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Burundi farmers hold a Week of Action

This week I was in Burundi to take part in a series of activities organised by local farmers and agricultural organisations. Over 90 percent of people in Burundi depend on agriculture, a sector that also accounts for 80 percent of the country’s export earnings.

Despite this there is little support for farmers and many, especially women and returning refugees, cannot access land or have insecure land rights. Burundi is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, with the result that the average farmer has only 0.5 hectares of land.

This week’s events aimed to highlight the importance of small farmers and set out what is needed to develop the agricultural sector in the country.

Seeds developed by ISABU (Institut Des Sciences Agronomiques Du Burundi). Photo: Marc Wegerif/Oxfam
Improved seed varieties on display

At a press conference in the capital city, Bujumbura, farmers called for better access to finance and inputs such as fertilisers and seeds. They also highlighted the importance of improving security of tenure and the need to get farmers involved in making policy and development discussions. The dense population makes the effective utilisation and preservation of the land that’s available all the more crucial.

The next day there was a photo exhibition opened outside the national Parliament building. At the public park in Bujumbura an exhibition of farmers’ produce was set up, including improved seed varieties developed by the local agricultural science institute.

After years of conflict, Burundi held national elections in 2005 and the last rebel movement joined the peace process in 2008. The country remains one of the poorest in the world and the recent elections were boycotted by opposition leaders, many of whom have now fled the country.

With all these challenges, ensuring good livelihood opportunities for the majority of people is essential – though difficult. Farmers’ organisations in Burundi are doing what they can and asking for the right actions from their government.

The events this week were organised by a group of 15 organisations, including some Oxfam partners in Burundi. The actions were supported by the 11.11.11 campaign

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Written by Marc Wegerif

Marc Wegerif

Marc Wegerif coordinates Oxfam's Economic Justice campaign in East Africa, working with partners to bring about fair policies for small farmers, pastoralists and communities affected by climate change. He is based in Tanzania

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  1. Thanks for this interesting story. With many African countries calling for “modernisation” of their agricultural sectors – which usually means moving towards large scale commercial farms – it is great to be riminded of how important it is to support small scale farmers, especially in post-conlfict countries such as Burundi. Thanks again and keep shining the light on small scale farmers!

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