Global Information and Early Warning System on food and agriculture

Report No 5- 10 October 1998


Cape verdeGambieGuinea BissauMauritaniaMaliNigerChadSENEGALBKF

Sensitive Map of the Sahel countries
Click on one country or its name to consult the situation of this country


The rainy season is nearing its end after abundant rainfall in September. Following decreased rains in late August, precipitation was generally widespread and above normal over most producing areas of the Sahel during the first dekad of September. Torrential rains were again registered in several areas of Niger where they caused flooding. Rains remained abundant during the second dekad, except in southern Mauritania, but they decreased significantly during the last dekad. Rains became abundant on southern islands of Cape Verde in mid to late September. Rainfall was particularly abundant in Guinea-Bissau. The latest Meteosat satellite image for the first few days of October indicates that cloud cover is clearly moving southwards, marking the end of the rainy season in most northern areas.

Reflecting good rainfall, crop prospects are generally favourable in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and in Chad except in the Sudanian zone affected by extensive flooding. In The Gambia and Senegal, crop prospects improved following regular rains since August but in northern Senegal additional rains are needed in October as the rainy season started late this year. In Mauritania, growing conditions were mostly favourable for rainfed crops in September. Crop prospects have improved in Cape Verde following increased rains in September. They are uncertain in Guinea-Bissau as the impact of civil disturbances on plantings and other agricultural activities is not clear. Joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions are scheduled from mid-October to estimate with national services the 1998 cereal production. FAO's tentative assessment of yield forecast for cereals in the Sahelian countries is shown in Annex I.

Pastures are abundant. Grasshoppers are reported in most countries. Grain eating birds and insect attacks are also worrisome in several countries. Some limited Desert Locust activity is reported in Mali, Mauritania and Niger. A few additional adults may appear in northern Mauritania and persist in northern Mali and Niger.




A regional meeting was organised by CILSS from 21 to 25 September at Agrhymet Centre in Niamey, Niger, to undertake a first assessment of 1998 cropping season and harvest prospects. Representatives from all CILSS member countries presented reports on the current situation in each country. Agrhymet Centre, DIAPER project and FAO/GIEWS then made presentations at regional level on agro-climatic indicators during this season, the evolution of cereal supply/demand during the last ten years and possible scenarios for 1998/99 cereal supply/demand balance.

The final report and press release of this regional meeting indicates that crop prospects are favourable in the main producing countries of the Sahel but remain uncertain in Cape Verde, Senegal and The Gambia, following a late start of the rainy season. Improved harvests should allow a recovery in per caput consumption to levels prior to the 1997 reduced crop. They would also improve the food supply situation of the populations affected by successive poor crops. However, the production increase would not be sufficient to replenish cereal stocks, and thus the overall food security would remain fragile in the Sahel.

The annual FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions will visit each country from mid-October and hold discussions with national services involved in the monitoring of the growing season (meteorological services, agricultural statistics, pest management, early warning system (SAP), price information systems (SIM), etc.) and agree on national cereal production estimates. A regional synthesis meeting will then be held in November, before the annual meeting of the Network for Prevention of Food Crises in the Sahel organised by CILSS and Club du Sahel with donor representatives on 3rd and 4th December in Dakar.





In these reports, reference will be made to four different eco-climatic zones based on the average annual precipitation and agricultural features, i.e. Sahelian zone, Sudano-Sahelian zone, Sudanian zone and Guinean zone. They are shown in the map and described below:

Sahelian zone: Where average annual precipitation ranges between 250 and 500 mm. This zone is at the limit of perennial vegetation. In parts where precipitation is less than 350 mm, only pastures and occasional short-cycle drought-resistant cereal crops are grown; all cropping in this zone is subject to high risk.

Sudano-Sahelian zone: Where average annual precipitation ranges from 500 to 900 mm. In those parts of this zone where precipitation is less than 700 mm, mostly crops with a short growing cycle of 90 days are generally cultivated predominantly sorghum and millet.

Sudanian zone: Where average annual precipitation ranges from 900 to 1 100 mm. In this zone, most cereal crops have a growing cycle of 120 days or more. Most cereals, notably maize, root and cash crops are grown in this zone.

Guinean zone: Where average annual precipitation exceeds 1 100 mm. Guinea-Bissau and a small area of southern Burkina Faso belong to this zone, more suited to root crop cultivation.

Reference will also be made to the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), also known by its trace on the earth's surface, called the Intertropical Front. The ITCZ is a quasi-permanent zone between two air masses separating the northern and southern hemisphere trade winds. The ITCZ moves north and south of the equator and usually reaches its most northerly position in July. Its position defines the northern limits of possible precipitation in the Sahel; rain-bearing clouds are generally situated 150-200 km south of the Intertropical Front.

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