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Below-average 2022 A Season harvest expected in Northern Lowlands Livelihood Zone

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Burundi
  • February - September 2022
Below-average 2022 A Season harvest expected in Northern Lowlands Livelihood Zone

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  • Key Messages
  • NATIONAL OVERVIEW
  • Assumptions
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
  • Key Messages
    • According to international and regional forecasts, cumulative rainfall during the February – May main rainy season in Burundi is most likely to be average, with localized areas likely to experience below-average rainfall. Cumulatively average rainfall nationally is expected to result in near-average national 2022 B Season crop production; however, localized below-average rainfall will likely negatively impact the 2022 B Season bean production, which is sensitive to rainfall stress.

    • Key staple foods prices are above-average in January 2022, with the price of maize grain, cassava flour, and sweet potato 16-27 percent above the five-year average and likely to follow seasonal trends but remain above the five-year average. Compared to last year, bean prices in January 2022 are 5 percent lower than prices in January 2021, with comparable prices between 2022 and 2021 for rice and sweet potatoes. However, prices in January 2022 are 5 percent and 25 percent higher for cassava and maize compared to 2021, respectively. Residual stocks from the above-average 2021 B Season harvest and the ongoing 2022 A Season harvest are driving seasonal declines in bean prices, while the sanitary ban on maize imports, since March 2021, is driving below-average availability at markets and price increases. 

    • At the critical flowering stage, below-average rainfall in lowland areas in November 2021 resulted in below-average bean, maize, and sorghum harvests in localized areas. Poor 2022 A Season production and limited access to alternative income sources due to border closures are driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in the Eastern and Northern lowland livelihood zones through May. The worst-affected households who lost more than 50 percent of their 2022 A harvest due to the dryness are likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through May 2022. Due to expected localized below-average rainfall, resulting in below-average 2022 Season B harvests and inaccessibility to cross-border income due to border closures, the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones will likely face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through September 2022. 


    NATIONAL OVERVIEW

    Current Situation

    Rainfall and crop production

    In February, households are typically engaged in the A Season harvest, with the bean harvest taking place primarily in low altitude areas and the maize harvest taking place primarily in the high-altitude zones, along with land preparation and seeding for the February to May/June B Season where households primarily grow beans.

    In November and December 2021, below-average rainfall and above-average land surface temperatures resulted in above-average evapotranspiration and dry conditions for crops at the moisture critical crop flowering stages, resulting in below normal beans and maize production (Figure 1 and Figure 2). Key informants estimate there will be a 10 - 15 percent below normal harvest for beans at a national level, while damage from Fall Armyworm (FAW) resulted in the loss of around 5 percent of the maize production in low altitude areas. The harvest of crops more tolerant to the rainfall variability like tubers (cassava, sweet potatoes, potato), bananas, and rice (irrigated) is expected to be normal.

    In January 2022, a joint Multi-institutional Rapid Assessment (MIRA) organized by UNOCHA and the government reported that the 2022 A Season beans and maize harvest is expected to be 20-35 percent below normal in the low altitude livelihood zones of the Northern Lowlands, Imbo Plains, and Eastern Lowlands, with the most affected area being the Northern Lowland livelihood zone where around 36,500 households have likely lost 50 percent and 75 percent of their normal maize and bean harvest, respectively. The loss of the 2022 A Season crops is particularly important in the low altitude livelihood zones of the Northern Lowlands, Imbo Plains, and Eastern Lowlands, where the A Season harvest typically provides around 35 percent of annual food needs.

    Land preparation and planting for the B Season, primarily bean production, typically occurs between mid-February and mid-March. However, due to a late start to the 2022 A Season, around 15 percent of plots are still occupied by 2022 A Season crops. These plots are likely to be harvested by the end of March, delaying the start of the 2022 B season in some areas across Burundi. Key informants estimate that nearly 15 percent of croplands for the B season will be planted late and are at risk of not reaching maturity before the start of the dry season in June. Additionally, households typically use part of the bean harvest from the A Season for seed for the B season. The anticipated below-average A Season harvest will limit household access to bean seeds. In particular, the delay in the A Season harvest reduces the normal quantities of bean seeds typically available at the start of the B Season for poor and very poor households in low and middle altitude areas. Poor households typically use around 30 percent of the A Season harvest as seed for the B Season. However, poor households with access to income from agricultural labor opportunities during the A Season harvest are expected to be able to purchase agricultural inputs for the 2022 B Season, supported by the near-average price of beans (Figure 3). However, in the Northern Lowlands livelihood zones, labor wages are typically low for poor and very poor households, limiting their purchasing power and ability to purchase additional seed from local retailers (Figure 4). Typically, households purchase five kg of maize seed and 20-30 kg of bean seed.

    Prices and trade 

    In January 2022, the prices of key staple foods are above-average, with the price of maize grain, cassava flour, and sweet potato 16-27 percent above the five-year average (Figure 3). Compared to prices last year, bean prices in January 2022 are 5 percent lower than prices in January 2021, with comparable prices between 2022 and 2021 for rice and sweet potatoes. However, cassava and maize prices in January 2022 are 5 percent and 25 percent higher compared to 2021, respectively.

    Residual stocks from the above-average 2021 B Season harvest and the ongoing 2022 A Season harvest are driving seasonal declines in bean prices, but slightly below the five-year average since the 2021 B Season harvest in June 2021. However, below-average availability following the sanitary ban on maize imports since March 2021 is helping drive price increases (Figure 3). Before the sanitary ban on maize imports, maize availability gaps from local production used to be filled by imports from Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. The sanitary ban on maize imports is also resulting in a shortage of maize stocks for WFP, resulting in WFP shifting from in-kind modality to cash based transfers (CBT).

    Additionally, COVID-19 control measures on cross-border travel for informal traders and travel continues to reduce cross-border trade, decreasing cassava imports from Tanzania and resulting in price increases as market supply is constrained. Most cassava and maize are imported from Tanzania by informal cross-border traders using bicycles and boats. Typically, sweet potato is a preferred substitute for cassava. Due to the rise in cassava prices, increased demand for sweet potatoes is also resulting in above-average prices.

    COVID-19

    Following a rapid rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases in early January 2022, which peaked at a seven-day rolling average of around 1,162 confirmed cases by January 10, 2022, the seven-day rolling average has declined to 17 confirmed cases by February 27, 2022, a 99 percent decline in just over a month. However, vaccination rates are low, with around 8,450 people, approximately 0.07 percent of the population, having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by February 9, 2022. Borders remain closed to people movement, except the land border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (Gatumba entry point in Bujumbura province) and the border with Tanzania (Kobero entry point in Muyinga province, Mugina in Nyanza-Lac province, and Rumonge port in Rumonge province). A negative COVID-19 test is required for all travelers entering/exiting by air and land. The cost of the test is estimated at 90,000 BFI (45 USD), too expensive for poor and very poor households to travel to Tanzania and DRC for labor wage opportunities. Borders with Rwanda remain closed to informal cross-border travel.

    Access to income and agricultural labor

    In February, households are accessing typical income sources, primarily from agricultural labor opportunities, crop sales, livestock, off-farm labor opportunities, and petty trade. In February, most poor households are reliant on income from agricultural labor. In January 2022, the WFP Mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM) bulletin indicated that labor wages had increased around 10 percent compared to January 2021. Combined with the decrease or stability in some commodity prices, household purchasing power is likely to have slightly improved food access in general. In January and February 2022, daily labor wages are likely to purchase around 2.5 kg of beans, a 20 percent increase compared to January 2021. However, in the Northern Lowland Livelihood zone, labor wages are typically 70 percent lower than the national average, limiting household purchasing power to around 1.5 kg of beans per daily wage.   

    Humanitarian assistance 

    The ban on maize imports to Burundi is continuing to impact WFP food assistance operations. Due to a lack of available maize, WFP is distributing rice instead of maize, while oil and salt stock-outs due to supply chain disruptions from Kenya- have been resulted in in-kind assistance being supplemented with increases in cash-based transfers (CBT). In January 2022, WFP assisted around 52,900 refugees from DRC with around 250 Metric Tons (MT) of food and around 1.15 billion BIF (~572,000 USD) in cash transfers. Current assistance is around 3.1 kg of rice and 1.8kg of pulses per person per month supplemented by a CBT of 22,000 BIF (~11 USD), sufficient to meet up to 28 days of monthly kilocalories (2100 kcals) needs. Additionally, around 5,500 returnees from neighboring countries were provided with 253 MT of food assistance. The assistance consists of hot meals provided at transit centers and a three-month return package of cereals, pulses, vegetable oil, and salt to facilitate their reintegration into their communities. Lastly, around 10,400 pregnant and lactating women and girls suffering from moderate malnutrition and around 11,800 children were provided with around 3,540 MT of food assistance through moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) treatment programs in Kirundo, Ngozi, Ruyigi, and Rutana provinces.

    Macroeconomy 

    The BIF has continued to depreciate compared to global and regional currencies since 2015. The official exchange rate increased by 10 percent annually, while the parallel exchange rate has increased steadily since 2018. The parallel rate is currently 80 percent above the official rate. However, the government lacks adequate foreign exchange reserves for imports, including food items. Main food imports (official and unofficial) are paid via the parallel currency rate but locally sold in BIF. The continued deterioration of the BIF and the 80 percent difference between the official and parallel BIF exchange rates is resulting in high prices for imported food. This is reflected in the increasing consumer price index (CPI) since 2019 (Figure 5). In December 2021, the consumer price index (CPI) was 135.4, around a 1.7 percent increase compared to November 2021 and a 10 percent increase compared to December 2020.

    Security

    Armed group violent clashes have decreased nationwide following a spike in November 2021, which saw several grenade attacks. Improved diplomatic relations with DRC and Rwanda have reduced border tensions and lowered the number of force clashes in border areas. However, FARDC and irregular Burundian militia clashes have occurred in January and February 2022. Following the integration of the DRC into the East African Community at the end of 2021, there has been increased collaboration between FARD and Burundian military forces to track Burundi armed groups based in the Eastern DRC. This will likely result in the weakening of these groups and a reduction in attacks in Burundi. However, military activities in eastern DRC have generated significant people displacements towards Burundi. According to the National Office for the Protection of Stateless Persons (ONAPRA), around 500 asylum seekers from the DRC are received monthly at transit sites where they receive 360g of cereals, 120g of pulses, 25g of oil, and 5 g of salt per day at the transit center. Overall, the clashes in DRC are not currently impacting food and income sources for poor households in Burundi.

    Current food security and nutrition outcomes

    The 2022 A season harvest in January and February is expected to be near average, improving food availability and access for most households whose main food source is their own production. However, cross-border income-earning opportunities remain below-average in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zone due to border closures related to COVID-19 control measures. Still, income sources remain typical in other areas, allowing households to access food from market purchases to meet food needs not met from their own production. The typical access to income and food is expected to drive Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food security outcomes across most of the country. There are agro-climatic similarities between the 2021 A and 2022 A Seasons, confirmed by the joint Multi-institutional Rapid Assessment (MIRA) undertaken by UNOCHA and the government in January 2022. Although food security outcome data was not collected, food security indicators are likely similar to last year. Overall, households in the Northern and Eastern Lowland livelihood zones are likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) driven by a below-average A Season crop production and below-average income from a loss of cross-border income as the main drivers of acute food insecurity.


    Assumptions

    Between February and September 2022, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Based on international and regional forecasts, the February-May 2022 B Season rains in Burundi are likely to be average at the national level. However, southern Burundi (the south of Eastern Lowlands, Buragane, and the southern Imbo Plains livelihood zones) are likely to receive below-average rainfall.  
    • The 2022 A Season harvest is delayed and expected to start in February 2022 following a late start to the rainy season. The bean harvest nationally is expected to be 10-15 percent below average due to dry conditions at critical flowing stages. Similarly, the maize harvest is expected to be 5-10 percent below average due to the impact of dry spells and Fall Armyworm (FAW) damage. The most affected areas are expected to be the Northern Lowlands, Imbo Plains, and Eastern Lowlands livelihood zones, where the 2022 A Season beans and maize harvest is expected to be 20-35 percent below average.
    • Planting for the 2022 B season is expected to be delayed until March due to the delay in the A Season harvest. The below-average A Season bean harvest is likely to limit the availability of bean seeds for the B season. As a result, the 2022 B season planted area is expected to be below average. Poor and very poor households are likely to face difficulty purchasing seeds from the market due to limited purchasing power and will be the most affected by reduced access to seeds. In 2017, delays in the A season harvest resulted in 30 percent of cultivated land nationally not being planted for the B Season, a potential analog situation for the current 2022 B Season.  Expected below-average rainfall in the south of the country will likely drive below-average 2022 B Season crop production in localized areas.
    • Near-normal crop production is anticipated for the 2022 C Season in June, which takes place primarily in the marshlands. Season C crop production represents around 15 percent of the annual crop production and supplies food for around three weeks between October to December for nearly 60 percent of rural households.
    • Driven by 2022 A Season, 2022 B Season below-average crop production, and below-average maize imports, staple food prices are expected to be greater than prices last year and above the five-year average through the scenario period. In the Gitega market, bean prices are expected to be 30 to 40 percent above average, around 10 to 30 percent above last year's price (Figure 6). Similarly, maize prices are expected to be around 20 percent above average during the harvest period of February and March and similar to prices last year (Figure 7). However, prices are expected to rise to 20 to 50 percent above average during the lean period of April to May and August to September, following the ban on maize imports from Tanzania and Uganda and the expected increase of maize exports to DRC. Maize prices are likely to be around 5 to 45 percent higher than last year. The 15 percent increase in fuel prices in February 2022 is expected to increase food transport costs, likely contributing to increasing food prices in deficit areas.
    • Due to a shortage of foreign exchange in the official market (banks), a 70 percent difference between the official BIF market rate and the parallel BIF market rate is expected. A volatile macroeconomic situation is expected to persist throughout the projection period and increase distortions between the official and parallel market, leading to further price increases of imported foods. Inflation of locally produced and imported food is expected to persist, increasing between 5 and 10 percent throughout the projection period. The decreased value of BIF vis à vis the Tanzanian Shilling (TSH) is likely to encourage Burundians to sell beans in Tanzania, despite official regulations banning it, driving up local prices.
    • There was around a 60 percent drop in the return of refugees to Burundi in January 2022 compared to the previous quarter and 87 percent lower than last year. However, the growing insecurity within the Burundian refugee camps in neighboring countries is likely to result in refugees returning at a similar rate to 2021 through the projection period.
    • Humanitarian assistance is expected to be maintained, and returnees are likely to continue receiving in-kind and cash transfers throughout the projection period. Refugee food assistance and school feeding programs are expected to continue throughout the outlook period. The persistence of inter-communal conflicts in eastern DRC and the reopening of the Burundi and DRC borders are expected to increase the number of asylum seekers to Burundi to around 55,000 people through the scenario period. Based on historical trends, assistance is likely to be maintained at current levels over the projection period, with refugees increasingly reliant on both cash-based transfers and food assistance transfer modalities.
    • The government is expected to maintain COVID-19 control measures, including mandatory testing at land borders and airport entry points, reducing large social gatherings, and wearing masks in public. The high cost of a COVID-19 test before travel will continue to reduce access to cross-border food and income sources for poor and very poor households, particularly in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones. The reduction in purchasing power will negatively affect the ability of households to purchase seeds and fertilizers for the 2022 B Season and to purchase enough food during the lean periods of April-May 2022.
    • Sporadic violent clashes are expected to occur during the projected period. Bujumbura and Gitega are likely to remain targets for political violence, with attacks such as the recent December 2021 grenade attack in Bujumbura likely occurring with the same sporadic frequency through the reporting period. Increased collaboration between the Congolese military (FARDC) and Burundian military forces, following the DRC's integration into the Eastern Africa Community at the end of 2021, likely prompted a decline in attacks by armed groups in Burundi. Cross-border incursions by armed groups, primarily active in Congo, will continue to occur at recently reduced levels, with sporadic frequency through September 2022 in the border areas of Cibitoke, Bubanza, and Kibira Natural Reserve provinces. The expected violence may impact civilian populations but is not expected to affect food and income sources significantly.
    • Based on nutrition data from the October 2020 SMART survey, the general national level of acute malnutrition in Burundi is at an Alert level (Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) 5-9.9 percent) but ranges between Acceptable (GAM <5 percent) to Alert (GAM 5-9.9 percent) at district/province level. In November 2021, 120 children with acute malnutrition were admitted nationally, similar to 2020 (Figure 8). However, in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands and Imbo Plains livelihood zones, the expected below-average 2022 A and B Seasons are likely to decrease food access through the scenario period, contributing to a deterioration in nutrition indicators in those areas; however, an Alert (GAM 5-9.9 percent) level is expected to persist through the scenario period. Across the rest of Burundi, nutrition outcomes are expected to be stable due to increased food access after the 2022 A and B Season harvests. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food security outcomes throughout the scenario period. Due to the high price of COVID-19 tests to cross the Tanzanian border and the closure of the Rwandan border, poor and very poor households in the Eastern and Northern lowland livelihood zones will continue to face below-average access to income from cross-border trade and labor opportunities through the scenario period. Below average access to income combined with a below-normal 2022 A Season crop harvest is expected to limit household purchasing power and limit non-food purchases for households between February and May 2022. The worst affected households in the northern lowlands livelihood zone affected by the dry conditions during the A Season are likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food security outcomes during the lean period of April and May as food stocks diminish.

    From June to September, below-average access to income from cross-border trade and labor opportunities and a likely below normal 2022 B Season crop production due to delays in plant and localized rainfall during the March-May rains are expected to lead to below-average food access from own production and lower market supply in the Eastern Lowlands livelihood zone. In the Northern Lowlands livelihood zone, the lack of cross-border opportunities and likely rapid decline from the anticipated below-average 2022 B Season stocks are expected to reduce household food access during the June-September period. Poor and very poor households are expected to atypically sell food stocks from the 2022 B Season to pay back debts incurred to purchase food from March to May 2022 and seeds for the 2022 B Season, accelerating the exhaustion of 2022 B Season stocks. Households are expected to rely on market purchases to meet food needs, with food prices likely to seasonally increase and remain above the five-year average throughout the outlook period. However, most areas of Burundi are anticipated to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes, supported by normal access to typical sources of food and income. Across most of Burundi, despite a below-average 2022 A Season harvest, most households will fill food gaps through market purchases and access food between February and September 2022. Most IDPs, returnees, and refugees will likely experience None! (IPC Phase 1!) food security outcomes throughout the outlook period supported by humanitarian assistance.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario. 

    AreaEventImpact on Food Security Outcomes
    NationalRapid implementation of financial donations from the EU and USA following the removal of political sanctionsFollowing the removal of sanctions in place since 2015, the EU and USA have respectively pledged 214 million Euros over three years and 400 million USD over five years. The rapid implementation of financial support for labor-intensive projects in infrastructures and agriculture will provide income opportunities for poor and very poor households, reducing the number of households expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or worse outcomes.  
    NationalHeavy rainfall during the 2022 B Season (March to May 2022)Heavy rainfall in localized areas will likely result in flooding in the lowlands and along rivers and the banks of Lake Tanganyika. 2022 B Season crops, especially in the Imbo Plains livelihood zone, will likely be destroyed, increasing the number of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) households. However, above-average rainfall will benefit crop production in the Eastern Lowlands, Northern Lowlands, and Eastern Arid Plateaus livelihood zones, where 2022 Season B planting is delayed. 
    Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zonesRemoval of cross-border COVID-19 restrictions

    The removal of cross-border COVID-19 restrictions will increase household access to food imports and cross-border labor opportunities. Increased cross-border trade will likely improve market supply and food availability, improve income-earning opportunities for small-scale cross-border traders, and increase day labor opportunities in Tanzania and Rwanda, driving Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes.

    Eastern and Northern Lowlands and Imbo Plains livelihood zones

    Early end to the March-May rains 

    Rainfall typically ends in late May/early June. An early end to the March-May rains will result in a shortened crop growing window, particularly for the 2022 Season B crops expected to be planted late. Beans crops, very sensitive to rainfall, will be the most affected. A below-average harvest will likely increase the number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or worse acute food insecurity outcomes in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands and Imbo Plains livelihood zones. 

    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report. 

    Figures

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Figure 1.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 4

    Figure 2.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 5

    Figure 3.

    Source: WFP/mVAM

    Figure 6

    Figure 4.

    Source: WFP/mVAM

    Figure 7

    Figure 5.

    Source: FEWS NET using data from ISTEEBU

    Figure 8

    Figure 6.

    Source: FEWS NET using data from SIP/WFP

    Figure 9

    Figure 7.

    Source: FEWS NET using data from SIP/WFP

    Figure 10

    Figure 8.

    Source: PRONIANUT/Health Ministry

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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