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Delayed Season A rainfall will delay the harvest, leading to an extended lean season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Burundi
  • October 2022 - May 2023
Delayed Season A rainfall will delay the harvest, leading to an extended lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Assumptions
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
  • Key Messages
    • Food stocks from a near-average 2022 Season B harvest and regular access to typical income sources are driving Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes for many households, except in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands and Eastern Dry Plateaus livelihood zones. In these three livelihood zones, increased food prices, a below-average 2022 Season B harvest, below-average labor demand and wages, and atypical limitations on cross-border trade in related to COVID-19 tests fees and migratory labor are leading to reduced food access for poor and very poor households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    • The lifting of the maize import ban and the re-opening of foreign exchange bureaus in September 2022 are likely to encourage food imports and improve food availability starting in early 2023. Together with the 2023 Season A harvest, which starts in December, the expected increase in food imports will likely stabilize food prices. However, staple food prices such as maize will likely remain an estimated 50 percent above average.

    • The onset of the 2023 Season A short rains season was delayed by about five weeks across most part of the country, delaying the start of the season. Based on weather forecasts, the short rains will likely be below average, leading to below-average 2023 Season A crop production.

    • In September, 56,000 refugees received monthly food assistance, while around 4,000 returnees received one-time ration of food assistance covering three-months of their kilocalorie needs. In Kirundo, Karusi, Ruyigi, and Rutana provinces, the moderate acute malnutrition treatment program has supported 3,853 children aged 6 to 59 months, and the stunting prevention program assisted 34,363 pregnant and lactating women. Refugees and returnees who received humanitarian assistance are likely to experience Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes.


    Current Situation

    Agricultural production: The main lean season is currently ongoing in Burundi from mid-September to December. Following the depletion of food stocks from Season B production, households depend greatly on markets for food access and face high expenses related to school fees and agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizers, and labor) for Season A planting in September and October. Season C crop production provides food for two to three weeks to around 60 percent of the total population possessing marshland plots. This year, households are also facing atypically high food prices and earning below-normal income, especially in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands and Eastern Arid Plateau livelihood zones.

    For households with marshland plots, Season C crop production represents 15 percent of annual crop production and provides food stocks for about three weeks between October and December, helping to mitigate the effects of the lean season. However, key informants estimate that 2022 Season C crop production is expected to be 10 to 15 percent below average, due to the delay of rainfall.

    Key informants indicated that only 25 percent of 2023 Season A land plots have been planted on time in September and mid-October 2022. Rainfall remained largely insufficient up to the second week of October, delaying the onset of the short rains season by five weeks. The central-south and east of the country are the most affected by the delayed rainfall, where the October 2022 Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) was largely below average (Figure 1). The rainfall delay has led poor and very poor households to consume seeds as food and reduce their planted acreage. Additionally, due to persistent restrictions on cross-border movements due to COVID-19, poor and very poor households are unable to access land for cultivation in Tanzania, which they typically rented in previous years.

    According to a WFP Food Security Monitoring System (WFP/FSMS) survey conducted across Burundi in August 2022, while around half of rural households confirmed that staple crop production is their main source of income, while labor and livestock contribute around 24 and 16 percent of rural households income, respectively. In addition, petty trade and cash crops were the main income for 7 and 3 percent of households, respectively (Figure 3). This demonstrates the importance of crop production, but also the availability and diversification of other income sources, and it is expected that the relative importance of these income sources varies by wealth group and fluctuates throughout the year depending on the availability of the harvest.

    Currently, given that the intensity of farming activities increases during Season A – when plowing and sowing of maize and beans is ongoing – poor and very poor households typically rely on agricultural labor as their main source of income at this time of year, while livestock provides most of the income for middle and better-off households. However, September and October rainfall deficits and a shortage of mineral fertilizers have atypically reduced agricultural activities and labor demand. Based on household survey monitoring data collected by WFP mVAM, households in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands and Eastern Arid Plateau livelihood zones reported a slight decline in labor income compared to last year, on average, whereas households in other livelihood zones reported an increase. In addition, COVID-19 test fees required for travel have limited access to cross-border opportunities in Tanzania and Rwanda, which typically offer another source of income for poor households. These changes are likely decreasing household access to food and investment in agricultural inputs.

    Due to the Rift Valley Fever outbreak in May 2022 among ruminants (cattle, goats, and sheep), the government banned livestock movements and the slaughter and sale of ruminants as a preventive measure to stop the spread of the disease, leading to decreased income for livestock owners. The resumption of livestock butchery in September slightly increased income from this activity, but it remains below average. The below-average income from livestock activities also affects poor and very poor households who rely on labor income from livestock husbandry, marketing, and butchery.

    Economic conditions: The annual rate of depreciation of the BIF on the official market has averaged around 10 percent since 2019 (Figure 5), showing the fragility of the national economy. The BIF has depreciated even more rapidly on the parallel market, where the exchange rate is 75 percent above the official market. In the subregional economic context, the BIF is five times higher than the Congolese franc, three times higher than the Rwandan franc, and 15 percent above the Tanzanian shilling, reflecting the impact of import-induced inflation. The government has exhausted foreign exchange reserves for imports, including food items.

    The depreciation of the local currency and the widening gap between the official and parallel BIF exchange rates is largely driven by rising import demand and rising prices for imported goods. Consequently, headline inflation has risen sharply over the course of this year, reaching 21 percent in September 2022 (Figure 4), according to L'Institut de Statistiques et d’Etudes Economiques du Burundi (ISTEEBU). Food inflation, which was 24.2 percent in August 2022, comprises a large part of this trend.

    The upward pressure on food prices has negative consequences for household access to food, particularly in northern and eastern Burundi where household own-produced food stocks depleted faster than usual during the ongoing lean season. September rose 15 to 36 percent compared to last year and 25 to 60 percent compared to the five-year average (Figure 2). Given the lean season and the import ban from March 2021 to August 2022, maize prices saw the greatest increases, ranging from 36 to 60 percent. The high food prices are driven by below-average food stocks from 2022 Season B crop production, increasing fuel prices, and high transportation costs. In September, fuel prices rose to 3,250 BIF/liter (5.98 USD/gallon), compared to 2,400 BIF/liter (4.43 USD/gallon) in February, a 36 percent increase. However, the government permitted companies to raise the prices of fixed price items by about 20 percent in October, including cement and brewery drinks. On a positive note, however, fuel availability rose in September, which is expected to help stabilize the costs of transport and thereby alleviate pressures on food prices. 

    Humanitarian food assistance: 56,000 refugees and asylum seekers in camps and transit centers received food assistance in September with a monthly food ration of 10,800 grams of cereals, 9,600 grams of pulses, 1,560 grams of oil, and 150 grams of salt per person. Around 4,000 returnees have also benefited from a three-month food ration, and the moderate acute malnutrition treatment program in care centers has benefited 3,853 children aged 6 to 59months, who receive around 15 tons of nutritious food per month in Cankuzo, Kirundo, Ngozi, and Rutana provinces. The stunting prevention program assisted 34,363 pregnant and lactating women and girls with 103 tons of specialized nutritious food in Kirundo, Karusi, Ruyigi, and Rutana provinces. However, about 30,000 returnees from February to July have exhausted their food supplies. Moreover, 30,000 internally displaced persons in the Imbo plain are not benefiting from continuous assistance due to limited funding. Pregnant and lactating women and girls did not receive malnutrition preventive assistance the last two months due to lack of SCB+.

    Conflict and insecurity: The frequency and scale of armed conflict have significantly declined since the first half of 2022, a downward trajectory that is expected to continue through the end of 2022 and into 2023. Armed conflict was reported between June 19 to 21, 2022, in the Mabayi commune of Cibitoke Province. The development was reported amid a wider counter-insurgency campaign in Cibitoke, which has reported success in ongoing containment measures. While militant groups are likely to continue to make use of the Kibira forest in Mabayi as a base of operations, armed confrontations are likely to be localized to these areas and thus will not have a significant impact on area-level acute food insecurity outcomes.

    Current food security outcomes

    Based on available evidence, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are likely ongoing in areas of Burundi where recent harvest stocks were average, while Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely ongoing in the northern and eastern areas where harvest stocks were below normal. Some households, amounting to less than 20 percent of the population in any livelihood zone, are likely experiencing food consumption gaps consistent with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as the lean season gets underway, given low own-produced food stocks, declines in income, and elevated food prices. The Northern and Eastern Lowlands and the Eastern Arid Plateau livelihood zones are typically the largest producers and suppliers of beans, and the below-average 2022 Season B bean harvest and reduction in Season A crop cultivation has reduced household income from crop sales and agricultural labor. As described above, poor households atypically sold more of their 2022 Season B food stocks to pay back debts incurred to purchase food from January to May 2022, leading to an increase in the share of food they are purchasing from the market. Elevated food and transportation costs have also decreased household purchasing power. Furthermore, the lack of typical crop production from poor households who used to migrate to cultivate rented land in Tanzania is contributing to a decline in food and income in the Eastern Lowlands and the Eastern Dry Plateau livelihood zones.

    According to nutrition data from the March 2022 SMART survey, Burundi’s national level of acute malnutrition, at 4.8 percent, is at the Alert level (Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) 5-9.9 percent). At the district and province level, the prevalence ranges from Acceptable (GAM <5 percent) to Alert (GAM 5-9.9 percent). January to June 2022 data on children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) shows normal, near-average seasonal trends, but 47 percent higher levels than in June of last year. Since June, it is assumed that the relative decline in household access to food has likely led to a slight to moderate increase in acute malnutrition levels, based on historical trends. More provinces are likely to have Alert (GAM 5-9.9 percent) levels of acute malnutrition, especially in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihoods and the Eastern Arid Plateau.


    Between October 2022 and May 2023, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Based on multiple weather forecasts, the 2023 Season A short rains will most likely be below average. The most affected areas are expected to include the Eastern Lowlands, Eastern Arid Plateau, Imbo Plains, and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones, which tend to be more arid than the rest of the country. However, average rainfall is expected during the 2023 Season B long rains from February to May.
    • Due to below-average rainfall, Season C crop production is expected be 10 to 15 percent below average. The delayed start of season has also delayed plowing and planting and inhibited bean and maize crop development during the growing and flowering stages, leading to a below-average 2023 Season A harvest. The Eastern and Northern Lowlands, Eastern Arid Plateau, and Imbo Plains livelihood zones are expected to have the most significant crop losses. In the 2023 Season B, households will likely face reduced access to seeds and fertilizer, although average rainfall help offset this by supporting healthy crop yields.
    • In August 2022, the government lifted the ban on maize imports that it had instituted as a sanitary measure in March 2021. The resumption of maize imports will likely improve maize availability through the projected period, and may help to slow the pace of rising prices during the lean season and fill the national maize deficit that is expected to result from the below-average 2023 Season A harvest.
    • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections, staple foods prices are expected to remain above average through the projected period due to increased food transport costs and the anticipated below-average 2023 Season A crop production. Bean prices are expected to remain 15 to 40 percent above average. Maize prices are expected to be 30 to 60 percent above the five-year average and 5 to 30 percent above last year’s average.
    • With the persistence of conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the number of asylum seekers is expected to grow steadily around 5 percent. With the re-opening of borders with the DRC, the 56,000 refugees accommodated in the camps are expected to increase to 60,000 people. Levels of humanitarian assistance will be maintained, and returnees are likely to continue to receive in-kind and cash transfers throughout the projection period, but assistance to internally displaced persons could decrease by 25 percent compared to the same period of last year.
    • The Burundi National Defense Force (FDNB) deployed in the east of the DRC uses Eastern Congo as a battleground in its fight against armed groups, which will further reduce the frequency of attacks conducted on Burundian soil.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The Eastern and Northern Lowlands and the Eastern Arid Plateau livelihood zones are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes throughout the projected period. During the lean season, poor and very poor households face a lack of cross-border income-earning opportunities, below-normal agricultural labor income, and exhaustion of their stocks from Season B. Households are expected to rely on market purchases to meet food needs, but food prices are expected to increase.

    Located in middle and low altitudes, these three livelihood zones are among the areas that are most exposed to forecasted below-average rainfall in late 2022, leading to a below-average 2023 Season A harvest and reduced income from crop sales and harvest labor. As a result, the poor and very poor households will continue to face difficulty covering their food needs while also investing in their livelihoods during the February to May period. Alert levels of acute malnutrition (GAM 5.0-9.9 percent) are expected based on past trends.

    However, the rest of Burundi is expected to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes, supported by near-normal access to typical and alternative sources of income that will facilitate sufficient access to food despite above-average food prices.  Despite the anticipated below-average 2023 Season A harvest, most households will fill be able to cover the rest of their food needs through market purchases and maintain acceptable food consumption between February and May. Nutrition outcomes are expected to progressively improve to Acceptable (GAM < 5 percent) from February 2023 in many provinces.

    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. However, returnees exhausting three-months food assistance are expected to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through the projected period, if they did not return in time to plant and have difficulty re-establishing their livelihoods after being gone for a long time.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1. Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario. 



    Episodic heavy rainfall during the 2023 B Season (February to May 2023)

    Episodic heavy rainfall could occur in localized areas, resulting in flooding in lowlands and along rivers and Lake Tanganyika, as well as hailstorms. Floods would destroy 2023 Season B crops, especially in the Imbo Plains livelihood zone, leading to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Hailstorms would destroy crops in localized areas of middle- and high-altitude livelihood zones. However, heavy rainfall would benefit the Eastern Lowlands, Northern Lowlands, Eastern Arid Plateaus, and Buragane livelihood zones. Above-average rainfall in these areas would reduce the number of households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.
    NationalBelow-average rainfall during 2023 B Season period (February–May 2023)If below-average rainfall occurs, resulting in a shortened crop-growing window and below-average 2023 Season B crop production. Bean crops, which are very sensitive to rainfall deficits, would be the most affected. A below-average harvest would 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. 
    Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zonesRemoval of cross-border COVID-19 restrictionsThe removal of COVID-19 test fees prior to travel would increase access to cross-border labor opportunities in Tanzania and Rwanda for poor and very poor households, as well as food imports. Increased cross-border trade would 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, reducing the number of households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 2) and Stressed (IPC Phase 3) outcomes















    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 Burundi Seasonal Calendar  Season A planting is from October through January, and the harvest is from December through Januar

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    eVIIRS Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, Jul.-Oct. 2022 compared to the 2012-2021 average

    Figure 2

    eVIIRS Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, Jul.-Oct. 2022 compared to the 2012-2021 average

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    National average price (BIF/kg) for various staple food commodities in Sep. 2022 compared to last month, last year, and the f

    Figure 3

    Source: WFP/SIP

    Main income sources reported by rural households in August 2022

    Figure 4

    Source: WFP FSMS

    Figure 4. Trend in monthly headline inflation

    Figure 5

    Source: ISTEEBU

    USD to BIF official exchange rate trend

    Figure 6

    Source: ISTEEBU

    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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