Cassava harvests offer marginal improvements in southwestern Madagascar as the lean season begins
Ongoing humanitarian assistance is currently mitigating worst food security outcomes in Betioky and Ampanihy districts, some of the hardest hit by this year’s severe drought, resulting in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes. Given the significant shocks to these areas in recent years – including drought and well below-average maize and cassava harvests, households’ ability to employ coping strategies is severely limited. In the absence of humanitarian assistance, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes will likely emerge in southwestern Madagascar during the 2022/23 lean season.
Households in the Grand South are now accessing cassava and sweet potato harvests from own production as harvesting is ongoing. However, root and tuber production is expected to be below average due to limited access to inputs and poor soil moisture conditions, which developed in southwestern Madagascar during the severe drought. According to the 2022 cassava production forecast by the Malagasy Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MINAE), Atsimo Andrefana region is expected to be worst-affected and cassava production in this region is projected to be 11 percent below last year and 41 percent below the most recent three-year average. Cyclone impacts in the Vatovavy Fitovinany region are also expected to reduce this year’s cassava harvest by 8 percent compared to last year and 49 percent compared to the most recent three-year average.
Food prices for cereals (rice and maize) and pulses (cowpeas) have continued to rise in key reference markets since June. Dried cassava and groundnut prices have also been trending upwards seasonally across markets, reflecting declining stock levels following the maize harvest and before the start of the cassava harvest. Food prices are consistently above 2021 and five-year average levels across crucial reference markets, especially in the Grand South. In Toliara market, the price of maize increased by 21 percent from June to July while trending at 15 percent above 2021 levels and 103 percent above the five-year average. Meanwhile, prices in July of dried cassava and local rice were 82 and 14 percent above last year, respectively, and 211 and 48 percent above the five-year average, respectively.
Forecasts indicate that average rainfall is most likely across the Grand South at the outset of the 2022/23 rainy season, supporting an on-time start to the agricultural season. Soil moisture deficits must still be overcome, but rainfall should improve agricultural labor opportunities, as compared to last year. However, multiple years of drought, limited access to agricultural inputs, and higher than normal prices are all expected to lead to below-average agricultural labor opportunities and hence reduced income levels for poor households in the Grand South.