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Net grain surplus; food insecurity risk in the north

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Burkina Faso
  • March 2012
Net grain surplus; food insecurity risk in the north

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through September 2012
  • Key Messages
    • According to final performance data for the 2011/2012 growing season in Burkina Faso, there is a gross national grain self-sufficiency gap. The national grain balance sheet shows a smaller than usual net grain surplus.  

    • Based on production data, the government has estimated the number of people currently in a state of acute food insecurity at roughly one million.

    • Heightening the acute food insecurity risk engendered by the 50 percent below-average harvest and high grain prices in livelihood zone 8 (North transhumant pastoralism and millet),[1] the mounting market demand for grain and growing supply of labor with the large concentration of Malian refugees in this area are only aggravating the problem. Without a certain level of well-targeted humanitarian aid, conditions will deteriorate between July and September, putting local households in IPC Phase 3 (crisis).

    • A 50 percent funding level for the government’s operational assistance plan for at-risk populations should help keep all very poor and poor households in grain-short areas of the country in, at most, Phase 2 (stress) of the IPC acute food insecurity phase scale between now and September.


    Updated food security outlook through September 2012

    According to final performance data for the 2011/2012 growing season, there is a gross national grain self-sufficiency gap, with a gross negative balance of 154,462 metric tons for 2012 (less than five percent of consumption needs). The grain balance sheet shows a 53,671 metric ton net national surplus to cover grain needs (for millet, sorghum, corn, and fonio), plus additional rice and wheat imports.  Thus, based on the criteria established in the food security component of both the previous (>7% of consumption needs) and the new (>5% of consumption needs) national emergency assistance and rehabilitation plan (PNOCUR), the state of the national grain balance sheet does not warrant the declaration of a food crisis. However, the number of municipalities (over half of all municipalities across the country) classified as at risk of food insecurity based on the analysis of grain production and grain prices by joint (government-partners-NGOs) food security monitoring missions this past February, the small localized grain surpluses, the difficult situation for livestock, the steady influx of Malian refugees into the northern reaches of livelihood zone 8, and last year’s social and political crises are all contributing factors in downgrading the food security status of the nation’s poorest households, which make up the majority of its population.    

    The magnitude of these problems varies within the different livelihood zones identified as potential problem areas according to the size of production shortfalls, the levels of grain prices, and the livelihoods of the most vulnerable households or, in other words, of very poor and poor households.  The assistance plan for at-risk populations drawn up by the government in December of last year and updated in mid-February of this year puts the number of people at risk of food insecurity between January and March at the one million mark, compared with a country-wide five-year average of 600,000. These figures assume that all very poor households in potential problem areas with below-average harvests will be food-insecure.

    A funding level of over 50 percent for the government’s operational assistance plan for at-risk populations should keep all very poor and poor households in grain-short areas of the country in, at most, Phase 2 (stress) of the IPC acute food insecurity phase scale between now and September. In fact, the main focus of the different activities included in the plan is on covering projected food consumption deficits for at-risk households in potential problem areas (livelihood zones 8, 9, 7, and 5) and addressing nutritional needs (through the treatment of severe acute malnutrition and moderate acute malnutrition and blanket feeding programs). The mobilization of intervention stocks (6-10,000 MT), scheduled procurements by the National Food Security Reserve Management Company (40,000 MT), reserves from the government’s “Bondofa” corn production program (20-30,000 MT), and the possible use of the national food security reserve or a possible government loan from such reserve (26-29,000 MT) should help cover household food consumption deficits through subsidized sales and well-targeted distributions of free food aid to very poor households.  The next Food Security Outlook scheduled to be published by FEWS NET in April will consider the effects of planned, funded, and likely humanitarian aid.

    Though all municipalities in livelihood zone 8 (North transhumant pastoralism and millet) may be experiencing hardships, this is not the case in other livelihood zones. The situation described in the February 2012 report has changed considerably since the beginning of the month. The low supplies on local markets, with grain prices well above the five-year average since last October, and the situation of the 19,000 Malian refugees concentrated in this area (representing 83 percent of the country’s entire population of refugees) are affecting food security conditions in this livelihood zone. In fact, in spite of all the assistance provided by the government and its partners (including the UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF, and the FAO), this large impoverished population is affecting living conditions for the native population and, as a result, local livelihoods. Over 20 percent of the total population of this livelihood zone, or between 20,000 and 45,000 local residents, are in Phase 2 (stress) of the IPC acute food insecurity phase scale.

    The food reserves of native households were depleted by November/December of last year. Normally, the reserves of very poor and poor households will last until December/January.  According to community leaders in refugee receiving areas, the grain reserves of middle-income and better-off households serving as host families were most likely used to help feed the families of the refugees lodged in their homes. Thus, it is unlikely that better-off and wealthy households will be in a position to continue to help out very poor and poor households with in-kind gifts.  Most of the refugees were recently relocated to two camps in the area. Most households are currently resorting to buying grain on the market, as is normally the case in an average year, and to the subsidized sales program mounted by the government in this area back in January. With livestock-raising and related activities representing the main source of household income in livelihood zone 8, a large concentration of livestock belonging to the Malian refugees in this area could lead to fighting over the area’s meager pasture resources and the use of surface water sources (currently at very low levels) for the watering of animals and human consumption.  The FAO has mounted livestock-related programs with provisions for the distribution of over 1,000 metric tons of local animal feed and vaccines to both native households and DPs. 

    Most assistance activities for Malian refugees for the period between March and May of this year run by humanitarian organizations have already been scheduled and are already underway. There are several different focus areas (food, shelter, nonfood aid, education, health and nutrition, WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene), transportation/logistics, etc.). The two most active organizations, namely the WFP and the Red Cross, have already distributed food supplies and nutritional supplements (for children under the age of five) to the DPs and furnished their host families with food stamps. The FAO has mobilized US$ 300,000 for an emergency assistance project for the livestock herds of Malian refugees and their host communities. USAID is helping to provide nutritional assistance through UNICEF, which is supporting government nutrition programs in this area. The European Union’s aid organization (ECHO) has raised 9.6 billion CFA francs for an aid package for Burkina Faso for 2012, of which 1.7 billion is earmarked for health care subsidies, 2.7 billion for food aid, and the remaining 5.2 billion for assistance in the treatment of severe acute malnutrition in 16 to 18 of the country’s 63 health districts. Approximately 450,000 recipients (across all focus areas) are expected to benefit from this aid.

    The southeastern reaches of livelihood zone 7 (North and East livestock and cereals) appear to be less affected than other parts of the livelihood zone. There is poor grain availability on markets in the east, which are the main source of household grain supplies between February and August. Households normally rely on the market to meet 40-50 percent of their food needs. This year, however, market buying will need to cover 60 percent of their food requirements. Reducing food intake to a single daily meal, regular sales of small animals by poor households in which a male goat brings in less than the equivalent of the cost of a sack of millet, and out-migration by youths are all examples of strategies implemented by very poor and poor households to sustain their livelihoods at normal levels. Households in these areas are still extremely vulnerable to rises in grain prices, but have some income from localized harvests of market garden crops for the purchasing of grain. This group of households is not showing signs of acute food insecurity, in that at least four out of five households are not resorting to any unusual coping strategies and are not dependent on food aid. However, there are food insecurity problems in the far eastern reaches of livelihood zone 9 (East and Southeast cereals, livestock, forestry, and wildlife). With local households used to working with a grain surplus, a grain deficit in this area could directly affect the livelihoods of very poor and poor households. The food shortage in the central reaches of the country in livelihood zone 5 (Central Plateau cereals and market gardening) can be explained by the rainfall deficit and by the fact that it has the poorest soils and is the country’s most heavily populated area due to the high population density in its rural townships as well as in city areas. The diversified sources of income of very poor and poor area households are currently providing sufficient household income for the purchasing of grain, unlike the case in June of an average year. In spite of reports of small hikes in grain prices, as yet, there are no discernible livelihood protection deficits. Most very poor and poor households are not experiencing any acute food insecurity.

    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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