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Late start of short rains in localized areas delaying 2022 Season A and likely to extend the lean period

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Burundi
  • October 2021
Late start of short rains in localized areas delaying 2022 Season A and likely to extend the lean period

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  • Key Messages
  • Assumptions
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
  • Events that could change the outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Remaining household food stocks from above-average 2021 Season B crop production, near-normal food prices, and normal access to typical income sources are driving Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes across most of the country in October, except for the Eastern and Northern livelihood zones. In those two livelihood zones, food prices are elevated, 2021 Season B food stocks are exhausted, and cross-border income earning opportunities are limited following the closure of Tanzanian and Rwandan borders. These dynamics are leading to deceased food access for poor and very poor households who are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    • Normally starting in mid-September, the 2022 Season A short rain season was delayed by around four weeks in low altitude areas of the Northern Lowlands, Imbo Plains, and Eastern Lowlands, while rainfall was below-average in the middle and high-altitude areas until mid-October. The late start to the short rain season is delaying 2022 Season A sowing. It’s anticipated that October to December short rains will likely be below average, especially in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

    • At least 40,000 returnees who arrived from Tanzania and Rwanda from January to August were unable to cultivate 2021 Season B crops and have exhausted the three-months of humanitarian assistance they receive upon arrival. Most returnees are located in the Eastern Lowlands livelihood zone. Without their own agricultural production and with limited access to income sources, it is expected that they will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes throughout the outlook period. Among the 81,000 Congolese refugees hosted in Burundi, 50,000 benefit from humanitarian assistance and are experiencing None! (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes. The other 31,000 refugees living in urban areas are likely in Stressed (IPC Phase 2).


    Current situation

    In October, households are experiencing the start of the lean period following the exhaustion of food stocks from season B crop production and characterized by a high degree of dependence on markets for food access. They are also facing high costs including increased market dependence, school fees, and agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizers, and labor) for A season planting occurring from the end of September to mid-October.


    The 2022 A Season rainfall (short rains season) started four weeks late in the lowland areas of the Northern Lowlands, Imbo Plains, and Eastern Lowlands livelihood zones while it starts normally in Mid-September. Key informants reported that localized areas in the Eastern Lowlands livelihood zone did not receive rain until the 3rd dekad of October.


    2021 C Season harvests occurred at the end of October, representing 15 percent of annual crop production. Season C crop harvests provide food stocks for two to three weeks and help to mitigate the effects of the lean season for about 60 percent of the rural population possessing marshlands. Key informants estimate that 2021 C Season crop production in is expected to be 15 to 20 percent above average due to unexpected rainfall at the end of August and early September. Above-average production is also attributed to improved technical support to farmers by the government, especially the promotion of irrigation systems, allowing for increased cropped area.

    As for 2022 A Season normally starting mid-September 2021, most areas were seasonally seeded by mid-October in the middle and high-altitude areas, while the delay of the start of rainfall led to a three-week delay in planting in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands and Imbo Plains livelihood zones.

    Market Prices

    Between August and September, staple food prices (beans, cassava, and sweet potatoes) increased slightly, between five and ten percent. (Figure 1). However, during the same period, maize prices increased 30 percent due primarily to low supplies following the sanitary ban on maize imports since March 2021. Otherwise, staple food price increases are largely seasonal as 2021 B season food stocks decrease and market dependence increases as the lean season begins. Staple food prices including rice, maize, cassava, and sweet potatoes remain 15 percent above average. The main crop cultivated in season B, bean prices are stable compared to average due to favorable supplies from the above-average 2021 B Season crop production, supplies in October are mainly provided from domestic stocks.


    A resurgence of COVID-19 cases has been reported since the end of July 2021, following confirmation of the Delta variant in Burundi, but relatively stable between September and October. Active cases on the 27th October increase of 77 percent since August. Increased daily cases pushed the government to maintain some restrictions including the closure of land and sea borders to the movement of people with the exception of the land border with DR Congo (Gatumba entry point) and the

    border with the Tanzania (Kobero entry point in Muyinga district and Mugina in Kobero district Nyanza-Lac). Testing is required for all travelers entering/exiting by air and land entry points are required to be tested. The cost of the test is estimated at 90,000 BFI, too expensive for poor and very poor households to travel to Tanzania, DRC, and Rwanda for labor wage opportunities. The first 2,900,000 vaccine doses provided by the World Bank and China are expected to be administered in November.


    The rate of inflation continues to grow as the exchange rate continue to deteriorate, leading to increased imported food prices. Inflation reached 10.5 percent in September 2021 (Figure 2), an increase of four percent compared to early 2021, and eight percent above the September 2020 inflation rate. High food price inflation, estimated at 14.2 percent in September 2021, is contributing heavily to the rise in inflation

    The volatile macroeconomic context is also marked by continued BIF deterioration compared to global and region currencies since 2015 (Figure 3). The official exchange rate increased by 10 percent annually, on average, while the September 2021 parallel exchange rate has increased steadily since 2018. The parallel rate is currently 80 percent above the official rate.

    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 continuing currency rate deterioration and the gap between the official and parallel BIF exchange rates lead to high prices of imported food, especially during the lean period of October to December, as most households access food on markets following the exhaustion of food stocks from own crop production.


    Above-average 2021 B Season crop production increased income for better off and middle households. However, livestock income-earning decreased considerably for better off and middle households due to atypical selling of animals in September and October. Following the government policy since early October 2021 of requiring livestock permanent housing in order to extend cropped areas, breeders were obliged to sell some of their animals. The abnormal sales led to the decrease of livestock prices. According to key informants, goat and cattle prices decreased 20 to 30 percent in September.

    While stable in most of areas, income earning opportunities for labor decreased for poor and very poor households near Tanzanian and Rwandan borders. According to August 2021 WFP/FSMS data, daily agricultural labor constitutes the main income source for 29 percent of national households and for more than 40 percent households in Buragane, Eastern and Northern Lowlands, and Eastern Arid Plateaus livelihood zones, contributing to more than 80 percent of poor and very poor household income according to the 2021 HEA report. A five percent increase of national daily wages was observed in September compared to the historical average, from 2,686 BIF against a historical average of 2,548 BIF per person per day. However, according to key informants, the daily labor payment is actually 20 percent below normal in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones, from around 2,500 during a normal year to 2,000 BIF currently. In those two livelihood zones, a significant proportion of poor and very poor households who used to seek cross-border labor opportunities, had to compete with a high supply of domestic labor, driving local wages down. In addition, households that are forced to engage in domestic agricultural labor earn nearly half the wages they would have earned in Tanzania (1,750 BIF vs 3,000 TSH) for the Eastern Lowlands livelihood zone and 120 percent less than what they would have earned in Rwanda for the Northern Lowland livelihood zone. The decrease of income sources from agriculture daily labor and livestock activities has decreased household purchasing power, especially during the lean period, which began in October.


    Remittances, while not a significant portion of GDP or income for most households, continue to decline following the recent contraction of the global economy (Figure 4). Contribution to GDP was estimated at one percent in 2019 and is likely to have fallen to near zero after remittances decreased 20 to 30 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic (World Bank). This will impact the incomes of poor households who depended on remittances and limit their purchasing power for as long as the COVID-19 pandemic lasts.

    Humanitarian assistance

    Due to the funding shortfall of around 15 percent, especially the lack of salt and beans, WFP provided food assistance of about 35 kg of maize and oil coupled with cash-based transfers of 61,000 BIF per person and for 3 months from June to September.

    Since March to June 2021, nearly 32,000 returnees have arrived in the country and have been assisted with a return package for three months that have been already exhausted despite not having harvested.

    51,042 refugees hosted in five refugee camps are benefiting from a monthly ration. The WFP food basket is the main source of food and income for most refugees. For food items not provided in the food aid food basket, such as complimentary foods for children under two years old, refugees depend on purchases in the market. The standard assistance distributed to refugees is 360 grams of cereals, 120 grams of legumes, 25 grams of oil and five grams of salt per person per day, representing nearly a full ration coupled with a cash-based transfer of 5,000 BIF per person per moth allowing them to buy fresh food.
    In September, nearly 14,750 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Bujumbura (Gatumba district) and in Rumonge province received cash-based transfer from WFP for a total value of USD 180,241 to help them buy food to meet their daily dietary needs. In addition, treatment programs for moderate acute malnutrition reached 7,211 pregnant and lactating women and girls suffering from moderate malnutrition and 8,713 children aged 6 to 59 months.  120 tons of specialized nutritious food were distributed in the provinces of Cankuzo, Kirundo, Ngozi, and Rutana; while school feeding programs continue in Kirundo, Muyinga, Ngozi, Cibitoke, Bujumbura, and Gitega provinces.


    The number of reported incidents of violence against civilians by armed groups has significantly increased from August-September. Regionally, greater cooperation between Burundian government officials and heads of intelligence and security from the DRC, Rwanda, and Tanzania has resulted in a significant de-escalation in regional tensions. Political efforts to improve diplomatic relations between Burundi and Rwanda also contributed to security improvements on the Burundian side of the border, though fewer strides have been made with DRC. The border areas of Cibitoke, Bubanza, and Kibira Natural Reserve provinces are the most exposed, with attacks in Bujumbura and Gitega. The localized security incidents are not affecting food and income sources.

    Current food security and nutrition outcomes

    Above-average 2021 Season B crop production improved food availability and access for roughly 90 percent of households whose main food source is own production. Excluding the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones, 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 the country. Data from the August 2021 WFP/FSMS food security assessment indicated that food consumption score (FCS) was acceptable for 80 percent of households in August, while the Household Dietary Diversity Score (HDDS) was favorable (HDDS of more than 5 food groups) for 83 percent at the national level. Given food security trends, it’s likely that these indicators have slightly deteriorated but generally remained at the national level since August.

    However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones, driven by reduced income-earning opportunities due to the Tanzanian and Rwandan border closures. From the August 2021 FSMS/WFP survey, 68 and 79 percent of households in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones, respectively, reported an acceptable Food Consumption Score (FCS) compared to a national average of 80 percent. 28 percent reported a limited FCS and three percent reported a Borderline FCS in the Eastern Lowlands. In the Northern Lowlands, 20 percent reported a Borderline FCS and only one percent reported Limited FCS. In the same assessment, 68 percent of households in the livelihood zone reported acceptable HDDS, while seven and 26 were facing stressed and crisis HDDS outcomes, respectively. From the same report, the Hunger Household Score (HHS) was favorable only for 67 percent in the Northern Lowlands livelihood zone, compared to 13 and 20 in Stress and Crisis respectively. In the Eastern Lowlands, 15 and 20 percent were developing Stressed and Crisis coping strategies in August. For the North, only 18 were not developing coping strategies, while 46 and 36 developed Stressed and Crisis coping strategies respectively.

    As for the state of nutrition, the September/October 2020 SMART survey indicated a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate prevalence (WHZ) of seven percent in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones, compared to a national average of 6.1 percent. June 2021 malnutrition admissions were close to June 2020 levels (Figure 5), indicating that October 2021 levels are likely near six percent nationally and seven percent in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands.


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

    • La Niña conditions forecasted from October to December over the Horn of Africa by NOAA, USGS, and ICPAC seasonal forecasts for October to December are expected to lead to below-average rainfall in Burundi during the period corresponding to the 2022 A Season. Rainfall is expected to start at the end of October rather than the end of September in the Central/East, South and South/West of the country. At the same time, above-average temperatures are expected in the Eastern Lowlands, Imbo Plains, and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones.
    • Historical analogues and NMME forecast below-average rainfall through the 2022 B Season, February- May 2022.
    • 2021 C Season production: According to key informants, 2021 C Season harvests in November are expected to be 15 to 20 percent above average. Favorable crop production forecasts are driven by atypical rainfall during the second dekad of August and increased cropped area due to improved government technical support for irrigation systems as well as government subsidies on fertilizer and selected maize seeds. Crop harvests expected in November will mitigate the October to December lean period for around 45 percent of the population who possess agricultural marshland where season C is cultivated (ENAB, 2021).  
    • 2022 A Season production: The forecasted delay of rainfall in October 2021 is expected to delay 2022 A Season planting by one month. As a result, poor and very poor households will consume seeds as a food consumption strategy usually adopted during the lean period. The below-average rainfall and above-average temperature forecasted between October and December 2021 in low altitude areas of the Eastern and Northern Lowlands and Imbo Plains livelihood zones are expected to lead to below-average crop production. Under similar rainfall conditions as 2022 A Season, 2017 Season A crop production covered 75 percent of food needs from January to March. In an average year, Season A production covers around 85 percent of food needs over the same period. The expected deficit will likely be covered by food imports and wild foods.
    • 2022 B Season planting: Delayed planting of Season A crops, will lead to a reduction in access to inputs and cultivatable land for the implementation of 2022 Season B in February and March in the center/east, south and south/west of the country. Season A crops will still be growing in fields during the typical Season B planting period. Season B bean seeds will also be insufficient as they are typically provided by season A crops. However, impacts of below-average rainfall forecasted from February to May 2022 will be mitigated by soil humidity provided by rainfall from precedent months, likely leading to near-normal season B crop production in June 2022 in most areas of the country.
    • The trend of elevated staple food prices is expected to continue from October 2021 until February 2022 with peak prices expected in December 2021. Bean prices are expected to remain roughly 15 percent below last year prices between October and December due to improved stocks from above-average 2021 B Season crop production and near last year prices between January and May 2022 (Figure 6). However, compared to average, bean prices are expected to be 10 to 30 percent above average through the period of analysis. Maize prices are expected to slightly increase to around 800 BIF between October and January, about 10 percent below last year and average prices. The expected above-average maize production in surplus areas will likely drive below-average maize prices from February to May (Figure 7). 
    • Inflation of locally produced and imported food is expected to persist, increasing between five and 10 percent throughout the projection period. The increase in food prices will be driven by the anticipated below-average crop production of Season A, especially for beans in the surplus-producing livelihood zones of the Eastern and Northern Lowlands, as well as decreased formal and informal food imports. 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.
    • An increase in daily COVID-19 cases since July to October but is expected decrease through the period of analysis. But measures taken for containing the expansion of the pandemic are expected to remain, Mandatory testing at land borders and airport entry points, reduction of large social gatherings only authorized on Saturday and Sunday, and fines of 100,000 BFI for not wearing masks in public, and other longstanding measures will continue to reduce access to cross-border food and income sources for poor and very poor households. Additionally, due to continued travel restrictions, remittances will remain below average.
    • The current humanitarian response plan funding constraints will likely persist until the end of the year, as food needs  remain high and further displacement continues. In addition, past trends show that the government and its partners regularly assist households affected by shocks by granting them assistance to cover their food needs.  A similar intervention, covering around 30 percent of needs, is expected to continue throughout the projection period to nearly 50,000 of the food insecure population in the Imbo Plains and in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones.
    • With the persistence of inter-communal conflicts in eastern DRC, the number of asylum seekers is expected to grow steadily. With the reopening of borders with the DRC, the 51,000 refugees accommodated in the camps are expected to increase to 55,000 people. Based on historical trends, assistance is likely to be maintained at current levels over the projection period.
    • The number of returnees will remain close to the average levels of 7,000 returnees per month throughout the projection period. Past trends suggest that levels of humanitarian assistance will be maintained, and returnees are likely to continue to receive in-kind and cash transfers throughout the projection period. Refugee assistance and school feeding programs currently deployed across the country are expected to continue throughout the outlook period as IDPs could decrease by 25 percent compared to the same period of last year, due to lower rainfall.
    • 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%) but ranges between Acceptable (GAM <5%) to Alert (GAM 5-9.9%) at the district/province level. Data on admission of children with acute malnutrition for January – July 2021 shows normal seasonal trends but slightly above average rates in July 2021 (Figure 5).  With a typical season expected in general, food access is likely to decrease during the lean period from October 2021 to January 2022 contributing to a deterioration of nutrition indicators. During this period, more provinces are likely to have an Alert (GAM 5-9.9%) level of acute malnutrition. An Alert level is expected to persist until May 2022 in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zone, where nutrition is very sensitive to agricultural production and where below-average 2022 A Season crop production is expected due to below-average October to December rainfall. However, nutrition outcomes are expected to progressively improve to Acceptable (GAM <5%) from February 2022 in many provinces with increased food access after the 2022 A Season harvest.
    • An increased number of incidents of violence and further attacks by rebel groups against government or security facilities and personnel, particularly in rural settings, are likely to continue at recently elevated levels through May 2022. While civilian interests are unlikely to be specifically targeted, armed clashes between state and dissident forces continue to pose a risk to bystanders in conflict-affected areas and may affect access to income. The border areas of Cibitoke, Bubanza, and Kibira Natural Reserve provinces are the most exposed, as well as Bujumbura and Gitega provinces.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes throughout the projected period.  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 and exhausted 2021 B Season stocks. These households were obliged to atypically sell food stocks to pay back debts incurred to purchase food from January to May 2021, accelerating the exhaustion of 2021 Season B stocks. Households are expected to rely on market purchases to meet food needs, and prices are expected to increase throughout the outlook period.

    In the Eastern Lowlands as well, poor and very poor households typically depend on food purchases during the October-December lean period. Staple food prices are expected to remain above average throughout the outlook period for most staple foods while cross-border labor activities in Tanzania, a main income source for this population, remains unavailable due to the closure of borders. These households, estimated at 25 percent, are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    The Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones are the most exposed to forecasted below-average rainfall during October to December 2021, leading to below-average 2022 A Season crop production in February 2022 and reduced incomes.  As a result, poor and very poor households in the two areas are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes from February to May 2022.

    However, most areas are anticipated to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes, supported by near-normal access to typical sources of food and income. Aided by near-average main food prices, normal access to income sources will allow typical access to market purchases, allowing households to fill food gaps after exhausting food stocks during the October to January lean period.  Despite a below-average anticipated 2022 A Season production, most households will fill gaps through market purchases and maintain acceptable food access between February and May 2022.

    With humanitarian assistance expected to continue at historical levels, most IDPs, returnees, and refugees will likely experience None! (IPC Phase 1!) food security outcomes throughout the outlook period.

    Events that could change the outlook

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

    AREAEVENTImpact on food security outcomes


    Extension of the policy ban of maize import

    If the ban on imported maize since March 2021 persists through December, below-average maize availability during the October to December lean period will lead to further price increases. Given the anticipated below-average forecasted 2022 A Season, continued ban would increase the portion of households in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    NationalHeavy rainfall during Season 2022 A and Season 2022 B (November to May 2022)Although below-average to average rainfall is forecasted, heavy rainfall could occur in localized areas, resulting in flooding in lowlands and along rivers and Lake Tanganyika. 2022 Season A and B crops, especially in the Imbo Plains livelihood zone, will be destroyed and lead to increased food insecurity with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes likely. However, above-average rainfall would benefit the Eastern Lowlands, Northern Lowlands, Eastern Arid Plateaus, and Buragane livelihood zones where 2022 Season A sowing has been delayed one month due to late rainfall.



    Figure 1

    Current Situation for October 2021

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Burundi Seasonal Calendar

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Figure 1

    Source: WFP/mVAM

    Figure 4

    Figure 2

    Source: ISTEEBU

    Figure 5

    Figure 3

    Source: ISTEEBU

    Figure 6

    Figure 4

    Source: ISTEEBU

    Figure 7

    Figure 5

    Source: PRONIANUT/Health Ministry

    Figure 8

    Figure 6

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 9

    Figure 7

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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