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Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity persists in the far north despite harvests

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Burkina Faso
  • October 2022 - May 2023
Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity persists in the far north despite harvests

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Conflict continues to cause severe food insecurity in the northern region. In blockaded areas, including Soum, Yagha, and Oudalan provinces, current harvests are insufficient to prevent extreme consumption gaps. Markets are not receiving supplies regularly, and the delivery of assistance is inadequate. Due to asset depletion, poor host households and internally displaced people (IDPs) face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity. In the inaccessible communes of Djibo, Kelbo, Arbinda, Tin-Akoff, Déou, and Sebba, FEWS NET projects that a minimal percentage of very poor and poor households are experiencing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), having extreme food deficits and destruction of their livelihood assets due to market dysfunction, limited mobility, and limited ability to engage in typical livelihood activities. Between February and May, forced migration will likely intensify due to a lack of food, and cases of severe acute malnutrition will worsen, increasing the proportion of populations experiencing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).

    • As is usually the case, there was no decline in violence committed by armed militant groups during the rainy months. On the contrary, these groups continue demonstrating their ability to confront the national army by isolating more areas, attacking cargo convoys, and seeking to consolidate control of smuggling routes in the south. The protraction of socio-political crises, marked by two coups in eight months, is not likely to improve the situation. The frequency and intensity of attacks by militant groups are expected to continue increasing after the end of the rainy season, again reaching levels similar to or greater than the previous year.

    • Despite good rainfall in the country, current harvests will be below average due to reduced land cultivated in conflict areas and decreased yields due to underutilization of mineral fertilizers. Lower production will result in a lower-than-average supply of food products, particularly cereals. As a result, household market demand, particularly for IDPs, will increase over the projection period. Additionally, institutional and private stocks are currently at their lowest level compared to the average, and their purchasing needs will likely be higher than usual, to replenish stocks or meet humanitarian needs for IDPs. With the ongoing effects of the crisis in Ukraine, prices for staple foods, including imported products, will remain above their five-year seasonal averages through May 2023.

    • Overall, and particularly in the areas most affected by insecurity, incomes will be below average between October and May. Insecurity will continue to limit off-season production activities and gold mining. Expected declines in production and high production costs will prevent households from benefiting from above-average prices and profit margins. Similarly, cotton farmers’ increased purchase prices will be insufficient to compensate for the decline in production, which is negatively impacted by crop disease.


    Current Situation

    Security situation: In the Nord, Sahel, Boucle du Mouhoun, and Est regions, militant groups intensified their efforts to cut off and isolate local communities by increasing attacks along the Ouahigouya-Titao, Kongoussi-Djibo, Kaya-Dori, Dori-Arbinda, Dori-Sebba, and Fada-Kompienga roads (Figure 1). While the rainy season and accompanying floods generally make it more difficult for militant groups to move around, this was not the case this season. The period from July to September saw increased incidents and fatalities among the national armed forces and civilians (Figure 2). Following an audit and update of the registration database, the number of IDPs at the end of September 2022 was approximately 1.72 million (National Council for Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation, SP/CONASUR), representing an increase of 22 percent from 12 months ago, which is directly related to the conflict.

    The conflict affects many sectors, including market functioning, basic infrastructure, and health services. Traders’ supply of good to local markets is disrupted in much of the north. Convoys of goods and civilians by the military are not spared either, leading to supply disruptions and record price increases for basic foodstuffs. Militants have also stepped up their efforts to sabotage telecommunications infrastructures and bridges. By early August, the number of closed health facilities had risen to 195 from 83 at the same time last year. In the Sahel region, in particular, 65 percent of health facilities were closed.

    Agropastoral situation: The rainy season began early or on time in the country from May to June 2022. Rainfall distribution was also good between July and October, with seasonal totals as of October 10 generally above the average for the 1991-2020 period (Figure 3), promoting crop maturity, good pasture development, and good water reservoir levels for livestock watering, as well as off-season crop production.

    However, the production outlook for the current harvest — which began in September — is lower than normal. A 50-75 percent increase in fertilizer prices compared to the five-year average, coupled with the late provision of government subsidies, has limited their use and negatively affected yields. This case is particularly true for maize, which accounts for over one-third of national cereal production. The declining security situation has also led to a decrease in cultivated land due to difficult field access and an increased number of IDPs. Additionally, attacks by insects of the jassid family are causing a significant decline in cotton yields, the main cash crop in the western part of the country. Nearly all farmers in the area are affected, and yields may drop by as much as 50 percent. These attacks also affect leafy vegetable crops (okra, eggplant, sorrel), which are a source of food and especially income for poor households. ALocalized flooding along waterways (Mouhoun River, Bougouriba, Bambassou) has also caused crop losses, especially in the Boucle du Mouhoun and Sud-Ouest regions.

    Market conditions: Since last season’s 2021/2022 harvests, the supply of basic food products has remained below average. Household and institutional demand has remained higher due to the need for IDP assistance, increased household food purchases during the lean season due to insufficient self-produced stocks, and ongoing government tenders (15,000 tons). Additionally, breweries and poultry feed units have been forced to purchase locally because of either regional import restrictions (Mali, Côte d’Ivoire) or high international freight costs. New harvests, particularly cowpeas and maize, are present on the markets, but in smaller quantities than normal. Atypical upward price movements have therefore been observed throughout 2022. Prices remained high in September, with national variations from the five-year average reaching 66 percent for maize, 85 percent for millet, and 86 percent for sorghum. In blockaded areas, notably the markets of Titao, Djibo, and Sebba, increases ranging from 120 to 170 percent are observed. High world prices for food (rice, wheat, oil) and non-food items (fertilizer, petroleum products, construction materials) have also negatively affected domestic prices and created record inflation, which stood at 18.1 percent in August.

    The loss of livestock assets and the blockade is causing livestock markets in the northern livestock areas to close or slow down. However, in calmer areas, livestock destocking was above average during the lean season in response to higher-than-average prices for food and agricultural inputs. For example, in the Kaya market in the Centre-Nord region, which remains accessible, supply for various species increased in August by more than 30 percent over the average. Despite the increases in supply, prices remained 15 to 25 percent above average because demand is more sustained due to the inaccessibility of northern markets to buyers. In the Dori market, which is disrupted by insecurity, supplies and prices are down by approximately 10 percent. On most livestock markets monitored in the country, the terms of trade for grain/livestock recorded moderate declines compared to the five-year average.

    Food assistance situation: Assistance in August (66 percent in cash) reached 27 percent of the population in both the Séno and Sanmatenga provinces and 24 percent in the Soum and Yagha provinces. Elsewhere, coverage is under 20 percent of the rural population. However, given the difficulties in supplying markets and the food shortages observed in the main markets of the blockaded provinces, particularly Soum, Yagha, and Loroum, the value of cash assistance is outweighed by increased staple food prices, diminishing its impact on food security. Moreover, this assistance is shared voluntarily, directly or indirectly, in solidarity with non-beneficiaries. It is, therefore, also difficult to assess the coverage of calorific needs. Furthermore, FEWS NET does not have information on assistance provided in September and October, which is expected to be low, given the continued decline of the security situation.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    In the Sahel region, particularly in blockaded areas, the livelihoods of poor host households and IDPs have been severely diminished after several years of destocking, looting, and restricted access to usual sources of food and income. Disruptions in market supply and assistance delivery are causing households to increase their practice of extreme strategies by eating primarily gathered products or increasing the frequency of days without food. As a result, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity persists for at least 20 percent of households in the province of Soum, in the northern communes of Oudalan (Markoye, Tin-Akoff, Déou), and in the communes of Sebba and Solhan (province of Yagha). In these areas, key informants also report visible signs of malnutrition among both IDPs and poor host households, with an increase in severe forms of malnutrition, especially among children and pregnant or lactating women. According to local key informants from agricultural and health technical services and NGOs, cases of death and abortion are also reported to be more frequent. However, a direct link to hunger has not been established. FEWS NET projects that the provinces of Soum, Oudalan, and Yagha, classified as Emergency (IPC Phase 4), have a subset of households that will experience extreme food consumption gaps indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), applying particularly in communes where access to food and income and adaptive abilities are extremely low, such as Djibo, Kelbo, Arbinda, Tin-Akoff, Déou, Sebba, and Solhan.

    The impacts of the conflict are less severe in the Est, Centre-Nord, Nord, and Boucle du Mouhoun regions, but threats and violence by militant groups continue to limit access to traditional sources of income and put pressure on livelihoods. Most of these areas are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Still, areas with a high presence of IDPs representing at least 20 percent of the population, particularly in Loroum and Sanmatenga provinces, face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Poor host households and IDPs are resorting to negative strategies by reducing their amount and number of meals per day and limiting adult consumption to prioritize children. These strategies are preventing households from closing their consumption gap. SMART surveys conducted in July in the communes of Kaya and Pissila (Sanmatenga province) show GAM levels above the alert threshold (Nutrition Directorate).

    In the calmer regions in the south of the country, ongoing harvests are helping to strengthen food access and promote typical food consumption in particular, and most of these regions remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. Nevertheless, decreased purchasing power in the capital forces poor households to reduce the variety and quantity of food consumed. As a result, these households are exposed to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.


    The most likely scenario for food security from October 2022 to May 2023 is based on the following fundamental assumptions, in relation to the changing national context:

    • Changes in the security situation: The frequency and intensity of attacks by militant groups are expected to continue increasing after the end of the rainy season, again reaching levels similar to or higher than last year through May 2022. Violence against civilians is expected to continue causing internal displacement, especially in the Nord, Sahel, Centre-Nord, and Est regions. Additionally, efforts by militant groups to consolidate control of smuggling routes in the south (Burkinabe-Ivorian and Burkinabe-Togolese borders) are likely to fuel attacks at least through May. Repeating socio-political crises will prevent an improved situation. The first half of 2023 should also see a continued increase in militant activity and new expansion in the southwestern regions of the country, increasingly threatening urban centers, including Dédougou and Solenzo (Boucle du Mouhoun region), Koundougou (Hauts-Bassins region), and Banfora (Cascades region).
    • Crop outlook: Despite good rainfall, the following are the main limiting factors that could cause a drop in agricultural production in general, and specifically in cereal production, compared to the five-year average: reduced cultivated land due to physical constraints on land access and increased IDPs due to insecurity, reduction and/or substitution of maize planting (which has accounted for more than one-third of cereal production over the past five years) with legumes due to difficulties accessing fertilizer, and late supply of fertilizer to farmers, which has prevented them from following the fertilizer schedule and can negatively affect yields.
    • Cotton production outlook: Cotton yield losses could reach at least 50 percent. The decline in production will result in a significant decrease in income from sales, despite the 10 percent increase in the purchase price for farmers this season compared to last year. Cotton farmers are also major maize farmers, generally receiving subsidized fertilizer for both crops. Given that their income will be insufficient to repay the loans taken out for inputs, these farmers will likely increase the sale price of their maize. They may also reduce the demand for farm labor to prepare the fields between February and May.
    • Off-season production outlook: Good water reservoir levels should allow farmers to conduct off-season activities between November and April. However, insecurity will continue to limit access to certain production sites, particularly in the Nord, Centre-Nord, Sahel, and Est regions. Additionally, the high cost of inputs (fertilizer and treatment products) could force farmers to reduce acreage. Overall, vegetable production, which is usually higher between January and March, will be below average.
    • Market functioning and commodity supply: The expected decline in national cereal production will negatively affect market supply overall. In the northern half of the country, larger declines in local production, the blockade of some markets (Titao, Djibo, Markoye, and Sebba), and disruptions in the transfer of produce from production areas will continue to cause low or disrupted market supply throughout the period.
    • Commodity demand and prices: Overall, demand will remain strong due to increased institutional and private stock replenishment demand. In the south, household demand will remain typical throughout the period. However, in areas with limited access in the north and those with a high presence of IDPs, the lack of production or the early depletion of harvests in February will lead to greater household dependence on the market and, above all, on humanitarian assistance as their purchasing power will remain low. Therefore, the seasonal downward trend in prices may be observed between October and February, but prices will remain significantly above average. From March onward, prices will begin a seasonal increase and remain above average with atypical variations in blockaded areas.
    • Livestock demand and prices: Export prices for livestock, primarily to Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria, generally determine prices in local markets. Ongoing declines in exchange rates (cedi/CFA franc and naira/CFA franc) may force foreign buyers to reduce their demand or discourage them from offering better prices on local markets. As a result, livestock prices could remain stable or decline slightly from their seasonal averages between October 2022 and May 2022, contributing to further decline in the terms of trade for livestock/cereals in the more insecure areas where demand is low.
    • International economic conditions: High world prices for food (rice, wheat, oil) and non-food products (fertilizer, petroleum products, construction materials) will keep domestic transaction and production costs and prices above their seasonal averages between October and May. As a result, inflation will likely remain high and continue negatively affecting the purchasing power of households in general, particularly in urban centers.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Despite the typical start of the harvest in October, households in blockaded areas will most likely have minimal food stocks and lack the resources and income needed to purchase adequate foodm given the depletion of productive assets and record prices. Extreme consumption gaps among households will persist even during this period, and their meager stocks will be depleted between February and May. Most poor households are expected to rely primarily on assistance, which may not be regular and sufficient due to logistical difficulties and security constraints surrounding distribution. Forced migration to areas where assistance is accessible is likely to be observed, and cases of severe acute malnutrition are likely to increase during the period. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity could persist between October 2022 and May 2023, with increased populations in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) between February and May 2023.

    In the Est, Centre-Nord, Nord, and Boucle du Mouhoun regions, particularly where agricultural activities have been limited, poor households will no longer have sufficient stocks from February onward and will face higher market prices for food. As households face limited access to usual sources of income, food security will worsen from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) beginning in February. Consumption gaps could be wider among IDPs in areas of high presence.

    Subsisting on own production could be the main food source for poor households in the quieter southern areas until May. Between October and January, selling higher-priced agricultural products will help offset small production losses. Between February and May, households will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1)) as they can generate similar or lower incomes, mainly through market gardening, gold mining, and construction activities. However, in the capital, poor households will remain exposed to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity as seasonal increases in food prices continue limiting food access.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events in the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.

    AREAEVENTImpact on food security conditions


    Improved security situation

    A significant reduction in security incidents will promote the transfer of food from production areas to deficit areas in the north, improve the functioning of markets, and improve the delivery of assistance. This will also promote the gradual return of displaced people and opportunities to access sources of income. This will reduce the use of extreme strategies in the blockaded areas and the use of crisis strategies in other parts of the country.


    Increased hydrocarbon prices

    An increase in the international price of a barrel of oil could be reflected in increased hydrocarbon prices at the national level. This could lead to increased transportation costs (for people and goods), which in turn will have an impact on food and non-food prices and on the level of inflation as a whole. Household purchasing power and food access could decline further and the proportion of the population exposed to acute food insecurity will increase.

    Provinces of Soum and Yagha (BF07), province of Oudalan (BF08)

    Expansion of blockaded areas

    Expansion of blockaded areas, or even complete inaccessibility of blockaded areas, could deprive populations of assistance and increase food shortages in the markets. This would increase the population with extreme hunger indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) especially between February and May, with the increased frequency of extreme hunger likely resulting in increased cases of severe acute malnutrition and hunger-related deaths.

    Provinces of Soum and Yagha (BF07), province of Oudalan (BF08)

    Improved security situation

    This will help improve the supply of staple foods to local markets, which could mitigate price increases. Buyers’ access to the livestock market will also improve selling prices and farmers’ incomes. In addition to market conditions, the normal resumption of cash transactions and gold mining activities will help improve household income and purchasing power. The improved security situation will also facilitate the delivery of assistance to households, which will increase their food access and help reduce extreme consumption gaps. However, over the period, income access will not be sufficient to rebuild their livelihoods.  

    Provinces of Soum and Yagha (BF07), province of Oudalan (BF08)

    Increased humanitarian assistance

    Adequate delivery of assistance will help reduce food consumption gaps and populations’ reliance on emergency strategies.



    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1.

    Source: Burkina Faso Cluster Securite Alimentaire

    Figure 3

    Figure 2.

    Source: FEWS NET avec données de ACLED

    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.

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