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The agriculture–nutrition nexus in Burundi: Building the evidence base

A rapid scan reveals high food insecurity in the Humid Plateau (49.1%), the Imbo Plain (36.6%) and in the Dry Eastern Depression (33.5%)

April 14, 2016

A rapid scan of the nutrition situation in Burundi in October 2015 found high incidences of food insecurity across four provinces: Ngozi, in the Humid Central Plateau Livelihood cluster; Rumonge, in the Imbo Plain; and Rutana and Ruyigi, in the Dry Eastern Depression Livelihood Cluster. Incidence of food insecurity ranged between 33.5% and 49.1%. This is well above the 30% level established by FAO as the critical level of food insecurity. The survey also found that diets were poor and had not improved since 2014. The food deficit in Burundi worsened from 27% in 2009 to 52% in 2012, and is still chronic. The rapid scan also showed that, when confronted with a food deficit, households eat cheaper food, buy food on credit, reduce the number of meals and the amount of food per meal and even sell livestock to buy food.

CTA has commissioned a series of rapid scans of national food and nutrition situations to identify potential entry points for CTA support. These are part of its strategic priority of strengthening the linkages between agriculture and nutrition in the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States.

Results reported to the stakeholder workshop

Dr Jean Ndikumana, the lead consultant conducting the Burundi scan, presented the findings at a national stakeholder workshop held in Bujumbura on 25 March 2016. The workshop was attended by 18 participants from government ministries, United Nations organisations, donors and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).  

The 2015 research was the result of cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MINAGRIE), the Institute of Agronomic Sciences of Burundi (ISABU), the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) and CTA. It followed up on a detailed study in February 2014 coordinated by the World Food Programme and involving MINAGRIE, the Ministry of Health and HIV-AIDS Prevention and the Burundi Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (ISTEEBU).

Malnutrition in children remains high despite slight improvement

The scan found that, across the whole country, 5.8% of the population suffer from global acute malnutrition, significantly lower than the average of 7.7% recorded in the four provinces in 2014. Chronic malnutrition based on the height-for-age Z score was established at 43.9%, down from 52.8%. Despite the progress, the figures are still above the 40% defined by FAO as the limit for critical chronic malnutrition.

The overall underweight rate for under-5-year-old children was 28%, down slightly from 29.2% in 2014. This is an improvement considering that the assessment was done during the most serious hunger gap of the year. This was also slightly below the 30% level defined by FAO as critical.

Breastfeeding of infants and young children conformed to international standards: 75.8% of children were exclusively breastfed up to 6 months and 95.1% and 94.4% were still breastfed up to 1 year and 2 years old, respectively. This is another improvement compared with 2014, when nationally only 81.8% of children were breastfed up to 2 years of age.

However, only 37.5% of breastfed children aged 6–8 months were receiving the two meals considered to be an adequate supplement. None of the children aged 6–23 months who were not breastfed received the required four meals per day. Overall, only 24.6% of children aged 6–23 months were adequately fed. This shows little change from the 23.4% recorded nationally in 2014.

NdikumanaDr Ndikumana stressed the need to use the findings of the rapid scan to strengthen national efforts to enhance food and nutrition security.

Several policies targeting food and nutrition insecurity exist

The rapid scan found that Burundi has an adequate nutrition policy framework in place. Existing policies include:

1) The Burundi 2025 Vision. Pillar 2 focuses on reducing food insecurity and malnutrition.

2) The Strategic Framework for Fighting Poverty, 2nd Generation (CSLPII), for which one of the priorities is improving livelihoods of more than 70% of Burundi's population living below the US$1.25 poverty line through ensuring and strengthening nutrition security.

3) In MINAGRIE, important policy frameworks to enhance food security and nutrition include:
• the National Agricultural Development Strategy (SAN)
• the National Agricultural Investment Plan (PNIA).

4) In the 2011–2015 National Plan for Health Development (PNDS), developed by the Ministry of Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, the first strategic priority was 'Strengthening interventions to prevent and control malnutrition'. A new plan has been developed since 2015. All national programmes and projects on nutrition are currently coordinated through the Integrated Programme for Food and Nutrition (PRONIANUT), which is supported by technical and donor partners and NGOs.

5) The Multisectoral Strategic Plan for Food Security (PMSAN). The goal of this strategic plan is to reduce chronic malnutrition from 58% (2013) to 48% by 2017 and invest more in increasing agricultural production, food security and nutrition education.

Burundi is also a member of the worldwide programme on Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) and the Inter Agencies “Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger and Under-Nutrition (REACH). The combined programme is known as SUN/REACH

Priority interventions

The scan identified a number of interventions to address the chronic food deficit and malnutrition in the country. These include:
• Improving agricultural productivity and production
• Investing in food storage facilities
• Building expertise in human nutrition
• Improving governance in nutrition
• Enhancing national multisectoral partnerships
• Including food and nutrition security in community development plans.


CTA has so far commissioned 18 rapid scans on the agriculture–nutrition nexus in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, in addition to the 10 country case studies on the food and nutrition security situation that were commissioned in 2014. The food and nutrition security rapid scans and case studies will be available as CTA Working Papers.

• Download the Report from the workshop held in Bujumbura, Burundi
• Download the framework for joint action by the European Union, FAO, CTA and the World Bank Group – Agriculture and nutrition: a common future
• Read the World Bank's report on the nutrition situation in Burundi
• Follow the conversation on Twitter via #CTAnutrition

Further reading

• Find out about agriculture, nutrition and health in the Solomon Islands
• Read about building the evidence base for the agriculture–nutrition nexus in Samoa
• Read the article on strengthening the agriculture–nutrition nexus for food and nutrition security in Mali
• Discover what CTA is doing about strengthening the connection between agriculture and nutrition