The Rural Poverty in Burundi

Rural Poverty in Burundi

Rural Poverty in Burundi. In the poverty literature poverty is synonymous to Africa. When one talks of poverty Africa comes to mind immediately. The poverty in Africa is attributed to many causes, some of them are historical, psychological, individually inflicted and so on.

The historical aspect includes the phenomenon of slavery that the continent experience and colonization. Recent development scholars including African have rejected the incident of slavery. They argue that it is nearly sixty years since African countries became independent and so they should have developed their own strategies to graduate from poverty.


However, other scholars reject the argument that the influence of slavery and colonialism left a long lasting negative effect to the people in Africa. The series of our discussion about poverty in Africa; the discussion is about Burundi. Please join the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) that explains well the situation in Burundi. As it had been discussed earlier poverty in Africa is a rural phenomenon.

Rural poverty in Burundi 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 out of ten Burundians live below the poverty line. Per capita gross national income (GNI) in 2010 was US$170, about half its pre-war level some 20 years ago.


The country is now rebuilding itself after emerging from recurrent conflict and ethnic and political rivalry. Between 1993 and 2000, an estimated 300,000 civilians were killed and 1.2 million people fled from their homes to live in refugee camps or in exile. During that period, life expectancy declined from 51 to 44 years, the poverty rate doubled from 33 to 67 per cent and economic recession pushed the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita down by more than 27 per cent.


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, 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 have 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 overcultivated, 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.

Eradicating rural Poverty

Eradicating rural 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.

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