A striking feature of the 2012 Sahel food crisis, as compared to 2010, has been the situation of markets across the region, with a number of indicators reaching worrying levels. Among these indicators and possible market stress factors were the unusual price increase of cereals at harvest period, the opening of new market routes, the limited export capacity in coastal countries and scattered areas of production deficit, even in countries where such shocks are not usually felt. Overall, the substantial rise in coarse grain prices led to price levels 20% to 90% higher compared to the five-year average throughout the region, from December 2011 onwards. Given the number of factors affecting markets, it was very difficult to predict how they would evolve during the critical months of the hunger period.
A technical meeting was held in Niamey in Niger in December 2011 with the World Food Programme (WFP), Oxfam, FEWS NET and the Comité permanent Inter-Etats de Lutte contre la Sécheresse au Sahel (CILSS) to try to understand what markets were doing and what additional information was needed to get a better picture of the current situation and possible future developments. CILSS was created in 1973, following severe droughts in the Sahel. It comprises nine countries (Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad and Cape Verde). It provides technical and scientific analysis, advice and support for policy design and implementation through early warning systems, food security analysis, best practice and capacity-building. However, interpretations of price rises and market stress varied greatly from one agency to another across the region, which led to differences in analyses and different projections of expected levels of food insecurity. As a result, mixed messages were sent to stakeholders planning for the response, making it more difficult to identify appropriate response modalities.
The case of Chad
Chad is affected by the 2011/2012 food crisis, due to insufficient rains and unusually high food prices from November onwards (25% to 40% higher than the five-year average). This was compounded by disruption in crossborder trade and a decrease in imports from Libya, Niger and Nigeria. Meanwhile, differences in the interpretation of price rises led to the most divergent messages, with some actors claiming that cereal availability would not be a major problem because of supposed stocks left over from the previous agricultural season (2010/2011).
Market analysis based on existing market information and early warning systems, which are barely effective in Chad, proved insufficient to assess the potential of the markets to meet increased demand and to inform response options in targeted areas. As a result, in January 2012 Oxfam and Action Contre la Faim (ACF) decided to carry out an Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis (EMMA) in their areas of operation, Bahr El Gazal and Kanem. Both have very high rates of malnutrition and chronic food insecurity aggravated by recurrent rain deficits and a structurally weak market network. One of the expected outcomes of the EMMA study was to test the feasibility and appropriateness of cash-based interventions.
The study indicated reduced capacity and elasticity of the local coarse grain cereal markets, meaning that they would not be able to respond rapidly to increased demand. This reduced capacity was also evident in the fact that market prices were steadily increasing in the target area and the small number of cereal traders were not able to influence prices. This was corroborated against the findings of a study of the main cereal markets supplying deficit areas conducted in Chad in January 2012 by a joint mission of CILSS, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), FEWS NET and WFP, which confirmed that markets were unable to increase the supply of grain to Sahelian regions sufficiently to meet additional food needs. Mission dEvaluation conjointe, January 2012. See also WFP, La filière céréales dans lEst du Tchad, April 2012, and FAO, FEWS NET and WFP, Marchés et sécurité alimentaire au Tchad, February 2012, http:// reliefweb.int.
The EMMA found that a cash-based intervention to enable access to cereals for the target population would not be appropriate due to the following factors:
- Low availability of cereals in Bahr El Gazal and Kanem.
- High cereal prices in Bahr El Gazal.
- Limited supply capacity of local markets.
- Disruption in cross-border trade.
Given these conditions, the study recommended a targeted distribution of imported food to cover the gap, primarily in rural areas. This distribution helped to stabilise cereal prices while ensuring that vulnerable people had access to food. A small commodity voucher was also provided to cover other food needs such as tea and sugar, and to support small-scale local traders. Longer-term interventions were also recommended, including:
- strengthening local market capacity, for instance through support to small businesses;
- exploring agro-pastoral and pastoral livelihoods support activities;
- advocating for, and contributing to, efforts to set up effective early warning and market monitoring systems; and
- piloting safety nets outside of the lean season, through a cash-based intervention in the assessment areas in a good year (with above-average agriculture/pasture production) in Chads Sahelian belt.
Based on these recommendations, Oxfam revised its intervention strategy to provide in-kind assistance in partnership with WFP. The study outcomes and recommendations were presented to donors, and ECHO, the largest humanitarian donor in Chad, adapted its response strategy, increasing funding to in-kind food assistance and encouraging the use of vouchers as a complement to food aid. Key stakeholders including the government of Chad and WFP stepped up their purchases of cereals outside the country, while also monitoring cross-border flows.
The EMMA proved to be a useful operational tool, providing clear direction on appropriate response options. The analysis was conducted over a three-week period, covering vast areas (Bahr El Gazal and Kanem) and requiring an understanding of complex regional and crossborder exchanges. In general EMMA assessments take one or two weeks and cost between $8,000 and $25,000, according to the context, existing information, the areas to be covered, the team already in place and programmatic decision needs. The flexibility of the tool has meant that it can be used in a variety of contexts and programme designs, with a variety of resources. The findings allowed decision-makers to draw up a clear timetable for emergency and mediumand long-term interventions, including potential indirect interventions such as market support. As EMMA is a rapid market analysis tool the findings it generates are easily incorporated into response analysis.
The information provided by the EMMA complements information provided by broader macro-level market surveys; EMMA is based on both qualitative and quantitative data and, while focused on the micro level, also links micro and macro, is iterative in its approach and is driven by practical considerations and the principle of getting a good enough picture of the market situation. Through its dynamic understanding of the market system it allows forecasting of the potential impact of changes in the context and different response options. This means that it can be used by a wide range of actors in emergency response and food security programmes. Its initial use in WASH (for water trucking in Ethiopia in 2012) has proved its effectiveness beyond food security programming.
The EMMA methodology was originally designed for rapidonset crises, and used a pre-/post-shock scenario analysis. Its application in Chad, in a slow-onset crisis, has shown that it can be adapted by using a good year as a reference (instead of pre-shock) and bad year to describe the post-shock or current situation. EMMA was designed to be user-friendly and to be used by non-market specialists. While this is still valid, experience has shown that doing an EMMA well requires good analytical skills and a high level of confidence. Regional, national and local market information systems must be strengthened to support humanitarian response analysis. In particular, divergent analysis and insufficient information to design programmes has pointed to the critical need to reinforce market information systems at all levels. In areas and countries where crises are predictable, it is important to invest in market system baselines linking micro with meso and macro levels. Stronger market analysis and greater capacity to make use of it within the humanitarian sector could support innovative thinking around market support interventions. Many international NGOs are looking at how to incorporate market support options as part of emergency responses. EMMA and other market analysis tools can play a major role here.
Nanthilde Kamara is an independent consultant. Madeleine Evrard Diakite is EFSL Regional Advisor at Oxfam GB. Emily Henderson is a Market Specialist at Oxfam GB, and Camilla Knox-Peebles is Oxfam GBs Head of Emergency Food Security and Livelihoods.