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GIEWS Update-detail
FAO/GIEWS Global Watch


Brief on Assessment of Food Supply,
Food Security and Outlook for 2005-2006

A preliminary assessment of food supply and food security was carried out by a technical mission jointly undertaken with the Government of Niger1 , FAO/GIEWS, WFP (Headquarters, regional and country offices) and partners2, from 21 October to 4 November 2005 followed by a high level inter-ministerial mission. The technical assessment included eight days of fieldwork which covered all of the country except the region of Diffa, data synthesis, report preparation in Niamey, and briefings for the government, UN agencies, and donor agency representatives3.The inter-ministerial mission visited the regions of Zinder, Maradi, Tahoua and Dosso, and covered also Diffa.

The main conclusions are as follows:

  • Due to generally favourable rainfall, agricultural and pasture production in Niger are above the five-year average. Final estimates of agricultural production, however, are likely to be revised slightly downward because the 2004/05 crisis constrained both seed and labour availability in 2005 and farmers could not take full advantage of favourable growing conditions.

  • However, the 2004 crisis - considered by interviewed farmers and herders to be as serious as the 1973 and 1984 crises - has had very adverse, longer-term impact on household assets and savings, on levels of indebtedness, and on the health and nutritional status of the population. This has been caused by very limited food production, high livestock mortalities, and record high prices for millet and other cereals, which induced a major negative income effect on already impoverished households, and will constitute a very heavy burden in terms of debt reimbursement in 2005-2006. A sack of millet borrowed in the late spring of 2005, for instance, required at least 2.5 to 3 sacks of millet as repayment by October of this year. Considering the deep and widespread indebtedness accumulated in 2004/05, the reduction of the food stocks available to households at the beginning of the 2005/06 marketing year will be considerable.

  • Grain markets at the time of the 2005 harvest are, therefore, being supplied with cereals in large quantities, sold by producers to meet pressing financial requirements or to reimburse debts. Prices have fallen, but remain higher than the five-year average for this time of the season. Regional grain supplies are generally abundant; therefore it is unlikely that the same rise in prices and flows of millet from Niger to Nigeria will occur during the coming marketing year as were seen in 2004/05. Although most of the large grain supply is likely to remain in Niger, the vast majority of farming households will have to buy cereals back to increase the stock they need to cover food consumption needs until the 2006 harvest.

  • Given the seriously depleted state of most of the population’s income, the mission anticipates that within three to at most six months, up to one third of Nigerien rural households are at risk of having a major food access problem. According to the most recent survey4, out of a rural population of 9.24 million, 1.22 million are estimated to be severely food insecure, 1.99 million moderately food insecure due to limited access to food once their current stocks run out.

  • Overall levels of moderate and severe acute malnutrition remain very high; admissions to therapeutic and feeding centres have barely levelled off from the very high levels of early 2005. According to the nation wide Government of Niger/UNICEF/CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention-Atlanta) nutrition survey undertaken in September/October 2005, 15.3 % of children under 5 suffer from acute malnutrition. The rate is as high as 18 % in the Tahoua region and is around 16 % in the regions of Diffa, Maradi and Zinder. The under five mortality rate is 1.7 per 10,000 children per day and reached the critical threshold of 2 per 10,000 children per day in the regions of Zinder and Tahoua. In 2005, the combination of limited household food production, low incomes and record grain prices plunged many of the households into food insecurity, indebtedness, deteriorating coping strategies resulting in deep poverty and malnutrition. But there are also other factors causing malnutrition such as caring practices and cultural aspects which impact is however difficult to assess. Still, the troubling reality remains that rural livelihoods are becoming more unsustainable.

All available assessments on the food security and nutritional situation reach similar conclusions : i) the roots of food insecurity are more chronic than transitory in nature ; ii) the roots of malnutrition are not necessarily the same as the causes of food insecurity, and require specific responses ; and iii) a better grasp of access to food, including market analysis, is essential to understand food security issues in Niger.

The mission emphasized that it is essential and urgent to implement activities that permit food insecure people to:
  • Produce more food and generate income during the off-season (December-February);

  • Enrol in cash or food-for-work schemes to ‘stretch’ their own supplies;

  • Continue to have access to therapeutic and feeding centres, and school lunch programmes for children;

  • Access herd reconstitution schemes, especially women who normally own and manage small ruminants;

  • Replenish depleted cereal bank stocks;

  • Access micro-finance to implement income generating activities.

  • The sooner income generating activities and food transfer can be undertaken, the better, since money earned and food stocks retained by households while grain prices are still low is ‘worth’ much more than money earned later in the year. The mission also recommended to all parties that, in addition to a continuation of the current grain and livestock marketing monitoring systems, information on rates of malnutrition are included in the set of indicators followed by the various Nigerien institutions, especially the SAP (Early Warning Unit).

1. Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Animal Resources, Prime Minister’s office and Early Warning Unit.

2. Partners who participated are FEWS Net, CILSS/AGRHYMET and an observer from the US State Department’s bureau for humanitarian affairs.

3. The briefing meeting was attended by representatives of Belgium, Denmark, the EC, France, the Netherlands and the United States.

4. Emergency Food Security Assessment for Niger; WFP, Sept. 2005.