 100 kg per household per month. The WFP is operating a simultaneous food and cash transfer program for different target populations supplying 190,000 recipients with either 32,500 CFAF per month per household or food rations comparable to those being distributed by the government.

    The nutritional situation in Niger is typically marked by high rates of global acute malnutrition (GAM) ranging from 10 to 15 percent, even during the post-harvest period in October/November/December. According to the findings by the national nutritional assessment based on the SMART methodology in August/September 2016, the nationwide global acute malnutrition rate for children between six and 59 months of age based on weight-for-height measurements is 10.3 percent, compared with a rate of 12.9 percent in the Agadez and Maradi regions, which have the highest levels of GAM. In the Diffa region where the data was broken down by department, the GAM rate ran as high as 17.3 percent in N’Gourti, 14.6 percent in Nguigmi, and 13.1 percent in Maine Soroa.

    A comparison of 2016 GAM rates with the average (13 percent) as calculated based on SMART survey data for October 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2010 and the figure for 2015 (15.3 percent) shows a significant improvement in the state of child nutrition.

    Admissions of malnourished children to therapeutic feeding facilities are down from 2015 at the same time of year by 11 percent at CRENIs (intensive therapeutic feeding and nutritional education centers) and stable at CRENAMs (outpatient therapeutic feeding centers for the treatment of moderate malnutrition) and CRENAS (outpatient therapeutic feeding centers for the treatment of severe malnutrition).


    The most likely food security scenario for October 2016 through May 2017 is based on the following underlying assumptions with regard to trends in the nationwide situation:

    • In general, there will be average levels of crop production based on the good pattern of rainfall in 2016/2017. However, the lags in plant growth and development in certain localized areas of the Maradi, Zinder, Agadez, and Tahoua regions due to the poor spatial-temporal distribution of rainfall creating drought or excessively wet conditions will affect the livelihoods of poor households with the localized below-average levels of crop and pasture production in these areas.
    • Rainfall levels generally above the ten-year average have helped sufficiently refill major rivers and streams around the country, providing adequate water availability for the growing of irrigated crops, scheduled to begin in October. This points to a good market gardening season, a good harvest outlook for flood-recession crops, and average income-earning opportunities for households dependent on these activities.  
    • As usual, harvesting activities will begin in October for rainfed crops and extend into the month of April for flood-recession and off-season crops. This will allow poor households to earn average to above-average amounts of income to help maintain their food access. There will also be local self-employment opportunities such as the sale of wood, straw, and hand-made goods to strengthen household purchasing power and enable households to fully meet their basic needs. 
    • Production prospects for cash crops are average to above-average, with households in areas reporting rainfall anomalies delaying the growth and development of millet and sorghum crops scaling up their cowpea production in place of millet and sorghum crops, particularly in Dakoro and Mayahi (Maradi). This should heighten the interest of traders and farmers in the buying and selling of cowpeas, sesame, chufa nuts, and peanuts to meet certain expenses and beef up their cereal stocks. However, this additional cowpea production will not suffice to cover shortfalls in income from the sale of millet and sorghum in Dakoro and Mayahi with cowpea prices staying well below-average.
    • The net rainfall surplus has adequately replenished water supplies in seasonal and permanent lakes and ponds, which will help promote normal transhumant herd movements southwards as of December 2016-January 2017. The better physical condition of animals and larger availability of milk will help improve the diets and incomes of pastoral households. However, the disruption of transhumant herd movements in areas along the border with northeastern Nigeria and areas facing pasture deficits this year will negatively affect the livestock trade.
    • Coarse cereal supplies on rural and urban markets should improve over the next few months with the ongoing harvests extending from October through the month of January, enabling traders to rebuild their inventories and households to limit their market dependence through the consumption of home-grown cereals and pulses.
    • There will be optimal levels of restocking by traders, farmer organizations, institutions, and government agencies between October and January. However, with the reported erratic rainfall activity in certain parts of the country, this could put a strain on markets in high crop production areas, which could create more upward pressure on prices between January and February 2017.
    • There will be a normal aggregate demand for cereals for household consumption between October 2016 and January 2017 based on the expected average volume of nationwide production. However, there is likely to be a gradual seasonal rise in demand in February-March, driven by direct institutional purchasing and market purchases by poor households and households in normally deficit areas. The growing market dependence of households in the Diffa region impacted by the conflict with Boko Haram will create a larger than average demand.
    • There will be a normal steady flow of domestic trade with the increasingly widespread average harvests between October and December, feeding remote markets and markets in structurally deficit areas. Between January and May, cross-border trade flows from the regional market in countries like Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Mali will maintain a regular flow of supplies and strengthen food availability on local markets in Niger. However, trade in areas affected by the conflict with Boko Haram will continue to be disrupted, with longer delivery times for shipments of supplies.
    • The continued devaluation of the naira vis-a-vis the CFA franc will bolster trade in staple foods such as millet and sorghum and improve their availability on local markets in Niger at favorable prices compared with the average throughout the outlook period from October 2016 through May 2017. However, the small price differentials engendered by trade flows of livestock and cash crops to Nigeria from markets in Niger will deter Nigerian importers and exporters from engaging in these transactions. This could translate into an across-the-board decline in the incomes of pastoralists and farmers growing cash crops to below-average levels, with an atypical erosion in their purchasing power.
    • Prices on most markets will likely start to fall as of October with the increasingly widespread harvests extending through December. Food prices will move steadily upwards between January and May in line with normal seasonal trends (Figure 3). However, the reported rainfall anomalies in certain areas are a source of concern to farmers and could increase the upward pressure on prices.
    • Livestock markets will continue to do a brisk business. Prices for animals will stay close to their September levels (below-average), remaining stable between October and December in anticipation of a high demand for livestock from the coastal states for the celebration of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in December. This could increase income and create favorable terms of trade for pastoralists. By January, prices could drop farther below the five-year average with the low demand for exports to Nigeria, which is still the main destination market for livestock from Niger. This drop in price would weaken terms of trade for pastoralists.
    • The conflict with Boko Haram will likely continue, with steady population displacements swelling the size of the displaced population, which is currently estimated at approximately 300,000 people. Security problems will continue to limit trade flows in areas of southeastern Niger along the country’s border with Nigeria and in the Diffa region, disrupting major sources of income such as pepper-production, fishing, and livestock sales. Households will be unable to earn enough income to meet their needs, making food assistance indispensable throughout the region for the entire outlook period (October 2016 through May 2017).
    • As usual, humanitarian operations by the government and its partners helping to improve cereal access for households in structurally deficit areas will start up as of March and extend through at least the end of May. In general, they will help maintain good food availability on markets and for poor households. Deliveries of humanitarian assistance by the government and the WFP in the form of food and cash transfers will continue through at least the month of January.
    • Given the habitually high rates of GAM normally ranging from 10 to 15 percent, even during post-harvest periods (October/November/December), the GAM rate could be in line with seasonal averages for the harvest season and post-harvest period based on current conditions conducive to a relatively normal harvesting and post-harvest period and relatively stable epidemiological situation.
    • The current decline in admissions to therapeutic feeding centers for children could last for the entire outlook period with the new measures scheduled to be implemented at each therapeutic feeding center (CREN) designed to improve treatment for all children between 24 and 59 months of age and speed up discharges. GAM rates in areas affected by the conflict with Boko Haram triggering mass displacements of people of all ages facing food consumption gaps and health and sanitation problems could exceed seasonal averages for the period between October and December and January through May.
    Most likely food security outcomes
    • Based on the good weather conditions and low pressure from crop pests, there should be good to average harvests of cereal and cash crops helping to promote average food availability and levels of farm income. Domestic markets will continue to be well-stocked with food supplies from source markets (in Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali). The positive effects of the devaluation of the naira will sustain the normal seasonal downward trend in prices through the end of the harvest season in December. Harvests of off-season crops will strengthen food availability and diversify food consumption between January and April. The pick-up in seasonal economic activities such as the gathering of straw, temporary employment opportunities, and petty trading will improve the incomes of poor households and help them maintain their food access. There will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity in most areas of the country through at least May 2017.

      However, certain farming and agropastoral areas are expected to face shortfalls in crop production as a result of the excessive rainfall in Dakoro and Mayahi (Maradi) and the poor spatial-temporal distribution of rainfall and fierce sandstorms preventing good levels of vegetative growth in the transhumant pastoral areas of Tchintabaraden and Abalak (Tahoua), Bermo (Maradi), Tanout (Zinder), and Tchirozerine (Agadez). These production deficits will impact livelihoods already weakened by the decline in revenues from livestock sales after the year-end holiday season with the continued devaluation of the naira limiting demand for livestock exports to Nigeria (their main destination). Thus, there will be livelihood protection deficits in these areas beginning in March and extending through May 2017, with a harsher than usual lean season for pastoral populations very similar to last year, which was atypical. Food stocks in farming areas of Mayahi and Dakoro liable to face cereal deficits will be depleted sooner than usual and the reported drop in cowpea prices will prevent households from earning enough income to cover the cost of their food spending. Poor households will more than likely be facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of food insecurity as of March, through at least the month of May.

      Ongoing civil security problems in the Diffa region will continue to displace a large portion of the area population. Food and cash crop production are down sharply with the downsizing or abandonment of cropped areas due to security concerns. The continued disruption of market operations and major income-generating activities such as fishing, the sale of peppers and livestock, and migration to Nigeria and Libya are still disrupted is producing well below-average levels of income. Most households are unable to meet their food and nonfood needs without humanitarian assistance. Their precarious situation will tentatively allow them to continue to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) food insecurity through January with scheduled humanitarian assistance and propel them into the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity between February and May in the absence of humanitarian assistance (for which there are no current plans or funding). However, most households in pepper-producing areas and the transhumant pastoral sub-zone heavily reliant on migration will be facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) levels of food insecurity mitigated by humanitarian assistance or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions between October 2016 and May 2017 with the deterioration in economic opportunities, gaps in the coverage of their food needs by household crop production, and shortfalls in food assistance due to the conflict with Boko Haram and the remoteness of certain DPs and poor resident households making them inaccessible. 

    Figures Current food security outcomes for October 2016

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes for October 2016

    Source: FEWS NET

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1.  Cumulative rainfall (RFE) anomalies for the period from April 1st through October 10th compared with the 2006-2015

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Cumulative rainfall (RFE) anomalies for the period from April 1st through October 10th compared with the 2006-2015 average

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Prices for sheep and rams in selected cities compared with 2015 and the average

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Prices for sheep and rams in selected cities compared with 2015 and the average

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3. Projected trends in millet prices in Maradi

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. Projected trends in millet prices in Maradi

    Source: FEWS NET

    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.

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