Sustainable Agriculture in Burundi

Burundi is a landlocked country in the African Great Lakes region in East Africa. It is one of the poorest nations in the world, with almost 90 percent of its population living in rural areas. Most of its citizens rely on agriculture and livestock for their livelihood, meaning that working towards sustainable agriculture in Burundi is a crucial goal.

There are several ongoing projects that aim to foster sustainable agriculture in Burundi. For instance, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is involved in an integrated project to strengthen people’s livelihoods through sustainable and efficient agricultural intensification. The FAO is working closely with the Agricultural Research Institute of Burundi and the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement on this project in order to “help communities living in these watersheds to better manage their land and improve their means of food production and nutrition.”

The primary way this project is achieving its goal is through establishing and maintaining farmer field schools that teach farmers good farming practices. For instance, in an attempt to improve agricultural production in a sustainable manner, the integrated aquaculture and agriculture system established in Mwaro province provides an opportunity to produce crops, fish and small livestock in a relatively small area. Both men and women farmers attend these farmer field schools to receive training in production management. A facilitator guides these self-identified trainees with the goal of increasing capacity development through practices that promote sustainable agriculture in Burundi, including composting techniques, edible mushroom cultivation, fish pond management and erosion control.

This project has already managed to achieve several successes. For instance, due to this project, nearly 200 households established micro-gardens in urban and peri-urban places, thereby creating opportunities for smallholders to produce despite the very limited land availability. Additionally, the project also facilitated the “reinforcement of erosion control and watershed stabilization techniques using integrated forestry practices, perennial forage grasses and field mapping.” As a result of this project, farmers have also been able to plant improved seeds of staple crops in their fields and the community has planted more than 49,000 fruit tree saplings.

Several issues threaten sustainable agriculture in Burundi. For instance, Burundi faces land degradation and soil impoverishment due to high populations, deforestation, overgrazing, loss of habitats and water scarcity. The country has taken several significant measures to address and improve soil fertility such as erosion control measures, riverbank protection, forestry plantation, agroforestry plantation and management. In fact, the country now has a “national framework investment in sustainable land management and new laws on land, forestry and biodiversity conservation.”

Another project called Supporting Agricultural Productivity in Burundi (PAPAB), led by the IFDC, Alterra Wageningen UR, Oxfam Novib and ZOA aims to sustainably increase food production and improve the food security of at least 480,000 farming families in Burundi. By taking a participatory approach centered on integrated management, PAPAB promotes market-oriented and sustainable agricultural techniques. Recognizing that smallholders produce little to meet their own needs, let alone those of the market, PAPAB works to introduce efficient and well-integrated farming practices. It plans on using techniques such as improving farmers’ access to fertilizers and farmer-to-farmer knowledge transfer and collaboration in order to increase efficiency and production.

Burundi is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the current political instability in the country only adds to its challenges. Malnutrition in the country is one of the highest in the world. Sustainable agriculture is one of its biggest challenges and an important goal. Hopefully, these projects will continue to improve and promote sustainable agriculture in Burundi.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

Photo: Flickr