Support for Sustainable Food Production and Enhancement of Food Security and Climate Resilience in Burundi’s Highlands

The Farmer Field Schools aim to train farmers in land and water conservation techniques © FAO
This solution is one of 18 climate change adaptation solutions shared in the bookletMountains ADAPT: Solutions from East Africa, which showcases adaptation solutions proven to be successful in response to specific issues caused or accelerated by climate change. These solutions were selected for their inclusive approaches, their potential to be transferred and upscaled, as well as their extended benefits for downstream communities across the East Africa Community. This solution is described in the booklet on page 46: "The power of peer learning".


Implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the ‘Support for Sustainable Food Production and Enhancement of Food Security and Climate Resilience in Burundi’s Highlands’ project adopts an integrated natural resource management (INRM) approach to enhance food security in the north-western highlands of Burundi.

Burundi’s highlands are affected by environmental degradation that has caused poor crop and livestock productivity, loss of ecosystem services and loss of agrobiodiversity. In addition, the effects of climate hazards and risks cause a significant decline in agricultural production, threaten food security for millions of subsistence farmers and contribute to poverty in Burundi. There is also land and biodiversity degradation in the highlands. The north-western district of Bubanza is facing severe erosion, which greatly affects farming on the steep slopes in that part of Burundi. With reduced agricultural production, there are challenges to food security, and it is estimated that as many as 85 per cent of households in Burundi suffer from food insecurity.The communities predominantly depend on rain-fed subsistence agriculture as a source of food and livelihood. With climate change leading to longer droughts, the communities are also becoming more vulnerable.

To address these climate issues, a project titled ‘Support for Sustainable Food Production and Enhancement of Food Security and Climate Resilience in Burundi’s Highlands (RFS)’ was established in 2015. This is a large-scale project engaging partners at the national, provincial and communal levels in Burundi. The FAO is implementing the project in collaboration with the Burundian Ministry of Water, Environment, Land Management and Urban Planning, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. Together with farmers in the north-western highlands of the country, RFS aims to reduce climate change vulnerability in the region by adopting more climate-resilient practices in the agricultural sector, improving the production systems and increasing food and nutrition security for the region’s inhabitants. To reach these targets, the project adopted an integrated natural resource management (INRM) approach, which included working across the food production value chain to increase its sustainability.

The project is based on the following three following components:

  1. Strengthened institutional framework and support mechanisms
  2. Improved livelihoods and food security through integrated watershed management, competent producers’ organizations and sustainable food systems
  3. Monitoring and assessment of global environment benefits and socio-economic impacts to inform decision making.

A particularly successful solution in this INRM is the establishment of Farmer Field Schools (FFS) to train farmers in land and water conservation techniques. The FFS provided an opportunity for people in the community to learn new skills and techniques, as well as contributing their local knowledge to other project interventions. The schools are therefore effective when used with a community participatory approach, as they open the dialogue between the different stakeholders and can be used for putting scientific knowledge into practice. Furthermore, farmers can use the schools to exchange knowledge, and the structure can continue after the projects ends if the farmers find it beneficial.

In the communities around the Kayokwe, Mubarazi and Ruvyironza rivers, planting bamboo trees has been effective in addressing the issues of soil erosion and landslides. Under this project, over 49,000 bamboo seedlings have been produced in the nurseries through innovative techniques, in order to protect more than 147 kilometres of riverbank. These techniques include, for instance, culm-segment cuttings to grow bamboo seedlings from the stems of existing plants. The bamboo trees protect the riverbanks and help improve water quality by decreasing sedimentation and reducing pollution. The bamboo trees further protect the existing river biodiversity and increase habitat diversity.


Implementation sites:
  • Single country
  • Single location
Mountain region:
  • Burundi highlands in Bubanza

Solution scale:
Ecosystem type(s):
Solution type(s):
Climate impact(s) addressed:
Impact time-scales:
Implementation timeline:
  • 2015 - 2022
Sendai targets:

Solution details

Main beneficiaries & outcomes

The project has established 105 Farmer Field Schools (FFS) in 58 communes, enabling the farmers to control erosion and adopt agroforestry practices. As of June 2021, 3,373 households, 69 per cent of which are female-led, grouped into 105 FFS groups have been involved in training on good agricultural practices, sustainable land management, experimental trials on productivity and agricultural production resilient to climate change. In decision-making bodies in FFS committees, the participation rate of women is estimated at 50%.

Agroecosystem Analysis (AESA) on various crops, and income-generating activities involving beans, wheat, corn, potatoes, soybeans, bee keeping and mushrooms activities have been carried out.

In addition, in order to mitigate climate change effects, small scale irrigation have been developed and insure increase production for food security and nutrition With regard to environmental preservation, the project, in close collaboration with the environmental, agricultural and livestock bureaus and FFS groups and other implementation partners, produced and planted 4,119, 338 forest and agroforestry plants that allowed the project to reach a covered area of 15 277 ha land under agroforestry. 

In Musigati commune of Bubanza Province in north-western Burundi, through the FFS, the farmers established over 12,541 metres of contour lines by installing 16,617 plants, most of which were calliandra plants.

Planning and implementation

The solution was implemented by the FAO, together with the Ministry of Water, Environment, Land Management and Urban Planning, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.

At the national level, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MINEAGRIE) is the lead government counterpart and coordinating agency in this project and works in close collaboration with the Ministry of Water, Environment, Spatial and Urban Planning (MEEATU).

At the provincial level, the decentralized structures of the two ministries are involved with the Provincial Directorates of Agriculture and Livestock (DPAE) and with the Burundi Office for the Protection of the Environment (OBPE). 

At the communal level, the project interventions are supervised by the communal or zonal agronomist. The capacities of Farmer Field School Groups, cooperatives, and watershed committees are being reinforced to support local communities, who are the main beneficiaries of the project. 


The project “Support for sustainable food production and enhancement of food security and climate resilience in Burundi’s highlands ” is financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Trust Fund over a period of 5 years (2017-2022) for a GEF allocation (USD 7,396,330). Co-Financing from IFAD, World Bank projects, MINEAGRIE, FAO amounts to USD 45,050,728. Total project costs amount to USD 52,647,058.


The project is innovative by promoting a multi-sectoral approach and coordination at various level for sustainable land management (SLM). Policy platform and knowledge sharing mechanisms will help in establishing national and local level support systems. Different and innovative tools, notably to measure resilience, are also being used. The project interventions seek a viable anchor into existing local and institutional systems. The use of farmer field schools provided an opportunity for people in the community to learn new skills and techniques, as well as contributing their local knowledge to other project interventions.

Long term project sustainability and maintenance

The lessons and good practices of the project are captured and promoted by the Farmer Field Schools (FFS). This approach to the systematization of knowledge management supports the replication and scaling-up of project results in the country and across the region. Transforming FFS groups into cooperatives is one way of encouraging ownership and sustainability of SLM and community livelihoods activities.

Outlook & Scalability

Barriers and adverse effects

2 major constraints encountered in the implementation of the project: (i) slow administrative procedures and (ii) the restriction of field activities due to covid-19. The national strategy for harmonization of FFS process has been temporarily stopped, as other partners using FFS approach have been recommended to adapt it to the new governmental policy related to environment, agricultural and livestock popularization. Currently, the national strategy needs to be reviewed accordingly.

Mid-term review of the project (English)

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Mid-term review of the project (French)

Project summary