Food Security Outlook

Above-average June and July crop harvests to stabilize food prices through September 2021

June 2021

June - September 2021

October 2021 - January 2022

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • Above-average 2021 Season B crop production and access to typical income sources are supporting Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes across Burundi. Above-average Season B crop production, dominated by beans, and improved food access and food security outcomes in the Northern Lowlands livelihood zone are likely driving Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes during the harvest and post-harvest period of June to September 2021. Poor and very poor households in the Eastern Lowlands livelihood zone will likely experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through the outlook period due to below-average crop production and income sources, negatively affected by the Tanzanian border closure.

  • Favorable 2021 Season B harvests led to seasonal price decreases for beans, sweet potato, and cassava, resulting in improved food access. On the other hand, maize prices seasonally increased slightly since June, following the exhaustion of 2021 Season A stocks.

  • Despite the reopening of borders with DRC on 1 June 2021, COVID-19, screening fees estimated at 15,000 BIF (8 USD) on the Burundi side and USD 30 on the DRC side continue to hamper the free movement of goods and people. This amount is exceptionally high for poor and very poor households relying on wage labor and petty trade. As a result, fees continue to restrict access to typical cross-border opportunities.

  • In addition to poor and very poor households in the Eastern Lowlands, certain populations are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes throughout the outlook period. They are composed by around 32,000 returnees arriving between December 2020 and March 2021 who exhausted their three months of food assistance and 45,000 IDPs in the Imbo Plains livelihood zone with limited income sources.

National Overview

Current Situation

The current food security situation is characterized by the 2021 Season B harvest in June and July, providing food supplies between June 2021 and January 2022. The June to September harvest and post-harvest period is followed by the October to January lean period, characterized by the decrease or exhaustion of own production food stocks, and increased reliance on markets.

Rainfall and crop production

Near-average February to May 2021 rainfall (Figure 1) is expected to result in a 2021 Season B harvest that is 10 to 15 percent above average, according to key informants. Season B production contributes to around 50 percent of annual crop production and provides around 70 percent of annual bean production. The current above-average bean production is expected to improve access to quality, high-protein food from July to September, given that beans are the main source of protein among poor and very poor households. 

Localized above-average rainfall resulted in flooding, destroying a significant portion of crops along Lake Tanganyika and the Rusizi River in the Imbo Plains livelihood zone, resulting in likely below-average 2021 Season B production. Although crop production in the flooded areas represents less than five percent of production in the Imbo Plains.

Food prices and market access

The first harvests of 2021 Season B led to seasonal price decreases starting at the end of May for beans and sweet potatoes (Figure 2). Current bean and sweet potato prices are near the five-year average but 17 and five percent lower than May 2020, respectively. The Northern Lowlands livelihood zone accounts for 35 percent of national bean production and is a main supply area. Bean prices in the area are 20 percent below the national average and 15 percent below the five-year average.

Maize and cassava prices increased slightly in May, following the exhaustion of 2021 Season A stocks. Rice prices have been relatively stable and in line with the five-year average since February.

COVID-19 and cross-border income access

The Ministry of Health confirmed a resurgence of COVID-19 cases since January, with daily new cases peaking at the end of April. Average daily new cases declined in May and June, and the current 7-day average is around 16 new cases per day, 75 percent lower than the peak in April. In June 2021, the government rolled back two main COVID-19 restrictions by reopening borders with DRC and removing the four-day mandatory quarantine for all international travelers. Currently, a 24-hour COVID-19 test is administrated to travelers upon arrival at international airports. The reopening of the DRC border is not providing much relief to poor households who depended on cross-border petty trade and labor opportunities. A COVID-19 test is mandatory for anyone crossing the border. The test costs BIF 15,000 on the Burundi side and USD 30 on the DRC side and together are equivalent to eight days of labor wages. The Tanzanian and Rwandan borders remain closed.

Given movement restrictions, income opportunities will remain weak, especially for poor and very poor households in the Eastern Lowlands livelihood zone. These households, many of whom typically migrate to Tanzania for agricultural labor opportunities from June to December, will instead seek opportunities in Burundi and earn lower wages (roughly 66 percent lower) than they would have earned in Tanzania (2,000 BIF vs. 3,000 TSH).

The impact of reduced cross-border opportunities is relatively low in the Imbo Plains livelihood zone near DRC. Poor and very poor households who relied on cross-border opportunities have taken advantage of the relatively more diversified urban economy in the area and adopted other strategies, such as trade linked to the capital, cash crops, intensive agriculture, and intensive livestock farming.

Income sources                                                                          

Overall, current national level agricultural labor and cash crop income sources near average. According to WFP/FSMS, agricultural labor has been the main income source for 25 percent of the population since early 2021. Fifteen percent of the population has been earning income from cash crops (coffee, tea, and palm oil) since early 2021. The cash crop sector has been relatively profitable due to the favorable rainfall and increasing profitability of coffee production. However, in areas more affected by the border closures, like the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zone, agriculture labor wages and cash crop income remain below the national average. With limited income-earning opportunities, households in this area are relatively dependent on agricultural labor income (Figure 3). Only 10 percent of households in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands cultivate cash crops.

Given the national economic slowdown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, non-agricultural labor income has reduced. According to key informants, thousands of jobs are being lost in many sectors (masonry, carpentry, public transport, freight transport, etc.) along the borders.

According to the April 2021 WFP mVAM report, the terms of trade (TOT) between the agricultural wage labor and beans is decreasing. However, April 2021 national ToT average is estimated at two kg of beans per working day without meals, 25 percent better than the same period of 2020. The Northern and Eastern Lowlands livelihood zones have been identified as having the lowest rate of remuneration of agricultural labor; one kg of beans per working day without meals.

Security

Burundi has observed a steady improvement in terms of security, marked by a significant reduction in reported incidents of violence against civilians in the first five months of 2021 compared to 2020. Rwanda and DRC border areas of Cibitoke, Bubanza, and Kibira Natural Reserve provinces, however, have reported a doubling of violent incidents in 2021 compared to 2020. Despite the increased clashes in Cibitoke and Bubanza, no substantial impacts on agriculture, income, and food access have been observed to date.

Humanitarian assistance

According to WFP, nearly 51,000 Congolese refugees in five Burundian camps are currently being assisted with 360g of cereals, 120g of pulses, 25g of oil, and 5g of salt per person, per day. In June, refugees benefited from 5,000 BIF per person per month for the purchase of fresh food in addition to the full ration. It is likely that, in July, cereal in kind assistance could be replaced by cash due to decreased availability of cereals meeting sanitary hygiene conditions after the government lifted its ban on maize imports from Tanzania and Uganda, the main suppliers of maize.

Since January 2021, nearly 8,000 returnees have arrived per month and have been assisted with the typical 90 days of assistance (360g of cereals, 120g of pulses, 25g of oil, and 5g of salt per person, per day). Nearly 32,000 returnees who arrived between December 2020 and March 2021, however, have already exhausted their 90 days of assistance and will have to employ coping strategies such as reduction of daily meals and consuming cheaper and less preferred foods, until the 2022 Season A harvest in January. Following flooding around Lake Tanganyika and the Rusizi River in April 2021, 45,000 IDPs in the Imbo Plains livelihood zone are without assistance. Their income sources are limited due to the absence of cross-border activities.

Nutrition

In June, the treatment program for moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) continued in nutritional supplementation centers. WFP assisted 7,543 moderately malnourished pregnant and lactating women and girls (PLW) and 8,706 children aged 6-59 months with 124 tons of specialized nutritious food distributed in Kirundo. The program is expected to continue throughout the outlook period. WFP also distributed 157 tons of Super Cereal Plus to 32,496 to PLW and children aged 6 to 23 months in Cankuzo, Rutana, and Ngozi provinces.

Current food security and nutrition outcomes

2021 Season B harvests in June and July are expected to be above average, improving food availability and food security for the roughly 90 percent of households who depend on own production as a main food source. Excluding the Eastern Lowlands livelihood zone, where border closures constrain cross-border income-earning opportunities, income sources remain typical in other areas, allowing households to access food from market purchases to meet food needs not met from own production. Typical access to income and food is expected to drive Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes across most of country.

However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in the Eastern Lowlands livelihood zone, driven by below-average 2021 Season B production, increased prices, and reduced income-earning opportunities due to the Tanzanian border closure. In the March 2021 WFP/FSMS survey, 69 percent of households in the Eastern Lowlands livelihood zone reported an acceptable Food Consumption Score (FCS) compared to a national average of 78 percent. Limited and borderline FCS in the livelihood zone were 26 and five percent, respectively. In the same assessment, 85 percent of households in the livelihood zone reported none to slight hunger on the Household Hunger Scale (HHS); six and nine percent, respectively, reported moderate and severe hunger. Finally, 35 percent reported a stressed Household Dietary Diversity Score (HHS). 

The September/October 2020 SMART survey indicated a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate prevalence (WHZ) of seven percent in the Eastern Lowlands livelihood zone, compared to a national average of 6.1 percent. With anticipated below-average 2021 Season B crop production and reduced income sources, GAM rate prevalence in June will likely remain near its September/October level and not seasonally decrease.

Assumptions

Between June 2021 and January 2022, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following national-level assumptions:

  • Rainfall: USGS and NOAA forecasts indicate a normal dry season from June to September and average rainfall during the September to December 2021 rainy season. Despite anticipated average rainfall at the national level, localized below-average rainfall is expected between September and December 2021 in low altitude areas of the Northern and Eastern Lowlands livelihood zones. Average rainfall is expected to result in flooding along Lake Tanganyika and the Rusizi River in December 2021, following rising water levels since 2020 (Figure 4).
  • 2021 Season B: Season B, lasting from February to July, contributes around 50 percent of annual production. Production is estimated to be above average at the national level due to above-average rainfall. Crop production will likely be slightly below average in the Imbo Plains livelihood zone due to flooding. Food stock shortages are expected in the Northern Lowlands livelihood zone, where households incurred debts as a result of the poor 2021 Season A production. It likely that these households will sell most of their own 2021 Season B production.
  • 2021 Season C: Normal crop production is anticipated for 2021 Season C, practiced almost exclusively in the marshlands. Above-average rainfall between March and May 2021 created favorable soil moisture in the marshlands for normal plant growth and development. Season C production represents around 15 percent of annual production and supplies food between October to December for nearly 60 percent of rural households possessing marshland plots.
  • 2022 Season A crop production: Normal September to December 2021 rainfall is expected to allow for average to above-average 2022 Season A production in January 2022. However, the risk of localized below-average rainfall in low altitude areas is expected to lead to localized below-average crop production in the Northern Lowlands and Eastern Lowlands livelihood zones, accounting for about 15 percent of Season A production nationally.
  • Staple food prices: Food markets are expected to be sufficiently supplied during the post-harvest period through September 2021, driving near-average staple food prices. During the October to January lean period, staple food supply is expected to remain near average. However, maize supply is expected to be below average, driving above-average prices. Reduced maize supply is driven by the continued restriction on human movements across the Tanzanian border, reducing food imports, and the sanitary ban of maize imports from Tanzania and Uganda. The reopening of the Burundi/DRC border in June will further lead to increased maize exports to DRC, resulting in price increases during the October to December 2021 lean period. Nonetheless, the government's sale of maize safety stocks from September 2021 is expected to improve maize availability slightly.
  • Returnees and refugees: By May 2021, Burundian refugees in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and elsewhere totaled nearly 291,000, around 50 percent are hosted by Tanzania. From an average of 8,000 monthly returnees in April (Figure 5), an increase of 49 percent is expected through the projection period, according to the  Refugee Return and Reintegration Plan, coordinated by UNHCR. The increase of returnees is based on political stability as well as the messaging from Burundian authorities and pressure from Tanzanian authorities. Upon arrival, returnees will receive three months of assistance. The total number of refugees in Burundi is expected to remain stable, around 50,000, through the dry period from June to September 2021 but is expected to increase through the rest of the projection period due to the relative insecurity in DRC and the recent border reopening. With WFP planned assistance, returnees will likely experience None! (IPC Phase 1!) food security outcomes throughout the scenario period. However, 90,000 returnees who arrived between February and October are expected to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through the projection period, having exhausted three months of assistance and having not yet harvested their own crops.
  • IDPs: The number of IDPs is expected to remain around 45,000 during the June to September dry period but increase during the September to January rainy period and peak in January 2022 at 75,000. Despite reduced food and income sources, IDPs are expected to receive food assistance and experience None! (IPC Phase 1!) food security outcomes through the projection period.
  • COVID-19 restrictions: Despite the reopening of borders with DRC, screening fees will continue to hamper the free movement of goods and people, especially the poor and very poor relying on wage labor and petty traders. The resumption of some DRC cross-border activities, such as informal trade, is expected to increase while remaining below normal levels. Borders to Tanzania and Rwanda are expected to remain closed during the outlook period.
  • Income sources: Continued COVID-19 restrictions and generally slow economic activity will continue to limit domestic and regional income opportunities. However, with the Season B harvest, income from the sale of food products should remain close to average. A seasonal drop in income from selling crops is expected during the October to December lean period.
  • Security Fighting between rebel armed groups and the Burundian security forces is expected to escalate in DRC and is likely to spill over the border into the Kibira Natural Reserve through the projected analysis period. Access to income and food security is expected to deteriorate within those localized areas affected by insecurity throughout the scenario period.
  • Nutrition: The September/October 2020 SMART survey conducted by the Ministry of Health determined average national GAM prevalence (WHZ) to be 6.1 percent. Above-average GAM (7.0 – 7.5) was reported in Cankuzo, Karusi, Kirundo, Muyinga, and Ruyigi provinces. Considering the nutrition seasonality (Figure 6), improved nutrition is expected during the harvest and post-harvest period (June to August 2021), with improved crop harvest of 2021 and Season A and B. Increased malnutrition is expected to commence with the beginning of the lean period in September 2021 through January 2022. The increase of malnutrition is likely to be above average in the Eastern Lowland livelihood zone, which will likely experience decreased purchasing power due to below-average income from cross-border opportunities in Tanzania. 

Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Between June 2021 and January 2022, most of the country will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes, supported by near normal access to typical food and income sources throughout the outlook period. Food stocks from above-average 2021 Season B production will supply food between June and September 2021 for most households. Normal access to income sources will allow for typical access to market purchases, allowing households to fill food gaps after exhausting food stocks during the October to January lean period.

Some poor households, including 25 percent of the Eastern Lowlands livelihood zone population, will likely face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes during the projection period. Below-average production driven by below-average rainfall and the lack of typical crop production from poor and very poor households used to cultivate on rented land in Tanzania.

Poor and very poor households in the Northern Lowlands livelihood zone are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes during the lean period of October 2021 to January 2022. Due to the lack of cross-border opportunities, crop production remains the main income source for poor and very poor households in the area. These households are expected to atypically sell 2021 Season B food stocks to pay back debts incurred to purchase food from January to May 2021, accelerating the exhaustion of 2021 Season B stocks. Households will rely on market purchases to meet food needs, and prices are expected to remain above average throughout the outlook period. With humanitarian assistance expected to follow historical trends, IDPs, returnees, and refugees will likely experience None! (IPC Phase 1!) food security outcomes throughout the outlook period. Returnees who exhaust the three months of food assistance are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes before they access to their own crop production and income sources.

Events that could change the outlook

Area Event impact on food security
National Heavy rainfall during Season 2022 A, October 2021 to January 2022 Although average rainfall is forecasted, heavy rainfall could occur in localized areas, resulting in flooding in lowlands and along rivers. The impact on assets, crops, and food security will be worse than at the end of 2020 and the start of 2021. The soil water level is already high, and additional rain will quickly surpass the water retention capacity of soils. In the Imbo Plains,  2022 Season A crops, particularly beans, will be below-average, leading to increased food insecurity with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes likely. However, above-average rainfall would benefit the Eastern Lowlands and Northern Lowlands, most exposed to below-average rainfall when the national rainfall is near average.
Northern and Eastern Lowlands livelihood zones Below-average rainfall during Season 2022 A, October 2021 to January 2022 Although average rainfall is forecasted, below average or delayed rainfall could occur in low altitude livelihood zones, especially in the Northern and Eastern Lowlands livelihood zones. The delay of rains will lead to an extension of the lean period, and the below-average rainfall will lead to below-average 2022 Season A crop production. 
Imbo Plains livelihood zone COVID-19 screening fees removed on DRC borders DRC borders reopened in June 2021, but COVID-19 test fees remain too expensive for poor and very poor households dependent on cross-border opportunities. Removal of the fees would allow poor and very poor households to slowly access typical opportunities, improving their income and food sources between October and January.
Buragana, Eastern and Northern livelihood zones Border reopening and removal of COVID-19 tests fees on Rwanda and Tanzania If Tanzanian and Rwandan borders are reopened, poor and very poor households in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones, for whom cross-border activities constitute the main income sources, would slightly increase their income through the analysis period. Access to cross-border income sources will reduce food deficits through food market purchases.

 

About Scenario Development

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.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
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Link to United States Agency for International Development (USAID)Link to the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) FEWS NET Data PortalLink to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Link to National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Earth ObservatoryLink to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service, Climage Prediction CenterLink to the Climate Hazards Center - UC Santa BarbaraLink to KimetricaLink to Chemonics