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Average harvests to stabilize the food security situation

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Burkina Faso
  • October 2014 - March 2015
Average harvests to stabilize the food security situation

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • Poor households will have normal food access, mainly from household harvests and through market purchases. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity is expected for most of the country between October 2014 and March 2015. 

    • Average national crop production, food prices near the five-year average, and adequate levels of income to meet household food needs will help protect the livelihoods of poor households between October and March. Poor households will limit themselves to the use of normal coping strategies such as market gardening, panning for gold, and seasonal migration.

    • Crop production could be below-average in the country’s northern agropastoral zone due to recurrent dry spells and infestations of grain-eating birds. These infestations, which are having a more severe than usual impact on local harvests, will expose more than 1,400 households to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of acute food insecurity. Moreover, for the second consecutive year, pasture deficits will lead to early seasonal migration by transhumant herds and the start of the lean season for pastoral populations, beginning in December instead of February.

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    The period from September 1 to October 10 was marked by adequate rainfall activity in all parts of the country. Rainfall in the far northern and eastern areas of the country was conducive to good crop development and helped mitigate the negative effects of the reported rainfall deficits in July and August. However, there are still below-normal levels of pasture growth. In addition, parts of the far northern areas of the country (Nasoumbou, Koutougou, Diguel, Arbinda, and Togomael) are dealing with infestations of grain-eating birds, which are having a larger than usual impact on local harvests and will likely expose more than 1,400 households to Stress (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity. 

    Cumulative seasonal rainfall totals for the period from April 1 to October 10 ranged from 425 mm in Gorom-Gorom (in the far north) to 1,158 mm in Bobo-Dioulasso (in the western part of the country). In general, these cumulative rainfall figures are near to above the historical average (1980-2010). However, rainfall deficits remain in Gnagna and Tapoa provinces in the eastern part of the country.

    Access to green crops is helping to reduce household dependence on local markets for food supplies. Even with seasonal decreases in supply of cereals on markets in October, trader inventories (at over 30,000 MT) are still above average. These inventories are buttressed by ongoing sales of cereals (maize and rice) at subsidized prices by a network of 181 shops set up by the government in the last quarter of 2013. The government started up a crop collection program for maize (7,800 MT) and rice (236 MT) in early October in crop-producing areas for the restocking of its charter shops. 

    Thus, in contrast to the usual seasonal rise in prices during previous lean seasons, prices during the 2013-2014 lean season which has just ended have been stable since June (hovering around the five-year average). In fact, the price of maize, which accounted for 80 percent of all cereal supplies in September, was actually 14 percent below the five-year average.

    Low demand due to the scale-back in exports to the coastal states (Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana) slowed sales of livestock in the agropastoral zone, particularly small ruminants, which are the main source of household income in that area. Livestock prices are more or less unchanged from last year, but are 19 to 31 percent above the five-year average, driven by high demand for Tabaski.

    Income from other majors sources of is near normal. Revenue from non-woody forest products (shea nuts and butter and locust beans) is normal, which accounts for a large part of the income of poor households and whose selling prices are close to the five-year average. In addition, demand is normal for farm labor for the current harvest season and daily wage rates (1,000 to 2,000 CFAF) are unchanged from last year. As far as gold panning is concerned, which is pursued concurrently with farming activities, the price of gold is stable and close to the five-year average (at 22,000 CFAF/gram). Nationally, approximately five percent of households earn money panning for gold. However, the percentage of households in this category in the North-Central and Sahelian areas of Burkina Faso, where such activities are more highly developed, is as high as nine and 14 percent, respectively.

    According to the results of the latest SMART survey conducted in September, the nutritional situation is unchanged from last year, but shows an improvement over the last five years. More specifically, the acute malnutrition rate among children under the age of five is 8.6 percent for the country as a whole, with higher rates of 9.4 percent in northern areas.


    The most likely food security scenario for October 2014 through March 2015 is based on the following general assumptions:

    • Average harvests: Despite the near to above-average levels of cumulative rainfall and later than usual end of the rains, the detrimental effects of the delay in the planting of crops and periods of dryness in July and August will translate, at best, into average yields of all types of crops. National crop production will be average, with below-average yields from crops in areas affected by erratic pattern of rainfall and infestations of grain-eating birds (livelihood zones 7 and 8) in and around the Sahelian region. Crop production in Tapoa and Noumbiel provinces will also be below average, where erratic and poorly distributed rainfall caused major delays in the start-up of farming activities.
    • Below-average pasture production: The erratic and poorly distributed rainfall in the agropastoral zone (in and around Sahelian areas) prevented normal levels of natural pasture growth in these areas. Thus, as was the case last year, migratory movements by transhumant livestock will begin earlier than usual, by December instead of February. The depletion of forage reserves by the beginning of February will mean an earlier than usual lean season for livestock and make pastoralists more dependent on market purchase for feed supplements for their animals, particularly agro-industrial byproducts.
    • Average cereal prices: Based on the currently above-average levels of trader stocks and average crop production forecasts for neighboring countries, markets should function normally throughout the stock-rebuilding period. Thus, cereal prices will stay close to average, with seasonal prices remaining near the five-year average. In the specific case of maize, its price could rise to near-average levels due to ongoing institutional procurements (7,800 MT).
    • Below-average livestock prices: Livestock body condition should be normal between now and January. However, with the slow-down in exports to the coastal states, there could be below-average demand for livestock throughout the outlook period. On the supply side, there will be a larger supply of livestock in the agropastoral zone between February and March with pastoralists needing to sell livestock in order to build cereal stocks and stock up on animal feed. Thus, livestock prices in general and small ruminants in particular will be near-average through January, dropping below average as of February. On the whole, price levels will be below the five-year average.
    • Average to above-average agricultural incomes: With average crop yields, sales of major cash crops could generate average levels of income in the case of cowpeas (whose price will remain near average) and above-average levels of income in the case of groundnuts and sesame (whose prices will stay above average, fueled by growing demand from Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal, and from China and Japan for sesame).
    • Near-average levels of other income: There will be average levels of income from other sources such as farm labor, remittances, gold panning activities, etc. There will be stable demand for labor for the harvest, a favorable socio-political climate in host countries for migrant workers, and gold prices will remain near the five-year average as gold panning activities increase, as usual, beginning in November.
    • Stable health and nutritional conditions: Even with the usual seasonal rise in malaria-related mortality rates between September and November, normalization of the household food security situation should help keep global acute malnutrition rates stable below the warning threshold, as has been the case since last year.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    Most poor households across the country should have normal food access throughout the outlook period from October through March, mainly from household harvests. Likewise, they should be able to generate sufficient income from the sale of livestock and cash crops, gold panning activities, and market-gardening activities to help maintain their livelihoods. Stable cereal prices will give households better market access and at least 80 percent of poor households will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through March.

    However, poor households in the far northern areas of the country, particularly in Soum Province where local harvests will be severely affected by insufficient rainfall and massive infestations of grain-eating birds in that area, will deplete their food stocks prematurely, by the month of January. As a result, their food consumption will be reduced and only minimally adequate between January and March, which will create Stress (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions in that province.

    As of April 2015, poor households in livelihood zones 7 and 8 in areas in and around the Sahelian region expecting below-average levels of both crop and pasture production will be market dependent upon the exhaustion of their food stocks. They will have limited incomes due to the falling prices of livestock, which are their main source of income. As a result, they will be facing Stress (IPC Phase 2) levels of acute food insecurity.

    With good market supplies preventing any atypical fluctuations in staple cereal prices, Stress (IPC Phase 2) levels of acute food insecurity in areas in and around the Sahelian region should remain stable for the remainder of the consumption period or, in other words, through the end of September 2015. Revenues from livestock sales will be 10 to 15 percent below average, but household income from other sources (remittances, wage labor, gold panning activities, etc.) should be near average.

    Barring any outside shocks, there should be a normal lean season in other parts of the country between June and September, with poor households facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. 

    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Food Security Outcomes, October 2014

    Figure 2

    Current Food Security Outcomes, October 2014

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3


    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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