Building on Fertile Grounds - Burundi

Agricultural interventions in Burundi are characterized by insufficient impact on the levels of food security of the smallholder farmer communities, on the sustainable improvement of the productivity of land and labour, and on the levels of preparedness for climate change. As a result, the rural population continues to suffer from chronic and acute malnutrition, poverty and extreme vulnerability. This is particularly the case in the southern part of the country, Makamba province, to where many former refugees returned from Tanzania, seeking to access food and income on very small areas of land. ZOA, a Dutch based NGO, works with local partners and the Burundian government towards sustainable agricultural intensification in Makamba, by making use of inputs such as inorganic fertilizers, compost and manure.

In view of the high variability of the soils and climate regimes in the area, a project has been designed to make inputs and advice much more site-specific required to increase adoption rates of improved technologies. The project Building on Fertile Grounds aims to contribute to the food security of the vulnerable smallholder farmer community in South Burundi.

The project will develop, field-test and refine innovations per agro-ecological zone. The best assessed propositions - in terms of improved access to food/income, improved land and labour productivity, sustainability and adaptation to climate change - will be embedded in ZOA’s on-going agricultural programs and in the government rural extension services.

This project will on the one hand use scientific knowledge on agro-ecological zones and crop suitability, and on the other hand farmer’s knowledge on soil fertility to develop proposals for innovations based upon detailed cost/benefit, sustainability and climate (change) analyses. Soil samples will be taken and be used to validate the local farmer’s classification system. Propositions will be tested by farmers, coached by the project staff, per each agro-ecological zone. The results will be assessed in a participatory way, and subsequently the innovations refined.

The consortium has been constructed to ensure that all necessary expertise and networks are available, including also expertise from the private sector and from Burundi: in addition to Alterra, the other partners are ZOA, Agrifirm, the University of Burundi and innovative farmers.

The project in the framework of WOTRO-ARF will last three years (2014-2017) and will collaborate with the project “Fanning the Spark”, working with the same farmers wherever possible. Results will also feed the project Secured Growth.