Burundi - population growth and conflict

Undernourishment has increased sharply and food production has fallen as Burundi struggles to cope with rapid population growth, severe land degradation and simmering civil conflict. Average daily food intake tumbled between 1980 and 1996 from 2 020 calories to 1 669 calories, far below minimum requirements. Production of cassava, sweet potatoes and beans, the mainstays of the Burundian diet, also declined.

With an annual growth rate of 2.7 percent, Burundi's population has been expanding far faster than its economy, resulting in a negative growth rate per person. Burundi's weak economy and geographic isolation have left the country overwhelmingly rural (with more than 90 percent of the people living in the countryside) and almost completely dependent on domestic food production.

The rapid pace of population growth has strained the country's limited land resources to the breaking point. More than 80 percent of Burundi's fragile, mountainous land is severely degraded. Both the area being cultivated and crop yields have been falling.

Burundi's production problems have been compounded by poorly developed transport and marketing facilities. In addition, civil conflict has disrupted production and further restricted trade opportunities.

Burundi's physical isolation constitutes a major barrier to trade and has obstructed growth of non-agricultural sectors. But the spiral of population growth, environmental degradation and falling agricultural productivity dictates that solutions to Burundi's food security problems must be found outside agriculture.

Key indicators, 1980-1996

Cambodia - reaping the dividends of peace
DPR Korea - a bitter harvest
Honduras - economic growth reduces hunger
Cuba - loss of trading partner erodes food security
Afghanistan - war leaves little ground for crops
Morocco - thriving economy boosts food security
Ghana - economic growth fuels rapid gains