Burundi and IRRI
Rice has emerged as an important food staple in Burundi. Estimated land area currently being used for rice production includes about 5,000 hectares in the irrigated Imbo plain, 15,000 hectares in the non-irrigated Imbo plain, and 30,000 hectares in the Moso lowland. Between 1984 and 2011, rice production increased from 18,000 to 75,000 tons per year – a 316% increase in 27 years.
However rice production in Burundi faces challenges, low production, biotic and abiotic stresses, overused land plots and limited use of fertilizers, and a small number of qualified researchers and technicians. These challenges can be addressed by better-performing varieties and post-harvest technologies.
In 2008, IRRI started its initiatives in Burundi through a memorandum of understanding with the Burundi Government and a Letter of Agreement with the University of Burundi in Bujumbura. Four years later, IRRI established a regional office and a breeding hub for East and Southern Africa. Climatic conditions in Burundi’s Imbo Plain are very ideal for varietal development. The country also has different ecologies with various biotic and abiotic stress hotspots. More importantly, the support from favorable germplasm exchange regulations provided by the Burundi government is also helpful in advancing research initiatives in the region.
IRRI partners with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the University of Burundi and other research institutions and nongovernment organizations, with support from other governments and organizations in order to deliver impactful research for the region. Complete with facilities and laboratories, the research hub in Burundi enhances rice breeding expertise in other countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda, and many others.
Key achievements in Burundi
Improved rice varieties
IRRI is developing high-yielding varieties suited to Burundi’s ecology and with better resistance to pests and diseases and tolerance to certain abiotic stresses while maintaining the high-quality grain preferred by consumers. Since 2011, IRRI was able to release five varieties in Burundi. Around 77 differential lines for blast have been tested in high elevation marshlands.
Since 1962, IRRI has stored in trust 52 traditional and improved varieties from Burundi. This serves as a rich genetic source for rice breeders in order to develop new varieties with traits that are suited to Burundi’s ecology and the preferences of farmers and consumers.
Mechanization and equipment
IRRI has trained technicians to operate two-wheeled hand tractors, threshers, and hydrotillers and conducted demonstration sessions with farmers. The equipment helps farmers save time, labor, and money, which can help reduce rice prices.
Capacity building and development
IRRI encourages and supports education and training of rice researchers, technicians, extension workers. Through short courses and graduate studies, IRRI has also trained more than 70 local researchers and technicians to ensure that the latest developments in research, and technologies are integrated into the country’s rice production. IRRI has also trained more than three thousand smallholder farmers in Burundi.