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Below-average rainfall likely to lead to localized crop losses across country

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Burundi
  • December 2021
Below-average rainfall likely to lead to localized crop losses across country

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Poor and very poor households located in the Northern and Eastern Lowlands livelihood zones are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food security outcomes in December. Outcomes are driven by below-average income due to cross-border movement restrictions related to COVID-19. Additionally, the two livelihood ones have recorded below-average rainfall since September and 2022 A Season production is anticipated to be below average as a result.

    • Above-average 2021 A Season and 2021 C Season bean stocks are driving slightly below-average bean prices in November and December. Cereal (rice and maize) prices are 12 percent above average, while cassava prices are 35 percent above average; increases driven by decreased imports related to COVID-19 movement restrictions. Most of those food commodities used to be carried by boats and bicycles from Tanzania.

    • Delayed and below-average rainfall since September 2021 delayed planting and resulted in dry conditions for 2022 Season A maize and beans. Key informants indicated in mid-December a delay of one month in planting. Insufficient rainfall dried 35, 30, and 20 percent of young bean seedlings in the Northern Lowlands, Imbo Plains, and Eastern Lowlands livelihood zones, respectively. 2022 A Season crop production is expected to be below average.

    • UNHCR facilitated the return of 183,000 returnees between September 2017 and November 2021. Upon arrival, returnees receive three months of assistance. The 12,000 returnees who arrived between October and December as well as 51,069 refugees from DRC are still receiving food assistance, driving None! (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes, However, 29,000 returnees who arrived between May 2021 and September 2021, have already exhausted their 90 days of assistance, and are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food outcomes in January 2022. 39,250 IDPs of climatic hazards (floods and strong winds) and who didn’t receive food assistance and who do not have access to their normal livelihoods are also facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.


    The food security situation at the end of 2021 is characterized by the typical lean period from October to January, eased in part by 2021 C Season crop production. C Season crop production represents around 15 percent of the annual crop production and is estimated by key informants to be 15 to 20 percent above average in 2021.

    The ongoing 2022 A Season crops are exposed to two main hazards, (i) rainfall irregularity affecting mainly beans and maize crops and (ii) Fall Armyworm attacks on maize crops.

    Rainfall irregularities have been ongoing since September (Figure 1), leading to delayed planting of 2022 A Season crops, mainly composed of beans and maize. A remote rapid assessment of 2022 A Season implementation in early December 2021 with MINEAGRIE indicated that the rainfall irregularity has been most prominent in the Eastern Lowlands, Northern Lowlands, and Imbo Plains livelihood zones. The rapid assessment indicated that poor rainfall conditions dried 35, 30, and 20 percent of young bean seedlings in the Northern Lowlands, Imbo Plains, and Eastern Lowlands livelihood zones respectively, and around 20 percent of young maize seedlings in those livelihood zones. The assessment also indicated that harvests will be delayed by about one month, extending the lean period.

    The dry conditions in Q3 2021 led to the resurgence of the Fall Armyworm (FAW) (Figure 2) in localized areas for the first time in two years. FAW attacks led to a 20 percent reduction in maize production between 2016 and 2019. FAW has been concentrated in low altitude areas and the Imbo Plains livelihood zone is reportedly the most affected, where 25 percent of maize plants have been attacked according to key informants.

    In addition to the extension of the lean period mentioned above, current food insecurity is characterized by above-average staple food prices in general. As indicated in (Figure 3), where Gitega is considered a national reference market, staple food prices in November were between 10 and 35 percent above the average, except for beans, which are 13 percent below average and 30 percent below November 2020 levels. Decreased bean prices are a result of the improved availability from 2021 B Season stocks and 2021 C Season crop harvests in October and November. Staple food prices are stable for other commodities, compared to November 2020.

    Despite high prices, poor and very poor households across the country are able to meet food needs by accessing normal food and income sources supplemented by Season A vegetables and greens. However, the delayed 2022 A Season harvest, strong dependence on markets in the context of increased of food prices, and the reduction of income sources near borders due to COVID-19 movement restrictions, are reducing food access in Eastern Lowlands and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones. These areas are expected to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity through May 2021.


    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario discussed in the October 2021 to May 2022 Food Security Outlook Report remain unchanged.  Following is an additional relative to the resurgence of the Fall Armyworm on maize crops and the improvement of security:

    A resurgence of the Fall Armyworm (FAW) on maize crop in localized areas, resulted of dry condition occurred during the third term of year (2021) has been reported in localized areas in December.  FAO report on damages of FAW on maize crop production realized in June 2018 at the top of the pest in Burundi established that the most attached maize fields were losing more than 30 percent of their production. The pest is particularly severe in Imbo Plain livelihood zone, where 25 percent of maize plants have been reported to be infected in December and is likely to lead to a five to 10 percent decrease in maize production in the region.
    The frequency of violent clashes has decreased since a spike in events in September 2021 which saw several incidents between suspected Congolese FARDC and Burundian military and paramilitary forces, but has since decreased to levels typically observed in the months prior to the recent uptick. Infrequent sporadic violence is expected to continue at recently reduced levels through May 2022. Improved diplomatic relations with DRC and Rwanda has reduced regional tensions and lowered the number of inter-security force clashes in border areas, though sporadic clashes between FARDC and irregular Burundian militia will likely occur given the lack of official coordination channels between the groups. The continued lack of effective governance and state security control in parts of eastern DRC bordering Burundi will ensure a continued threat from armed groups carrying out cross-border attacks. The border areas of Cibitoke, Bubanza, and Kibira Natural Reserve provinces are the most exposed, with attacks by armed groups on government-run locations in Bujumbura and Gitega also a possibility given the urban centres’ attractiveness as targets for political violence. Spill over violence may impact civilian populations, however any activities by regional armed groups are not expected to significantly affect food and income sources. 


    The projected outlook of the October food security analysis remains valid. The October to January lean season is characterized by decreased food stocks from own crop production and increased food prices. Typical coping strategies adopted during the lean period led most areas to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through May 2022. Most households will access food from market purchases of 2021 C Season crop production which provides food needs for around two weeks in December, residual food stock from 2021 B Season and vegetables from 2022 A Season. 2022 A Season crop harvests will therefore assure food access from February 2022.

    However, as reported in the October Food Security Outlook, some poor households in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zone population will likely face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes during the projection period. Continued border closures along with above-average staple food prices, are increasing the severity of the lean period for poor and very poor households of these two areas. Food access will remain problematic even after 2022 A Season harvests, expected to be below average due to dry contradictions.

    Key informants with the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Livestock indicated in December 2021 that 20 to 35 percent of beans crops and nearly 20 percent of maize crops in the Eastern and Northern Livelihood zones have dried following below-average rainfall until December. Therefore, those most affected areas are expected to experience Stressed IPC Phase acute food security (IPC Phase 2) for the period of January to May 2022, period expected for 2022 Season A crop production consumption.


    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: USGS

    Figure 2

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Figure 3

    Source: WFP mVAM

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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