Nelly Bassily | November 7, 2011
Farmers in southern Burkina Faso are coming to the end of a difficult season. There has been little rain and farmers expect poor harvests. Lassina Zio is a farmer in Panassian, a village in the south. He says, “It will be difficult to escape the famine this year.”
In Panassian, as in the rest of the south, there is talk of an upcoming food crisis. According to Mr. Zio, lack of rain is the problem. He notes, “The rains this year have surprised everyone. They started late but have also been irregular.” Mr. Zio explains how poor rains have affected him, saying, “Lack of rain has dried my beans and my maize did not germinate well.”
Abdoulaye Zizien is a farmer from the neighbouring town of Leo. He shares Mr. Zio’s concern. He predicts a poor maize harvest. He says, “Even if the rains come back, some crops are too dry to recover.”
This situation is unprecedented in the southern region. Although the south is not the breadbasket of the country, cereal production here is usually sufficient. The region receives the highest rainfall in Burkina Faso. But it is not just the south that is affected by the unpredictability of the rain. In early November, the national government reported that one third of all municipalities are food insecure.
The prospect of failing crops has pushed up grain prices. In the market in Leo, maize prices have doubled since this time last year. This disproportionately affects the poorest farmers, who fear starvation. Mariam Sawadogo is a farmer’s widow. She says, “I cannot feed my children throughout the year with what I have harvested.” She has no savings to fall back on and feels powerless.
Faced with possible famine, the government is preparing its response. It plans to transfer grain from areas where there is a surplus to areas in need. The government is meeting with various groups to seek solutions. Finally, there is a plan to make short-season and high-yielding seeds available to farmers. But the government plans have no timeline as yet.
For now, farmers are waiting for these plans materialize. Lassina Zio says, “If [the government plans] can satisfy our hunger, it’s a good thing.”