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Food Security Outlook for April to September

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Burkina Faso
  • April - September 2012
Food Security Outlook for April to September

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  • Key Messages
  • Nationwide situation in April
  • Most likely food security scenarios for April through September 2012
  • Key Messages
    • Planned and ongoing food aid programs should allow very poor and poor households in potential problem areas (livelihood zones 8, 9, 7, and 5) to maintain Phase 2 (Stressed) of the IPC acute food insecurity phase scale between now and June.  The availability and impact of assistance on household food security from July to September are uncertain and therefore not strong mitigating factors in the outlook analysis.

    • Food insecurity in the far north (livelihood zone 8) and far east (the eastern reaches of livelihood zone 9) will reach crisis levels between July and September with the steady influx of Malian refugees into livelihood zone 8 and increases in grain prices in both areas. 

    • The current seasonal climate outlook calls for normal rainfall conditions between June and October of this year, suggesting normal levels of crop and pasture production for the 2012/2013 agropastoral season. 

    Nationwide situation in April

    The country has a total estimated population of 16.7 million inhabitants. The National Emergency Aid and Rehabilitation Council (CONASUR) puts the size of the food-insecure population at 1.145 million as of December of 2011, compared with an average figure of approximately 600,000. The funding level for the operational assistance plan for at-risk populations, with an estimated 2.8 million beneficiaries, was over 50 percent as of the end of March this year.

    There was an influx of 46,000 Malian refugees into the country between the end of January and the middle of April. Approximately three quarters of these refugees are concentrated in livelihood zone 8 (North transhumant pastoralism and millet). According to the plan, the government’s current maximum refugee assistance capacity is 60,000 persons. The refugees are also receiving humanitarian aid. Though prices were expected to remain stable or to rise in line with normal seasonal trends (by two to five percent) between January and March, in general, grain prices on most markets around the country jumped sharply (by between 10 and 20 percent) between February and March. Thus, while in other countries in the region the percentage difference between prices in March 2012 and the five year average has been stable or declining since January, it increased in Burkina between February and March (for millet, 20-50  percent above the average in December 2011 to 50-80 percent above average in March 2012).

    This unexpected rise in prices is probably a result of higher demand. There were also shipments to market of part of the harvest of off-season crops like Bondofa white corn in the month of March. The steepest price increases compared with last year were in Djibo and Solenzo, markets in grain-short areas serving as refugee receiving areas and sources of supply for markets in conflict areas of Mali. Gas prices have been subsidized by the government for more than 20 months. The measures taken by the government with respect to fuel prices (controls on free market prices for intercity transportation service) will have very little immediate effect on rising shipping costs for grain crops, but should be reflected in grain prices during the outlook period. Thus, the sharp jump in grain prices in March is most likely attributable to national and local institutional demand in grain-short areas.

    The measures enacted by the government in December to control the prices of major grain crops by having them set by governors in regional capitals (Ministry of Commerce Orders Nº 2011-212 bis of 11/24//2011 and Nº 225 of 12/2/2011) have not been implemented. On the other hand, there are stricter controls of grain exports. The proportion of informal grain exports has most likely increased since December of last year or January of this year. However, there are no clear indications of any major change in the total volume of trade or large differences in normal trade flows.

    Estimates by the government and, more specifically, by the National Food Security Reserve Management Company (SONAGESS) as of March 30th of this year put the level of available grain reserves for managing the deteriorating food security situation at approximately 88,000 metric tons. There was an initial round of over 6,000 metric tons of government-subsidized grain sales in areas classified by the government as at risk for food insecurity between January and the middle of March. The grain was sold at 6,000 XOF (40 percent under market price) per 50 kg sack (of sorghum, millet, and corn) and 10,500 XOF per 30 kg sack of imported rice supplied by the Japanese aid agency (known as KR).

    Most likely food security scenarios for April through September 2012

    The most likely food security scenarios for different parts of the country are based on the following general assumptions:

    • The status quo with respect to the occupation of Mali will be maintained, sparking more acts of banditry along the northern border but no further mass population movements.
    • The rainy season will get off to a normal start in May/June in the South, the West, and the East and in June/July in the central and northern parts of the country. Forecasts for average to good harvests in September/October (approximately 3.8 million metric tons) will encourage traders to release their inventories between July and August.  
    • However, with the high demand for millet and sugar during the month-long observance of Ramadan between mid-July and mid-August, prices for these items will not peak until August.
    • The institutional demand engendered by the mediocre harvest and the needs of the refugee population and current high price levels suggest that grain prices will increase by an average of approximately five to ten percent per month between April and July, compared with the usual average seasonal monthly rise in prices of between zero and five percent.
    • Migrant workers and laborers in gold-washing operations will return to their villages to start working their land in June. Household migration income for the 2011/12 consumption year should be at least 30 percent above-average, given the higher level of effort expended and the average to above-average wage rates.
    • Cottonseed production should reach and, in some cases, surpass 533,000 metric tons, putting it up 21 percent from last year, which was considered a below-average year from a production standpoint (401,000 MT). This level of cottonseed production will help put income levels slightly above-average.  
    • Pastoral conditions and prices for small animals will bottom out between April and May, followed by major improvements in May/June (for small animals) and July (for large animals), in line with normal seasonal trends.
    • Restrictions on grain exports will be extended through September. 
    • A second lot of 50,000 metric tons of grain has been mobilized for sale at government-subsidized prices between April and June in pilot shops scheduled to be opened in 170 municipalities considered at risk for food insecurity. The government could probably mobilize at least 60,000 of the envisaged 88,000 metric tons for the outlook period to complete the program.
    • The usual programs, as well as humanitarian assistance programs specifically designed to manage the current food security situation will continue throughout the outlook period.

    Food consumption in areas facing at least 50 percent below-average harvest and among very poor and poor households dependent on market-buying to meet a large part of their food needs (mainly in the northern and eastern parts of the country, in livelihood zones 7, 8, and 9) is adequate, but comes at the cost of an erosion in livelihoods. Livelihoods in major receiving areas for refugees are even more severely eroded. As yet, there are no indications of unusually high acute malnutrition or mortality rates in these areas. FEWS NET is currently classifying these areas in IPC Phase 2 (stressed). Food consumption deficits will increase with the approach of the lean season in farming areas, as grain prices peak in July/August (Figure 2). Asset stripping will intensify in the worst-off areas, particularly in livelihood zone 8, and global acute malnutrition rates will exceed background levels by wide margins. The volume and timing of the aid currently planned for these areas will not suffice to meet basic food needs. These areas will move into IPC Phase 3 (crisis), particularly at the height of the lean season between July and September (Figure 3).

    Livelihood zone 9: East and Southeast cereals, livestock, forestry, and fauna

    Normally, this livelihood zone is not often affected by drought conditions producing poor harvests. However, very poor households in this area (representing approximately 25 percent of the population) dependent on the sale of grain, cash crops (groundnuts and soybeans), and wild plant products (nonwoody forest products) for 80 percent of their income and on household crop production or loans secured by their harvests for 40 to 60 percent of their annual food supply are highly vulnerable to this type of climatic hazard. Most food purchases (which account for 30 percent of their normal annual household food supply) are typically made between June and September and financed by sales of wild plant products and wage income from local on-farm employment. This is a comparatively prosperous area. The coping strategies of very poor households are normally based on the intensification of livelihood strategies (such as sales of wild plant products, out-migration, trade, etc.).

    The 2011/12 rains began especially late in this area and were extremely unevenly distributed. Grain production in the northern reaches of this area, particularly in the vicinity of Tapoa, was at only 20 percent of last year’s figure (which was a bumper crop year) and at 40 percent elsewhere. Cash crop production and supplies of wild plant products were also affected. There is brisk trading in this area, with grain availability ensured by traders instead of farmers, as usual. However, prices in this area have been above-average (in general, by 40 to 70 percent since October) and are going to curtail food access, particularly during the lean season when there is little possibility of intensifying livelihood strategies.

    There is a shortage of biomass pasture and prices for animal feed are 15 to 20 percent above-average.  Seasonal migration by transhumant herds began prematurely, by November instead of January, as is normally the case, and is brisker than usual, with at least 50 percent of local cattle herds leaving the area for Benin. This is reducing the incomes of very poor and poor households whose members normally tend the herds of middle-income and better-off households between April and June.  

    Current food security conditions in livelihood zone 9, particularly in Tapoa province, are marked by a grain production deficit attributable to production shortfalls in November/December of last year compared with the previous year estimated at 80 percent in the central and northern reaches of the livelihood zone and at 60 percent elsewhere.  As a result, the carry-over grain reserves of middle-income and better-off households from the good 2010/2011 season are currently depleted. The depleted food reserves of most households in this area will keep demand high, at least 35 percent higher than usual. Very poor and poor households with virtually no reserves whatsoever began buying food on the market by December of last year or January of this year, three months earlier than usual.

    The current sources of income for these food purchases by very poor and poor households are labor migration and assistance programs operated by partners such as Action Against Hunger, which is running a « cash for work » program. Though labor migration by members of poor households is generally very limited (bringing in around 10 percent of annual household income) and is usually not engaged in at all by members of very poor households, this year, it has been relatively brisk. Normally beginning in December/January, this year, it began two to three months earlier than usual. However, regardless of this year’s obviously higher than usual levels of migration income, in and of itself, this income will not suffice to fill the gap created by the poor harvest.

    According to ground data for March, very poor households currently have fairly large food deficits (which are cutting the number of their daily meals from three to one and reducing their daily food intake by at least a third). An initial round of 140 metric tons of government-subsidized sales began in March in all eight municipalities in Tapoa province, which is not normally targeted by this program.

    Markets are poorly stocked with on-farm inventories, but fairly well-stocked with commercial inventories from outside the area. Demand cannot be met between July and August, either by the market, in spite of shipments of supplies by traders from other surplus areas, or by the pilot government-subsidized shops with a theoretical capacity of 20 MT, at least according to SONAGESS criteria.

    Sales of cash crops (cotton, etc.) should generate average amounts of income, which will be used mainly to pay off loans and debts and to buy grain on the market between April and June. Between July and September, the seasonal income previously brought in by returning migrant workers (from gold-washing operations) will dry up and wages from day laborer jobs in farming activities will not allow very poor households to maintain their grain access, either on local markets or through government-subsidized sales programs.  In the face of these generally normal and timely trends in seasonal income, grain prices will stay high and supplies will be limited at the height of the lean season. The larger than usual dependence of very poor and poor households on local markets and purchased food supplies for household consumption between now and the middle of August will be buttressed by supplies of edible leaves and other nonwoody forest products beginning in May. In fact, with the balance in terms of trade for livestock/grain about to be upset (the sale of a male goat brought in the equivalent of a 100 kg sack of millet in March) and with no more small animals left to sell, households will begin selling poultry, their only savings, in order to buy food. They will be forced to sell at least three or four chickens to pay for the cost of a 50 kg sack of grain in one of the pilot government-subsidized shops. The food security scenario for this focus area for the period from April through September 2012 is based on the following assumptions:

    • Certain very poor households will not have enough income between April and June to even afford to buy grain through the government-subsidized sales program.
    • Very poor and poor households will resort to nonwoody forest products available during the outlook period and to certain “famine” foods (leaves of cassia tora plants and balanite trees) with the beginning of the rains in May. Supplies of early-maturing niari millet will be available by July/August, bolstering household food consumption.
    • The main sources of food for very poor and poor area households between April and September of this year will be local markets and the pilot government-subsidized shops. With the rains closing the area to heavy truck traffic between June and September, as of June, it will no longer be possible to significantly improve grain availability in this area.
    • In total, the pilot government-subsidized shops in the eight municipalities in this area are expected to be stocked with 160 metric tons of grain per month between April and June.
    • Transhumant animal herds will return to the area by June, as usual, enabling certain very poor households to profit from the sale of milk obtained in return for tending the herds of middle-income and better-off households.
    • With the relatively large size of animal herds in this area after two consecutive good years, a combination of increased sales of livestock by poor, middle-income, and better-off households and this year’s earlier than usual seasonal migration by transhumant animals should suffice to resolve the problem of local pasture shortages without significantly affecting the ability of local households to meet basic future livelihood protection needs. As usual, household debts incurred in 2011/12 have presumably not been repaid in full, which will mean poorer than usual credit availability between June and September of this year, with larger than usual debt repayment needs between September and November.

    There will be noticeable shortfalls in grain purchasing and grain consumption beginning in May in spite of the government-subsidized sales program and the food and cash-for-work programs operated by the NGO Action Against Hunger all across the area since January for 1,700 local households, which will probably run through June and could possibly be expanded to include an additional 700 households. These shortfalls will be further aggravated by the return of migrant workers to farm their land between June and September, which will mean even more mouths to feed. Moderate acute malnutrition rates could exceed the usual seasonal norms for this area between July and September (the MAM rate is estimated at 12.5 percent and the SAM rate at 2.5 percent based on the SMART survey conducted in August/September 2011), driving up case reporting and admissions rates as the food security situation continues to deteriorate.  Acute food insecurity levels will rise from IPC Phase 2 (stressed) to IPC Phase 3 (crisis) between July and September in the face of the inadequacy of food aid programs to meet the needs of all very poor and poor households and the record high grain prices expected in July/August in this area (220 to 265 XOF/kg of white sorghum). Wage payments for local on-farm employment by working household members (three to five per household), the sole source of income for very poor and poor households between June/July and September, will not cover the cost of purchasing large enough quantities of grain to meet household needs.

    Livelihood zone 8: North transhumant pastoralism and millet

    This livelihood zone in the far northern reaches of the country has one of the highest rates of structural food insecurity due to poor local harvests (with only approximately 400 mm of rain per year) and high grain prices. Moreover, many villages in this area are isolated by the closing of local roads with the first rains of the season (by the end of June or the beginning of July). The area has a total estimated population of 300,000, with very poor and poor households making up 60 percent of the population.  The normal sources of food for very poor and poor households are market-buying (accounting for 25-30 percent of their food supply between April and September, spiking between May/June and August), in-kind wage payments (15 percent between July and December), and milk (three percent, mainly between July and November/December). Gift-giving is expected to contribute less than usual, or only two to three percent, mainly during the month-long observance of Ramadan (which falls in July/August this year). 

    The poor grain availability on local markets in this area is attributable to the small flow of commercial trade from high-production areas and corresponding large price mark-ups. The price of millet, the mainstay of the local diet, has been stable since January of this year at 250 XOF/kg, though still much higher than last year (18 percent higher) and well above the five-year average (by 35 percent). However the steady influx of Malian refugees into this area could change things by increasing local grain demand, making it impossible for supply to keep pace with the growth in demand. Price forecasts by FEWS NET put peak August prices between 275 and 315 XOF/kg, if not higher.

    The shortage and, in some cases, complete lack of pasture (which is also suffering the effects of pressure from the animals of Malian refugees) are creating poor feeding conditions for livestock during the usual lean season for animals currently in full swing. This problem is further compounded by the drying up of certain surface water sources and the large concentrations of animals around existing watering holes. Fodder reserves, generally used beginning in April, were already being drawn down in February. Supplies of agro-industrial byproducts used as animal feed, for which there is a steadily growing demand, are being provided by private traders, at prices ranging from 8,000 XOF to 10,000 XOF depending on the type of feed and location. Markets are reporting large supplies of small animals (due to the need for cash to buy grain) and slightly higher prices. Terms of trade for livestock/grain (Sahelian male goat/100 kg of millet) on the Djibo market, the reference livestock market for this area, are at 1.10 (with a whole Sahelian goal in good condition trading for the equivalent of 110 kg of millet). The expected normal seasonal deterioration in these terms of trade between now and June/July could put them below the critical threshold of 0.7 (with the sale of a male goat bringing in less than the equivalent of 70 kg of millet).

    As is normally the case in an average year, the main sources of income for very poor and poor households during the outlook period will be out-migration through the end of June (25 percent), gold washing activities, also through the end of June (15 percent), sales of firewood between April and September (10 percent) and fodder between April and June (10 percent), sales of milk between July and November (15 percent), remittances between April and June (10 percent), sales of poultry (10 percent) throughout the period, and local on-farm employment between July and September (20 percent). The sale of straw brings in significant amounts of income. The value of a cartload of straw is currently 5,000 XOF, compared with 1,500-2,000 XOF last year. This income is being used primarily for food (to buy grain and condiments), with heads of household cutting nonfood spending. However, even with the diversification and contributions of these sources of income, there will still not be enough to afford the current high price of grain.

    The government-subsidized sales of grain at 6,000 XOF per 50 kg sack between January and March proved inadequate. This first round of sales provided a mere 160 metric tons of grain to very poor and poor (and, thus, at-risk) households, covering only 15 percent of their consumption needs for one month. Another subsidized sales program is scheduled to be operated from pilot shops in all eight municipalities in this livelihood zone between April and September to be regularly stocked by SONAGESS with at least 20 metric tons of supplies.

    The assistance programs for the 46,000 refugees housed in two camps in the western reaches of this livelihood zone have several different focus areas (food, lodging, nonfood aid, education, health/nutrition, WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene), transportation/logistics, etc.). According to the UNOCHA, there are over 34,000 refugees housed in camps in Oudalan province (in Deou, Dibissi, Fereiro, Gandafabou, and Gountoure Gnegne) and close to another 10,000 in Soum province (in Damba, Djibo, and Mentao). Most activities by humanitarian organizations have already been scheduled and are currently underway and expected to run through June and, in some cases, beyond. The FAO has mobilized US$300,000 for an emergency assistance project for the livestock herds of Malian refugees and their host communities.  The WFP distributed general food rations to 21,500 refugees and more than 6,100 host families in March and is planning to assist as many as 25,000 refugees for a three-month period.  CRS has just finished distributing 224 MT of food to a group of close to 20,000 refugees in the five camps in Oudalan.

    In spite of this aid from the government and the humanitarian community (and with the large numbers of at-risk households in this livelihood zone), rising prices and the isolation of certain parts of the area could make it difficult for many very poor and poor households to fill food consumption gaps between April and August. As a result, these households will face food deficits liable to drive malnutrition rates above the already high usual seasonal norms as food consumption requirements peak in July/August (i.e. GAM rates of 11.3 percent for August 2011 and 12.9 percent for August 2010 compared with the 1977 NCHS benchmark). In fact,  the expected cutbacks in the usual gift-giving by better-off households to very poor and poor households during the observance of Ramadan in July/August (which will be scaled back sharply, having been used, in part, to take in refugees since their arrival in January), current trends in grain prices, and  the earnings of working household members suggest that very poor households are likely to have grain access problems by May/June in spite of their various strategies for generating extra income. They will face large food deficits beginning in June, which will only increase between July and September, with borderline poor households at risk of joining the ranks of very poor households. Thus, this group of households will be in Phase 2 of the IPC acute food insecurity phase scale (stressed) between April and June. Over 40 percent of local households (at the very least, all very poor households) will reduce their food consumption (to one meal a day instead of their usual two and, in some cases, three daily meals and by more than a third of their daily food intake) and resort to coping strategies (such as consuming famine foods) earlier than usual (by one to two months). They will also be unable to cover certain nonfood costs. Between July and September, over half of local households (all poor and some very poor households) will no longer be able to maintain grain access without food aid in the face of the high price of grain and poor grain availability on area markets, which will put them in Phase 3 of the IPC acute food insecurity phase scale (crisis).

    Table1. Less likely events liable to change the above scenarios in the next six months



    Impact on food security conditions


    New outbreak of fighting in Mali

    Influx of Malian refugees, particularly in livelihood zone 8, short-term problems for partners providing food aid, and holdups in the provision of humanitarian aid to Malian DPs. Disruption of cross-border trade in goods and services

    Late start and/or poor progress of the growing season

    Traders will hold onto their inventories until August/September instead of releasing them in June/July, driving prices higher than projected in the most likely scenario. There will more sales of livestock (reducing prices) and poorer terms of trade for livestock/grain than projected in the most likely scenario. In general, poor households will have much worse food access than in the most likely scenario, radically affecting their food security during the 2013 lean season.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Timeline of Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Timeline of Critical Events

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, April 2012

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, April 2012

    Source: FEWS NET

    Burkina Faso Livelihoods Zone Map

    Figure 3

    Burkina Faso Livelihoods Zone Map

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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