Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in Africa, ranking 183 out of 186 countries on UNDP's Human Development Index (2013), showing little improvement in recent years.  44.6 percent of the population live below the poverty level, on less than USD 1.25 per day (Human Development Report 2013). High poverty levels, combined with the fact that Burkina Faso is landlocked, make the country's population particularly vulnerable to economic shocks such as high food prices, which limit vulnerable people’s access to food.

Burkina Faso has a population of 16.5 million people (World Bank), which is growing rapidly at 3 percent annually, placing pressure on the country’s infrastructure and resources. The country’s population is largely rural (73 percent, World Bank), depending upon agriculture for their livelihoods. In addition to agriculture, Burkina Faso's economy is largely reliant on cotton and gold exports. Literacy rates are extremely low at 28.7 percent (Human Development Report 2013) with large regional and gender disparities in primary school enrolment. Only 3.2 percent of men and less than 1 percent of women aged 25 and older have completed secondary school (Human Development Report 2013).

The country is prone to recurrent natural disasters such as drought, floods and locust invasions, which have grown increasingly frequent and severe. In addition, desertification in drought-prone areas is rapidly spreading and the impact of climate change is increasingly affecting the availability of water and pasture.

Food insecurity and malnutrition rates remain chronically high. In 2013, Burkina Faso ranked 65 out of 78 on the global hunger index. In addition, while the 2012/2013 harvest showed a significant improvement compared to the previous harvest and the five-year average, populations are still recovering from the 2012 food and nutrition crisis. The government’s response plan for 2014 indicated that 1,330,000 people are vulnerable to food insecurity and 7,300 remain affected by the flooding that occurred in 2013. In addition, the influx of Malian refugees into the country that started in 2012 has generated additional challenges for food security in Burkina Faso, not only for the refugees, but also for the communities surrounding refugee settlements.

The global acute malnutrition rate (GAM) is high with 8.2 percent of children less than five years of age suffering from moderate or severe acute malnutrition (preliminary results of Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) survey 2013). Levels of stunting have also not improved since 2008, remaining above the 'serious' threshold at 31.5 percent (preliminary results SMART survey 2013). Micronutrient deficiencies are also high: 88 percent of children under 5 and 49 percent of women suffer from anemia (Demographic and Health Survey, DHS 2010).