After 6 weeks of heavy to extremely heavy rains in Chad’s Sudanian zone (see Sahel rains box, figure 5), drier conditions returned during September. Although this dryness was welcome, large areas of rainfed crops had already suffered irreversible damage due to flooding. However, farmers in most of the Sudanian zone do not practice recessional agriculture, so any losses to the rainfed crop are unlikely to be made up by a good recessional crop. During a CASAGC (Action Committee for Food Security and Crisis Management) pre-harvest assessment mission to the Sudanian zone in late September, FEWS saw extensive flood damage to sorghum, maize, groundnut and millet crops. As a result, production is expected to be greatly reduced in parts of Moyen-Chari, Logone Oriental, Tandjilé and Mayo-Kébbi Prefectures. This causes great concern because this will be the third consecutive poor harvest for some of these areas. In parts of Moyen-Chari and Logone Oriental, populations have lost their homes and crops, leaving them in need of immediate assistance.
Early optimism about production in the Sahelian zone is being moderated. The CASAGC mission to the Sahelian zone found that drier conditions in September resulted in the proliferation of caterpillars and grasshoppers. Food crops have suffered from pest attacks in Ouaddaï, Batha and Biltine Prefectures. Floods have destroyed crops in Batha and swelling water levels in Lake Chad have covered some fields. Short-cycle dune millet is reported to have suffered from excessive rain. Food crop production is expected to be about average in the Sahelian zone, but in Kanem, where dune millet is the major crop, production is expected to be poor.
Residual floodwater in low-lying areas bodes well for recessional sorghum production. Prospects are good wherever recessional agriculture is practiced on a large scale (specifically Lake Fitri, Lake Chad, the Salamat plains and the Logone-Tandjilé watershed area).
Despite flood damage and other problems, the seasonal production outcome is expected to be near average for the country.
Millet prices in N’Djaména (a good indicator of Sahelian zone conditions) have been low and stable throughout the hungry period and started to decrease in early August. Prices dropped in late September as newly harvested maize from the Lake Chad area reached the markets. Prices are expected to decrease further when the rainfed sorghum harvest enters the market.
Exceptional Rainy Season in the Sahel
Farmers and pastoralists in many parts of the Sahel are saying this is the best rainy season they have seen in the past 35 to 45 years. Cumulative rainfall exceeds normal at most synoptic reporting stations. In many areas, the abundant rains have been spatially and temporally well distributed since mid-July. Pastures across most of the Sahel are unusually good, and seasonal ponds have been filled, promising easy access to watering sources for livestock this dry season (November–April).
In most areas, the rains have also been favorable for crop development. Several factors, however, will reduce harvests. Many areas experienced a poor start to the season, and farmers either planted late or shifted to shorter cycle varieties. The high frequency of rains and occurrence of heavy-to-excessive amounts received between July and September (figure 5) have led to waterlogging and weed problems. Moreover, in isolated areas across the Sahel, farmers have lost their houses and crops to flooding. All of these factors will leave some farmers food insecure despite the overall good harvest prospects.