Blog Post

Rainfall Deficits in the Sahel

During the 2017 rainy season (June – September), parts of the Sahel in West Africa received erratic and below-average rainfall, according to a special report from FEWS Net. Some areas of the region received rainfall more than 25 percent below average. This has led to pasture and water deficits that are expected to last at least until July 2018.

Mauritania and northern Senegal have been the hardest hit by the lack of rain. Some pastoral regions of northern Mali, northern Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad have also experienced more moderate, but still significant, rainfall deficits. In parts of southern Mauritania, households are already experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3)-level food insecurity. These acute levels of food insecurity are expected to spread to other areas of the region throughout the 2018 lean season (April – June for pastoral areas and June – September for agropastoral areas).

The stress of limited pasture on both livestock and household incomes has led to an early start of the lean season in many areas. As a result, livestock sale prices are already low, and there is concern about growing conflict between pastoralists and farmers as pastoralist populations migrate into traditionally agropastoral areas in search of suitable grazing for their herds.

Rainfall from June through September is expected to be near average, and the report suggests that pastoral incomes will recover somewhat in the second half of the year as improved livestock conditions lead to increased milk production and increased income from livestock sales. However, in areas affected by the rainfall deficits, the rebuilding and recovery of livestock herds will likely be slower than normal.

By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI