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Near-average season A harvests will be delayed, prolonging the lean season

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Burundi
  • December 2018
Near-average season A harvests will be delayed, prolonging the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Late and poorly distributed rainfall at the start of Season A is expected to delay the harvest across most of Burundi to January/February 2019, prolonging the lean season by one to two months. Although harvests are expected to be near-average at the national level, localized areas are likely to have below-average harvests. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are most likely through May 2019.

    • According to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (ISTEEBU), national staple food prices increased slightly by 1.3 percent from October to November, but remained 9.1 percent below prices in the same period in 2017. Given that demand for agricultural labor remains near normal, access to food is better than 2017 despite a slight decline in the daily wage, according to key informants. However, total income is low and poor households are unable to meet their non-food needs.

    • Humanitarian food assistance and livelihoods programs continue to enable Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes for vulnerable IDP, Congolese refugee, and Burundian returnee populations. Nearly all international NGOs have resumed their activities following the October suspension. Should planned assistance not be adequately funded, activities in school feeding, child nutrition, livelihoods interventions for IDPs, and food assistance to refugees would be cut. As a result, many of these households would deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    ZonesCurrent AnomaliesProjected Anomalies
    Localized areas in Kirundo, Muyinga, and Bubanza provinces due to late, erratic and insufficient rains.

    Farmers planted as late as November, which will prolong the lean season by one to two months. As these regions have few marshlands to grow season C crops, many poor households currently heavily rely on market purchases. Food insecurity will be heightened until beans and green maize harvests are available in December/January.

    With Season A harvests expected in February/March, Season B land preparation and planting will be delayed, which may reduce total acreage and the proportion of crops reaching maturity in May/June. As Season B accounts for about half of annual production, a very poor season can trigger a cycle of food insecurity that lasts several seasons, until an above-average harvest occurs and breaks that cycle.



    Season A production is most likely to be delayed but near-average nationally, with regional variations depending on rainfall amounts and distribution. Season A production, composed primarily of maize and beans, typically provides 35 percent of a poor household’s annual food needs. Semi-perennial banana, cassava, roots, and tubers, which contribute the largest share of food calories in Burundi, are produced year-round. Incidence of pests, including Fall Armyworm, is at typical levels and farmers report that improved pest management has limited the likely economic impact.

    Due to poorly distributed rainfall at the start of the October to December Season A period, farmers delayed land preparation and planting in western Burundi, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the national acreage, until mid-October. As a result, harvests that normally begin in December will be delayed to January and February 2019, prolonging the lean season until January. Since planting occurred, rainfall performance has been mixed but is forecast to be average through the remainder of the season, which is likely to result in near-average to average Season 2019 A harvests.

    In approximately 10 percent of Eastern Arid Plateaus, Eastern Lowlands, and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones, the rains did not fully establish until early November and planting was thus delayed; harvests will likely be below average and will not be available until February/March. The most affected communes include Busoni, Bugabira, and Ntega in Kirundo Province; Bwambarangwe, Butihinda, and Giteranyi in Muyinga Province; and Gihanga in Bubanza Province. In contrast, in southern Imbo Plains, Western Congo-Nile Ridge, Humid Plateaus, and Northern and Southern Highlands livelihood zones, rainfall has been above average and well distributed since September to early October, allowing planting to take place on time or with a short delay. Consequently, production of major seasonal crops is expected to be average to above average. In some of these areas, the harvest of beans has already begun.

    Due to delayed Season A harvests, poor households are relying on semi-perennial crops and market purchases as their primary sources of food. Agricultural and casual labor opportunities are available at typical levels, but the daily wage has declined, leading households to expand sales of small ruminants and increase the frequency of consumption coping strategies. According to ISTEEBU, national staple food prices minimally increased by 1.3 percent on average from October to November. Prices are expected to continue to increase until Season A harvests reach the market in January/February, based on seasonal trends in 2014, 2015, and 2017 (Figure 1). However, prices are likely to remain low compared to previous years through May. Low food prices drove the annual inflation rate to an annualized 0.4 percent in October 2018 and -1.4 percent in November – the lowest in several years – and food prices are still 9.1 percent below November 2017 prices.

    When harvests are completed, households will begin land preparation and planting for the February to May Season B period. According to the NOAA/CPC forecast, rainfall is most likely to be average, which would normally encourage average area planted and lead to average Season B harvests beginning in late May/June. However, delayed Season A harvests will likely impede timely land preparation and planting of Season B crops, leading to reduced area planted and a shorter growing period.

    As a result, most poor households in livelihood zones with likely below-average season A production are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through May 2019, though the worst-affected households may be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In livelihood zones where production is most likely to be average, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected through March, but deterioration to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is expected by April, when stocks are nearly depleted but green beans and maize are available. Season B harvests are likely to seasonally improve food security outcomes beginning in late May, but the improvement would be short-lived should delayed planting result in below-average harvests. Future deterioration in outcomes would be expected.

    Returnees, Congolese refugees living in settlements, and IDPs have continued to access enough food and livelihoods assistance to maintain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes in December, but planned assistance is not fully funded through May 2019. According to UNHCR, the number of Burundian refugees that voluntarily repatriated from Tanzania from October 2017 to November 2018 increased to 54,877. It is expected that the rate of returns will remain stable or decline, given 19,263 currently registered and awaiting repatriation. The number of IDPs is likely to increase as a result of recent localized flooding, particularly in Rumonge Commune in Rumonge Province, and again in April, the peak rainy month of the year. Should planned assistance not be fully funded, many of these households would deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Figures Graph illustrating the food price index compared to general inflation in Burundi from October 2014 to October 2018.

    Figure 1

    Source: Burundi Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (ISTEEBU)

    Season A planting begins in October and the harvest begins in December. Season B planting begins in March and the harvest beg

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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