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Atypical start to the lean season for poor households in the northern half of the country

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Burkina Faso
  • April 2021
Atypical start to the lean season for poor households in the northern half of the country

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In the insecure Sahel and Centre-Nord regions and in the Loroum and Yatenga provinces in the Nord region, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and poor host households are forced to both unsustainably sell their animals and skip meals or reduce the quantity and quality of food consumed, and will be exposed to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity until September, while food assistance promotes Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) food insecurity between April and May in the Soum and Sanmatenga provinces.

    • In the calmer southern and western regions, households will continue to have a normal consumption based on self-produced stocks and their typical reliance on wild products. Poor households in these areas will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity until the green harvests between August and September. In the Est region (Komondjari, Gourma, Tapoa, and Kompienga provinces), however, the decline in staple food production and rising prices will lead to a deterioration in food access, especially for IDPs and poor host households, who will remain exposed to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity until September.

    • Although the number of killings has decreased since the second half of 2020, non-state armed groups continue to exert influence and control over the population, especially in the northern, northeastern, and eastern border areas. Continuing security-related incidents and threats cause further displacement and limit households’ access to usual sources of income. Insecurity will continue to prevent the normal functioning of markets and disrupt agricultural and livestock activities.

    • Market cereal supplies are below average and prices are slightly higher than average overall. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a negative impact on imports of consumer goods due to higher international prices, restrictions in supplier countries, and disruptions at ports.


    Security situation: While the number of attacks on civilians and the defense and security forces (DSF) has remained unchanged over the past year, the number of killings dropped sharply in the second half of 2020. This trend has continued into 2021 (Figure 1). Extremist jihadist groups continue to exert influence and control over populations in the northern, northeastern, and eastern border areas, leading to further displacement. This does not encourage significant numbers of people returning to their places of origin. DSFs remain overwhelmed and rely on the collaboration of local communities and the Homeland Defense Volunteers (VDP), who have become a main force in the fight against jihadist extremist groups. In several areas of the Sahel and Est regions, curfews and movement restrictions remain active, slowing down transport activities and disrupting livelihood activities such as night hunting.

    Agropastoral production: Despite the disruption of agricultural activities by insecurity and localized flooding, national cereal production is up approximately 13 percent compared to the five-year average. This increase was made possible by the generally good rainfall conditions. It is mainly driven by the good production of maize, which accounts for 37 percent of total production. However, in some provinces, there are significant declines in staple products, such as a 50-percent drop in millet production in the Soum and Loroum provinces and a 40-percent drop in maize production in the Kompienga province, mainly due to insecurity. In the Tapoa province, irregular rainfall and insecurity led to a 38-percent drop in sorghum production.

    Market operations and food prices: Overall, cereal and cowpea availability are below average on the markets due to, among other things, localized drops in production (from flooding and insecurity), traders’ limited access to certain collection areas due to insecurity, significant outgoing flows of cereals to Niger and cowpeas to Ghana, and supplies of maize to breweries and poultry industries on local markets in response to the upward price trend and international disruptions. In March, cereal prices on retail markets were 15 to 30 percent higher than last year and 5 to 15 percent higher than the five-year average. In the more insecure regions, cereal prices are 10 to 20 percent above average, with atypical variations (40 to 60 percent compared to last year and 20 to 30 percent compared to the average) observed in the far east on the border with Niger. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively impact imports of consumer goods, particularly imported rice, oil, and milk. According to the Ministry of Trade, economic operators point to international price increases and the restrictions still in force in supplier countries. On the other hand, they report blockage of their goods at ports due to the cumbersome truck-loading process. The prices of these products are controlled, so overall they are stable compared to last year. They are also stable compared to the five-year average, except for a 22-percent increase for oil.

    Livestock market operations: Despite the departure of large-scale livestock farmers to the southern regions and coastal countries, the supply of animals on the main markets (Dori, Djibo, Fada, Kaya, and Pouytenga) is near average due to destocking carried out by IDPs who have a strong presence in these areas and also due to the atypically high influx of animals from Niger. Demand is satisfactory for small ruminants; at least 80 percent of animals brought to market are sold. On the other hand, cattle exports have declined. On the Djibo, Dori, and Kaya markets, ram prices have increased between 17 and 30 percent compared to the average. Goat prices are stable on the Dori market, but up 66 percent in Djibo and 10 percent in Kaya. The goat/millet and goat/sorghum terms of trade are in livestock farmers’ favor. Compared to the five-year average, terms of trade have deteriorated slightly for livestock farmers who sell on the Dori and Kaya markets. However, for those who sell at the Djibo market, terms of trade have improved by 53 percent.

    Sources of income: In addition to animal sales, households derive their income mainly from selling agricultural products and market garden produce, gold panning, and remittances from migration. The overall 30-percent increase in cash crop production compared to the average should help offset the slight drop in prices and allow producers to have stable incomes. Market gardening activities came to an abrupt halt in several locations due to early drying up of water sources. Demand for market garden produce, particularly onions and tomatoes, is down overall because, despite freight authorization at the borders, health restrictions prevent free movement of buyers. In Kongoussi in the Centre-Nord region, cases of tomatoes and bags of onions are sold 25 and 30 percent lower than in a normal year, respectively. As for gold mining, restrictions on movements limit people’s access to gold sites, so they do not benefit from the increase in the price per gram, which now averages 32,500 compared to an average of 25,000 between 2013 and 2019, equaling a 30-percent increase.

    Population displacements: The country recorded an estimated 1,147,699 IDPs at the end of March. These IDPs are mainly present in the Centre-Nord (40 percent) and Sahel (32 percent) regions. The decrease in killings and community agreements have certainly encouraged some people to return to their villages of origin, but threats and violence from jihadist groups continue to cause new displacements in the Oudalan, Yagha, and Gourma provinces.

    COVID-19: Since January, there has been a downward trend in cases of community transmission of COVID-19 (132 active cases as of April 27) and ongoing restrictions are limited to compliance with safety measures. The national economic situation remained gloomy in the fourth quarter of 2020. Economic operators, particularly those in the hotel/bar/restaurant and transport sectors, have faced declines in revenue, and cash flow pressures have led to a decline in employment.

    Humanitarian assistance: Food assistance (50 percent in cash and 50 percent in food) is concentrated in the Sanmatenga and Soum provinces, where most humanitarian stakeholders are present. For the months of March and April, food assistance reached an estimated 30 and 22 percent of the population and 50 percent of their needs in these provinces respectively. In other provinces, population coverage is below 20 percent. In addition to the low representation of stakeholders, threats and violence from jihadist groups are hampering stakeholder activities. Over the last three months, an average of 87 percent of planned assistance was effectively delivered to IDPs and host households. The government also planned free distribution of 30,000 tons of cereals to 747,000 people (IDPs, victims of last season’s floods) to cover three months of cereal needs over the period from April to June. However, previous operations have always been conducted beyond the planned schedules due to logistical and administrative difficulties. The current distribution will not likely follow the targeted timeframe.


    The most likely food security scenario from April to September 2021 is based on fundamental assumptions in relation to the changing national context as follows:

    • Targeted violence against civilians by extremist groups will continue at the current rate to deter local residents from joining state-supported volunteer groups. In the north and northeast, insecurity will continue to prevent normal market functioning and disrupt agricultural and livestock activities, which are the population’s main livelihoods.
    • Based on seasonal forecasts from the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), the rains will start on time within the country. The cumulative rainfall will be normal to above average during the rainy season. This will have a positive impact on average to above-average harvests from October 2021 onwards for the main season, particularly in areas less affected by insecurity.
    • Insecurity will continue to limit agricultural and livestock activities, particularly in the Centre-Nord, Nord, Sahel, and Est regions. As in the last two growing seasons, activities may be carried out mainly around villages and the growing of tall crops, particularly cereals, may be prohibited in certain areas.
    • Despite overall average production in the country, market supply will remain below average due to outgoing flows and supplies from new industrial stakeholders. Household demand will remain typical, particularly in the western production areas. Ongoing government operations including selling cereals at reduced prices and distributing 33,000 tons of cereals should help reduce household pressure on the markets, particularly in areas with a high IDP presence. Overall, staple prices are expected to remain slightly above their seasonal averages until the end of the lean season in September.
    • Labor supply could be above average due to the presence of IDPs in several areas and also due to reduced external migration flows. Daily labor costs are less likely to change as they have remained constant over the past three years. However, demand may decline as cash crop producers experience lower incomes due to the negative impacts of lower exports. Overall, income from labor (land preparation, crop maintenance) will be lower than normal.
    •  Except in the far north, fodder and water availability will be average and allow animals to endure a typical lean season between April and June while waiting for pasture to regenerate from July. As a result, their physical condition will remain average during this period, and the increased demand for animals for the Ramadan (May) and Tabaski (July) holidays will help keep prices for small ruminants above average and the terms of trade favorable to livestock farmers.
    • The slowdown in economic activities could continue to exert pressure on job opportunities and incomes and worsen household purchasing power, especially in urban areas. Additionally, remittances from migration will remain lower than normal because of the decline in this activity with continued border closures, but also because of the sluggish economic activities in host countries, mainly Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Mali. This will negatively affect rural households’ purchasing power and access to agricultural inputs.  


    In the calmer southern and western regions, households will continue to have a normal diet based on self-produced stocks and the usual availability of non-timber forest products (shea, néré, and grapes) and wild products. In these areas, at least 90 percent of households will have at least three to six months of stocks to cover their needs as of April (Early Warning System [EWS]/National Strategy for Food and Nutrition Security [ENSAN], March 2021). These areas will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.

    In urban centers, declining incomes and above-average prices for basic commodities are negatively affecting food access for the poor. Increases in petroleum product and bottled gas prices over the previous month have led to increased demand and prices for firewood and charcoal. These factors will continue to put pressure on household purchasing power. Less than 20 percent of the population in these areas could be exposed to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity until September. This Stressed (IPC Phase 2) situation will also be observed in the east of the country (Komondjari, Gourma, Tapoa, and Kompienga provinces) as the decline in basic commodities and price increases will lower food access, especially for IDPs and poor host households.

    In the northern half of the country, particularly in the provinces in the Sahel and Centre-Nord regions and in the provinces of Loroum and Yatenga (in the northern region), the proportion of households with less than three months’ worth of available stocks varies from 20 percent in Yatenga to 77 percent in Soum. Early stock depletion leads to atypical dependence on markets and humanitarian assistance. In these areas, at least 80 percent of households reported a decline in livestock numbers due to past sales, losses, and looting by terrorist groups. With limited access to other sources of income, their livelihoods will continue to deteriorate. Planned food assistance for April (50 percent cash and 50 percent in-kind) is expected to reach an average of 22 percent and 30 percent of the population in the Soum and Sanmatenga provinces respectively. In other provinces, food assistance coverage is low. Additionally, insecurity is hindering the delivery of this assistance. Between November and January, an average of 87 percent of planned food assistance was actually delivered. This promotes Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) food insecurity in the provinces of Soum and Sanmatenga until May. Without this assistance, these provinces will worsen to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from June onwards. In other provinces, IDPs and poor host households are forced to both unsustainably sell their animals and skip meals or reduce the quantity and quality of food consumed. IDPs and poor host households in the Yatenga, Loroum, Bam, Namentenga, Yagha, Séno, and Oudalan provinces will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity until September.

    Events that could change the scenarios

    Possible events over the next six months that could change the most likely scenario.



    Impact on food security conditions


    Irregular rainfall during the season

    Irregular rainfall will reinforce pessimistic views on the outcome of the season and thus encourage speculative behavior on prices. Staple food prices could experience greater upward fluctuations, all of which would degrade households’ purchasing power.

    Centre-Nord, Sahel, Nord, Est

    Increased insecurity

    An increase in security-related incidents and fatalities could further disrupt market functioning and lead to higher food prices. This will also hamper the implementation of humanitarian assistance and limit agricultural and livestock activities.

    Deterioration of the socio-political situation in Chad, leading to the withdrawal of Chadian military troops stationed in Burkina Faso

    The withdrawal of the Chadian army from the north of the country could encourage terrorist groups to strengthen or expand their presence in the Liptako-Gourma area. This could lead to an increase in violence against the civilian population and disruption of local markets and livelihood activities.

    Figures Calendrier saisonnier pour une année typique

    Figure 1

    Calendrier saisonnier pour une année typique

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1


    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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