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IRRI in Burundi

Rice has emerged as an important food staple in Burundi. The estimated land area currently used for rice production is about 50,000 hectares. Between 1984 and 2011, rice production increased from 18,000 to 75,000 metric tons annually—a 316% increase in 27 years.

However, rice production in the country continues to face challenges:

  • low production
  • biotic and abiotic stresses
  • overused land plots
  • limited use of fertilizers
  • limited number of qualified researchers and technicians

These can be addressed by:

  • adopting modern production, harvest, and post-harvest technologies
  • providing inputs
  • strengthening value chains and market access
  • strengthening capacity for the national research and extension program and farmers.

In 2012, IRRI established a regional office and a breeding hub for East and Southern Africa in Burundi. In 2017, the hub was designated for crop improvement in the region. Since December 2018, IRRI has been a registered International Organization governed by a Host Country Agreement with the Burundi Government. 

Why Burundi?

Climate conditions in the country’s Imbo Plain are ideal for varietal development. It has different ecologies with various hotspots for biotic and abiotic stresses. More importantly, government support for favorable germplasm exchange regulations helps advance regional research initiatives.

Partnerships in the country

IRRI partners with Burundi’s Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Livestock, the University of Burundi, and other research institutions and non-governmental organizations, particularly in its research and extension efforts. In 2019, ongoing IRRI projects in Burundi were financially supported by George Liang from China, the African Development Bank, and the World Bank. The research center in Burundi enhances rice breeding expertise in other countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda, Malawi, and Rwanda, among many others.

Key achievements

Improved rice varieties

IRRI developed high-yielding, consumer-quality grains with better resistance to pests and abiotic stresses. Eight elite lines have been released in Burundi since 2011, and six more are in the pipeline.

Germplasm conservation

Since 1962, IRRI has stored 52 traditional and improved varieties from Burundi in trust. This serves as a rich genetic source for rice breeders to develop new varieties with traits suited to Burundi’s ecology and the preferences of farmers and consumers.

Mechanization and equipment

IRRI has trained technicians to operate machinery that can help farmers boost productivity and reduce the cost of production. Rice mills were also provided to organized cooperatives in partnership with a project funded by the World Bank.

Capacity building and development

IRRI supports training rice researchers, technicians, and extension workers through national programs. Through short courses and graduate studies, IRRI has trained more than 80 local researchers and technicians to ensure that the latest rice research and technology developments are integrated into the country’s rice production. Over the past few years, IRRI has trained more than three thousand smallholder farmers in Burundi using the Training of Trainers system.