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Food security improving in most provinces as rainy season begins early

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Burundi
  • September 2018
Food security improving in most provinces as rainy season begins early

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  • Key Messages
  • Preface
  • Summary
  • Projected outcomes through January 2019
  • Projected outcomes through the end of the next lean season (May 2019)

  • Preface


    FEWS NET Food Security Outlook Updates in September 2018 have an extended outlook beyond the standard projection period. The end of this report includes a discussion of most-likely outcomes through the end of the next lean season for this country. Reporting for this country may follow a non-standard schedule in the coming months. Check back regularly for new analysis, subscribe for report updates, or follow us on social media.

    Key Messages
    • Average to above-average cumulative precipitation is most likely through December, likely leading to average to above-average Season A harvests. Above-average supply is likely to keep staple food prices below the three-year average. As a result, most households are expected to be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) beyond January 2019. However, communes with large proportions of returnees and households affected by seasonal flooding will likely continue to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    • Declining staple food prices have driven inflation to its lowest point to date in 2018, primarily due to abundant food reserves from last season and anticipated above-average Season C harvests. This trend is likely to continue through early 2019 with expected consecutive seasons of good production. With typical income-earning opportunities likely to be normal, household purchasing power will continue to improve.

    • Although the number of Congolese refugees living in settlements remains stable, civil insecurity ahead of the DRC’s presidential elections may cause additional numbers to flee to Burundi. Humanitarian assistance remains their key food source and has sustained Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes in September, but refugees’ food security would likely deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) if cuts to rations occur. Meanwhile, nearly 46,000 Burundian refugees have repatriated since September 2017. Many returnees have difficulty re-establishing their livelihoods, and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely, particularly among those arriving after the start of an agricultural production season.



    Macro-economic constraints in the wake of the 2015 socio-political crisis continue.

    Low availability of foreign exchange due to severe cuts in bilateral donors’ budgetary support are limiting government expenditures in social sectors and resulting in foreign exchange shortages, which constrains food and fuel imports.Macro-economic constraints are likely to remain as efforts to peacefully resolve the ongoing political crisis continue to be hindered. These conditions could be ameliorated, however, as multilateral donors remain fully engaged and some private companies are investing in Burundi, including in the mining sector.


    Projected outcomes through January 2019

    Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to prevail in most parts of the country through January 2019 due to several consecutive seasons of average to above-average production, with the exception of communes receiving large proportions of returnees or affected by seasonal flooding, which are expected to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Rainfall in parts of Plateaux Humides and northern Plateaux Secs de l’Est livelihood zones was 10 to 25 percent above average in August, signaling an early start to the small rains and Season A agricultural campaign and prompting farmers in the west to begin planting three weeks early. The rains also benefitted growing and maturing Season C crops in marshland areas, likely leading to above-average August-November harvests, and perennial and semi-perennial crops grown on hillsides, like bananas, tea, cassava, and fodder. Although rainfall in September tapered off to average levels, the small rains forecast of cumulative average to above-average rainfall is expected to result in average to above-average Season A harvests at the national level, particularly maize and banana. However, crops sensitive to moisture, such as beans and Irish potatoes, may be negatively affected. Localized areas of Plaines de l’Imbo and Dépressions de l’Est livelihood zones are also likely to be flooded, while landslides may occur in Crête Congo Nil zone.

    Food access for the very poor, who are most reliant on market purchases, has improved given normal access to agricultural labor opportunities and improved purchasing power. Low staple food prices are driving an annual inflation rate of 4.1 percent as of August – the lowest recorded in 2018 – though prices of meat, fish, and household expenditures have risen. According to Burundi’s National Institute of Statistics, food prices increased slightly in August by 1.0 percent compared to August 2017 but decreased by 2.3 percent compared to July 2018 (Table 1). The month-on-month price decrease is atypical, as prices tend to rise in July/August, i.e. two to three months after harvest. The national average price of beans remained unchanged at 900-950 BIF/kg since June, due to domestic trade flows and imports from Tanzania that have stabilized prices. For poor households that rely on crop sales as a primary source of income, below-average prices would normally negatively impact their livelihoods; however, this is being mitigated as they are selling higher quantities of produce due to good agricultural performance.   

    According to a national SMART survey led by the National Institute of Statistics and partners, acute malnutrition levels were indicative of Minimal (IPC Phase 1) with a national average GAM (WHZ) prevalence of 4.5 percent in March 2018. Ngozi, Kirundo, and Muyinga provinces were indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2), with a GAM prevalence of 7.5 to 8.5 percent. These levels are expected to be largely maintained, aside from seasonal fluctuations with the rainfall and lean season. Notably, chronic malnutrition was found to be extremely high at 57 percent nationally.

    The return of Burundian refugees, primarily from Tanzania, continues at an average rate of 3,800 per month. Nearly 46,000 have returned since September 2017. They receive some food assistance from WFP, including a 3-month food ration, and tend to be clustered in the Dépressions de l’Est and Buragane livelihood zones bordering Tanzania (Figure 1). An unspecified number of Burundians have repatriated on their own, mainly to border provinces. Registered and non-registered returnees alike have difficulty re-establishing their livelihoods and obtaining agricultural inputs, particularly if they arrive after the start of a season, and are likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through January 2019. The number of Congolese refugees living in settlements in Burundi remained stable in August, totaling approximately 43,000. However, mounting tensions in the border province of South Kivu in anticipation of the upcoming December presidential elections may lead to new displacement. Should the unrest in South Kivu worsen or spill over to Burundi, the number of refugees would likely rise and place additional pressure on scarce resources. DRC refugees in Burundi continue to rely solely on humanitarian food assistance, which has maintained Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes. Since information on future planned and funded assistance is unavailable, it is assumed that the food security outcomes for this population would likely deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the absence of food assistance. 

    Projected outcomes through the end of the next lean season (May 2019)

    February to May will be defined by likely average main/Season B rains, a typical start to the minor lean season, and Season B planting and agricultural labor activities. At the peak of the minor lean season in April, poor households will have largely depleted their food stocks from Season A harvests. Some very poor households may be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3), during this period, reducing meal sizes and non-food expenditures. However, market prices are likely to be near to below-average due to anticipated above-average Season A supply, and the impact of the lean season will likely be milder than usual, similar to 2018. Demand for agricultural labor, constituting the main source of income for the poorest households, should be average through May 2019 when harvesting activities begin. Beginning with the Season B harvest, households will replenish their household stocks and turn to crop sales as a source of income. Barring any changes in economic or civil insecurity factors that could change the projected food security outcome, most households will likely be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) at this time, although some communes affected by seasonal flooding and landslides in Plaines de l’ Imbo and Crête Congo Nil livelihood zones or receiving the largest share of returnees will likely remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    The DRC refugees living in settlements constitute the largest population likely to experience food insecurity and would deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the absence of planned and funded humanitarian food assistance; however, they constitute less than 20 percent of the population. Therefore, the highest area-level classification for Burundi through May 2019 is Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Figures The table provides monthly indices across key food and non-food categories for August 2017, July 2018, and August 2018. The p

    Figure 1

    Source: National Institute of Statistics, Burundi

    The map shows that registered returnees are most highly concentrated in provinces border Tanzania and Rwanda.

    Figure 2

    Source: OCHA / UNHCR

    Season A planting and harvest: Oct to Jan; Dec to Jan. Season B planting and harvest: March to May; June to Aug. Season C pla

    Figure 3

    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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