FAO Initiative on Soaring Food Prices

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

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Villagers in Tougo build shelters from mud bricks, moulded and dried in the sun with their own hands. It’s the building material of the country’s poorest, but when the rains are strong, the mud homes are washed away altogether.

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Daouda Belem Sabilo received emergency seed and fertilizer from FAO for July planting.
“We usually manage to have a harvest every year, but it’s never enough, because the land is so degraded.”
Seed producers sell a bag of seed for less than $2 each, he says, while a bag of fertilizer has never cost so much before, at more than $3.50.

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Savadogo Oumarou has a family of seven children and two wives.
“Last year, the dry spell and then floods destroyed the harvest and our seed stock,” he says.
“Normally we would use fertilizer, but after last year our main concern became the food we need to eat.”“We don’t have enough to eat, and with rising prices, every last bit we earn we use to buy food to feed the family.

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Jean-Pierre Renson, FAO’s Emergency Coordinator in Burkina, explains a dire reality: “We often coordinate our seed distribution programmes with the World Food Programme. WFP provides food rations for the two weeks following a seed distribution.”
“When your stomach aches from hunger, seed can be quite tempting to eat right then and there, instead of waiting three months for a harvest.”

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Poème Belem, owner of the village eatery in Tougo village. “I buy the rice and pasta in town.” he says. “Before a bag of rice cost me about $30, now it’s about $50, and the pasta has gone from just under $10 to $15.”
“I had to raise my prices from 100 CFA (25 cents) to 150 CFA (36 cents), which isn’t good for business, so we also cut down on portions,” he says.
That isn’t good for business either.

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Maurice Ouedraogo Koutou, at his market stall in Ouagadougou. Everything he sells has gone up. “This rice is from Thailand, it has gone from 300 CFA to 400 CFA a portion,” an increase of 75 percent. The vegetable oil he sells has increased at an even more alarming rate. “This used to cost 750 CFA a litre, now it is 1800 CFA a litre,” up 240 percent. Most customers buy minuscule portions at a time, in tiny plastic bags big enough to hold a cherry or two.

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N’Boukaré Ilboudo, 60, lives in Ouagadougou’s Kaar Paala district, not more than a shantytown. “I don’t feel the effects of food price increases or ‘la vie chère,’ since I depend entirely on what the neighbours give to me. They bring me water and they cook me food, and I haven’t noticed they bring me any less.”
FAO is just completing a joint vulnerability assessment in the area with WFP, Save the Children and Unicef, from which N’Boukaré will benefit in social support.

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Zoundi Y. Dramane is a grain wholesaler at Ouagadougou’s Sakayaaré market. “If I had the money and the possibility, I would invest in mechanizing farm production in the countryside. And I would have a network of my own fleet of trucks to transport the harvest from the villages to the cities, paying the farmers too to produce for me.” The two women are just back from a regular trip to Togo, bringing with them cassava flour.

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Truckers cook up a meal of tô, a local dish made from maize flour. Travellers come prepared with anything and everything: travelling from Togo, they were way-laid by a not unusual event: the bridge ahead is impassable, having partially collapsed.
“We’ve been here for a week, and we’ll just wait,” one of them says.
The line of trucks goes as far as the eye can see. Luckily, they are transporting non-perishable goods – cookies and crackers, or ‘bonbons’ as they say.

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In Bagré town an enormous dam feeds the irrigations canals for rice paddies spread across the plains of the Nakambé river.
“If we had machines, we could work much better,” says one farmer.
From harvesting to threshing to the final rice seed, it’s all done on human energy -- men and women, many mothers with a baby slung snugly on the back, sleeping.


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.

FAO Response

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.



Cowpeas distributed with FAO support this season as an emergency response
Kids eating rice, Tougo village, Burkina Faso
Kids eating rice, Tougo village, Burkina Faso