West Africa Food Security Outlook (October 2015 – March 2016)

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I am Brenda Lazarus, a Food SecurityAnalyst for the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, or FEWS NET.

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This presentation summarizes the food securityoutlook through March 2016 for the 11 countries that FEWS NET monitors in West Africa.

There are two important announcements regarding FEWS NET’s work.

First, our reporting schedule is changing in order to provide earlier early warningand increase the flexibility of our analytical work.

Beginning in February 2016, FEWS NET’sFood Security Outlook Reports will be published three times annually instead of four and thereports will look ahead eight months instead of six.

FEWS NET will continue to publishmonthly “Key Messages” to keep stakeholders informed of the evolving food security situationin the coverage countries.

Second, in January 2016, FEWS NET’s workin West Africa is expanding.

The project will monitor food security in Guinea, Liberia andSierra Leone as “presence countries”; that is, full time staff will be working onthe ground in each country.

FEWS NET is also opening offices in Madagascarand the Democratic Republic of Congo in January.

See the FEWS NET website for more detailson these announcements.

Before we start, a bit of background on ouranalysis.

FEWS NET forecasts food security outcomesusing a methodology called scenario development.

Each quarter, our specialists conduct an eight-stepprocess to analyze a range of information and data, and develop scenarios that currentlylook three to six months into the future.

Starting in February, they will look eightmonths into the future.

In Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger,Nigeria, as well as Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone starting with the February Outlook,this analysis is the basis of trimestral Food Security Outlook reports and monthly updates.

Central African Republic, and Senegal are covered remotely by analysts in neighboringcountries.

The monthly remote monitoring report focuses on anomalies.

On the maps, a coloredoutline of the country indicates the highest level of food insecurity anticipated in areasof concern.

In all FEWS NET countries, we describe acutefood insecurity using the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, or IPC 2.


This five-level scale is used by analysts and humanitarian assistance agencies acrossthe world and the Cadre Harmonise in West Africa.

As we discuss classifications, please keep in mind that when an area reaches Phases 3,4, or 5—Crisis, Emergency, or Famine—urgent humanitarian assistance is required.

FEWS NET uses an exclamation point on its maps to highlight areas where humanitarianassistance is helping to lower the phase classification.

First, let’s look at the seasonal calendarfor Sahelian areas of West Africa, where most areas of concern are.

The red box highlightsthe current analysis period, October 2015 to March 2016.

The off-season, when households practice irrigated farming to produce vegetables, extends fromNovember to March.

Currently underway, rain-fed crop harvestswill continue until January.

Off-season crop harvests will start in January and continueuntil March.

Typically, pastoralists will migrate southin November in anticipation of the end of rainy season and the availability of grasslandfor their animals.

Seasonal labor migration occurring betweenNovember and May will assist some households looking for additional income.

A summary of the outlook.

The majority of households in the region willexperience Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) until the end of March 2016.

However, somelocal populations in Niger and Mauritania will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) untilDecember and March 2016, respectively.

Populations in Mali and Chad will also experience Stressed(IPC Phase 2) food insecurity until March 2016, particularly in areas affected by floodsand where crops could not complete their growing cycles.

Crisis food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) will continue until March 2016 in northeasternNigeria and adjacent areas in Niger.

Food access is still a concern for many householdsin this area, despite ongoing harvests, following the destruction of their livelihoods.

Thesame situation prevails in the Central African Republic, where conflict has resumed and humanitarianassistance is less available.

In countries affected by Ebola – Guinea,Liberia and Sierra Leone – food security is clearly improving with new harvests, despitethe continuation of a few isolated cases of infection.

The majority of households in Guineaand Liberia are currently moving towards Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1), which willcontinue until March 2016.

However populations in some areas of Sierra Leone will remainStressed (IPC Phase 2) due to low purchasing power of households.

Here is more information on the drivers of acute food insecurity…Rainfall: While El Niño has been a major driver of food insecurity in other regionsof the world where FEWS NET monitors food insecurity, it is not a primary factor inWest Africa.

Average to above average rainfall, particularly in the western basin, continueduntil October locally in the Sahel.

Consequently, harvests have been generally sufficient despitebelow average rainfall observed at the beginning of the season.

Harvests: The harvests are underway across the Sahel and will generally be average toabove average in the region.

However, slightly below average harvests will be observed locallyin Chad, Niger, Senegal, Benin, Ghana and the extreme north of Burkina Faso followingthe late start of the season and intermittent early rains.

Localized drops in productionwill also occur in Mali due to flooding and in Nigeria due to flooding, conflicts, andlower than average precipitation.

Markets: Market functioning is satisfactorywith stable prices at average and even below average levels.

Livestock to cereal termsof trade are favorable to farmers.

Here are more details on a few specific countries.

Ongoing conflict – involving Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria and southeast Niger,and civil war in Central African Republic – is a primary cause of acute food insecurityfor populations in these countries.

In northeastern Nigeria, conflict is threateninglives and leading to large scale displacements; it is also limiting participation in agriculturalactivities and restricting market activity.

Much of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, as wellas informal settlements in greater Maiduguri, will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through March2016.

In September, FEWS NET conducted food securitysurveys in rural, highly conflict-affected areas of northeast Nigeria.

Preliminary resultsshow that, acute malnutrition is very high – approximately a third of children aged6 to 59 months in the survey area in southern Borno and northern Adamawa are suffering fromacute malnutrition.

In southeast Niger, Boko Haram continues tocontribute to displacement within and to the Diffa region.

Market activity is limited asa result, reducing income from livestock sales and reducing food access.

In the Central African Republic, the apparent resumption of violence that is spreading inthe country has led to new displacement, further aggravating the market systems, and is a threatto food insecurity in many parts of the country.

Following a persistent decrease in food availabilityand incomes, an increasing number of displaced persons will be unable to access food andwill therefore remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

This situation could continue for displacedpopulations and affect local people as well through March 2016.

In Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, most households are expected to be able to meetessential food and non-food needs due to ongoing average harvests, the gradual recovery ofeconomic activities, regular rice imports from international markets, and stable foodprices.

Consequently, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity is expected in mostareas of these countries through at least March 2016.

However, due to a slower recovery from Ebola-related shocks in Sierra Leone, poor households inKenema, Kailahun, Kambia, Pujenhun, Port Loko, Tonkolili, and Kono continue to face reducedpurchasing power, which is preventing them from fully meeting their non-food needs, suchas education and healthcare costs.

These seven districts, therefore, are projected to beStressed (IPC Phase 2) through March 2016.

Before closing, a reminder to check the reportson our website for more detail.

You may also subscribe to alerts on specificcountries or regions.

Once you sign up, we will send an email whenever a new report isposted.

And of course, you can learn about new reports by following us on social media.

Thank you for listening.

Our next video briefing is scheduled for March 2016.

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