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Presence Country
Food Security Outlook

A likely Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situation in western agropastoral areas

October 2017

October 2017 - January 2018

February - May 2018

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
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

  • Rainfall deficits and erratic patterns of rainfall have severely affected milk and crop production and related incomes in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone. Of the approximately 500,000+ people in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity due to livelihood protection deficits for the fourth consecutive year, at least 25 percent categorized as “very poor” could also be facing food consumption gaps, which will put them in a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situation between January and May. The WFP is continuing to provide food and financial assistance for the 51,577 Malian refugees in Mberra.

  • Livestock sales in both farming and pastoral areas have multiplied and livestock prices on most livestock markets are declining because of the poor pastoral conditions, the atypical seasonal migration by transhumant pastoralists and their animals, and the food consumption needs (cereal purchases) engendered by the failure of rainfed crops. This is putting added pressure on a livelihood already weakened in the past four years. The steady impoverishment of these agropastoral households could trigger changes in their lifestyles and identity.

  • There are regular, adequate supplies of imported foods (rice, wheat, oil, sugar, etc.) on retail markets and coarse cereal supplies are visibly improving with the resumption of trade with Mali despite the poor yields of rainfed crops in September. Prices for wheat, the main cereal crop consumed by poor households at this time of the year, which have been stable thus far, are beginning to rise, fueled by demand from pastoralists, while their incomes are reportedly well below-average.

NATIONAL OVERVIEW

Current situation

Agro-climatic conditions: There is less and less rain, with rather large rainfall deficits compared with 2016 (at 65 percent of rainfall gauging stations) and the historical (1981-2010) average (at 40 percent of rainfall gauging stations). Persistent stronger and hotter than average winds are rapidly drying crops, pockets of pasture, and seasonal lakes and ponds.

Farming conditions: The shortage and erratic pattern of rainfall have severely affected rainfed crops in most farming areas (particularly in the southern reaches of the rainfed farming zone and the central and western reaches of the agropastoral zone). While, on average, short-cycle crops are harvested in September, most of these crops are currently still in the tillering and height growth stages. The only pockets of crops still in more or less acceptable shape are confined to small areas of southern Hodh el Gharbi and Hodh ec Chargui, Guidimakha, and Maghama department in Gorgol.

With the low water levels in dams and the effects of the strong wind activity on the small emergent areas, there are poor production prospects for these types of crops (planted in October and harvested in February/March). Walo (flood recession) crops in the Senegal River Valley (meeting over 60 percent of the food needs of poor households) are largely withered.

The growing season for cold off-season rice crops is underway in the Senegal River Valley and certain parts of the agropastoral zone (in Foum Gleita and along the banks of the Gorgol Noir), but the size of the area planted in crops is visibly smaller than in 2016 due to the limited access of farmers to farm credit. The currently low level of the Senegal River and its major tributaries will preclude the growing of other (cold and hot) off-season crops),

Market garden crop production in oasis areas between October and February is also expected to suffer as a result of the failure of the rains to adequately replenish groundwater resources in Adrar and Tagant.

Wild foods: There will be smaller harvests, less consumption, and fewer sales of leaves and cereals (fonio) and wild fruits (jujubes or red dates, monkey bread fruits, the fruits of balanite trees, gum Arabic, fruit husks from acacia trees used in the tanning of hides, etc.) generating smaller than average amounts of income as a result of the shortage and erratic pattern of rainfall in major production areas.

Locust situation: According to the latest bulletin by the National Locust Control Center (CNLA) for the second dekad of October, the situation is stable. With the current lull in locust activity and smaller numbers of areas with propitious conditions for locust outbreaks, there should not be any major change in the locust situation in the coming weeks. However, there could be some small-scale breeding activity in several locations and some migration by dispersed locust populations into the central part of the country.

Pastoral conditions: Pastures across the country are sparser and poorer than average. There is an atypical ongoing flow of seasonal migration by transhumant livestock in all pastoral areas and receiving areas in Gorgol, Guidimakha, and southern Hodh el Gharbi and Hodh ec Chargui are already exceeding their carrying capacity in spite of the earlier than usual departure of livestock herds for Mali. Milk production is very limited on account of the sharp drop in the annual herd growth rate. Female production levels in the western part of the agropastoral zone are at a five-year low. However, there are still no reports of any outbreaks of epizootic diseases.

Seasonal income: With the lack of harvests of rainfed crops and sharp reduction in the size of suitable areas for the growing of flood recession and irrigated crops, poor households are earning very little seasonal income from farm labor (barely 15 to 20 percent of their earnings in an average year according to the findings from focus groups conducted as part of field missions). Their income from the sale of livestock is stable only because of their larger sales of animals to compensate for their larger than average seasonal food purchases, their lack of harvests of rainfed crops, and the decline in livestock prices in rural areas.

The flow of income from short-term seasonal labor migration (beginning four months earlier than in an average year) is still negligible but, like the monthly cash transfer programs operating in certain parts of Hodh ec Chargui, Guidimakha, Gorgol, and Brakna (providing approximately 22,000 MRO), is fortunately sustaining food lending systems with loans secured by liens on future income or remittances.  

Cross-border trade: There is currently an extremely brisk trade in coarse cereal crops from Mali (sorghum, maize and millet) feeding most border markets in Hodh el Gharbi, Hodh ec Chargui, Assaba, and Guidimakha with cereal supplies. On the other hand, there is a limited flow of cereal trade between relay markets in border areas and the interior (the southern reaches of the agropastoral zone and the Senegal River Valley). As a result, coarse cereal supplies on markets in the interior remain low.

With the customs surveillance measures on both sides of the border, supplies of imported rice from Senegal are still basically confined to markets in the Senegal River Valley where there is an active trade in contraband goods.

There is an increasingly large, regular supply of fruit and vegetable exports from Morocco. The competition created by these exports is especially concerning for domestic vegetable farmers with the low level of the Senegal River limiting their production capacity.

Retail markets: All retail markets are well-stocked with imported staple foods (wheat, rice, oil, sugar, flour, etc.) The resumption of trade with Mali has helped improve coarse cereal supplies (sorghum, millet, and maize) on markets in rainfed farming areas and the southern reaches of the agropastoral zone. Wheat prices are already on the rise in areas with large shortfalls in rainfed cereal production (5.9 percent above figures for October 2016 and 6.6 percent above the five-year average in the agropastoral zone). On the other hand, they are coming down in other livelihood zones with new sources of supply (the rainfed farming zone supplied with Malian imports and crops from local harvests and the Senegal River Valley with stocks of locally grown hot off-season rice crops). September prices for sorghum were up from August by 33 to 40 percent and, with the poor harvest prospects, this trend is expected to continue through next May. Prices for (locally grown and imported) rice and other imported foods (oil, sugar, and wheat flour) have been relatively stable for the past several months, but the price of pasta (macaroni), which is being consumed by growing numbers of households, has been steadily climbing since August.

Livestock markets: There is a larger than usual supply of all types of livestock for this time of year. In addition to the sales of animals by poor households (mainly goats) for the purchasing of food supplies, pastoralists have also been selling livestock in order to purchase animal feed to maintain their sedentary herds. As a result, the price of an average sheep is down sharply in rural areas (by between 26 and 35 percent) and up only slightly from last month (by much less than in 2016) on urban markets. Market supplies of cattle are improving, with an especially large presence of female animals, for which there is a higher demand from sedentary households. There are also large supplies of goats from the sale of these animals by poor households as a source of income for purchasing food supplies. The only appreciable rise in livestock prices from the same time in 2016 is in prices for kid goats (which are up by 26 to 30 percent depending on the area). This is due to the current high demand for these animals, which are better fattened (from feeding on aerial pasture) than sheep, which have been affected by the shortage of pasture.

Food security and nutrition: According to the findings by the SMART survey published in July, Hodh el Gharbi, Hodh ec Chargui, Assaba, Brakna, Gorgol, and Guidimakha are in a state of emergency, with GAM rates of over 15 percent. GAM rates in Tagant and Trarza are at the warning level, at between 10 and 15 percent. Our areas of concern encompass Tagant, Assaba, Gorgol, Brakna, and Trarza. With the shortfalls in crop and pasture production and lower household incomes, the struggle to maintain access to a regular, adequate diet is likely to drive up these rates even further.

 

Assumptions                                                                        

The most likely nationwide food security scenario for the period from October 2017 through May 2018 is based on the following general assumptions:

  • Climatic conditions: There is little likelihood of any rainfall after October 15th. Temperatures will continue to climb and hot, dry winds will continue to sweep the country between now and next May. There could be cold season rains in the northern part of the country between December and January 2018, improving pastoral conditions and replenishing groundwater resources in oasis areas.
  • Agro-climatic conditions: The low level of the Senegal River (the height of the river as of October 10th was only 3.98m (compared with 7.21m in 2016) and the continued low water levels in flood-recession farming areas (in reservoirs and bottomlands) will sharply limit the growing of walo (flood-recession) and lowland crops.
  • Crop production: Crop production by all types of farming systems will fall short of figures for 2016 and the five-year average in most farming areas of the country.
  • Commercial imports: There will be a regular, adequate flow of commercial imports throughout the outlook period. There should be a larger than average volume of imports of wheat, rice, and short-cycle sorghum crops (D’Haye) between January and May with the expected shortfall in crop production and mediocre condition of pastures. Wheat, for example, is frequently used as an animal feed.
  • International and regional market drivers: With very little likelihood of a disruption in trade channels for food exports, there should not be a shortage of food supplies on domestic markets during the outlook period.
  • Market prices: Retail markets will be well-stocked with imported foods. Malian exports should improve coarse cereal supplies in rainfed farming areas and the southeastern reaches of the agropastoral zone. There will be seasonal rises in coarse cereal prices on other markets across the country, with prices peaking at above-average levels, fueled by the low levels of domestic crop production and small volume of Malian exports reaching these markets. As the main substitute cereal for sorghum and rice and with its use as animal feed, there will likely be a steady, steeper than average, rise in the price of wheat between October and May.
  • Government-subsidized « EMEL » program shops: These shops are expected to continue to do business as usual, with prices staying 30 to 40 percent below formal market prices throughout the outlook period. The operation of these shops will help provide food access for poor households exposed to livelihood protection deficits and food consumption gaps.
  • Livestock prices: Contrary to normal seasonal trends driving up prices, the downward movement in livestock prices in rural areas will accelerate between October and January. The culling of livestock herds already reported in transhumant pastoral, pastoral, and trading areas of Trarza could spread to other pastoral areas severely affected by the shortage and poor condition of pastures.
  • Farm labor: In line with forecasts for an earlier than usual rainy season, there will be average levels of seasonal income from farm labor between June and September and, mainly, from harvesting and related activities between September and November. The expected downsizing of cropping areas in rice-farming zones due to the inability of farmers with outstanding debts to gain access to farm credit will likely reduce incomes, but should not affect the daily wage (around 2000 MRO/day).
  • Wild plant products: With trees, like grasses, suffering from the shortage and erratic pattern of rainfall, wild plant production will be down sharply in all parts of the country.
  • Pastoral conditions: Pastoral conditions across the country will be poorer than average. The already fairly homogeneous, sparse, and, in many cases, very poor pastures (with a small presence of grasses) will be rapidly degraded. Surface water resources are expected to be quickly depleted with the low supplies of water, atypically high heat, and strong wind activity. The smaller areas planted in rice in irrigated farming areas will also reduce supplies of rice straw normally purchased by middle-income and wealthy pastoralists as feed for their animals between October and May.
  • Short-term seasonal labor migration and migration income: Labor migration will pick up between December and May with the limited opportunities for employment in farming activities and the processing of harvested crops. There will be an increasingly large flow of migration by women, who are already reportedly leaving certain areas (Aftout in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone and the northern part of the Senegal River Valley) and who have a better chance of finding jobs (performing housework and caring for children) than men, who generally have no professional skills.

 

Most likely food security outcomes

October 2017 through January 2018: Poor households will continue to sell livestock to cover shortfalls in their crop production and income from farm labor, putting more pressure on their livestock capital, already severely depleted by the repeated draw-downs in the last few years, while poor pastoral conditions continue to hold down reproductive rates. Thus, these households will remain in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity.  

February through May 2018: The sharp decline in flood recession crop production, the main source of cereal supplies for poor households in the agropastoral zone and the Senegal River Valley, will heighten demand for commercially marketed foods beyond the capacity of their main sources of income (livestock, short-term seasonal labor migration, food loans) to sustain this larger demand. The effects of a further reduction in the already small size of livestock herds will be accentuated by the falling prices of livestock. Thus, poor households will have difficulty maintaining regular, adequate food access. The combined effects of these deficits will put very poor households in the western reaches of the agropastoral zone in a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situation whose severity could intensify without an assistance program capable of improving their market access. 

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 some 34 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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