Burundi ranks as the world’s hungriest country, and 80 percent of its 8.5 million people live below the poverty line (2012 Global Hunger Index, World Bank). The extreme poverty is linked to a violent history of ethnic conflict and genocide. After Burundi’s civil war ended in 2006, large numbers of people who had fled the violence began returning to their homeland, increasing the need for food security, economic development, and reconciliation.
Burundi is a tiny, landlocked country bordering Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Tanzania. It has one of the highest population densities in the world, and the average farm plot is only 1 acre (IFAD). At least 90 percent of Burundians depend on agriculture for their livelihood, yet their limited farmland has been devastated by deforestation, drought, war, and over-farming (World Bank). The effects of war and poverty have been especially hard on women and children in Burundi. Because a large number of men died during conflicts, many households are headed by women, and these households are poorer and more fragile due to a lack of resources.
Plant With Purpose helps farmers, many of them women, to access land to farm and to maximize their productivity through sustainable farming techniques. We are also working with agriculture research institutions to introduce disease-resistant varieties of crops—a critical need because several crops were decimated during years of conflict. Through Village Savings and Loan Associations, individuals are working together to save their money and provide loans to other group members. And through church-based Bible studies, people are experiencing the sustaining and reconciling love of God.
The challenges faced by smallholder farming families in Burundi are significant, but so is their determination. And as they come together to increase their crop production, they are also planting peace in their communities. As Hutus and Tutsis work hand in hand, they are creating a more peaceful and prosperous future for their families and their country.
Leoni is one of hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled from violence during Burundi’s civil war. Like so many, she lost everything when she left and came back to only a tiny plot of degraded land. Her children were depending on her to grow food they could eat, yet her efforts did not produce enough. But everything changed when she got connected with Plant With Purpose. Using the tools and training she gained, Leoni began to replenish the soil, plant a variety of crops, and enjoy a greater harvest. Leoni could feed her family.
Leoni also worked hard to earn enough income to send her kids to school. A Plant With Purpose Burundi staff member discovered that while Leoni was a refugee, she learned how to make fuel-efficient stoves that required less fuel wood and produced less disease-causing smoke. Soon, Leoni went from being just another struggling returnee to a powerful force for change in her community as she taught others to make their own stoves. She has since inspired others to start their own businesses. This kind of transformation—redemption of people, land, and spirit—is the heart of our work at Plant With Purpose.
Sponsor A Village
By sponsoring a village for as little as $1 a day, you can make a lasting impact on an entire community as they are given the tools and training to lift themselves out of poverty. Sponsor A Village in Burundi today and change the future for people like Leonie.