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Food insecurity to remain elevated, following succession of poor seasons and insecurity

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Burundi
  • February 2017
Food insecurity to remain elevated, following succession of poor seasons and insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The majority of poor households in Bubanza, Cankuzo, Cibitoke, Kirundo, Makamba, Muyinga, and Ruyigi provinces are likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September, resulting from below-average Season A production, following similarly poor Seasons B and C during 2016. There is the possibility that some households are still likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through the lean season, as food access has been constrained by a one-month delay in the harvest, above-average food prices, and reduced income from agricultural labor, but outcomes are likely to improve with the July harvest. 

    • Maize and bean prices have surged well above the five-year average and are anticipated to remain atypically high through early May, attributed to late re-planting that has delayed the harvests by one month, compounded by limited cross-border trade. Following a slight dip in March, these factors are expected to keep prices at above-average levels through September, with a slight easing after the June harvest.

    • According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of February 20, more than 385,000 Burundians had sought refuge in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique, since April 2015. In addition, there are about 169,000 internally displaced people, resulting from both political instability and natural hazards, including flooding, who receive assistance that is facing funding shortfalls. 





    ·    A succession of poor production seasons, substantial foreign reserve shortfalls, and reduced importable surpluses from East Africa have accentuated the upward pressure on local staple food prices.

    ·    Food prices are anticipated to remain elevated through May due to below-average Season A production, limited household food stocks, a reduced capacity to import food, coupled with limited regional surpluses. However, staple food prices are likely to decline more significantly at the start of the Season B harvest in June.

    Bubanza, Bujumbura Rural, Cankuzo, Cibitoke, Kirundo, Makamba, Muyinga, and Ruyigi provinces

    ·    Poor household food stocks are eroded in these areas in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands livelihood zones and the Congo Ridge Millet zone, and the capacity to purchase food is severely limited due to higher than average staple food prices, compounded by constrained labor opportunities.

    ·    Household food stocks will remain atypically low through May driven by below-average harvests. Some poor households may face reduced capacities to access food over a prolonged period through May and may temporarily move to Crisis (IPC Phase 3), but the delayed harvest is likely to moderate needs.



    The September to December 2016 Season A rains started one month late in October and were below average throughout the season (see Figure 1). Marked rainfall deficits in October and December resulted in substantial replanting of maize and beans across the country. The deficits occurred during the flowering and grain filling stages, causing substantial yield losses, which were compounded by a reduced supply of inputs, largely due to constrained foreign reserves, especially in Bujumbura Rural, Cankuzo, and Kirundo provinces. Subsequently, bean and maize harvests are expected in February and March, respectively, a delay of one month. Insecurity resulting from political instability in December and January resulted in a large increase in movement to refugee camps, primarily in western Tanzania, contributing to the overall reduction in agricultural production.

    According to FAO, staple food prices remained elevated through January 2017. A succession of below-average seasons in 2016, reduced capacities to import food, which is also due to constrained access to foreign reserves, coupled with reduced regional supplies, has sustained above-average prices. The prices of rice, maize, and beans were on average, 160, 100, and 80 percent higher, respectively, in January 2017, as compared to January 2016. The higher-than-average food prices are increasingly restricting market access for poor households, as income is limited to a narrow range of sources, including petty trade and some off-farm labor, underlining the income-earning difficulties that poor households face, which is likely to last through the end of the lean season in May.

    According to UNHCR, as of February 20, there were over 385,000 Burundi nationals, who had been displaced since April 2015, residing in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. While the majority of migrations are motivated by insecurity, poor economic prospects resulted in increased migrations to refugee camps, especially during the last quarter of 2016 through early 2017, after poor households eroded coping capacities, and sold productive assets, including livestock. In Burundi, about 169,000 internally displaced people face significant funding gaps, amounting to USD 12.5 million, which represents a 75 percent deficit that is likely to widen food and non-food gaps if funding gaps persist. The IDPs displaced by both insecurity and agroclimatic hazards are located in Bubanza, Bujumbura Rural, Cankuzo, Cibitoke, Gitega, Kirundo, Makamba, Muyinga, Rumonge, Rutana, and Ruyigi provinces.

    While the prognosis for the February to April Season B suggests a near-average season, late Season A maize and bean harvests will likely delay Season B land preparation and harvesting, potentially compromising overall production. However, income for poor households, who derive up to 60 percent of their income from agricultural labor is likely to improve, somewhat, with harvesting, land preparation, and planting, from March through April, enhancing capacities to purchase food. The majority of poor households are expected to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity through the scenario period due to the lower Season A harvest and constrained income-earning opportunities. However, the Season B harvest is expected to improve food availability, and improve outcomes, especially for those previously facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the lean season. 

    Figures Rainfall Estimates (RFE) in Ruyigi in Eastern Lowlands livelihood zone, compared to the long-term mean

    Figure 1

    Rainfall Estimates (RFE) in Ruyigi in Eastern Lowlands livelihood zone, compared to the long-term mean

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS


    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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