Burundi continues to recover from a devastating civil conflict that lasted from 1993 to 2004. Poverty is widespread, with at least half the country’s 7.5 million people living on less than USD 1 a day.
Acute food insecurity, climate hazards and limited access to land and basic services affect a large portion of the population. This has been further aggravated by the return and reintegration of thousands of Burundians from Tanzania as well as previously demobilized combatants, soldiers and police.
Food insecurity heightened by high food prices
More than 90 percent of Burundi’s population depends on agriculture for livelihoods and survival, so both rural and urban families must be able to produce their own food. It is estimated that only 19 percent of the population is food-secure and that as many as 46 percent of the population suffers from chronic malnourishment.
Although production for the 2009 cropping season is expected to increase over the previous season, declining productivity over the years has resulted in food deficits.
Food prices for more than 40 basic commodities sold in Bujumbura’s central market have jumped by 37 percent from July 2007 to July 2009. Families are spending upward of 70 percent of their income on food.
Helping Burundian farmers to grow more food and improve their income prospects could contribute to economic growth and to consolidating gains made by the country in restoring peace and stability
European Union Food Facility
FAO launched a two-year project in June 2009 to help ease the burden of high food prices and climate-related shocks on Burundi’s poor farmers.
With funds from the European Union worth € 5.5 million, FAO is working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and other partners to boost production and improve the food security of at least 5 600 rice-growing households in the provinces of Bubanza and Rural Bujumbura.
The project, in line with the government’s National Agriculture Strategy and the National Food Security Plan, is focused on three priority areas for making food more available: rehabilitating irrigation infrastructure; improving farmers’ access to quality inputs; and strengthening the production capacity of farmers’ groups.
FAO is working to ensure that the water resources in this densely populated country are used more efficiently to grow staple and commercial crops. To this end, funds will go towards improving more than 2 500 hectares of irrigated land, various drainage and canal networks.
To increase and diversify food production, FAO will provide farming families with quality seeds to grow vegetable gardens and peanut and soybean seeds to plant in the off-season.
FAO will also distribute 12 tonnes of certified rice seed and fertilizers to food-insecure families, and help build storage facilities to safeguard against spoilage.
Finally, FAO will support the training of farmers’ organizations in improved farming techniques, including the proper management of irrigation systems and storage facilities, and sound nutritional practices.
Other FAO Activities
FAO has been involved in a number of projects in Burundi related to soaring food prices. In 2008, FAO implemented a Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project valued at US$500 000 to distribute beans and sweet potato cuttings for planting, as well as watering cans, fertilizers, pesticides, sprayers, rakes and spades to 6 000 households in time for the 2009 planting season. Technical assistance was also extended to beneficiaries to help boost productivity and contribute to longer-term capacity building.
In addition, a number of provinces were provided with water pumps for irrigation to be used in seed multiplication centres and also for growing vegetables during the off-season. Small water tanks were also purchased to be filled by pumps across farmers’ associations.
All actions were integrated with FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Programme in Burundi, falling under the responsibility of the FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Coordination Unit (ERCU). The ERCU has been drawing on its “in country” stock of inputs to ensure timely delivery to beneficiaries.
Burundi has also benefited from regional support extended through two different TCP projects targeting a number of countries in East and Central Africa. These projects, aimed at monitoring and evaluating activities related to soaring food prices, are being implemented in partnership with Burundi’s Ministry of Agriculture.