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Farming for Food Security in Burundi

Full tummies make for a happy family.

 Food insecurity is one of the major challenges for families in Burundi. It leads to chronic hunger, malnutrition, school absences, poor overall health, and a host of emotional and social struggles. While many factors contribute to this problem, one of the major issues in rural areas is the relatively small plot of land most families can farm, and these are often situated on steep inclines due to the hilly topography. 

Food for the Hungry (FH) works with families like Narcisse’s to improve, intensify, and diversify their farming so they can feed their children—a foundational step on the journey out of poverty. 

Narcisse and his wife, Chantal, are a young couple in their early 30s with three children ranging from 10 to two-and-a-half years old. They live in a small farming village among the hills of Kabarore on the border with Rwanda. Before FH Burundi began a partnership with their community they didn’t have any way to generate an income outside of farming.
And their farming was not very successful. 

They also struggled with their health.
“We were physically getting weak and our children were getting sick very often. They were having diarrhea, malnutrition, and were affected by [intestinal] worms,” Narcisse remembers. Without adequate nutrition and clean water, they constantly fought against disease and fatigue. Their situation was the norm for their whole community.

“Nutrition practices were very poor and many children were malnourished. As our farms are located on slopes and overexploited, farm production was very low. There was no hope among community members because of many problems.”

When FH Burundi began working in Kabarore, new opportunities opened up. Narcisse’s wife, Chantal, was selected to be a Cascade health group leader, responsible for learning and teaching new health routines to her neighbours. FH trained her and many others in life-saving hygiene practices and how to feed their families a balanced diet. “She showed me how to make tippy taps [handwashing stations], a kitchen garden, and the importance of eating vegetables,” says Narcisse with pride.

“She also learned about heat compost, Farming God’s Way [sustainable agriculture], and the importance of using improved seeds. On our small land, we started to practice Farming God’s Way and the result was that where we used to harvest 50 kgs, we harvested 142 kgs!” As a result, the whole family is feeling better.

“As a result [of Chantal’s training], hygiene was improved at my home,” Narcisse explains. “We are always clean, even my children are clean. Physically, my family members and myself, we are healthy!" 

"We eat well and use locally available foods. We were trained to prepare a balanced diet.” 

FH partnership in Kabarore has already had a far-reaching impact on the whole community. “Hygiene and sanitation have improved, latrines were built, tippy-taps installed, stables were built for animals ,” Narcisse says. “People started to prepare balanced diets and frequently include vegetables in their diet. Production increased because people adopted new methods of farming including intercropping, sowing in lines, and fertilizing with locally produced manure. The number of domestic animals is increasing and we thank FH for the animal distributions!”

Pigs are a great family investment. Their manure can be used to fertalize fields and gardens, their piglets can be sold for income, and in a pinch, they provide an excellent source of protein.

FH Burundi’s commitment to walking with the communities for the long haul has had a powerful effect on the people. Families like Narcisse’s are daring to hope that real and lasting change is possible.

“Before being involved in FH programs, I was thinking that FH is like other non-governmental organizations which come, do small things for a short time, and leave without following what they teach to community members. When my wife was elected to be a Cascade group leader, I was thinking that it was a waste of time. But finally, I appreciated her election and I encourage her to continue and I help her and our neighbours to practice what they are learning. Today, my wife and I are actively teaching others good practices in caregiving and raising our children, in health, and in farming.”

From not being able to feed his family to owning his own business, the future is looking up for Narcisse.

In addition to improved farming, Narcisse has created a brand new source of income for his family. With the support of FH, he started a Savings and Loans group with his neighbours. With the money he saved and the option of taking out a small loan, he bought a pig and opened a small restaurant! 

“The food available in our restaurant is beans, rice, potatoes, cassava, and vegetables, especially cabbage. I get customers and they are trusting me. I hope to get a good benefit. By the end of September, I got a return of BIF 40,000 ($25.50 CAD). This is encouraging as a good beginning and I will continue to do this small income generating activity.” 

“I am very thankful to FH because I see that my life is improving!”

Give a gift to help more families like Narcisse and Chantal's improve their food security.


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Food for the Hungry: Farming for Food Security in Burundi
Farming for Food Security in Burundi
How do we overcome food insecurity in Burundi? Sustainable farming is a good first step! Read about a hungry family's journey to health and thriving.
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Food for the Hungry
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