Burundi, a largely agricultural country, is slowly recovering from a 15-year conflict that left over 300 000 people dead. More than 80 percent of the population lives on less than USD 1.25 a day and half suffers from chronic malnutrition. Agricultural production, though almost up to pre-war levels, falls short of the food needs in this rapidly growing country. FAO aims to turn this around by promoting efficient land and water management and helping the country move beyond subsistence farming.
Toward a market-based economy
FAO is helping the country transition to a more market-oriented agricultural economy, encouraging farmers to grow more and varied crops, especially ones like banana and coffee that have good export potential. FAO is supporting agroprocessing and value chain development so that farmers can increase the consumer appeal and value of their produce and market their goods effectively. FAO is also building storage facilities to stem post-harvest losses.
Managing natural resources, reducing vulnerability
Burundian farmers have to grapple with torrential rains, hailstorms and drought as well as eroded soils, pests and plant disease, which can make growing crops tricky. The war left much of the country’s farming infrastructure in ruins. FAO is supporting the Government’s efforts to promote a more efficient use of the country’s water and land resources, helping to rehabilitate marshlands and irrigation canals as well as farmland roads for better access. It is also ramping up food security monitoring, early warning systems, vulnerability mapping and surveillance of transboundary pests and diseases like cassava mosaic and Avian Influenza. These activities to reduce disaster risk are carried out through the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification and a food security early warning system and bulletin.
Expanding income opportunities
Most of the country’s farmers have tiny plots of land, growing just enough to feed their families. Many struggle to do even that. Land scarcity is a big issue, especially with the return of around half a million refugees and the country’s fast-paced population growth. Women widowed during the war, and orphaned children taking care of their families generally have limited access to productive resources and basic services. FAO is working to provide vulnerable people, especially those in densely populated areas, with more opportunities to produce food and earn money. By providing hands-on training through farmer field schools and ramping up agricultural production through such things as raising goats and producing eggs – activities that require little land – FAO hopes to improve food security and reduce land conflicts that could destabilize the country’s relative peace.