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Cablegate: Niger: Early Warning of Increase in Food Insecurity

VZCZCXRO6531
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0813/01 2820921
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 090921Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5370
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1671
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0315
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0214
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME 0010
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS 0014
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 000813

SIPDIS
AIDAC

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, EEB/TPP/MTAA/ABT, AND AF/PDPA
PLS PASS USAID AFR/WA FOR NFREEMAN, LDOORES-FENDELL, GBERTOLIN
OFDA/W FOR ACONVERY, CCHAN, FSHANKS, MSHIRLEY, JMCINTOSH
FFP/W FOR JBORNS, ASINK, TMCRAE
ACRA ALSO FOR AFR/WA
DAKAR FOR RDAVIS
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
ROME FOR US MISSION RNEWBERG, HSPANOS
BRUSSELS FOR USAID PBROWN
NEW YORK FOR DMERCADO
NSC FOR CPRATT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR PGOV EAID SOCI NG
SUBJECT: Niger: Early Warning of Increase in Food Insecurity

NIAMEY 00000813 001.2 OF 002


1. Summary: There are increasing official and anecdotal reports
that this year's harvest will be poorer than that of most recent
years with some areas facing acute stress. FFPO made site visits
across the agro-pastoral zone and found poor or negligible harvest
in many villages. Populations are already reacting with increased
migration for work and consumption of wild, less desirable and less
nutritious leaves and seeds. USAID is meeting with MYAP partners to
share perspectives and plan immediate mitigation interventions and
plan a longer term response. End summary.

Season at End: Crops Results Mixed, Pasturage Poor
--------------------------------------------- ------
2. The growing season in Niger is over. The results of the growing
season are mixed. It is generally agreed that pasturage is bad
across the pastoral zone. There are a number of reports of
significant crop failures across the ago-pastoral zone and in the
rain-fed agriculture zones of Niger. The zones affected stretch
from the border of Burkina Faso in the west to the Chadian border in
the east.

Millet and Niebe Hit Hard, GON Response Unclear
--------------------------------------------- --
3. Crops affected include two of the major subsistence and cash
crops: millet and niebe (black-eyed peas). Niebe is a major cash
crop for many farmers in the southern region of the country. Last
year the Government of Niger (GON) purchased large quantities of
niebe at above-market price in order to provide increased income for
producers. Most of the product was sold to Nigeria. It is not
known what the GON will do this year given the crop failure.

Field Survey Reveals N-S Disparity, Total Losses
--------------------------------------------- ---
4. The USAID Food for Peace Officer (FFPO) traveled in the
agricultural and agro- pastoral zones of Dosso, Tahoua, Maradi, and
Zinder regions the week of September 28-October 2. There was
clearly a wide disparity in grain quantity and quality in various
locations. The further north the FFPO traveled, the poorer the
grain quality became to the extent that in Mirrah and Tanout
Departments, many villages demonstrated no harvestable grain at all.
Locals reported total grain loss in areas across Zinder Region. An
NGO partner reported significant or total loss of harvest in
Northern Dogondoutchi Department and increased cases of malnutrition
in the health centers. We are getting similar reports from visitors
to Illela Department north of Birni-N'Konni. One NGO partner
country director was in agro-pastoral Diffa during the last week of
September, and reported widespread crop failure and the possibility
of increased conflict as pastoralists encroach into cultivators'
territory. While some regions in Niger frequently suffer from crop
losses due to erratic rainfall patterns, this year the problem is
much more widespread.

Migration Early, Non-Traditional Foods Eaten
--------------------------------------------
5. Villagers reported that migration to work in Nigeria had begun
earlier and by more men than usual. Women were reporting that soon
they would migrate to the nearby towns to find menial work such as
grain pounding or babysitting. Some villagers are eating bush foods,
both leaves and grains, instead of harvested domestic cereals.

2009 Harvest below Ave. of Past 7 Years
---------------------------------------
6. In September, the monthly food security information bulletin from
the Office of the Prime Minister reported the prospect for the 2009
harvest of cereals was below the average of the last seven years.
The same bulletin quoted the Office of Agricultural Statistics that
compared the probable 2009 harvest to recent past years (2002 to
2008), noting it was the second-worst harvest in that period. The
harvest in 2004-2005 was considered a year of famine and resulted in
a large influx of international support, both monetary and grain
supplies. The report predicted, if this harvest is in fact similar

NIAMEY 00000813 002.2 OF 002


to that of the previous time period, approximately 4,000 villages
with a population of 3 million could experience deficits in
harvests. An experienced observer of Niger agriculture noted grain
harvest may be more than 20 percent below an average year. The
inter-ministerial annual assessment of the harvest with support from
CILS, FAO, FEWS-NET, and others is just beginning. The results are
not expected for several weeks or longer. Furthermore, accurate and
candid reporting from GON entities is questionable.

Early Action to Mitigate Worst Effects
--------------------------------------
7. It is difficult at this time to accurately describe the magnitude
of the food security problem (both geographically and in terms of
nutritional stress on vulnerable populations). It is, however,
clear that early action to provide access to food for the most
at-risk populations will help mitigate the worst effects of the food
security problem. To that end, FFPO has convened a meeting of MYAP
partners to share information on the agricultural and nutritional
situation and explore possible interventions that can be implemented
immediately within the MYAP program and locations of interventions.

Cash-for-Work, Nutritional Interventions, Reserves Key
--------------------------------------------- ---------
8. For example, planned cash-for-work activities can be started
earlier than planned to expedite resource transfer. Nutrition
interventions that are planned for late in the year or in 2011 can
be moved forward. The PROSAN partners (CRS, CARE, and Helen Keller)
have 250 MT of soy-fortified bulgur as an emergency reserve.
Prudent targeted programming of the reserves can begin in the most
vulnerable regions. The MYAP partners will also begin to plan
interventions that might require additional food and monetary
resources for which they can seek donor support.

9. Note: The Mission will continue to monitor the developments on
the ground aggressively and with the help of established reporting
channels such as FEWS-NET, the UN, and GON-related sources and
develop a more comprehensive picture of the geographical and
humanitarian impact of this year's harvest. End note.

WHITAKER

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