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Protecting forest reserves restores Burundian livelihoods

Climate-smart solutions

Through a Sustainable Coffee Landscapes Project in Burundi, agroforestry practices have been adopted across 4,400 ha of land

© Georgina Smith

Canopy coffee

While Burundi’s agriculture is threatened by changing climatic patterns, a sustainable coffee project is helping farmers to restore landscapes and manage their own assets.

In Burundi, 9,600 households – nearly half of them female-headed – have started cultivating shade-grown coffee. The climate-smart approach mixes coffee with various trees and plants, such as banana, beans and maize, which protect the coffee from harsh sunlight or strong wind, and provide alternative sources of income. Beans fix nitrogen in the soil improving soil fertility, while bananas are capable of remaining hydrated under drought stress, reducing water competition during drought.

As part of a Sustainable Coffee Landscapes project, which is financed by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by Burundi’s Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Livestock, avocado, mandarin, orange and Japanese plum trees have also been planted, diversifying incomes in the Bubanza, Bururi and Muyinga provinces. Since 2013, these agroforestry practices have been adopted by more than 18,700 farmers, boosting the productivity of 2 million existing coffee trees across 4,400 ha.

Burundi’s coffee industry is vital for local communities, supporting half of local livelihoods and accounting for 90% of the country’s foreign exchange. But severe land degradation costs the country 4% of its GDP annually. Agencies working on coffee certification, park management, and regulation in the sector have come together through the project to improve training opportunities for farmers.

A manual and booklet for cultivating profitable shade-grown coffee has been translated in French and the local Kirundi language, and community-based agritourism in the Bururi Forest Reserve in Southern Burundi has enabled the local Batwa people to purchase their own land for the first time. Batwa community member Odette Nkurikiye, says: “We were enemies of the forest reserve of Bururi, but now, we are its best protectors. We now have jobs and have even bought land. We want to tap into the opportunities offered by our restored landscapes and stay out of poverty.”

Building on this success, a World Bank €26.6 million Landscape Restoration and Resilience Project, starting in early 2019, is expected to restore a further 90,000 ha of land, supporting sustainable management of the Bururi Forest Reserve and the Kibira and Ruvubu National Parks. The project is expected to benefit 80,000 households, increasing land productivity in targeted landscapes by 20%. 


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