In Burundi, What Do Farmers and Food Waste Have in Common?

World Food Program USA
July 30, 2019
Burundi, February 2009 Sustainable Land Management project in Kayanza, in north Burundi. The project was implemented in 2007 through food-for-work. Nowadays WFP provides only technical assistance to the farmers. The terraced are is approximately 2.5 Ha. WFP and the church worked together to get the land for the community to farm. It was previously very badly degraded. They have planted ~145,000 trees to help with soil stability, some of which are for commercial use such as eucalyptus. They received 72 metric tons of food from WFP plus technical expertise for the project. The association owns the land, there are 115 people participating in it including 45 women (women aren’t allowed to own land according to Burundian law). Photo: WFP/Laura Melo
In Burundi, 90 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture, but agricultural productivity and access to farmable land are low.

If all the food produced locally in Burundi in one year were gathered and distributed, there would only be enough to feed Burundians for 55 days. This stark statistic shows just how critical it is to improve agricultural production and reduce post-harvest losses in this small, densely-populated country that has one of the fastest growing populations in Africa.

What is post-harvest loss (aka PHL)?

Post-harvest loss is a form of food waste that happens before food ever reaches our plates. It happens when food spoils because of poor storage, when crops rot in the field because of a drought or storm, or when food is damaged during transportation. Across Africa, farmers lose up to 40%of their crops because of PHL.

In Burundi, more than 50 percent of the population is chronically food insecure, and a quarter of the population (2.6 million people) is severely food insecure, putting Burundi on the same level of food security crisis with Somalia. WFP and its partners are supporting government efforts to build resilience in local Burundi communities.

Currently, WFP supports over 20,000 small-scale farmers to increase production, reduce post-harvest losses, access new markets and increase their incomes.

In addition to offering a lifeline to project participants, WFP support addresses the root causes of food insecurity and malnutrition in Burundi by stimulating local food production and boosting the local economy.

Jacqueline Nzeyimana is a mother of seven. She lives in Mpanda commune, 12 miles northwest of Bujumbura. Like many women in Burundi, Jacqueline grows cassava, beans and corn to support her family. But reduced land area for cultivation, poor-quality seeds and climate change mean that what she grows is hardly enough to meet the family’s needs throughout the year.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.