Transforming livelihoods through nature-based solutions in Burundi

Tharcisse Vyamungu goes about briskly planting tree seedlings in the sun soaked fields of Lake Tanganyika Basin in Burundi. Vyamungu and other local farmers are tending to a number of tree nurseries dotting the farmlands. They are enhancing climate change resilience.

Tharcisse Vyamungu is part of more than 200 famers planting trees alongside crops on their land, also known as agroforestry. For many years, farmers in the basin have borne the impact of weather elements. Heavy rains in the region have led to erosion, landslides and sedimentation downstream. Moreover, strong winds in the area have destroyed houses and in some instances led to loss of lives.

“Local communities in this area mainly rely on agriculture. For a long time, we have been at the mercy of heavy rain and strong winds which have in turn affected our livelihood”, explains Vyamungu.

However, this situation is changing thanks to a BirdLife International project focusing on climate change adaptation in the basin. The project funded by MacArthur Foundation and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) targets high altitude areas, which separate different rivers that flow into Lake Tanganyika in Burundi. The  project implemented by Association Burundaise pour la Protection de la Nature (ABN),  BirdLife partner in Burundi – has a participatory approach whereby community associations are involved in identifying resources and major climate change related threats in these vulnerable high altitude  areas. Additionally, this approach enables support for on-site actions on climate change adaptation.

In order to ensure community buy-in, ABN convened workshops involving 53 community members, to identify challenges and develop climate adaptation plans. Heavy rains leading to soil erosion; landslides, sedimentation and damage to houses by strong winds were cited as the most pressing climate change related challenges facing local communities. Further, turbidity from sedimentation and erosion diminishes the quality of drinking water in addition to affecting key economic activities including irrigation, fishing and hydropower production. All these changes are worsened by increasing human population and unsustainable agricultural practices on steep landscapes.

To address these challenges, local communities are involved in agroforestry with support from ABN. Tree planting is an effective way of fighting climate change including land protection and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. More importantly, this participatory approach where community members are involved in the preparation of tree nurseries and growing trees on their own croplands, enables them to feel  more involved in addressing the problem at hand.

Joseph Bizimungu, the Executive Director of ABN said ABN is supporting communities and the Government of Burundi to increase land protection through agroforestry. At least 267 community members have been engaged in setting up tree nursery beds with 834,000 seedlings in Ruhwa and Muhira Catchments of Lake Tanganyika basin. ABN will also provide around 5,000 fruit trees to communities in Murwi and Mugina Communes of Cibitoke Province: “We are excited that such a large number of trees will be ready for planting from November and the local government is appreciatiating our interventions at these sites. Once the trees are planted, local communities shall reap triple benefits including improved community’s livelihoods, sustainable agriculture and carbon sequestration,” Bizimungu adds.

Community members who contributed to establishment of tree nurseries are among beneficiaries of the planted trees. Members appreciate ABN’s support and will be actively involved in looking after the trees once planted. ‘’We have been collaborating with authorities at the commune and colline level, and we believe that the government will also be involved, once the seedlings are transplanted from the nurseries to people’s farms”, adds Jean De Dieu Bucankura, the project coordinator at ABN.

Aichi targets
14.1. Ecosystems that provide essential services, including services related to water, and contribute to health, livelihoods and well-being, are restored and safeguarded