Global Information and Early Warning System on food and agriculture --------------------------------------------------
Report No 6 - December 1997


NB: This document is also available in French

For any further information, please contact Abdur Rashid, Chief, Global Information and Early Warning Service (ESCG), FAO, Rome: Telephone: (39-6) 5705-3099, Facsimile: (39-6) 5705-4495, E-mail INTERNET: GIEWS1@FAO.ORG 




This document presents a preliminary assessment of the 1997 cereal harvests in the nine CILSS countries [/ CILSS: Comité permanent inter-Etats de lutte contre la sécheresse dans le Sahel. (Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel). The nine Member States are: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.] . It is based on information available to the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) as of early November 1997 and on production estimates provided by the national services and examined by Crop Assessment Missions during the second half of October in the nine countries. These Missions comprised experts from the GIEWS, the CILSS Diagnostic Permanent Project (DIAPER) and the Agrhymet Centre in Niamey. This year, sahelian experts recruited under FAO’s Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries Programme (TCDC) also took part. The FEWS (Famine Early Warning System) Programme of USAID also participated in some countries. These Missions worked closely with the national agricultural statistics services responsible for collecting and examining cereal production data, meteorological information, crop protection, hydrology and, where they exist, with the national early warning (SAP) and food security monitoring systems and/or market information systems (SIM). The Missions also met representatives of the main donors. FAO and CILSS worked closely together, at both field and headquarters level, and the figures in the report are those generally agreed by both secretariats.

These figures were presented on 13 November 1997 in Rome at a meeting organised by CILSS and the Ministers of Agriculture or Rural Development of the CILSS countries present at the FAO Conference. They have also been discussed during the annual meeting of the "Network for Prevention of Food Crises in the Sahel" organised by the Club du Sahel and the CILSS on 27-28 November in Paris.

At the time of the Assessment Missions, rainfed crop harvesting was underway or nearing completion in most of the countries. Early millet and maize had generally already been harvested, but long-cycle varieties of cereals and late-planted crops were still maturing or about to be harvested in some areas, while irrigated crops were at a less advanced stage. Rice was still being transplanted in the swamp and low-lying areas of Guinea-Bissau and southern Senegal. The planting of flood recession crops was underway. The forecasts made in this report are therefore preliminary and subject to revision.



Expected harvest levels for 1997 in the Sahel are variable. After an early start to the rains, notably in the west of the Sahel, which allowed early planting, a long dry spell from the middle of July to mid-August severely affected crops in Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania. The resumption of the rains at the end of August prevented total loss of the early planted crops but production of rainfed crops was greatly reduced in these countries. Growing conditions were generally more favourable in the other countries except in the centre and east of Burkina Faso and in certain areas of Niger.

The 1997 aggregate cereal production of the nine CILSS countries has been estimated by the FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions at 9.1 million tons which is 1.1 percent lower than in 1996, 0.6 percent lower than the average of the last five years and 8.9 percent lower than the record 1994 output. Above-average output is anticipated in Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger and Chad, and below average in Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal. Output has clearly increased relative to 1996 in Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Chad. It is close to 1996 output in Niger, as well as in Cape Verde where a very poor harvest is again expected. Output fell relative to 1996 in Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Senegal.



(i) Factors Affecting 1997 Production

(a) Rainfall

The 1997 rainy season had an early start in most parts of the Sahel, with abundant rains in central areas. Until May/June, regular and widespread rains fell over most producing areas of the Sahel. At the same time, seasonably dry conditions prevailed in Cape Verde. Beginning July, the rainfall pattern significantly deteriorated, notably during the second dekad of this month which registered very limited rains or dry weather over most parts of Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania. Precipitation also decreased in Guinea Bissau. This dry spell decreased the cumulative rainfall in these areas. By contrast, rainfall continued to follow the normal pattern in the eastern part of the Sahel, with the exception of the south eastern region of Niger and southern Chad. The Sahelian zone of Chad received well above normal rains. In between, in the central part of the region, precipitation remained generally normal and widespread.

In late August, rains resumed in northern Senegal and western Mauritania. Rains also started in most islands of Cape Verde. In late September/early October, precipitation decreased, marking the end of the rainy season in most sahelian countries, except in Guinea Bissau which received substantial rains in October.

Cumulative rainfall from 1 May to 31 October was below normal in most of western Sahel, except in Guinea Bissau, parts of Senegal and The Gambia. It was also below normal in central Sahel, eastern Burkina Faso and southern Chad. By contrast, the eastern part of Chad is marked by well above normal cumulative rainfall. 

(b) Area Planted and Seed Availability

Only a few sahelian countries conduct national surveys of area planted. Preliminary indications are that the aggregate area planted to cereals increased slightly from 1996 levels. More marginal areas were cropped as good rainfall permitted sowing on normally uncultivated land. However, it was possible to cultivate large rice-producing and irrigated areas on the banks of the Senegal River this year due to the higher water level in 1996 and reservoirs that were fuller this year in Mauritania.

Seed availability was generally adequate in most countries except in Cape Verde and Mauritania which had poor harvests in 1996. Because of the irregularity or lack of post-sowing rainfall in June or July in the west of the Sahel, the young plants suffered water stress and there were losses which made some replanting necessary, particularly in the centre and north of Senegal and in Mauritania. However, seed availability problems limited replanting. 

(c) Pest Situation

Desert Locust

During the first half of 1997, no significant Desert Locust infestations were reported from West Africa. Only isolated adults were present in a few places of northern Mauritania. During the summer, low numbers of adults were scattered in southern Mauritania and northern Mali. Summer rainfall was poor and sporadic, and consequently no breeding was reported in southern Mauritania. It may have occurred, however, at such an insignificant level that it was difficult to detect. During September, small-scale breeding was reported in a few places of the Adrar des Iforas in northern Mali. By mid-October, adults were concentrating in the few remaining areas of green vegetation and control was undertaken at one location on 30 hectares. By mid November, only a few adults were reported in the northern areas of Mauritania and Mali. 

African Migratory Locusts

Since the second half of August, the African Migratory Locust started to concentrate in the basin of Lake Chad. Since late August, some bands and swarms have been reported in Chad, in the region of the Logone and Chari rivers along the border with Cameroon, as well as in Guélendeng region. In early September, infested areas remained limited in Chad, but substantial damage had been reported on crops at tillering/heading stages. During the same period, 5 000 hectares were infested in Cameroon. In late October/early November, following development of hoppers, some swarms appeared and hopper populations almost disappeared. In Chad, the "harmattan" wind, blowing from the north-east, induced some displacements of the swarms from the northern zones toward the South and there is a threat that this movement may continue towards Cameroon.

Adult populations are still numerous in the fields of berbéré and late sorghum. Some damage has already been reported on rainfed crops in the region situated between Logone and Chari rivers, notably in seedbeds for recession crops. The reported infestations in Chad and Cameroon are threatening agricultural production and, in mid-term, swarms will threaten neighbouring regions. 


Several countries experienced localised grasshopper infestations notably in Burkina Faso, Cape Verde (on Santiago, Boavista and Maio islands), Chad, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. Substantial treatments were undertaken in Niger and Senegal. Elsewhere, due to good natural vegetation, the grasshoppers did not concentrate too much on crops. 

Other Pests

Various insect attacks were reported, particularly of cantharides and caterpillars in The Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Niger. Grain-eating birds were also reported in the rice-growing areas of Mali, in Chad, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. Aerial treatments were carried out in the Senegal River valley in October.


(ii) Weather Performance and Monitoring of Crop Development in 1997

In addition to its conventional information sources, the GIEWS uses rainfall data received from meteorological stations as well as information derived from two types of satellites for its crop monitoring and agricultural production forecasting activities in the region.

Through the ARTEMIS System at its Environmental Information Management Service, FAO produces satellite imagery for the whole of Africa indicating 10-day and monthly Cold Cloud Duration (CCD), Estimated Rainfall and Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). The CCD information, which indicates hours of coverage of rain-bearing clouds, is produced from data received in real-time from the European METEOSAT. On the basis of this information, 10-day and monthly charts are prepared on Estimated Rainfall. The NDVI imagery, which gives an indication of the photosynthetically active biomass, is produced from information received from the American NOAA satellites.

GIEWS has access to the ARTEMIS system’s historic archive that includes the NDVIs dating back to 1981. Those indices based on METEOSAT information date from August 1988. With the historic archive, the present situation can be compared with previous years, and a spatially more complete and quicker analysis can be made than from information derived only from ground-based observations.

Figure 1 gives the occurrence of rain-bearing clouds (Cold Clouds Duration, CCD) for the months of February to November 1997. It shows that CCD - and thus the received rainfall - was highest during July and August. A marked reduction in rainfall can be noted in July in the west of the Sahel. In comparison with the average CCD for the period April-October, rains were more abundant at the beginning of the season but less abundant in July and August in Senegal and Mauritania.

You can also watch the film of Cold Cloud Duration over Western Africa in 1997

Figure 2 (following page) gives an assessment of the 1997 cropping season, based on a classification of the evolution of the NDVI during the season compared to the 1982-96 average. The CILSS area has been divided into five classes. Each class, identified by a colour, indicates one type of behaviour during the 1997 season as compared to the average. Areas are indicated in grey (class 1) where the 1997 season did not differ much from the average. Areas are indicated in yellow (class 2) where the NDVI were generally above average, except in August/September when they were close to average. These zones cover the major part of Mali, southern Senegal and western Burkina Faso. In the red areas (class 3), the indices were substantially lower in August with an improvement in September and cover the centre and the north of Senegal, north-west Mali/south-east Mauritania and the centre and east of Burkina Faso. Class 4 (green) corresponds to those regions that had good vegetation development at the end of the season, as in the north of Burkina Faso and in Chad. Class 5 (blue) mainly covering the south of Chad, corresponds to a good start to the season, with above average values for the first half of the crop season.

The graphics on Figure 3 show the rainfall pattern of different zones of the Sahel for the 1997 season as compared to the average one calculated over the period 1961-90. The graphics depict the dekadal pattern and the cumulative one from 1 March to 31 October, respectively at left and at right of each page. The values for the 1997 season have been extracted from dekadal images of estimated rainfall produced from FEWS project elaborated on the spatial interpolation of several variables: recorded rainfall at ground level, wind speed, air humidity, altitude of the station and cold cloud duration. The average values have been extracted from rainfall images produced by the Agrometeorology Group of Environment and Natural Resources Service of FAO which are based on spatial interpolation of average dekadal rainfall data recorded from all stations in Africa, i.e. about 1600 stations.


(iii) Preliminary Cereal Production Forecast for CILSS Countries for 1997

In the second half of October/early November, a series of joint FAO/CILSS crop assessment missions were mounted to review the 1997 cropping season in each country of the sub-region and examine the preliminary cereal production estimates that had been made by the national agricultural statistics services. These Missions comprised experts from the GIEWS, the CILSS Diagnostic Permanent Project (DIAPER) and the Agrhymet Centre of Niamey. Experts recruited under FAO’s Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries Programme (TCDC) also took part. The FEWS (Famine Early Warning System) Programme of USAID also participated in missions in some countries. These Missions worked closely with the national services responsible for: agricultural statistics, meteorological information, crop protection, hydrology and, where they exist, national early warning (SAP), food security monitoring, and/or market information (SIM) systems. The Missions also met representatives of the main donors. Field visits were undertaken in various agricultural areas of the countries, and meetings held with local authorities, regional statistics or agriculture services and farmers. Farms and irrigated areas were also observed in the regions visited. In total, the various Missions covered around 14 000 kilometres in the nine CILSS countries. FAO and CILSS worked closely together, at both field and headquarters level, and the figures in the report are those generally agreed by both organizations.

Cereal production in 1997 in the nine CILSS countries is provisionally estimated by the FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions at 9.1 million tons, 1.1 percent lower than in 1996, 0.6 percent lower than the average of the previous five years and 8.9 percent lower than the record 1994 output. Above-average output is anticipated in Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger and Chad, and below average in Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal.

The production trend for each country since 1989 is given in the following table.


Table 1: CILSS Countries - Cereal Production 1989 to 1996 and Preliminary Forecast for 1997 (in thousand tons gross basis, with rice in paddy)
Country  Cereal Production  Preliminary Forecast for 1997  1997/ 1992-96 (%)
1989  1990  1991  1992  1993  1994  1995  1996 
Burkina Faso  1 952  1 518  2 455  2 477  2 557  2 492  2 308  2 482  2 274  92
Cape Verde  10  11  10  12  17
Chad  617  601  812  977  617  1 175  908  878  993  109
The Gambia  97  90  111  128  102  91  103  112  85  79
Guinea-Bissau  149  169  180  171  180  190  201  147  190  107
Mali  2 155  1 771  2 414  1 809  2 228  2 457  2 189  2 223  2 384  109
Mauritania  183  103  104  104  162  200  220  121  153  95
Niger  1 843  1 476  2 468  2 248  1 800  2 438  2 096  2 260  2 246  104
Senegal 1 1 067  950  970  856  1 086  964  1 093  1 023  811  81
TOTAL 2/  8 100  6 700  9 500  8 800  8 700  10 000  9 100  9 200  9 100  99
Note: Record harvests are underlined.
1/ For 1993, the figure is based on estimates prepared by statistical services but not on a survey.
2/ Totals have been rounded.

Output has clearly increased relative to 1996 in Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Chad. It is close to 1996 output in Niger and in Cape Verde. Output fell relative to 1996 in Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Senegal.

These figures should be viewed as provisional as the surveys were generally made before the end of the harvest and include forecasts for recession and off-season crops, especially in Mauritania, where rainfed crops only represent one-third of total production. In Guinea Bissau, the rainy season ended with fairly substantial rains in October, which may have caused problems during crop ripening and harvesting. These estimates may, therefore, have to be revised in the coming months, but there is unlikely to be a significant change in the overall trend of close to average production in all the CILSS countries.

The breakdown of 1997 production by cereal for each country is given in Table 2.


Table 2: CILSS Countries - Preliminary Forecast of 1997 Production by Cereal (in thousand tons gross basis)
Country  Millet  Sorghum  Maize  Rice (paddy)  Wheat  Others 1/  Total 2/
Burkina Faso  737  1 094  332  99  13  2 274
Cape Verde  1
Chad  240  409  101  144  96  993
Gambia  47  11  23  85
Guinea-Bissau  29  21  128  190
Mali 3 774  584  340  663  18  2 384
Mauritania 3 69  78  153
Niger  1 713  435  67  2 246
Senegal 3 451  117  60  181  811
TOTAL 2/  3 992  2 762  855  1 383  15  131  9 138
1/ Including fonio, berbéré and recession crops in Chad.
2/ Totals have been rounded.
3/ Including recession and off-season crop estimates


(iv) Country-by-Country Summaries

Burkina Faso:

The 1997 rainy season began relatively early at the beginning of April in the southwest of the country. The rains then moved northwards in May and covered the entire country in June. Rainfall in July was characterised by pockets of drought in the centre, east and north. There was little rainfall in August compared to previous years, especially in the first dekad. The situation improved during the first dekad of September but then degenerated somewhat in the last two dekads of the month. Similarly, the rains in the first dekad of October were sporadic and poorly distributed.

The early rains in the southwest and east of the country enabled the land to be prepared earlier than usual. Virtually the whole country received rainfall at the end of May, but the first dekad of July was relatively dry, causing various degrees of crop desiccation. The situation improved during the later part of the month. Sowing and resowing were staggered until late August, particularly in the centre, centre-north and east, where incidences of drought required resowing until mid-August. The return of the rains in August/early September gave the crops a general healthy appearance. Unfortunately, low rainfall from the second dekad of September damaged the still young and inflorescent crops, particularly in the north and centre. The "off-season" rains of October arrived too late to remedy the situation in many parts of the country.

The pest situation has been calm throughout the growing season, despite relatively mild grasshopper infestation of millet, sorghum and maize. There is little pasture in the northern, central-northern and Sahel parts of the country. Also, the replenishment of water points has been low in some regions.

Cereal production for the 1997/98 season is estimated at 2 274 000 tons, which is 8 percent down from 1996 and 8 percent below the five-year average. This is in fact the lowest level of production since 1990 and is the result of a lower output of millet, sorghum and rice of 9, 13 and 12 percent respectively. Maize and fonio, on the other hand, have posted increases of 13 and 18 percent. In comparison to average production levels for 1992/93 to 1996/97, rice is expected to be up by 39 percent and maize by 14 percent, while millet, sorghum and fonio should register decreases of between 9 and 14 percent. Only six of the 30 provinces will increase production from last year, and many provinces might register sizeable falls - more than 40 percent down from 1996 in some cases.

Some base data on this country (in french)


Cape Verde:

Rainfall has been badly distributed during the 1997/98 season. The rains arrived one month late, at the end of August, and finished in early October when the maize was inflorescent. First sowing took place in July on Santiago and Fogo, but most of the crops were lost because of the lack of rainfall in early August, requiring resowing on both islands. The first two dekads of September were very wet on all the islands, giving satisfactory maize growth until early October. However, the subsequent lack of rainfall (since 2 October) coincided with the delicate flowering phase and completely compromised the maize harvest in the archipelago, with the exception of Fogo and Santiago.

The pest situation was relatively calm, though Senegalese locust infestation on Santiago, Maio and Boavista, and millipede attack on Santo Antao and Sao Viciente caused some damage to the maize crop and pastureland. The heavy rains of August and September replenished the groundwaters, thus extending the irrigated area and enhancing livestock nutritional status and health. Grazing land was more abundant and there were more water points in pastoral areas.

The improved rainfall on Santiago and San Nicolau and seed availability meant a larger area planted to maize: 33 311 ha this year against 32 127 ha in 1996/97, an increase of 3.7 percent. This represents an increase in planted area of 2.25 percent relative to the five-year average (32 577 ha). However, the absence of rainfall in October has wiped out maize production everywhere except for the islands of Santiago and Fogo, where the harvest prospects are better (national average this season of 31 kg/ha against 41 kg/ha last year). National maize output is estimated at 1 137 tons against 1 304 tons in 1996/97, a drop of 13 percent. This is in fact the worst harvest since 1987 and is 84 percent below the five-year average (6 957 tons).

In spite of the low maize output, the food and nutrition situation is not particularly worrying on account of good harvest prospects for haricot bean, cowpea, sweet potato and vegetables, coupled with the volume of pledged aid (cash or kind) and programmed imports. However, given that the last two harvests have been bad, particular attention needs to be paid to maize seed availability for the 1998 season.

Some base data on this country (in french)



The rains were irregular and unevenly distributed in 1997. After sporadic rainfall in late March in the extreme south of the Sudanian zone, the rains were more evenly spread in late April. They then let up in mid-May, except in the southwest, and resumed more heavily in late May. They were abundant and well distributed in July, August and September in the Sudanian zone. The first rains in the Sahelian zone came in the first dekad of June. They were generally above average in June in all production areas, and remained evenly distributed and abundant in late July in the eastern regions (prefectures of Ouaddaï and Salamat). They were generalised during the first dekad of August but fell off in mid-August. Cumulative rainfall by late July was normal or high in most prefectures, in contrast to September when the rains were sporadic, uneven and insufficient. Cumulative rainfall as of 30 September was close to the average and slightly down from 1996.

First sowing occurred in the Sudanian zone in the third dekad of April and early May. Subsequent sowing and resowing continued until July/August. The crops appear relatively healthy in this area, despite slight damage to the millet and sorghum from caterpillar and insect infestation and localised withering due to the interruption of the rains. First sowing in the Sudano-Sahelian zones took place in June. The millet and sorghum crop withered when the rains ceased in the third dekad of June, necessitating resowing in July and August. The very low rainfall of September caused further withering and some fields were abandoned.

The Desert Locust situation has been relatively calm throughout the season. In contrast, the African migratory locust has been reported since early September in the Dourbali zone (Massenya) and along the Mandalia-Guelendeng axis (Mayo-Kebbi), in a 10 km band each side of a line between Logone and Chari Rivers. It was also reported in Doum-Doum (Lac). There has been staggered reproduction and the population is in all stages of growth. Hoppers have been reported in the canton of Madiago and along the Linia-Dourbali axis to the southeast of N’Djamena. There have also been sometimes severe attacks which have caused localised destruction of sorghum nurseries and transplanted recession crops. Some damage to rainfed millet and sorghum has also been noted. Unless brought under the control in time, the African migratory locust is a threat to crops not only in Chad but also in northern Cameroon. Elsewhere, grasshoppers have been reported in the late millet and sorghum crops in the prefectures of Ouaddaï, Biltine, Lac, Kanem, Batha, Guera, Chari-Baguimi and Mayo-Kebbi. Their presence has in fact caused some farmers to harvest their cereals before full maturity.

Gross cereal production for 1997/98 is estimated at 993 300 tons which is 13 percent up from 1996 and 9 percent above the five-year average. The increase relates to maize and rice in particular - up 36 and 47 percent respectively. In contrast, pearl millet could be down by about 7 percent. However, output could fall, particularly the output of flood recession sorghum and long-cycle cereals, if timely measures are not taken to control the African Migratory locust.

Some base data on this country (in french)


The Gambia:

The first rains fell in May in the east and in June in the rest of the country, permitting an early start to the growing season. Growing conditions remained good until the first dekad of July. There was then a dry spell during the second dekad of July followed by renewed rainfall from the end of July, with levels exceeding 20 mm over the entire country. The rains eased up in early August, mainly in the east of the country, then intensified from the second dekad of August until the end of September. There was low rainfall in early October in the southern part of the Lower River Division (LRD), but appreciable quantities elsewhere. Cumulative rainfall was close to normal and higher than last year.

The first dryland sowings (souna millet) were effected in May and early June, followed by rainfed sowing (maize, sorghum, souna millet and upland rice) during the month of June (east and north of the country). Sowing in the southwest occurred in late June, early July. The first mangrove rice seedbeds were sown in the first dekad of July. The early maize and souna millet crops had reached the water-intensive stem elongation/earing stage when the rains ceased in mid-July which exposed them to serious water stress. There was extensive resowing, particularly in the North Bank Division (NBD), the region most affected. The lack of water also deferred the transplanting of rice. The mangroves were still dry in mid-August and serious transplanting only got underway from August. The return of rainfall in mid-August helped maintain part of the souna millet crop under better conditions, along with the late millet, sorghum and groundnut crops. In contrast, virtually all the maize crop was lost, together with part of the early souna millet and sorghum crop. The upland rice was resown but not completely because of seed shortages. The mangrove rice which was transplanted in early August is growing under good conditions. The early millet was harvested in late September, one month later than usual. The groundnut harvest should be good despite the early seed shortage, on condition that the rains hold in October.

Cantharide and leaf-cutter caterpillar infestation and aphid attack have caused damage to the millet and groundnut crop respectively, with souna millet being particularly affected. Downy mildew was noted on the maize and souna millet in late September in the Upper River Division (URD), more specifically in Sandu District. An upsurge of striga has also been reported in several divisions of the country.

The interruption of rainfall in mid-July significantly reduced grazing land which in turn affected animal health, particularly in the North Bank Division, and caused a transfer of herds southwards. However, the abundant rains of August restored the grasslands and replenished the watering points, thus enabling the livestock to recover health and nutritional status.

Aggregate cereal output for 1997 is estimated at 84 750 tons against 111 600 tons in 1996/97, which represents a fall of 24 percent. This drop in fact amounts to 28 percent for coarse grains (maize, millet and sorghum) and 12 percent for rice. The heaviest falls are for maize and upland rice (61 percent and 59 percent). Coarse grain output is expected to fall by 21 percent relative to the five-year average.

Some base data on this country (in french)



Guinea-Bissau has had good rainfall throughout the country this year, so the early sowings in May were well watered. The rains were regular and abundant in August and September, producing localised high-waters and flooding in the mangroves of the south and lowlands in the east. Cumulative rainfall as of 30 September was higher than last year but lower than normal levels. However, the heavy rains in October could impact negatively on harvest levels, particularly lowland rice in the north and east.

There has been substantial leaf-cutter caterpillar infestation of pam-pam rice, millet and fonio. Some 5 000 hectares have been infested, with 15-20 percent surface damage. Good rainfall has favoured pasture growth and replenished water points throughout the season, providing adequate feed and ensuring good livestock health.

In view of this satisfactory start to the growing season, the planted area has been estimated at 156 308 hectares, up 1.8 percent from last year and 26 percent higher than the 1992-1995 average. In comparison to the 1996/97 growing season, rainfed cereals have increased by 4.6 percent while rice has fallen by 0.6 percent, mainly because of a noted reduction in mangrove rice cultivation due to a shortage of labour, among other factors. Preliminary assessments indicate an aggregate cereal output of 189 600 tons, which is 29 percent higher than last year and 7 percent above the average for 1992-1996.

The nutritional situation remains somewhat worrying, particularly in the urban areas since the changeover from peso to CFA last July. While subsidiary crops (cassava, sweet potato, haricot bean and cashew) will help cover a large proportion of food needs in rural areas, the low purchasing power in towns and galloping inflation could seriously undermine urban accessibility to food supplies.

Some base data on this country (in french)



Rainfall in 1997 has on the whole been regular and evenly distributed, which has made up for localised late rains and pockets of drought noted throughout the season. The onset of the rainy season in May was virtually normal, with rain-gauge readings normal to high in most stations. The June rains were unevenly distributed but generally higher than last year. The different agricultural zones were well watered in July and cumulative rainfall was higher than or equal to normal values in most of the stations of the south and centre. There was general rainfall throughout the country in August, with a cumulative rainfall on 31 August higher than or equal to normal values. The rains were generally normal to high throughout September and in the first two dekads of October in most of the country, except the north. Cumulative rainfall as of 20 October was normal to high in most stations with the exception of Kidal, Tombouctou, Ménaka, Mopti and Nara.

There was already water flow in the upper reaches of the Bani and Senegal Rivers in May. From July to mid-August, the rivers were slightly higher than in 1996 and an average year, except the Bani River basin. However, from the second half of August, watercourse levels were everywhere lower than in 1996 and than the inter-annual average. Peak flows in the Senegal River basin were later and lower than in 1996, except for the Senegal River where levels were much higher following the opening of the Manantali dam sluice gates.

Rainfed sowing started in May and June in the Sudanian zone and part of the Sahelian zone, then everywhere in July. Sowing was initiated earlier than usual in the Sahelian zone because of the early rains in May and June. However, the interruption of rainfall in late June caused a slowdown in sowing and led to resowing in several areas. However, the main cereal crops (maize, sorghum, millet and rice) were able to grow without major problems, with the exception of uncontrolled flood rice for which lower-than-normal yields are expected in the regions of Tombouctou, Gao and Mopti, because of the unfortunate combination of high-waters and rainfall which caused flooding before rice germination.

The locust situation was on the whole calm, with the occasional adult Desert Locust reported in Adrar des Iforas in the north. Large numbers of grain-eating birds caused damage to the rice crop in Ségou. Aerial and ground operations helped contain losses and wipe out this scourge, but vigilance is required, as nests have not been destroyed. Livestock health and weight are satisfactory, as graze and browse have generally been abundant except in Nara, Tombouctou, Menaka, the north of the Kayes region and the north of the Mopti region.

Preliminary estimates for 1997/98 indicate a gross output of 2 384 000 tons of cereals, which is significantly higher than last year (+7) and than the five-year average (+9). This increase in production would appear to be essentially due to good yields from main crops, with rice, maize and sorghum increasing respectively by 6, 16 and 8 percent relative to 1996/97. This output is also due to the increase in area under maize and sorghum, in contrast to the reduction in 1996. Output is 38 percent higher for rice and 25 percent for maize against the average for the last five years.

Millet will also post higher production, both relative to the last season (+5 percent) and to the five-year average (+7 percent). Yields have risen from 1996/97 while planted area has been slightly smaller. Sorghum is down 14 percent against the average for the last five years. Secondary crops, such as wheat and fonio, also have higher outputs than last year. The major agricultural regions (Koulikoro, Sikasso, Ségou) will register higher cereal production relative to last year and the average, in contrast to the regions of Mopti and Tombouctou where output will fall. Production in the region of Kayes will be 2 percent up from last year, but 16.7 percent down relative to the average.

Some base data on this country (in french)



Rainfall in May in the agricultural parts of the country was low and scattered. There were relatively heavy rains in the centre-south in early June, then in the south and east in mid and late June. The weather was dry in the southwest in July, with the odd shower in the southeast. There was general rainfall in August, particularly at the beginning and in the middle of the third dekad, but overall levels were below 20 mm in the north of Assaba and locally in the Tagant. There were light rains in September in most regions, except in the south which was wetter. There was relatively heavy rainfall in the first dekad of October in the two Hodhs. Rainfall was significantly lower than last year in Maghama, Timbedra, Kiffa and Ould Yengé, but normal to higher at the other meteorological stations.

The agricultural season began with the rains in June. The interruption in rainfall in July-August in the southwest of the country caused the desiccation of the rainfed crops in Diéri. There were insufficient seeds for resowing when the rains resumed in late August. These rains filled the dams and reservoirs in most of the country and even caused check dams and soil bunds to burst in the south and southeast. The good water reserves enhanced cropping in dam upstream vicinities and on the lowlands. The Senegal River high-water flow has been above that of 1996 following the discharge of waters from Manantali dam which began on 27 August and lasted 45 days. However, the duration of water stagnation has been relatively limited in some high-lying areas.

The locust situation remained calm. There were significant grasshopper attacks requiring repeated resowing and even leading to the abandonment of fields in the Diéri area. Aerial and ground treatment is underway to deal with the large number of grain-eating birds. A few isolated adult Desert Locusts were reported in the south during the summer and more recently in the north. The situation is under constant monitoring by field teams positioned throughout the country.

The harvest prospects look bad for the "Diéri" and better for the other crop typologies. Preliminary gross output for 1997/98 is estimated at 153 400 tons of cereals against 121 400 tons in 1996/97, an increase of about one quarter but 5 percent below the five-year average. Substantial production increases are expected for lowland and irrigated crops. In contrast, well below average harvests are expected for Diéri and controlled recession crops which have suffered the most from the uneven and irregular rainfall and grasshopper attack. Lowland cereal production should be slightly below the five-year average. Compared to last year, production for the Diéri and controlled flood recession crops will be decreasing. On the other hand, lowland, Walo and irrigated crop production will be higher.

Some base data on this country (in french)



The first significant rains of 1997 arrived in late April in the southwest and centre-south. They were restricted to the southwest for the first two dekads of May before moving westwards at the end of the month. Rainfall in June was low and sporadic, with however localised downpours. There was then heavier rainfall in early July over most of the country, with some meteorological stations recording as much as 40-70 mm in one day, particularly in the departments of Dosso and Maradi, in the south of Zinder department and in the districts of Bouza and Birni N’Konni (department of Tahoua). The rains then eased up in the second dekad of July before resuming at the end of the month in the west and southwest. They, however, remained below average in the centre and east. Rainfall was below normal in August despite localised torrential rains in the northern strip. The rains were light to moderate over much of the country in September. Cumulative rainfall as of 30 September was below the 1996 level in more than 55 percent of the meteorological stations, and remains below the normal level in over 67 percent of the stations.

Sowing began in April in the south of Dosso and Tahoua departments and in May in the departments of Maradi, Zinder and Tillabéri. Millet and sorghum were sown everywhere in June and July. Because of the uneven, irregular rainfall, sowing progressed along a south-north axis from April to July. Early sowing failed in parts of the departments of Tillabéri (Ouallam), Dosso, Tahoua, Zinder and Diffa, requiring significant resowing. Rainfall in the first two dekads of August was unfavourable for crop growth in most departments. By late September, the millet had reached maturity in most parts of Dosso, Tahoua, Maradi and South Zinder departments and was ready for harvesting. There are risks of localised water stress for the late crops, particularly in the departments of Tahoua and Maradi. The lack of rainfall in the departments of Tillabéri and Diffa has caused relatively serious desiccation which will significantly reduce output.

There was heavy infestation of the millet by grasshoppers and flower-eating insects, stem-borers and cereal leaf beetles; of the sorghum by leaf hoppers; of the cowpea by aphids and bugs; and general infestation by grain-eating birds. The impact of infestation should however be limited, on the whole, because of timely treatment. As of 24 October, some 293 000 ha out of a reported infested area of some 800 000 ha had been sprayed from the air. No significant threat from the African migratory locust was signalled.

On the basis of the annual agricultural survey, cereal production for 1997/98 is estimated at 2 246 000 tons, which is 1 percent down from 1996 and 4 percent above the average for the last five years. However, production varies widely from one prefecture to another. Millet and sorghum output has increased in the departments of Maradi and Zinder and in the urban community of Niamey. It has, however, fallen in the other departments.

Some base data on this country (in french)



The first rains were recorded in the southeast in early May. They ceased in the last dekad of May, then resumed and covered most of the country in the first dekad of June. Levels fell somewhat in mid and late June but were regular and well distributed, except in the northeast which generally remained dry. The early rains were, therefore, above average in May in the southeast and in June in the rest of the country. There was a lengthy interruption from early or mid-July followed by resumption in the last dekad, except in the northwest. There was virtually no rainfall anywhere in the second dekad of July. The resumption of regular rainfall in mid-August significantly improved the situation in the northeast of the country. The September rains were on the whole satisfactory and well timed. There were also some useful rains for agricultural areas in the first dekad of October. However, cumulative rainfall was reported below average by most weather stations.

The early heavy rains in May and June permitted earlier-than-usual land preparation and first sowing, particularly in the centre and south. Crop emergence was satisfactory, but the long interruption in rainfall from early July to mid-August wiped out the first sowings in most of the centre and north, except in the northern lowlands and in the centre-north where some crops managed to survive and were then able to grow normally. Resowing and first sowing could only be done in mid-August, when agro-climatic conditions improved, particularly in the east and south, providing sufficient water for growth. The late-planted sorghum and millet have therefore needed water in October to complete their growing cycle. While there is no major concern about sorghum which can reach maturity with moisture from dew, the millet yield is likely to be seriously compromised by the lack of rainfall in October in the north and centre-north. The state of the late-sown crops is particularly worrying in the regions of Saint-Louis, Louga and Thiès, and to a lesser extent in the departments of Kaffrine (region of Kaolack) and Tambacounda (region of Tambacounda).

The Senegal River high-water level was above that of last year but below that of 1995. Water was released from Manantali dam from 27 August for 45 days. However, the flooding period was sometimes insufficient for the growth of flood recession crops in some trough areas of Matam and Podor.

The long interruption in rainfall caused the localised outbreak of pests, such as caterpillars and grasshoppers,particularly in the region of Fatick. The total infested area has been put at 294 628 ha, of which 82 percent by grasshopper. Treatment has been applied to 171 461 ha which represents 58 percent of the infested area. No Desert Locust has so far been reported. However, vigilance is required in view of the presence of solitarious individuals in Mauritania and the unfinished growth of late-sown plants which can attract these pests.

Gross cereal production for the 1997 rainy season is estimated at 774 000 tons, which represents a fall of about 25 percent from the average and 20 percent from 1996. An additional off-season output of 37 100 tons makes an aggregate total of 811 100 tons, which is 21 percent down from 1996 and 19 percent down from the five-year average. All types of production have fallen relative to last season. Millet and maize have been the most affected by the poor season, with drops of 27 and 53 percent respectively. Again, all crops are significantly down from the five-year average, with the exception of rice which posted a slight increase of 5 percent.

Some base data on this country (in french)



Overall growing conditions for 1997 cereal crops were favourable for the first season crops in most coastal countries. The first maize harvest, which took place in July, was good in the majority of the countries. A close-to-average harvest is anticipated for millet and sorghum. The second rainy season has been favourable in Nigeria but was generally short in the other coastal countries, which could limit the output of the second season crops.

The rainy season began in mid March in the south of the countries along the Gulf of Guinea. Then, undant over ties in late March. Rainfall remained widespread over the region until mid June, decreased in late June and remained limited over southern areas in July and early August, allowing the harvest of the main season crops. Rains resumed in mid August, allowing the planting of second season crops. They remained abundant until late October and decreased in November. Cumulative rainfall since the beginning of the season was generally average or above average and soil moisture reserves have been adequate for good crop development. Nevertheless, some areas have experienced dry spells.

In Nigeria, despite continuing fertilizer shortages, growing conditions have been favourable during the whole growing season and output should be normal to above normal, except in the south-west, where some maize growing areas had very limited precipitation in July and August. The same situation was reported in the south of Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Benin where the dry period, which usually occurs in July, lasted much longer than usual. In large areas, no rains fell between mid-July and late September, substantially delaying the planting of the second season crops. In Guinea, planted areas have decreased and cereal production is likely to be below last year’s level.

In Liberia, favourable security conditions and massive agricultural input distributions allowed close to normal agricultural activities in the main cereal producing areas. In Sierra Leone, despite renewed civil disturbances mainly in urban areas, agricultural output should recover from previous years’ levels, due to favourable growing conditions, distribution of large amounts of agricultural inputs, and relatively good security conditions in the main producing areas.

Preliminary FAO estimates for the aggregate cereal production in the nine coastal countries point to a total of about 30 million tons. These estimates, presented in Table 3, are subject to revision depending on the final outcome of the crops still to be harvested. First estimates point to record cereal production in Benin, Togo and Nigeria, and a substantial recovery in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Table 3: Western African Coastal Countries - Cereal Production 1989 - 1996 and preliminary forecast for 1997 (thousand tons, gross basis with rice in paddy)
Country  Production  Preliminary 
forecast for 1997 
1992-96 (%)
1989  1990  1991  1992  1993  1994  1995  1996 
Benin  564  546  587  608  628  649  634  668  915  144
Cameroon  901  842  1 001  905  980  920  1 200  1 161  1 130  109
Côte d’Ivoire 1/  1 193  1 238  1 314  1 317  1 352  1 363  1 480  1 787  1 480  101
Ghana  1 184  845  1 436  1 255  1 644  1 594  1 834  1 770  1 724  106
Guinea 1/  668  751  872  935  964  978  870  890  840  91
Liberia  280  100  109  102  65  50  56  95  168  228
Nigeria  18 007  17 678  18 615  19 597  19 329  20 358  20 943  21 636  22 660  111
Sierra Leone 1/  574  563  467  478  499  465  337  399  480  110
Togo  568  484  465  494  633  443  502  687  755  137
Total 2/  23900  23000  24900  25700  26100  26800  27900  27300  30 200  113
Source: FAO
Note: Record harvests are underlined.
1/ Preliminary FAO estimates based only on a qualitative assessment of the growing season.
2/ Totals have been rounded.

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