This year's El Niño has amplified the impact of consecutive years of drought in southern Madagascar.
ROME, ITALY —The impact of severe El Niño-induced drought on crop production in southern Madagascar, where nearly 850,000 people are acutely food insecure, is likely to persist into 2017, according to a recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The lack of sufficient rains in the southern region of Androy alone resulted in an 80% decline in maize production this year compared with the already reduced levels of 2015.

Meanwhile, parched conditions in the regions of Atsimo-Andrefana, Boeny, Melaky, Betsiboka and Ihorombe had a significant negative impact on rice production, with production declines of between 25% and 60% reported in these regions, according to a new FAO/World Food Program (WFP) report based on data collected in July and August 2016.

Recently updated figures show how the impact on agricultural production has undermined human food security. Some 1.4 million people are estimated to be food insecure in 2016-17 in Madagascar's three southern regions of Androy, Anosy and Atsimo-Andrefana. Of these, around nearly 850,000 are acutely food insecure – meaning they are not able to meet their food needs and require urgent humanitarian assistance, according to the most recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis for Madagascar.

Rising prices continue to weigh on the purchasing power of people in general and aggravate the food security of the most vulnerable. As a result, households are reducing consumption of locally produced crops and adopting survival strategies such as consuming seeds, selling their animals and agricultural tools and increasing their consumption of nutritionally inadequate wild foods, such as red cactus fruits, the FAO said. Overall, these conditions reflect a spike in the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity compared with the previous year.

The drought in Madagascar's southern regions has reduced the country's overall domestic production of maize and cassava. National maize production for 2016 is estimated at 316,000 tonnes, down 4% compared with the harvest in 2015 and 19% below the average. Cassava production is estimated at 2.6 million tonnes, decreased by 16% versus the recent five-year average.

Madagascar’s rice production benefited from good rains in the central, northern and western parts of the country, the main rice producing areas, and is estimated at about 3.8 million tonnes in 2016, some 2.5% above the previous year, but still some 5% below the five-year average, the FAO said.