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Burundi: Receiving a Cow Can Transform Someone’s Life

Mrs. Christine feeding her cows. Photo: Richard Giramahoro/PRDAIGL
Mrs. Christine feeding her cows. Photo: Richard Giramahoro/PRDAIGL

Gitega, BURUNDI, 16 May 2023-/African Media Agency(AMA)/—The Great Lakes Regional Integrated Agriculture Development Project (PRDAIGL) has transformed the life of 56-year-old Christine Nyabenda, a widow from Bujumbura, Burundi. Previously living in deplorable conditions, Christine received support through PRDAIGL, which included livestock, technical assistance, and financial support, enabling her to develop a successful dairy business, employing four people and improving her family’s nutrition. Despite initial challenges, the World Bank-funded PRDAIGL has managed to significantly impact the agricultural sector, distributing improved breed cows, providing training, and supporting over 38,000 beneficiaries, 35% of whom were women.

“Before the Great Lakes Regional Integrated Agriculture Development Project (PRDAIGL), I was living in deplorable conditions. My family and I had few means of subsistence, and we were facing a high level of malnutrition. Six of my children had to drop out of school at an early age because our family was lacking resources,” said 56-year-old Christine Nyabenda.

Christine lives in Maramvya in the province of Bujumbura. She has been a widow for 20 years and has received support from PRDAIGL. This support is part of the project’s component on the development of a dairy value chain and the re-population of livestock through the distribution of cows as well as financial and technical support for the establishment of stables.

Having served milk to her children on a regular basis, Christine sold the milk that wasn’t consumed and was able to purchase a second cow and build a store for marketing dairy products. She now employs four people, two of whom take care of the improved breed of cows in her stable while the other two are in charge of marketing in the new store and in charge of the manufacture of costras, a type of brick used in construction that makes ventilation possible.

Christine’s agricultural production has greatly increased owing to the use of manure: “Before, I used to sow corn in my field without putting manure on it. Now, with manure, the harvest has increased threefold, from one to three tons, and I can sell part of the corn that’s not consumed,” In addition, multidimensional support from PRDAIGL has allowed me to learn good animal husbandry practices, in particular the daily monitoring of animal health, good cattle feeding, and hygiene.”

This support is provided through groups of farmers called “Farmer Field Schools” (FFS). One of these FFSs, with 35 members, is currently headed by Mrs. Christine.

PRDAIGL, a regional World Bank-financed project of $75 million in IDA funds for Burundi, started in November 2017 and aims to increase agricultural productivity and marketing in the areas targeted by the project. It also aims to strengthen regional integration in the agricultural sector.

The Great Lakes Region (GLR) includes Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. These countries share many agro-ecological characteristics and have long been interdependent. Their territory covers a vast central African corridor stretching from Kinshasa in the west to Dar-es-Salaam in the east.

The region has, however, experienced persistent civil strife for decades, with countless victims.

Good results despite difficult beginnings

A few weeks after the launch of PRDAIGL in January 2018, Burundi declared an outbreak of the Small Ruminant Pest (PPR) viral disease. The import of bovine animals was temporarily suspended. In August 2019, this measure was lifted, having delayed the import of the 3,000 bovine animals planned for the project by two years. While PRDAIGL was trying to make up for the delay, it once again faced two exogenous shocks: the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 followed by foot-and-mouth disease in 2021 in Uganda in the district from where the animals were to be imported.

Despite these challenges, PRDAIGL has managed to achieve several objectives. On the cattle value chain: 3,150 cows of an improved breed were distributed, 11,829,000 Bana-grass cuttings, 150 tons of meal, and 18,000 bags of cement plus pumps, syringes, and thermometers. Trainings were held for the multidimensional support of bovine beneficiaries. The number of beneficiaries reached 38,120 of which 35% were women.

PRDAIGL has even gone beyond the objectives initially set for it by taking into account Law No. 1/21 of 2018 on zero-grazing and the prohibition of animal roaming that compels farmers to keep their animals in permanent stalling. Through applied research, and in collaboration with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), PRDAIGL has been able to import and test nine new varieties of improved fodder crops, some of which are being propagated by the Burundi Institute of Agronomic Sciences (ISABU) and will soon be distributed to beneficiaries of the dairy value chain.

These activities are very satisfactory, with nearly 23,000 beneficiaries supported, as well as: (i) 5,775 kg of iron-rich bean seeds provided to 1,650 households; (ii) 2,310,000 orange-fleshed sweet potato cuttings distributed to 1,650 households; (iii) cooking demonstration activities carried out in several provinces; and (iv) upgrading bio-fortified crops, such as the sweet potatoes and fortified beans, through practical training on how to preserve these high value, high nutritional content foods for longer periods of time.

Mrs. Christine in her shop, Photo: Richard Giramahoro/PRDAIGL

Project Sustainability

Beyond the monetary and nutritional improvements for her and her family, Christine Nyabenda explains that these productive assets guarantee her some insurance for her old age because she has no pension. The project provides her with social recognition in her neighborhood; many people come to seek her advice on modern livestock farming.

PRDAIGL has provided institutional support to the National Center for Artificial Insemination and Genetic Improvement, which has a state-owned farm with bulls on it and a seed production laboratory, by equipping it with a liquid nitrogen liquefier, which allows for the artificial insemination of cattle and the sustainability of PRDAIGL’s activities in the solidarity chain.

To alleviate food insecurity, PRDAIGL has begun to strengthen a dimension on Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture in order to have an impact on the four pillars of food security: availability, access, use, and stability.

Only 14.8% of women in Burundi consume food with adequate dietary diversity, according to  UNICEF’s SMART 2022 report.  27.6% of children under the age of five are underweight, 7.8% severely.

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