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An early start to the agricultural season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Burkina Faso
  • June 2017
An early start to the agricultural season

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Farming activities across the country have started up earlier than usual and, in general, are going well, spurred by regular rainfall. Based on the forecast for above-normal cumulative seasonal rainfall totals (for July through September) tending towards normal, there should be above-average levels of agropastoral production creating good livelihood conditions and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels of acute food insecurity over the upcoming months. 

    • The equally early recovery of pastures has helped ease grazing problems for livestock. This is helping to reduce normal spending on purchases of agro-industrial byproducts, which is strengthening household food purchasing power, particularly in northern agropastoral areas of the country. 

    • The general stability in staple food prices at levels close to the five-year average and earlier than usual availability of wild plant foods are enabling most households to maintain a normal diet. The availability of milk and planned deliveries of humanitarian assistance in the far north where food consumption by poor households is currently strained should ensure that they experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity by the month of July, until the October harvests. 



    Current situation

    The reported rainfall by the second dekad of May encouraged farmers to plant crops earlier than usual, particularly in central and northern areas of the country where, on average, the crop planting period begins somewhere between June 1st and 20th. Cumulative seasonal rainfall totals for the period between April 1st and June 20th ranged from 37 mm with seven days of rain in Bilanga, in the Eastern region, to 454 mm with 27 days of rain in Gaoua, in the Southwest. In general, cumulative rainfall totals for this period are above the short-term average (2006-2015) and above-normal (the historical average for 1981-2010) in most parts of the country with the exception of a few areas of the Hauts-Bassins, Cascades, and Eastern regions, where there are rainfall deficits.

    The early start-of-season helped spur the marketing of on-farm inventories by large-scale producers and community inventories. As a result, there is adequate food availability on markets around the country and, in general, staple food prices are close to the five-year average. However, the seasonal growth in demand, localized production shortfalls from last season, and exports to neighboring countries have reportedly driven prices on certain markets 15 to 20 percent above the five-year average, particularly on markets along the country’s borders with Mali and Niger (Djibasso, Faramana, and Namounou).

    The government has set up shops selling cereals at subsidized prices in provincial capitals and a few municipalities. In addition, access to wild plant foods is helping to facilitate household food consumption.

    With the slowdown in gold panning and market gardening activities, sales of animals have become the main source of household income. In spite of the troubling security situation in the northern part of the country, business is brisk on livestock markets, where supply and demand are both near-average. On average, May prices for animals in good physical condition and for sheep and goats in particular were above the five-year average by 37 and 45 percent, respectively. Thus, terms of trade for male goats/millet on major markets in the Sahelian region (a pastoral area) are better than usual, except on the Gorom-Gorom market, where they are down by 10 percent.

    The nutritional situation is stable, particularly that of children under the age of five. In fact, the numbers of admissions to health facilities in the first quarter of the year were similar to figures for the same time last year. Free health care services for pregnant and breast-feeding women and children under five years of age are improving turnout at health centers.


    The most likely food security scenario for June 2017 through January 2018 is based on the following general assumptions:

    Above-normal rainfall tending towards normal: Based on the conclusions of the seasonal climate outlook forum (PRESASS, May 2017), fine-tuned by the National Weather Service to reflect country-specific conditions, rainfall levels for the months of July, August, and September in all parts of the country are expected to be above-normal, tending towards normal. Likewise, the country is expecting a late tending towards normal end-of-season in Sudanian and Sudano-Sahelian areas and a normal tending towards late end-of-season in the Sahelian zone.

    Average to above-average agropastoral production: The early start-of-season should enable farmers to plant their crops on time and even plant larger areas in crops. The expected average or longer-than-average dry spells around the country following the start-of-season could actually facilitate crop maintenance work. Thus, together, the larger area planted in crops and late to normal end of the rainy season could help boost crop production. In addition, the normal progress of the growing season will help promote average to above-average pasture availability.

    Average staple cereal prices: The ongoing stock clearance sales by traders and large-scale farmers or farmers’ unions and the government’s subsidized cereal sales program will help ensure good market supplies and keep prices at levels close to the five-year average throughout the lean season. As of October, the good harvest prospects should help keep prices in line with average seasonal trends, at near or below-average levels.

    Average incomes: The larger potential market supplies of food and cash crops will help compensate for any eventual slight drop in prices and give farmers near-average farm incomes. Moreover, the additional demand for livestock for the Muslim holidays (in June and September) and the year-end holiday season will help keep livestock prices above the five-year average. In addition, off-season (gold panning and market gardening) activities could get off to a normal start by the month of November and help bolster household income.

    Stable nutritional situation for children under five years of age: Normal household food access and planned nutritional safety net programs between July and September for children under five years of age and pregnant and breast-feeding women in areas with normally worrisome GAM rates (the Sahelian, North-Central, and Eastern regions) could help keep acute malnutrition rates close to 8.68 percent, the median value for the lean season for the country as a whole (according to the 2009 through 2015 SMART surveys).

    Growing army worm infestations: The army worm causing localized losses of maize crops during the last growing season in the country’s Eastern, Southwestern, and North-Central regions are still present as the new growing season gets underway. Crop protection services have been paying special attention to reports of their presence in the Southwest, devising and setting up a surveillance and treatment system. However, continued vigilance is a must with the long dry spells without rain predicted by the weather service creating conducive conditions for the expansion of these infestations.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    The social safety net programs (cash transfer programs and distributions of baby formula) planned by the WFP, FAO, and a consortium of NGOs for the period between July and September in FEWS NET’s current areas of concern (the far northern reaches of livelihood zones 7 and 8) should cover at least 74 percent of households classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and help ease their food insecurity to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels pending the upcoming October harvests. In addition, the timely return of transhumant herds and improvement in grazing and watering conditions for livestock in these areas will help strengthen the availability of milk for household consumption.

    The expected average to above-average production levels and average incomes should help promote normal household food access and help maintain if not improve household livelihoods. In addition, the stabilization of the nutritional situation, particularly that of children under five years of age, will help lay the groundwork for driving acute food insecurity in all parts of the country down to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels for the entire outlook period.  


    Table 1.  Possible events in the next eight months that could change the outlook



    Impact on food security conditions


    Deterioration in the security situation across the country

    The deteriorating security situation with the threat of terrorist attacks could negatively affect the smooth operation of local markets and disrupt humanitarian operations and farming activities throughout the area. This will contribute to the deterioration in household food access between June and September while, at the same time, reducing household income by potentially depressing demand. 


    Based on forecasts for above-normal cumulative seasonal rainfall totals tending towards normal, there is a very good risk of localized flooding problems between June and September. These floods could cause losses of crops and household assets and heighten the risk of food insecurity and malnutrition in affected areas.

    More severe locust and grain-eating bird infestations of crops

    Soum, Oudalan, Séno, and Sourou provinces are facing seasonal infestations of crop predators (grain-eating birds, locusts, and caterpillars) between August and October. The restrictions on travel by plant health control personnel imposed by terrorist threats will make it impossible to limit the potential spread of these predators, while the expected protracted dry spells will create conducive conditions for these infestations. Accordingly, there will be larger than average cumulative crop losses.

    Growing army worm infestation of maize crops

    Last season, army worms caused localized losses of maize crops in several parts of the country (the Southwestern, Eastern, and North-Central regions). The caterpillars were able to resist the ineffective treatments of affected areas and were sighted on dry season crops. This season, there could be even larger army worm  infestations.


    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1: Cumulative RFE anomalies as of June 20th compared with the 2006-2015 average

    Figure 2

    Figure 1: Cumulative RFE anomalies as of June 20th compared with the 2006-2015 average

    Source: NOAA

    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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