Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
The calendar shown in Figure 2.4 shows that livelihoods in Niger are dominated by a
single rainy season on which the great majority of people in Niger depend for both crop
cultivation and pasture renewal. The abundance of rainfall during the four months from June
to September dictate the success of the agricultural year, with the start of the season beginning
later as one moves further north. Dependence on a single harvest is inherently risky, since
there is no second season to alleviate crop failure if the rains are not adequate. For poorer
people it also means that each year there is a progression from easier food availability just after
the harvest to a lean season just before the next harvest when household stocks are long gone
and money for food is very tight. The lean season is also when local food prices are the
highest, with strong seasonal variability from pre- to post-harvest (Brown et al ., 2009). This
season is made the harder because it is a time of peak physical agricultural activity and also of
outbreaks of malaria and meningitis, which inhibits work and increases the risk of acute mal-
nutrition (FEWS NET, 2011c).
For monitoring potential food insecurity, climate variables can impact production, par-
ticularly sowing and germination dates in June and July. Farmers' decisions involve something
of a gamble against an erratic start to the season with risk of drying up germinated seed and
resulting in extensive re-sowing, sometimes too late for a successful crop, or abandonment of
fields for the season (Brown and de Beurs, 2008). Another particularly delicate moment
where growing conditions can have large impacts on ultimate production is the flowering
stage for cereals in late August/September leading to the formation of the grain. If there is a
two-week or longer break in showers during this period, significant reductions in yields could
impact production over wide areas.
For livestock, low levels of green vegetation during peak growing periods could cause a
early migration out of the home area before the rains are indications that local pasture con-
ditions are too poor to sustain herds (FEWS NET, 2011c). These conditions can be moni-
tored remotely using satellite data, but must be put together with information gathered in the
country itself.
Across Niger, many people migrate during the dry season when there is little agricultural
activity to try to find paid work in main towns or in neighboring countries, notably Nigeria,
Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Libya. In bad years, a greater number of people tend to go
on work migration, and this may begin well before the harvest. Migration rates are an
income during the year (FEWS NET, 2011c).
Market signals and the cost of food in local markets are of critical importance for effective
early warning of food security problems in Niger. An early rise to food prices after the
harvest in the late fall is an indication of a poor harvest, since poor people may already be
buying staple foods ( Figure 2.4 ). Another signal is the failure of local cereals prices to fall
significantly in the immediate post-harvest period. As the year progresses, another crucial
signal is the extent to which staple grain prices rise before the next harvest. Given the heavy
dependence of poorer people on the grain market even in normal times, early and steep
staples price rises will indicate both a particularly harsh lean season as well as probably very
early beginning to it.
Variations in the prices and availability of livestock in the markets are also important.
There can be unusual trends in the numbers of animals offered for sale that indicate poor
pasture conditions and an impending crisis in pastoral communities. Very few animals may be
Search WWH ::

Custom Search