Niger and the Sahel: Harvests begin; excellent prospects almost everywhere
Cereal harvest prospects and pasture conditions continue to be excellent in most of Niger, in almost all of the rest of the Sahel, and even in the northern areas of the West African coastal states. With the harvest already beginning in parts of the region, the food crisis that affected the pastoral and agro-pastoral populations in parts of the region is rapidly improving.
Much of the current millet and sorghum crop across the region is already past its major moisture requirements, so a relatively good harvest is already assured. If rains continue into September, the harvests will be even better, perhaps approaching a regional record in production. Continued rains will also improve the prospects for a second season crop (both beans and flood recessional cropping) and better conditions for livestock, both in terms of pasture generation and water availability and access.
There are a few local pockets across the Sahel where there are some minor exceptions. The pastoral zones of the Tillabery and western Tahoua regions in Niger have seen intermittent rains that have had adverse impacts on pasture regeneration, as also in western Burkina Faso, although more consistent rains have come in the last two weeks. Central Chad has also had erratic rains during the growing season; however this area has experienced more consistent, even flooding rains in recent weeks.
The earlier than normal harvests across much of the Sahel, as well as improved livestock conditions in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas, will help provide, at a much earlier stage than normal, needed food for many Sahelians currently experiencing high food prices and significant nutritional stress. As local harvests begin to come in, cereal prices are also likely to drop, further assisting pastoralists and poor farming families who purchase a large percentage of their food on the markets. As livestock conditions continue to improve, their value will rise, and pastoralists will face more favorable terms of trade when selling animals to buy grain.
The prospects of an excellent, and perhaps even a record regional harvest will raise the importance of considering whether to continue planned food aid imports, how to handle undistributed aid stocks in-country, and how to efficiently target any food aid distributions that may be continued after the harvests. Sahelian governments and the humanitarian community should carefully examine what the appropriate levels and duration of food aid should be beyond the harvest period, in order to ensure assistance does not undermine the recovery of livelihoods and markets, upon which almost all Sahelians increasingly rely for their income and food supply.
The FEWS NET African assessment teleconference occurs weekly. Notable change in the current trends will be seen quickly and disseminated widely. For more information on this assessment or other FEWS NET information and assessments, contact Gary Eilerts, USAID Program Manager of the FEWS NET activity, at 202-219-0500 or email@example.com.