Increasing rural food security in Burundi

In Burundi the vast majority of legal litigations are on land, and these tensions are more present where recently large numbers of refugees have returned to the land that they left behind decades ago. Meanwhile, the remaining population has, in proper justice, taken over the land and consequently overlapping land claims occur.

Extension of agricultural land is not an option as over 90% of the potential agricultural area is already cultivated. Yet, yields are about 10% of the potential yield and hence there seems to be ample room for agricultural intensification. Yet, yields are limited by the very low soil fertility and lack of inputs to the soil. Although land use rights are a source of conflicts, the potential of the soil productivity offers possible solutions.

In 2011 ZOA Refugee Care initiated the programme 'Sangira' (=Kirundi for 'sharing') in the southern province of Makamba in Burundi. The Sangira project focuses on two districts (Vugizo and Mabanda) which both have known large scale repatriation in the years 2008-2009, with a substantial number of communities ('collines') having repatriation percentages of 25-50%. The programme has put 'land' high on the agenda, and has two major components:

  1. Achieving land security - by promoting that conflicting parties will establish amicable and written agreements and by working towards a system of delivery of land certificates by district authorities. The programme takes into account that land is the major source of conflict but at the same time soil can be the source of peace building, the source of people's increased self-help and reliance, the source of food production and economic progress and through all this, again, the source of reducing conflicts and sustaining peace.
  2. Improving food productivity in a sustainable way - in particular where current residents and repatriates are expected to share land for peace's sake - the programme Sangira wants to produce needed 'peace dividend' by compensating reduced land surfaces (because of land sharing) with higher yields per surface. To achieve increased food production the programming starts with concentrating on sustainably improved soil fertility - as a necessary condition that has to be met first, before addressing other constraints  (plant material; labour bottlenecks for soil preparation, sowing, weeding, harvesting and possible better practices of food storage and a practice of food produce marketing that is more profitable for the producer). It makes sense to address first the soil-related constraints: to establish a minimum of soil fertility and to ensure that this level of soil fertility will be maintained.

It is the Sangira project that made ZOA Refugee Care approach Alterra for cooperation in improving the production capacity of the soil.

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