Located at the heart of the African Great Lakes region, Burundi has weathered nearly two decades of conflict and troubles, which have contributed to widespread poverty. Burundi is ranked 185th out of 187 countries on the 2011 United Nations Development Programme’s human development index, and eight or nine out of ten Burundians live below the poverty line. (World Bank, 2015) Per capita gross national income (GNI) in 2016 was US$170, about more than half its pre-war level some 20 years ago. The long period of fighting was extremely disruptive to agriculture, which is the main source of livelihood for nine out of ten Burundians. The destruction and looting of crops and livestock, as well as general insecurity, has put rural Burundians under serious strains. Burundi was traditionally self-sufficient in food production, but because of conflict and recurrent droughts, the country has had to rely on food imports and international food aid in some regions. The vast majority of Burundi’s poor people are small-scale subsistence farmers trying to recover from the conflict and its aftermath. Fortunately, the country is now rebuilding itself after emerging from recurrent conflict and ethnic and political rivalry. The four underlying objectives of this paper for the Burundian government’s poverty reduction strategy are improving governance and security, promoting sustainable and equitable economic growth, developing human capital and combating HIV/AIDS.
Key words: Burundi, entrepreneurship, land locked country,
With an estimated population of 8.4 million in 2010 (World Bank), Burundi, in the Great Lakes region, is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. It is also one of the Electronic copy available at: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3033755 world’s poorest countries. In 2006, about 67 per cent of the population was living below the poverty line. The climate is of a temperate tropical type, with two rainy seasons. Eighty per cent of the country’s total area of 28,000 km2 consists of an undulating plateau situated between 1,600 m and 2,000 m above sea level. Burundi is a landlocked country, and the nearest ports are located more than 1,500 km away in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania, or Mombasa, Kenya. Nine in ten Burundians live in rural areas and depend almost exclusively on subsistence farming and livestock for their livelihood. Burundi is overwhelmingly rural. Its economy is based on agriculture. But the sector is struggling. In the 1970s and 1980s, agriculture was already in decline, and the situation worsened with the conflict that started in 1993. Food production is the dominant activity, and coffee and tea are the nation’s biggest earners. They accounted for 8 per cent of agriculture production but for no less than 90 per cent of export earnings before the conflict started. The collapse of the international coffee and tea markets in the 1990s added a heavy burden to the economy. These external factors were compounded by the destruction by armed rebels of about half of the country’s coffee-washing stations, the destruction of one tea factory and serious damage to other factories. Violence also affected other agroindustrial facilities in the cotton, palm oil and sugar subsectors. Since 2002, more than 300,000 displaced people have returned to their birthplaces and original villages in Burundi. The issues of land ownership and lack of land and other economic alternatives in agricultural activities complicate their reinsertion into the economy. From an agricultural point of view, soils on the plateau are generally good. In some areas, farmers struggle to produce crops because of the low fertility of the soils and the steep nature of the hills on which they plant. Common cropping practices are primarily based on crop associations – most frequently, beans, sorghum, cassava, millet and maize. Almost without exception, farms also include livestock, mainly small animals. (Ndedi and Feussi, 2017) The rapidly growing population, which doubles in size every 30 years or so, faces the problem of land that is becoming less available and increasingly unproductive. Generalized overexploitation and erosion do not allow for a fallow period, which is the traditional way of maintaining soil fertility. Farmers have little or no capital to invest in chemical fertilizers. The growth rate of the GDP was negative for several years until it picked up again in 2004. In 2002 per capita GDP had fallen to US$110 from US$210 in 1990. After 2005, reforms to stabilize the economy, recover public finance and improve governance led to an economic recovery. The GDP growth rate rose to 5.9 per cent in 2006 but had dropped back to 3.9 per Electronic copy available at: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3033755 cent by 2010. The impact of conflict on the distribution of income and wealth has been significant in both urban and rural areas. The extent and the depth of poverty have become greater. Inflation has wiped out much of the Burundians’ purchasing power. Fishermen are active on Lake Tanganyika, bordering the United Republic of Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but their market outreach is fairly limited.
The long period of fighting was extremely disruptive to agriculture, which is the main source of livelihood for nine out of ten Burundians. The destruction and looting of crops and livestock, as well as general insecurity, has put rural Burundians under serious strains. Burundi was traditionally self-sufficient in food production, but because of conflict and recurrent droughts, the country has had to rely on food imports and international food aid in some regions. The vast majority of Burundi’s poor people are small-scale subsistence farmers trying to recover from the conflict and its aftermath. They face many constraints. This relatively small country has a high population growth rate, and as the population grows, the amount of fertile land available for agriculture is decreasing. According to the World Food Programme in Ndedi (2017a), the level of food vulnerability is extremely high: more than 60 per cent of the population is at risk of food insecurity as a result of climatic events, declining soil fertility and rising food prices. The adverse effects of prolonged drought, the increase in crop pests and the decline in land productivity are most apparent in the eastern and northern regions. In those regions an estimated 100,000 households are at permanent risk of food insecurity and fragile nutritional conditions. The extremely high population density (about 270 inhabitants per km2 and up to nearly 500 per km2 in the most densely populated areas) has contributed to greater food and resource scarcity in rural areas. As in neighbouring countries, the large number of men killed during the conflicts and the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS has created many poorer and fragile households headed by women or minors who have little access to non-agricultural resources. Poverty in rural areas is the result of:
• High population pressure on over cultivated, eroded land supporting farms of an average size of 0.5 ha or less
• Insecurity and displacement
• Recurrent drought
• Scarcity or poor quality of agricultural implements and technology, and limited market incentives
• Low productivity of labour
• Low cash incomes from subsistence agriculture or limited non-agricultural activities,
• Inadequate basic health and education services and safe drinking water,
• High rates of illiteracy
Poor people in rural areas face an acute lack of basic social and economic infrastructure. Many lack access to safe water and health services. Much of the healthcare system was destroyed during the fighting. Disability and death from malaria, HIV/AIDS and other diseases increased. As a consequence, the labour force for agriculture was significantly depleted. Men’s life expectancy was down to 39 years in 2004, compared with 51 years before the conflict started. By 2009, it had risen to 49, still below the pre-war level.
THE LONG WAY FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT IN ERADICATING
POVERTY IN BURUNDI
Since the signing of the Arusha Peace Accord in 2000, the Government of Burundi has focused on consolidating peace and national reconciliation. In presidential and local elections held in 2005, the former rebels won an outstanding majority of votes. Tensions escalated when national elections were boycotted by the major opposition parties in 2010, but the crisis did not lead to a full-scale conflict. Since then, localized incidents of violence have continued amidst overall stability. The end of recurrent conflict is crucial to long-term development and to reducing poverty in the country. In 2006 the government finalized its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), a reference document for the country’s economic and social development. In consultation with its development partners, the government also designed a Priority Action Plan for 2007-2010 to guide the implementation of its poverty reduction strategy. The Action Plan included 17 programmes for a total investment of US$1.3 billion. In February 2012, the government launched a new PRSP II to provide a framework for addressing the root causes of Burundi’s poverty, governance deficits and impediments to sustainable growth – and for lessening the potential for social and political instability. The four underlying objectives of the government’s poverty reduction strategy are:
• Improving governance and security
• Promoting sustainable and equitable economic growth
• Developing human capital
• Combating HIV/AIDS.
In July 2011, the government launched “Vision 2025” after four years of preparatory work and consultations with national partners. Vision 2025 comprises eight pillars, including governance, human capital, economic growth, regional integration, population growth, social cohesion, land-use planning and urbanization, and partnership. It represents a road map for Burundi’s sustainable development through accelerated economic growth, and for the reduction of poverty to about 33 per cent by 2025. The United Nations Development Programme and the African Future Institute supported development of the plan. In November 2011, the government launched the National Agricultural Investment Programme to streamline its National Agricultural Strategy into programmes that address the roots causes of rural poverty through investments financed by the country’s own resources, as well as external sources.
THE WAY FORWARD TO CURBE POVERTY IN BURUNDI THROUGH
The Value Chain Development Programme as the way forward to assist Burundi to halve poverty among stricken populations is designed to facilitate greater professionalization and organization among smallholder agricultural producers within viable agricultural value chains, and to help reduce the country’s grain and dairy deficit. The project’s goals are to:
• Reduce poverty and improve food security in rural areas through the development of agricultural value chains.
• Empower smallholder farmers to play a central role so that they can achieve maximum value added in their production and increase their income.
According to Ndedi (2017), the initiative will assist public and private institutions, civil society and organizations of rural poor people in forming quality partnerships to promote two main value chains (rice and milk) and six other secondary value chains. Furthermore, it will build the human, physical and technical capacity of poor smallholder farmers to enable them to protect their productive assets, increase their production of rice and milk and raise their incomes in a sustainable manner. Finally, the initiative will allow producers’ organizations to make the most of the value added to their produce through better market access. In this regard, activities will focus on reinforcing and protecting productive capital, supporting the enhancement of the value of agricultural production and the development of infrastructure, and facilitating project implementation and coordination. Communities, associations and cooperatives will be fully involved in the decision-making process and there will be a focus on mobilizing local technical assistance capacity.
This paper has paved way to the four underlying objectives of the government’s poverty reduction strategy which are improving governance and security, promoting sustainable and equitable economic growth, developing human capital, and finally combating HIV/AIDS. It is a long way to achieve the above. But the Burundian government
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