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Emergency food insecurity (IPC Phase 4) persists in the blockaded far north

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Burkina Faso
  • December 2022
Emergency food insecurity (IPC Phase 4) persists in the blockaded far north

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    • Lack of own production, recurrent disruptions in market supply, depletion of assets due to record food price levels, and insufficient and irregular assistance are contributing to extreme food consumption gaps observed among poor host households and IDPs. As a result of these constraints, households are experiencing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity, particularly in Soumn province and inaccessible areas of northern Oudalan.  

    • Own-produced crops remain the primary source of food and income for poor households in the relatively calmer southern and western areas, supporting typical household consumption. However, due to the high cost of fertilizer and decline in income from cotton sales (limiting the demand for labor), household income usually generated from labor in off-season production and field preparation activities may be below average between February and May.

    • In November, prices remained 50-85 percent above the average and, in the coming months, are expected to stay above their seasonal averages despite the availability of new crops. As market grain supply remains below average, increased household demand and institutional purchases at the national level will sustain above-average prices.


    The socio-political situation in the country has recently been marked by an overthrow of the ruling transitional regime that is still being led by the military junta. Demonstrations from civil society are frequent, calling for reviewing military cooperation agreements with certain partners and diversifying partners in the fight against terrorism. On the security front, militant groups continue to scatter and expand their acts of violence in previously calm areas, such as Nayala, Zondoma, Passoré, Boulgou, Banwa, and Tuy provcinces. The new offensive being carried out by the Front Démocratique Sankariste (FDS), characterized by ground and air attacks and joint operations with Mali, does not appear to be halting the advance of the militant groups for the time being. The blockade persists in the northern provinces (Loroum, Soum, Yagha, and the communes north of Oudalan) and the eastern provinces (Kompienga), where supplies to local markets and the delivery of food assistance pose a challenge. In October, new population displacements were observed, particularly in the Sahel, North, Boucle du Mouhoun, and East regions, increasing the number of IDPs to 1.76 million, or 2.4 percent, over the previous month.

    Good rainfall has allowed projected cereal production (DGESS/MAAH [Ministry of Agriculture and Hydro-agricultural Development]/PAS) to remain globally stable compared to the five-year average. However, reduced producers’ access to their fields in insecure areas and difficulties in acquiring fertilizer and phytosanitary products have left about 60 percent of households unable to cover their consumption needs from their own production, compared to about 45 percent of the total population in a normal year. In areas most affected by insecurity in the northern provinces, this proportion exceeds 80 percent. The ongoing cotton harvest is a main source of income for producers in western areas; however, due to severe attacks by jassid pests, a significant drop in income is expected.

    Due to localized production deficits, the government has introduced a plan to boost dry season production. This plan aims to produce more than 65,000 tons of cereals and nearly 110,000 tons of market garden produce by supporting producers, including IDPs, at more than 190 sites, with inputs and equipment and developing agricultural facilities.

    Grain supply in markets remains below average, particularly in the north; factors contributing to this include low local production in the areas affected by insecurity and disruptions in supply from production areas in the country’s west. In addition, markets in blockaded areas rely on irregular escort operations, resulting in shortages of preferred food products, particularly in the main markets of Titao, Djibo, Arbinda, and Sebba. For example, the last supply to Titao and Sebba markets occurred on September 10th  and 27th  of 2022, respectively, and November 27th to the Djibo market.

    In November, basic food prices remained high compared to the same period last year: 18 percent for maize, 55 percent for millet, and 47 percent for sorghum. Atypical price movements persist when compared to the five-year average: 54 percent for maize, 85 percent for millet, 80 percent for sorghum and cooking oil, and 25 percent for imported rice. In the Sebba and Djibo markets, record variations of 200-350 percent (Figure 1) were observed compared to the average. The lack of local production and the irregularity of supplies by escort have led to overbidding, and shortages of staple foods, even during this post-harvest period.

    In the relatively calm areas in the country’s south and west, poor households generate income from selling agricultural products (grains and cash crops). With cash crop production slightly above average, except for cotton, and above average prices, income from sales is expected to be above average. These revenues will be used to repay debts incurred and replenish livestock after significant destocking to get through the previous lean season.

    IDPs and poor host households have depleted their livestock assets in blockaded or restricted areas. They are trying to generate income by selling water, firewood, fodder, and gold panning. These activities put participating households at risk of violence by militant groups since they must travel beyond a limited security radius. It is estimated that about 30 percent of poor host households and 50 percent of poor IDPs have no source of income and rely exclusively on infrequent transfers from outside relatives or humanitarian actors. Middle-income households that still have animals continue to deplete their stocks due to below-average livestock to grain terms of trade; they must sell 2-3 small ruminants to acquire the same amount of grain as they did when they sold one in a normal year, resulting in an accelerated deterioration of their livelihoods.

    In September and October, food assistance distributed in Bam, Sanmatenga, and Kompienga provinces reached at least 20 percent of households. Elsewhere, the proportion of households reached is low. Moreover, cash distribution was the dominant modality (61 percent). Consequently, with intra-household sharing and record-high staple prices, it is unclear if this form of assistance has met 50 percent of the caloric needs of the beneficiaries. On December 20th, the WFP supplied the commune of Djibo with 21 tons of food, including enriched infant formula. However, according to beneficiary testimonies daily household needs exceed 3 kg, and the rations distributed per household (10 kg of grain, 2 kg of legumes, and 0.5 liters of oil) are inadequate to cover household needs for a full week.

    Own-produced crops remain the primary food source for poor households in calm areas in the country’s west and south, supporting typical consumption based on three meals per day, supporting Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity among households.

    In blockaded areas, key informants estimate that approximately 40 percent of poor host households and 60 percent of IDPs do not have food stocks. Households adjust their consumption to the rate at which the market is supplied by escorts or by the availability of food assistance, which is insufficient. As a result, households are limit their number of meals to one and the majority often go without food for the entire day. In Djibo, Kelbo, Arbinda, Sebba, and the communes north of Oudalan, there are visible signs of malnutrition for over 20 percent of the population. With the lack of typical income and the adoption of extreme coping strategies, households are at risk of  Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity. In other surrounding areas under blockade or with difficult access, including Loroum, northern Sanmatenga, and Bam provinces, poor host households and IDPs are also forced to reduce the number of meals or limit adult consumption to ensure that children can eat. In contrast, adults increase their consumption of green leafy vegetables (sorrel and bean leaves) produced at nearby water reservoirs and are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity.

    1 Permanent Agricultural Survey of the General Directorate for Sector Studies and Statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Resources and Fisheries


    The updates to the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s mostly likely scenario for Burkina Faso’s food security outlook from October 2022 to May 2023 are as follows:

    • The frequency and intensity of attacks by militant groups are expected to increase during the dry season of 2023, reaching record levels since the beginning of the conflict in 2016 until the peak of the rainy season in July 2023. Despite recent losses, militant groups retain the ability to carry out complex attacks against SDF positions and ambush military convoys. Attacks are expected to continue causing internal displacement and isolation of rural areas (Figure 2).
    • The wide availability of water resources should facilitate the normal course of production activities during the dry season. The government's special support in the form of inputs, equipment and perimeter development should also strengthen production in the beneficiary areas. However, the joint SAP/partner mission in December revealed that the distribution of inputs and equipment to producers, which should have taken place in November, has not yet been completed in certain regions. The activity does not generate enthusiasm among producers in other areas due to persistent security threats. Furthermore, for the majority of households which do not benefit from government subsidies, the high cost of inputs (fertilizer and treatment products) could force them to reduce acreage. Therefore, despite support from the government, vegetable production, which is usually higher between January and March, will remain below average.
    • Food assistance has decreased since October due to the end of lean season planning and worsening security situation, making delivery difficult. The risk of hijacking convoys or cargo trucks being set on fire forced some partners to focus on cash transfers (61 percent of assistance). However, as of January 1 of this year, assistance via cash transfers is prohibited by the authorities in the Sahel region due to the risk of misuse of this modality. Since most NGOs lack the logistical capacity to carry out food distributions by air, this measure could significantly reduce assistance in the coming months.


    The expected decline in dry season production will reduce households' access to food and income sources usually derived from this activity between January and May. In addition, labor demand will remain below normal (typically 15 to 20 percent of income in the North Central region) due to the inaccessibility of sites and the reduction in acreage. During the same period, gold panning revenues, which typically represent 20 and 40 percent of income in the North-Central and Sahel regions, will be lower than average due to difficult access to sites and reduced working hours caused by security threats. The demand for field preparation labor, especially for cotton acreage, may also decline. Cotton growers will not be incentivized to hire labor considering their declining income from below-average production. They are also likely to reduce acreage for the next season to respond to a possible increase in jassid attacks.

    Restricted access to pasture will result in a longer and more difficult pastoral lean season between February and June, especially in blockaded areas. As a result, middle-income and better-off households will be forced to reduce their stocks to buy food at record prices for their own consumption and buy livestock feed at prices already 50 to 70 percent above average to sustain the remaining herd.

    The early depletion of crops from February onwards in the northern and eastern areas most affected by insecurity will increase household demand on the markets. In addition, institutional purchases are expected to occur in the first half of 2023. These purchases will likely be above average to fill the current safety stocks (less than 25,000 tons against a conventional level of 50,000 tons). This general increase in demand and the lingering effects of global conditions will contribute to keeping staple prices above their seasonal averages at least through May.

    In calm areas, poor households are expected to continue relying on their own production to maintain a typical diet until May. However, in hard-to-reach areas, stocks from poor households' own production will run out early starting in February. With assets depleted or low to cope with record food prices, most poor households and IDPs will rely almost exclusively on assistance. The disruption in the delivery of this assistance will increase consumption gaps and expose more households to Emergency (IPC Phase 4), particularly in the Soum and Yagha provinces and inaccessible communes in northern Oudalan. If the blockade persists, it is likely that cases of forced migration to areas accessible by assistance will intensify and that critical cases of malnutrition will increase, exposing more households to Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes.

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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