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Growing need for assistance during the lean season

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Burkina Faso
  • June 2012
Growing need for assistance during the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through September 2012
  • Key Messages
    • According to the African Center of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD), there is a high probability of above-normal rainfall in large parts of Burkina Faso. The onset of the rains in June is indicative of a normal start-of-season in the southwest, the west, and parts of the east.

    • The combined effects of record high grain prices and inadequate humanitarian aid could drive households in the northern and central reaches of the country (livelihood zones 5 and 7) from IPC Phase 2:  Stress, to a more acute situation between July and September. Without adequate assistance to mitigate the effects of high cereal prices, very poor and poor households could be facing IPC Phase 3: Crisis. 

    • The steady influx of more than 65,000 Malian refugees into the far north (livelihood zone 8), competition for pasture resources and wage income, high grain prices, inadequate aid for host communities, and the impact of the rainy season on access to rural areas have accelerated the deterioration of food security among very poor and poor households, to IPC Phase 3 (crisis) in June, a month earlier than expected.

    • Cereal prices have remained generally stable compared to last month, as farming households are destocking residual cereal reserves to generate income to purchase agricultural inputs. However, record high grain prices continue to erode household purchasing power.

    Updated food security outlook through September 2012

    Compared to last month, the latest update of the April Outlook shows an early deterioration in the food security situation in certain potential problem areas due to the inadequacy and limited scale of the government’s ongoing operational assistance program, as well as in areas reporting the most atypical cereal price increases. The government estimates the number of people at risk for food insecurity between April and June at 2 million. Since the mounting of the food aid program in April, only 20 percent of scheduled aid has been effectively delivered by the National Food Security Reserve Management Company (SONAGESS) to at-risk municipalities for food insecurity for sale at government-subsidized prices. Furthermore, until now, targeting for this assistance is not effectively prioritizing according to household vulnerability in the zones of highest concern.

    According to the third scenario for the national operational assistance plan, the government’s target is to have 100,000 metric tons of available grain supplies on hand for the period from July through September. However, with the delays in the provision of food assistance between April and June and with the onset of the rainy season expected to limit access to remote areas very shortly, there is little likelihood that government aid can meet household food needs in a timely fashion. Ongoing local procurement of 32,000 metric tons of grain by SONAGESS for humanitarian partner initiatives should help ease food security conditions for some very poor and poor households, provided that the targeting criteria for households vulnerable to food insecurity are stringently enforced.  However, this effort could actually help trigger hikes in grain prices in crop collection areas and even on certain retail markets where traders still have stocks of grain.  

    The sharp cereal price increases reported between April and May have not continued, due in part to the stabilization of prices which is  most likely attributable to the destocking on-farm inventories in crop-producing areas to cover upfront expenses for the start-of-season, putting more grain on the market and, thus, helping to slow down rises in grain prices. As a result, prices were relatively stable between May and June on assembly markets in crop-producing areas as well as on retail markets in consumption centers in potential problem areas, with the sole exception of livelihood zone 8 (North transhumant pastoralism and millet). Local millet and white sorghum prices in Gorom Gorom were up by 18 percent and 14 percent, respectively, while millet prices in Ouagadougou rose by 11 percent. Cowpea prices are up in all parts of the country due to the production shortfall from last year’s growing season and high demand in Senegal, Ghana, and Nigeria. Markets in Ouagadougou reported the sharpest rise in cowpea prices, at 19 percent. Regardless, grain prices are still higher than at the same time last year and compared to the five-year average.

    FEWS NET imagery tracking of the progress of the agropastoral season and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index released by the national weather service show signs of emergent vegetation in the southwest, the west, the north, and parts of the east. This is benefiting small animals (improving their physical condition), the main form of savings by certain groups of households in certain focus areas for the lean season, which is currently underway. In an effort to enable at-risk farming households to begin planting, the government and its partners (FAO is contributing 665 metric tons of seeds for some 52,700 target households) has, since April, made available greater than usual quantities of seeds at subsidized prices .

    Situation in potential problem areas

    Livelihood zone 8 (North transhumant pastoralism and millet)

    As in a typical year, the main source of food for households with disposable income is still market purchase. However, cutbacks in the size and number of daily meals are the norm in all very poor and poor households. Households will typically cut back on their food intake during the lean season. This year, however, such cuts in the size and frequency of meals are especially sharp. Current sources of income are also typical for this time of year (sales of animals, gold washing activities, peddling, sales of nonwoody forest products, the main source of income for very poor and poor households, odd jobs, seasonal jobs, and migrant remittances), with some proportional differences. A unique factor this year is the new source of wage income from domestic work by members of very poor host households in refugee households in refugee receiving areas. The progressive decline in household income with the high price of grain in this area could force poor households to abandon their fields for gainful employment with middle-income and better-off households to earn enough income to buy grain during the lean season. There are ongoing training and assistance programs for refugees in the area (representing 73 percent of the nationwide refugee population) run by international organizations (the FAO, UNICEF, and WFP) and humanitarian NGOs (CRS, the Red Cross, OXFAM, and others) active in this livelihood zone. The main problems have to do with access to a safe water supply and the competition between refugees and host populations for virtually nonexistent pastures. Even with the ongoing assistance programs in this area, the current incomes of very poor and poor households (with small animals being sold earlier than usual in order to buy grain supplies, the shut-down of small-scale gold-washing operations, the return of migrant workers to prepare their land for the planting of crops, etc.) are insufficient and don’t allow for cereal purchases, even at subsidized prices. Given decreasing household income, the isolation of certain remote municipalities with the beginning of the rains, the rising price of grain in this area (including an 18 percent hike in the price of local millet crops), and the ineffectiveness of government aid, most poor households are in Phase 3 (crisis) of the IPC acute food insecurity phase scale a month earlier than expected.

    Eastern reaches of livelihood zone 9 (East and Southeast cereals, livestock, forestry, and fauna)

    This livelihood zone is currently reaping the benefits of effective, well-targeted humanitarian aid programs and the pre-positioning and sale of grain by the government at subsidized prices well before the beginning of the rainy season.  Even with the high price of grain, current income levels still allow for the purchasing of grain thanks to the programming by food security partners, including food-for-work activities and targeted distributions of free food aid to 5,400 of 5,900 households classified by the government’s operational assistance plan for this area as food-insecure.  As a result, very poor and poor households will remain in Phase 2 (stressed) of the IPC acute food insecurity phase scale between now and September, instead of moving into IPC Phase 3 (crisis) as projected in April.

    Livelihood zones 5 and 7

    So far, the government-sponsored sales of grain at subsidized prices affordable for all households in these densely populated livelihood zones have certainly helped improve the situation of households with access to corresponding sales outlets.  However, shortfalls in seasonal income (from the poor harvest of market garden crops due to the water shortage) in the face of abnormally high grain prices are eroding household purchasing power. Furthermore, given high population density in these areas, assistance programs (including government-subsidized grain sales and distributions of free food aid) have already proven and will continue to prove inadequate to meet needs in communities with high concentrations of needy households. These aggravating factors could put some very poor and poor households in these areas in acute food insecurity phase 3 (crisis) between July and August without timely additional well-targeted assistance.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Timeline of Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Timeline of Critical Events

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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