GIEWS Update: West Africa - Sahel - Elevated risk of deterioration in food security in pastoral areas across the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin


• Poor rains in 2017 affected livestock across the pastoral areas of the Sahel.

• Persisting insecurity hampers access of animals to the grazing areas in northeastern Nigeria, northern Mali and the Lake Chad Region.

• Large concentrations of livestock in safe areas are resulting in shortages of pasture and depressed prices of livestock products and incomes for pastoralists.

• Prices of cereals are generally at high levels as demand is reinforced by the return of transhumant pastoralists moving from southern areas to northern normal grazing areas.

• Livestock prices are at low levels due to declining export demand from Nigeria, resulting in decreasing terms of trade and reducing pastoralists’ access to food.

• Around 2.5 million pastoralists and agro-pastoralists are food insecure, and a high risk of livelihood losses are expected during the lean season if mitigation actions are not taken.

• Timely support to pastoralists’ livelihoods is needed to prevent a deterioration of their food security situation and undesirable macro-economic implications.


A poor performance of the 2017 rainy season (June-September) in the Sahel has led to pasture and water deficits that critically affected pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihoods in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali,
Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. The poor rains caused an early depletion of pasture and water resources that, coupled with persisting and widespread insecurity in the Lake Chad Basin region, has resulted in a high concentration of animals in atypical areas of Mali and Burkina Faso, where pasture shortages were less severe. Subsequently, rangeland resources suffered an earlier-than-usual depletion during the dry season, with a negative impact on animal body conditions and availability of livestock products. The forthcoming 2018 rainy season is forecast at near-average levels and, combined with the current below-average vegetation conditions, it is anticipated to result in a slower-than-usual regeneration of rangeland resources, with a negative impact on pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihoods. A close monitoring of the progress of the rainy season, the pasture availability and the status of animal health is warranted. According to the last “Cadre Harmonisé”, the magnitude of food insecurity has significantly increased in the subregion, from 5.2 million people who were in need of immediate food assistance in October-December 2017 to about 7.1 million people in March-May 2018.
A timely response to support pastoralists’ households is required as recurrent natural and conflict-related shocks have disrupted local livelihoods and eroded the resilience capacity of a large number of households.