Burkina Faso is one of the world's poorest nations, with 45 percent of the population living on less than a dollar per day. Most people live in rural areas and survive on subsistence farming on small family plots of land.
Maize, sorghum and millet make up 85-90 percent of the staple diet in Burkina Faso, while in rural areas these cereals make up nearly 100 percent of consumption and little is ever marketed.
Low output coupled with high food prices
Rice over the years has become the preferred staple food for many, especially city dwellers. However, national production meets only about 30 percent of the demand.
Furthermore, harvests have suffered from disastrous weather in recent years. With yields low, many families have resorted to using seed stocks for food, leaving them with little to plant for the next season.
The prices of all grains sharply increased in 2008, with rice selling at more than double its price in Ouagadougou in May of that year compared with May 2007. Prices continue to be high, with rice prices some 60 percent higher in February 2009 than in the same period a year earlier.
European Union Food Facility
With nearly €18 million from the European Union, FAO launched a two-year project in June 2009 to help improve the food security of 861 150 rural households (more than six million people) in Burkina Faso who were made more vulnerable by high food prices.
The main thrust of the EU Food Facility project is to boost food production through the availability of improved seeds (rice, maize, sorghum, cow peas and millet) in rural markets and to promote a sustainable system of seed multiplication and certification.
The project is in line with recommendations mapped out in the government’s action plan on food security, which underscores the importance of a strengthened seed supply chain in increasing food production.
FAO will focus on increasing the capacity of all actors involved in the seed chain, providing institutional and technical support to national public services including the Institute on Environment and Agricultural Research (INERA), the national seed service and other structures within the Ministry of Agriculture.
FAO will support some 900 seed producers, the majority of whom are organised in groups, with such activities as training and distribution of base seeds and equipment.
FAO will also build up local infrastructure to enable the proper drying and storage of seeds, and work to improve seed producers’ access to markets and credit.
Other FAO activities
In June 2008, millet, sorghum and cowpea seeds and fertilizers were distributed in the northern and central areas of the country. These interventions were supported equally by an FAO Technical Cooperation Programme project and funds from the Spanish government, for a total of nearly US$1 million.
Spain is also supporting policy assistance and strategy development in Burkina Faso.
In addition, the European Commission contributed US$2.2 million to a project targeting extremely vulnerable populations in the country, including malnourished women, children and households managed by women or the disabled.
Some 270,000 people, many of whom receive treatment for malnutrition through other UN agencies, will benefit. They will receive garden vegetable seeds to boost harvests in the next season and to generate seed for the future. In addition to diversifying the diet, families will have an income from selling surplus production.
In the areas where keeping livestock is the main farming activity, small animals will be provided to restore food security. Due to food shortages and high prices, many families have sold their animals.
In the longer-term, putting in place irrigation infrastructure could also allow rural farmers to boost rice output, mitigating the need to import rice at high prices while profiting for themselves.