The poverty in Burundi is alarming

Food and agriculture in Burundi were the focus of an event at this year's Hidden Hunger Congress at the University of Hohenheim.

Professor Aloys Misago from the University of Burundi described the poverty in the country's rural areas as alarming. Food insecurity in Burundi is twice as high as in other sub-Saharan African countries. 1,7 million people, almost a sixth of the total population, suffer from food insecurity, and plant-based foods are on the menu most days of the year. The average consumption of meat and other animal products is less than five kilos per person per year. For comparison: In Germany alone, average meat consumption is almost 60 kilos per year. The main cause of the poor nutritional situation is people's poverty. Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world; almost half of the East African country's households suffer from extreme poverty. This means they have an income of less than $1,9 per person per day.

Burundi is rich in natural resources that could help alleviate poverty, as Professor Pascal Nkurunziza from the Université du Burundi pointed out. However, agriculture is the most important sector, with four fifths of the population working here. Subsistence agriculture is predominant, from which 91 percent of the people live, as Professor Heidi E. Megerle from the Rottenburg University of Forestry explained in her lecture. The university has had a partnership with the Université du Burundi since 2012, and together they are carrying out a project on agroforestry in Burundi. “Burundi is the world champion in deforestation,” emphasized Megerle. The reason: Wood is almost the only source of energy that people in Burundi use. The result is erosion and degradation of the soil and it loses its fertility. But deforestation has even more far-reaching consequences. As vegetation increases, the soil also loses its ability to store water. This, together with the strong population growth, means Burundi is heading for a water crisis, fears Megerle. “It’s a self-reinforcing downward spiral.”

Possible solutions, according to the experts at the congress, include afforestation and agroforestry, but above all more and better trained people. According to Aloys Misago, development partnerships with universities and other research institutions, but also with private companies, are also helpful.

The state of Baden-Württemberg has had a partnership with Burundi for years. “Burundi is the focus of Baden-Württemberg’s development cooperation,” emphasized Grit Puchan from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Rural Areas and Consumer Protection. Among other things, the country wants to support initiatives for women who live in rural regions. “Burundi is an important partner country for us. We want to expand our partnership with Burundi.”

The Burundi Forum at the Hidden Hunger Congress was carried out by the Burundi Competence Center of the Baden-Württemberg Development Cooperation Foundation (SEZ). The event was moderated by Muna Hassaballah, speaker at the SEZ for the Burundi Competence Center. The 4th Hidden Hunger Congress took place from February 27th to March 1st, 2019 at the University of Hohenheim.

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