Skip to main content

Increased food assistance needs in the northern areas affected by insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Burkina Faso
  • June 2021
Increased food assistance needs in the northern areas affected by insecurity

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Events that could change the scenario
  • Key Messages
    • Although expected rainfall conditions remain favorable for crop development, insecurity will continue to disrupt agricultural activities and will lead to production declines compared to the pre-crisis average, particularly in the Sahel, Est, Nord, and Centre-Nord regions. 

    • Increased cereal exports to neighboring countries and a decline in imports will exert pressure on the markets overall, and staple food prices may remain above the seasonal average between June 2021 and January 2022.

    • Widespread access to new harvests from October will help to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity for most households until January 2022. However, in the areas most impacted by insecurity and with large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs), food assistance planned for the lean season will help to maintain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) food insecurity in the provinces of Sanmatenga, Loroum, Soum, Séno, and Yagha until September.

    • In the province of Oudalan, where IDPs and host households are more confronted with the erosion of their assets, increased panhandling and food restriction strategies have exposed them to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) acute food insecurity between June and September. Despite the harvests and increased income opportunities from October, significant deficits in livelihood protection and food restrictions will be observed. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity could persist until January 2022.


    Current situation

    The security situation remains a cause for concern in the country. The number of incidents attributed to militant groups in the affected regions, primarily in the Nord, Sahel, Centre-Nord, and Est, has remained similar to that observed over the last three years (Figure 2).  However, 2021 trends indicate a disparity in the number of victims. In the Sahel, Centre-Nord, and Nord regions, the first five months of 2021 saw a steady number of attacks perpetrated by militant groups, compared to the same period the previous year, with a declining number of victims. In the Est region, however, attacks attributed to militant groups have remained stable in terms of frequency, but have increased in terms of fatalities compared to the same period in 2020. The Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) continue to exert their influence and control over the populations in the border areas of these regions, causing sustained internal displacement. Security forces in Burkina Faso remain overwhelmed, especially because of the troops redeployed to participate in the Houné operation against the militant groups, which launched in early May 2021 in the Nord and Sahel regions. Security forces continue to rely heavily on the Homeland Defense Volunteers (VDPs) for reconnaissance, surveillance, military escort services, and protection of the local communities. In addition to the curfew imposed in these regions, the government recently announced the closure of gold mining sites and restrictions on motor vehicle usage in border communes.

    The number of IDPs, estimated at around 1.22 million at the end of April, could continue to rise following numerous displacements recorded in May and June. Most IDPs are concentrated in the Sahel, Nord, and Centre-Nord regions (Figure 1) among host households or temporary reception sites (SATs).

    Agricultural activities have commenced against this backdrop with the early or timely arrival of the rains, favoring the first plantings in the first dekad of June, particularly in the southern half of the country. Planting then picked up in the rest of the country, thanks to the moderate rainfall recorded.

    In the primary agropastoral area of the Sahel, extortions and looting perpetrated by jihadist groups, alongside limited access to the main water sources (ponds and Christine borehole) and pastures, have forced large-scale livestock farmers to settle toward the southern part of the country and in the north of neighboring coastal countries. Some medium- and small-scale livestock farmers have moved to safer areas around the urban centers of Gorom-Gorom, Dori, and Djibo. In these areas, heavy livestock pressure has led to rapid deterioration of accessible pastures.  Fodder sales have also increased, but competition between IDPs and host populations for the control of this activity has resulted in more supply than demand, and prices have fallen by half compared to normal. However, the prices of agro-industrial byproducts (AIBPs) have skyrocketed, with levels 35 percent above average in June.

    Over the last three months, the country has seen an improvement regarding COVID-19. Management of the disease has now been integrated into the global health system, just like the other epidemics. Voluntary vaccination began in early June, with 475,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made available through the COVAX initiative. Economic activities have gradually resumed, but land borders remain officially closed. However, the global consequences of these restrictions continue to adversely affect the country’s imports and exports. In May, flows of imported staple food products (rice, oil, sugar, wheat flour) inspected by customs officials declined by over 70 percent compared to the same month in 2020 (General directorate for price regulation and control [DGRCP], Ministry of Commerce). The impact is felt when it comes to supplying retail traders whose stocks have also declined by 19 percent for cooking oil and 16 percent for imported rice. The prices of these products have increased by between 15 and 20 percent compared to the previous year.

    At the national level, the supply of local cereals to markets is below normal due to localized production declines recorded during the last season. Typical import levels of maize from coastal countries have fallen by 50 to 60 percent. Meanwhile, larger flows of cereals exported primarily to Niger, Ghana, and Mali have been recorded. In addition to seasonal household demand, the demand for maize from brewing companies and poultry feed manufacturers has also risen across local markets due to import challenges.

    This atypical increase in demand, heightened by additional draw-down of maize stocks by breweries and poultry manufacturers, has led to price hikes for consumers. In May, the increases recorded were 40 percent for maize, 21 percent for millet, and 20 percent for sorghum compared to the same period last year. Compared to the five-year average, the increases recorded are 25 percent for maize, 20 percent for millet, and 7 percent for sorghum. In urban areas in particular, the prices of vegetables, meat, and fish have also increased by between 15 and 20 percent compared to the previous year.

    In calmer areas, poor households generate their income primarily from selling non-timber forest products (NTFPs) (including shea kernels, locust beans, and their derivatives), gold panning, selling animals, and agricultural labor. By and large, these sources generate near or above-average income due to the increase in prices compared to the average: approximately 8 percent for NTFPs, 20 percent per gram of gold, and 10 to 20 percent for small ruminants. The supply of agricultural labor has exceeded the demand due to competition between IDPs and the working population in host communities.  However, middle-income and affluent producers must pay near-average daily wages to retain this labor force that is more attracted to gold panning.

    In the northern and eastern half of the country, insecurity has restricted movement and access to typical sources of income. Poor households that have depleted their assets after being looted by jihadist groups and/or livestock reduction are now resorting to remittances currently being provided by humanitarian actors. With this income, some are undertaking small-scale trade of condiments, donuts, processed agricultural products, and the like. Middle-income households can still rely on selling animals and benefit from the livestock/cereal terms of trade.

    Poor households in calmer areas have typical access to at least two meals per day, either from their own production or market purchases. Near-normal availability of NTFPs has also supported food access. Most poor households are facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.  In the areas more impacted by insecurity and the deterioration of livelihoods, premature stock depletion and declining incomes are curtailing household food access, particularly for IDPs and poor host households. In the Sahel and Centre-Nord regions in particular, admissions of malnourished children increased in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period the previous year. 26 percent for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and 36 percent for moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) was noted in Centre-Nord, alongside 77 percent for SAM and 83 percent for MAM in the Sahel region. In the provinces where IDPs represent at least 20 percent of the population (the provinces of the Sahel region, Loroum, and Sanmatenga), ongoing food assistance (42 percent in kind and 58 percent in cash or vouchers) constitutes the primary food source of the poor. In these provinces, assistance is more present in major towns, but the main donors (namely the WFP and the government) have improved their logistical capability to reach areas with limited access. By and large, assistance reaches at least 25 percent of the population, and meets at least 50 percent of their needs. It allows IDPs and poor host households to be in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) acute food insecurity in the provinces of Sanmatenga, Loroum, Soum, Séno, and Yagha. In the province of Oudalan, ongoing humanitarian assistance represents the largest source of food and income amid livelihood deterioration. IDPs and poor host households are in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) food insecurity.


    The most likely scenario for food security from June 2021 to January 2022 is based on fundamental assumptions, in relation to the changing national context, which are:

    • Security situation: After an anticipated lull in attacks due to transport disruptions related to the seasonal rains from June to October 2021, militant group attacks on the civilian population are likely to resume at a similar pace and reach levels observed during the dry season from January to May 2021 in the Est, Nord, Centre-Nord, and Sahel regions.
    • Rainfall situation: Based on seasonal forecasts from the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), an early to normal start to the season, normal to above-average cumulative rainfall between June and September, an early to normal end of the rains, and a trend of longer dry spells at the start of the season and average ones towards the end are expected. Like the previous seasons, above-normal cumulative rainfall or exceptional daily rainfall may lead to localized flooding across the country.
    • Phytosanitary situation: The longer dry spells expected at the start of the season could not only give rise to replanting, but also promote the development of pests, especially the fall armyworm. Attacks on seedlings could also lead to replanting or amended production goals through the substitution of cereal crops for shorter-cycle cash crops.  However, activating the national response plan will make it possible to contain and reduce the intensity of the attacks.
    • Agricultural production: With favorable rainfall and a typical amount of support from the government and its partners in terms of inputs, average crop yields could be achieved. The year-on-year increase in cultivated areas will make it possible to compensate for localized reductions in cultivated areas in the northern and eastern half of the country, where producers’ access to fields will be limited in some provinces due to insecurity and population displacements. On the whole, rainy season harvests may be near the five-year average. 
    • Pastoral and transhumance situation: With long dry spells expected at the start of the season, it is likely that pasture regeneration will be delayed and the pastoral lean season will extend to the end of July, particularly in the extreme northern parts of the country. In this case, livestock farmers’ reliance on supplemental food purchases (AIBPs) from the markets will be greater, with a negative impact on their income due to price hikes.  The prevailing insecurity is not favorable for the return of large-scale livestock farmers to their areas, and the local milk supply is likely to remain below normal for the entire scenario period.
    • Market operations: The seasonal decline in farmers’ stocks in production areas, sustained export flows to cover continual institutional purchases in neighboring countries (Mali and Niger), deterioration of the roads as the season sets in, and persistent security threats will continue to adversely affect market supply throughout the entire lean season. During the harvest and post-harvest periods, between October and January, wholesale traders may experience low stock levels after meeting institutional demand. It is therefore likely that competition to replenish their stocks will be fiercer than is typical. In addition to localized harvest reductions due to insecurity, market supply could remain below normal.
    • Staple cereal prices: At the national level, IDPs and host households will remain more dependent on the markets, but food assistance and the current government operation to sell cereals at a subsidized price will help to release the pressure on the markets and avoid atypical seasonal price hikes during the lean season while awaiting new harvests starting in October. Between October and January, trader stock replenishment needs and IDP needs will give rise to above-normal demand, and prices may remain slightly higher than their seasonal averages during this period.
    • Livestock prices: By and large, animal prices, especially small ruminants, could remain higher than the seasonal average due to additional demand for the upcoming Tabaski holiday in July. However, on the inaccessible local markets in the extreme north and east, which are less attended by buyers, livestock farmers who still have animals will be forced to sell them at below-average prices to access staple food products throughout the entire lean season. Between October and January, improved animal corpulence and demand for year-end celebrations will favor small ruminant prices, which are, by and large, above average.
    • Income from agricultural activities: Despite an anticipated wet season overall, continual population displacements and insecurity could negatively impact agricultural activities and reduce cultivated land in the northern half and the eastern part of the country. Like the previous growing seasons, it is likely that the growing of tall crops will be prohibited in some areas to prevent jihadist attacks. Demand for agricultural labor may be below normal in these areas.  Conversely, in the reception areas in the south, the supply of agricultural labor could be greater due to the presence of IDPs. However, farmers will be obliged to pay near-average daily wages to retain this labor force that is more attracted to gold panning.
    • Migration income: The deterioration of the security situation and reduced opportunities related to income-generating activities in the northern and eastern half of the country will intensify the exodus toward urban centers and gold panning sites in the south, in addition to an increase in migration to neighboring countries (primarily Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana). Despite the closure of land borders to travelers, these migrants pay higher transportation fees to circumvent official border crossings. However, lackluster economic activities in the country as well as in host countries will limit employment demand and, in turn, income and remittances to regions of origin. The same applies to remittances from the diaspora in view of the global economic situation. Until January 2022, it is unlikely that the pandemic will be fully under control, allowing for the normal resumption of economic activities and remittances. However, compared to the more severe restrictions and lockdowns observed last year, remittances to areas of origin could improve.
    • Humanitarian assistance: Cash and in-kind assistance will continue to cover at least 50 percent of the monthly needs of at least 25 percent of the population in the provinces of Bam, Namentenga, Sanmatenga, Loroum, Soum, Oudalan, Séno, Yagha, and Komondjari until September.
    • Nutritional situation: The nutritional situation is already precarious at the national level, with global acute malnutrition at 9.1 percent (Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transition [SMART], October 2020). Populations’ limited access to healthcare due to the closure or reduced operating capacity of health facilities, reduced food consumption, and the seasonal increase in morbidity linked to the arrival of the rains could contribute to an increase in the number of malnutrition cases, particularly in areas with high numbers of IDPs, where conditions for accessing drinking water, hygiene, and sanitation are inadequate. According to the results of the IPC acute malnutrition analysis, the nutritional situation could worsen, especially in the Sahel region, and will remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) until July 2021 if no urgent response is implemented.


    Most likely food security outcomes

    In the calmer areas of the country, poor households are more likely to rely on favorable income from the sale of livestock and NTFPs to offset the decline in income from remittances and agricultural labor. Hence, despite increased staple food prices, market access will not significantly decrease. Market purchases, self-produced stocks, and access to green harvests (fresh maize, peanuts, early millet, fonio, and cowpeas) in August and September will continue to guarantee at least two meals per day for poor households until the end of the lean season in September. Widespread access to new harvests starting in October will help maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity for these households until January 2022.

    In the areas most impacted by insecurity and large numbers of IDPs, food assistance will constitute the primary food source for IDPs and poor host households during the lean season, especially in urban centers with more coverage because they are more accessible. According to planning data on the June to August period, the current level of assistance will be maintained (food security cluster, lean season planning). It will help maintain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) food insecurity in the provinces of Sanmatenga, Loroum, Soum, Séno, and Yagha until September. With the exception of Yagha, where new displacements will disrupt agricultural activities, in the other provinces relative calm has favored the return of IDPs, and access to fields is likely to improve compared to the previous year. In the province of Oudalan, food assistance remains the primary source of food and income for IDPs who have been forced to abandon their areas, and who will be in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) food insecurity until September.  Between October 2021 and January 2022, access to new harvests will allow poor households to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity, except in the provinces of Yagha, Oudalan, Loroum, and Soum where Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity could persist due to inadequate self-production, income too low to offset the loss of assets, and humanitarian assistance that has not yet been planned.

    Events that could change the scenario



    Impact on food security conditions


    Irregular rainfall during the season

    The threat of production losses following irregular rainfall or premature cessation of the rains will foster speculative behavior in terms of prices. Staple food prices could experience greater upward fluctuations, all of which would degrade households’ purchasing power.


    Above-normal cumulative rainfall or heavy daily rainfall could cause localized flooding and lead to localized agropastoral production losses. The number of people in need would then increase. 

    Increased insecurity

    An increase in security-related incidents and fatalities could further disrupt market operations, agricultural activities, and assistance. This will lead to higher food prices and reduce national production levels.

    Significant rainfall deficit

    A rainfall deficit from June to September will adversely affect the animals’ corpulence and cause an above-average mortality rate. Moreover, a rainfall deficit will contribute to lower yields; this could limit market access for the poorest households.

    Upsurge in COVID-19 cases in the country and/or in neighboring and migrant-receiving countries 

    Tightened restrictions in the country and/or in neighboring countries due to the upsurge in COVID-19 cases will further impact economic activities. The decline in income will limit the ability of poor households to meet their food and non-food needs.  

    Reopening of land borders

    The opening of land borders will facilitate migratory flows, but does not guarantee an improvement in remittances if the economic situation in the host countries has not returned to normal.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET/ avec données de SP/CONASUR

    Figure 3

    Figure 2

    Source: ACLED data

    Figure 4

    Figure 3

    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.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top