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Ongoing insecurity, decreased production, and atypical price increases are exacerbating food insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Burkina Faso
  • February 2022
Ongoing insecurity, decreased production, and atypical price increases are exacerbating food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Events that could change the scenario
  • Key Messages
    • The need for humanitarian assistance in Burkina Faso, and the rest of West Africa, is expected to be atypically high between June and when the lean season peaks in September. Insecurity, the premature depletion of self-produced stocks, atypical increases in staple food prices, and declining incomes will lead to a deterioration in food access for poor households in general and for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in particular. Between February and September 2022, IDPs in inaccessible areas of the far north will be vulnerable to Emergency (IPC Phase 4), and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are projected to be widespread throughout the north of the country.  

    • Against a backdrop of declining national production, higher prices for imported products, and reduced incoming cereal flows from other countries, the deterioration of the security situation is likely to disrupt local market supplies in the north. As high demand increases pressure, prices will continue to rise atypically above their monthly seasonal averages between February and September. This trend will be seen in most of the region.

    • Insecurity and the early drying up of reservoirs are limiting off-season activities in production areas and access to pastoral resources, particularly in the northern half of the country. The reduction in cultivated areas and the number of production cycles will lead to a fall in agricultural production and income. Although the rainy season is likely to arrive on time in the country, insecurity, population displacement, and the increased cost of agricultural inputs and equipment could adversely affect the next growing season.



    Current Situation

    Since the end of the rainy season in October 2021, armed militant groups, including Jama'a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, have intensified attacks on security forces and civilians, particularly in the Sahel, Nord, Centre-Nord, Est, and Boucle du Mouhoun regions, nearly tripling the number of attacks compared to the October to December period in 2019 and 2020. This has led to a steady increase in the number of IDPs, which reached 1.58 million at the end of December 2021 (Burkinabe Council for Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation (CONASUR), January 2022) (Figure 1). Further population displacement took place in January, especially in the Nord, Centre-Nord, and Sahel regions, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) (Figure 2).

    Between October 2021 and January 2022, armed militant groups attempted to ban population movement, impose illegal taxes, and control roads in more communes. Almost all communes in the provinces of Soum and Loroum were affected, as were the communes of Thiou in Yatenga, Di in Sourou, Déou and Tin-Akoff in Oudalan, Gorgadji in Séno, Dablo and Pensa in Sanmatenga, Namissigma and Nasseré in Bam, Kombori in Kossi, and Madjoari in Kompienga.  These communes have been virtually emptied of their populations and the supply of basic necessities is often only possible with an escort from the defense and security forces. According to key informants, the remaining populations in these communes are mainly very poor households who do not have the means to travel. Armed militant groups are also attempting to gain control of smuggling routes in the south of the country, to the north of neighboring coastal countries, and also of gold-mining sites, which provide one of their sources of income.

    The increase in the frequency and intensity of attacks by militant groups in 2021 led to increased social unrest, resulting in the president being removed in January 2022 and members of the military within the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR) seizing power. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has subsequently suspended Burkina Faso from its institutions. The MPSR has committed to formulating a political road map to restore normal constitutional order in the country, but this may be a lengthy exercise.

    Although the movement of people is not restricted by COVID-19 regulations and the borders remain open, the country continues to be affected by global restrictions that are negatively affecting transaction costs and the price of imported products.

    The availability of staple food supplies is below average in all markets due to decreases in agricultural production during the previous season, lower-than-normal inflows of cereal from neighboring countries, and lower-than-normal internal flows due to insecurity. Disruptions in local market supplies have even been observed in the provinces of Loroum, Soum, Oudalan, and Yagha due to insecurity on the roads (Figure 3). Demand for staple foods is higher than usual due to the premature depletion of household stocks in the far north, where households are more affected by production deficits; IDPs' purchasing needs; and pressure from traders and private-sector actors (breweries and poultry and livestock feed units) to replenish their stocks. Prices have therefore maintained an upward trend compared to seasonal averages since the harvests. Post-harvest seasonal falls have not occurred and atypical increases have been observed in several markets in both production and structural production deficit areas. At the end of January, compared to the five-year average, prices at the national level had increased by 51 percent for maize, 42 percent for millet, and 42 percent for sorghum. Insecurity has also increased supply times and transportation costs. Other consumer prices, particularly oil, powdered milk, meat, and fish, have also risen by between 20 and 40 percent compared to the average. This has reduced household purchasing power, especially in urban centers where these products are most in demand.

    Market gardening, gold mining, and the sale of agricultural products are typically the main sources of household income during this period. Insecurity is preventing access to certain sites in potential market gardening areas, while the lack of water at accessible sites (due to low reservoir levels) is limiting the areas sown. In the provinces of Yatenga and Loroum, producers are struggling to complete one production cycle and are forced to resort to digging wells to save their market gardens. Insecurity and the risk of militant groups recruiting young people are limiting access to certain gold-mining sites. As a result, fewer people than usual are engaging in this activity.

    As an alternative to declining income opportunities, households are resorting more than usual to selling livestock and/or early departure or migration. Households in the north that still have livestock (despite livestock losses due to looting and overselling in previous years) and are fleeing militant atrocities are being forced to destock. Expecting that their cereal stocks will be prematurely depleted, some livestock farmers (especially in the Nord and Sahel regions) are selling their livestock to buy cereal. Despite security restrictions, demand for livestock, particularly small ruminants, has remained average in the main markets that are still frequented by foreign traders (from Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, and Togo). In Djibo and Dori livestock markets (in the Sahel), at least 80 percent of the livestock brought to market each day is sold. Supplies of small ruminants are slightly higher in these markets than last year due to destocking by host households and displaced livestock farmers. Compared to the five-year average, prices for rams and goats in good physical condition are up 35 percent and 37 percent respectively in Dori market, and 17 percent and 26 percent respectively in Djibo market. Despite these price increases, the terms of trade for goats and millet are stable in Dori market and down 20 percent in Djibo market because of the higher relative changes in millet prices.

    In the southern half of the country, despite lower-than-normal levels of self-produced stocks, most poor households are still eating a typical two meals per day according to the national Early Warning System. However, they do not have the surplus production to capitalize on the high market prices. Instead, their purchasing power is deteriorating due to above-average prices for imported food products and for non-food products, particularly building materials and agricultural inputs and equipment. Nevertheless, the use of unusual strategies has not been reported among most people, who remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1).

     In the northern half of the country, where insecurity and production deficits are more pronounced, poor host households' stocks are low, and some have made market purchases in advance. They have also started restricting consumption by eating only one meal a day, decreasing its size, and reducing the quality of the food. Consumption gaps are more severe among IDPs, according to key informants. The Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) survey conducted in accessible areas last October revealed that several provinces still have cases of global acute malnutrition near or above the "serious" threshold. In addition, the closure or minimal operation of health services, and the disrupted supply of medicines and inputs, have limited the population's access to health care. The IPC acute malnutrition analysis[1] conducted in November 2021 indicates Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in the provinces of Oudalan, Séno, Soum, Yagha, and Loroum and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in most of the other provinces. Humanitarian assistance is becoming increasingly difficult to deliver given the deteriorating security situation. It is concentrated in the more accessible provincial capitals, but is weak and irregular in the communes controlled by militant groups. In addition, due to underfunding and logistical and operational difficulties, some partners are prioritizing IDPs who have been newly displaced within the last year. Nevertheless, ongoing food assistance between December and February reached 25 percent and 27 percent of the total population in Soum and Sanmatenga provinces respectively, covering at least 50 percent of their food needs. This is facilitating Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes in these provinces. Elsewhere, this assistance has reached less than 20 percent of the population. Therefore, in provinces with lots of IDPs (Figure 2) — Séno, Yagha, Yatenga, Loroum, Bam, Namentenga, Gourma, and Komondjari —IDPs and poor households are vulnerable to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to their deteriorating livelihoods and their inability to fill food gaps.

    Humanitarian access remains particularly difficult in the northern communes of Oudalan province (Markoye, Tin-Akoff, Déou, and Oursi) and in the inaccessible communes in eastern Soum. Host households no longer have stocks from their own production and have cut the number of daily meals from two to one. IDPs (24 percent of the population in Oudalan) whose assets are depleted are adopting harsher strategies. Key informants report that nearly one-third of IDPs go a full day without eating, increasingly engage in begging, and are increasing their sales of firewood, water, and fodder. They remain vulnerable to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.


    The most-likely food security scenario for February to September 2022 is based on the following key assumptions as to how the national context will develop:

    • Security situation: Led by the ruling military junta, the national defense and security forces could mount an offensive to try to reclaim areas occupied by militant groups. However, with these groups dispersed and more mobile across the country's various regions, incidents and associated fatalities are likely to increase in frequency and intensity and to reach the highest levels since the conflict began in 2016 (exceeding the levels of violence observed in 2021) until the peak of the rainy season in July 2022. After the peak and through to the end of the rainy season, a relative decrease in attacks is expected due to mobility constraints.
    • Cereal market supply: Decreases in production, insecurity on the roads, high transportation costs, and reduced external and internal flows will keep cereal supplies below average throughout the period, particularly in local markets in areas that are more vulnerable to attacks by militant groups. Given the recent outbreak of conflict in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions against Russia, there is a risk that global cereal and fertilizer exports from these countries will be disrupted. The likely extent of these disruptions is still being analyzed as events in Ukraine unfold.
    • Staple food prices: Prices are expected to increase atypically and remain well above the five-year average through September (Figure 4) due to insufficient institutional stocks to regulate prices, speculative practices, and high market demand.
    • Livestock prices and terms of trade: An above-average increase in livestock destocking is expected through September as households become more dependent on markets for their food. Between February and May, increased demand for Ramadan in April/May and Eid al-Adha in June/July will offset the increase in supply due to destocking and — despite the seasonal deterioration in livestock's physical condition — will encourage above-average livestock prices, particularly for small ruminants that are more widely purchased in the markets. Between June and September, their improved physical condition will support an upturn in market value and will reduce the impact of destocking in preparation for the lean season. Prices are likely to remain similar to or above their seasonal averages during the period. However, with higher price increases for staple foods, the terms of trade for livestock and cereal are likely to deteriorate throughout the scenario period, especially in areas inaccessible to livestock buyers.
    • Agricultural and non-agricultural income: Overall, agricultural and non-agricultural income will remain below average throughout the period. Between January and May, market gardening production will be below average, due to insecurity, insufficient water, and high input costs. Insecurity and the risk of militant groups recruiting young people will limit access to certain gold-mining sites. As a result, fewer people than usual will be engaged in this activity. Insecurity will also limit people's access to areas to collect non-wood forest products. Between June and September, declining incomes and high input costs may force middle-income and wealthy producers to reduce the areas sown and to limit labor recruitment, despite the availability of agricultural labor expected due to the presence of IDPs.
    • Agropastoral growing season: According to North American Multi-Model Ensemble seasonal forecasts based on climate conditions in December 2021, the rainy season is expected to start on time in the south of Sahelian countries, including Burkina Faso. This will help improve pastoral conditions by promoting new pasture growth and enabling agricultural activities to start on time. However, insecurity and the inaccessibility of agricultural inputs for households (low availability and high costs) will be two of the main factors limiting agricultural production in the coming season. Insecurity will also prevent the return of transhumant herders settled in neighboring countries to the south. The availability of milk and labor opportunities in livestock production will remain more reliable than normal.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    With the gradual depletion of self-produced cereal stocks from February in the areas most affected by insecurity in the north, and from April in the south, and the decline in off-season production, poor households will be more dependent on markets in all regions of the country. The government has not yet been able to replenish the food security stock to its normal level, which could limit its interventions, including distributing food and selling at supported prices to regulate market prices. Although assistance planning data are not available, the wait for funding could (as usual) delay the delivery of assistance or limit its coverage. The deteriorating security situation will also continue to limit humanitarian access, particularly in the border communes in the far north and the east that are controlled by militant groups.

    Between February and May, deteriorated purchasing power due to atypical cereal price increases will cause poor households in the southern half of the country to reduce their number of meals, their size, and the quality of the food. These practices will be especially prevalent in areas where production has been adversely affected by pockets of drought, flooding, and insecurity, particularly in Kossi province. Nonetheless, access to non-wood forest products and other wild products will help maintain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in this area. In the northern half of the country, declining incomes and even loss of assets and opportunities due to insecurity and atypically high variations in staple food prices will force more poor host households and IDPs to limit portion sizes and the number of meals, and to reduce adult consumption in favor of children. In the provinces of the Centre-Nord region; Yagha, Soum, and Séno (Sahel region); Loroum and Yatenga (Nord region); and Komondjari and Gourma (Est region), deteriorating livelihoods, the premature and more difficult pastoral lean season, and worsening terms of trade will keep poor households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In inaccessible communes — especially those in the north of Oudalan; the communes of Mansila in Yagha; Gorgadji in Séno; and Kelbo, Arbinda, Tongomayel, Nassoumbou, and Koutougou in Soum — asset erosion could make IDPs particularly vulnerable to Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    Between June and September, staple food prices will be at their highest, with levels above the typical lean season. In the southern half of the country, labor supply could exceed demand as rising agricultural input costs may limit payment options among wealthier households. As a result, poor households will increase their consumption of wild products or increase their sales of livestock to buy cereals. The deterioration in food access and livelihoods will therefore make more poor households and IDPs vulnerable to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, particularly in the provinces of Kossi, Sourou, Kompienga and Tapoa, and the commune of Mangodara in Comoé, although they will account for less than 20 percent of the population. In the northern half of the country, disruptions to local market supplies are likely to be more frequent due to insecurity and the deterioration of the road network during the rainy season. Furthermore, the onset of rains will lead to waterborne diseases, especially in sites with a high presence of IDPs where housing, hygiene, and sanitation conditions are inadequate. All these factors, combined with deteriorated food consumption, will lead to an increase in cases of acute malnutrition. According to the IPC acute malnutrition analysis, the nutritional situation could remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in the provinces of Séno, Soum, Oudalan, Yagha, and Loroum and in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the other provinces. In addition to the communes in the north of Oudalan province, some poor households and IDPs in inaccessible communes in Soum province (over 20 percent of the total population due to asset erosion) could resort to extreme food restrictions, making them vulnerable to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.


    [1] Due to insufficient data from the October 2021 SMART survey, special protocols for areas with limited or no humanitarian access were applied for the provinces of Loroum, Soum, Séno, Oudalan, Yagha, Gnagna, Tapoa, Komandjoari, and Kompienga. Prevalences of acute global malnutrition were obtained by extrapolating the regional prevalence to the provinces concerned or by extrapolating the prevalence of similar neighboring provinces that share the same livelihood zone.

    Events that could change the scenario



    Impact on food security outcomes


    ECOWAS imposing economic sanctions

    ECOWAS is waiting for the transitional authorities to propose an agenda for a return to normal constitutional order in the country. Possible disagreement over this agenda could lead to economic and financial sanctions being imposed on the country. This could slow economic activities and further increase staple food and non-food prices in the country, reducing household purchasing power, consumption, and livelihoods. This would increase the number of areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Increase in fuel costs

    Given the upward trend in Brent crude oil prices since December, the authorities could raise the price of fuel in the country. This increase might negatively impact the prices of food and non-food items and the cost of transportation. This would negatively affect households' purchasing power and their food consumption, which would increase the number of areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Irregular rainfall in the country


    Poor distribution of rainfall between June and September could encourage speculative practices in the markets and lead to further increases in staple food prices. This, in turn, could lead to a deterioration in terms of trade and household assets, as well as food access and livelihoods. This would increase the number of areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Improvement in the security situation

    A reduction in incidents and fatalities and a recovery by the defense and security forces of areas occupied by militant groups would promote the gradual return of the administration and IDPs to their areas of origin. This would also facilitate market supplies in these areas and the delivery of assistance, therefore improving household food access. This would help reduce consumption gaps and limit the practice of harmful Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) strategies.

    Further increase in cereal prices on the international market 

    Wheat import requirements have averaged around 200,000 tons per year over the past five years. The country also needs to import large quantities of maize to replenish national food security stocks. Therefore, a further increase in the prices of these products linked to the ongoing conflict in the major wheat-exporting countries (Ukraine and Russia) and the rise in the price of oil affecting transport could lead to a drop in import volumes and higher domestic prices, including for derivative products such as bread. This would negatively affect household purchasing power and would contribute to an increase in the number of people who are in Crisis or worse (IPC Phase 3+).

    Figures Calendrier saisonnier pour une année typique

    Figure 1

    Calendrier saisonnier pour une année typique

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET, using data from ACLED

    Figure 3

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET/ avec données de SP/CONASUR

    Figure 4

    Figure 3

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 5

    Figure 4

    Source: Estimations de FEWS NET à partir des données de SIM-SONAGESS

    Figure 6

    Figure 5

    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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