Burundi Agriculture and Fishing Overview

Agriculture and fishing

Agriculture is the most important branch of the Burundian economy. Nearly nine out of ten residents rely on agriculture, forestry or fishing. There are coffee and tea plantations where you grow for export, but the vast majority of farmers have to manage on crops that you can grow on very small properties for house needs. The majority of Burundians live out of hand in their mouths.

  • CountryAAH: Comprehensive import regulations of Burundi. Covers import prohibitions and special documentation requirements for a list of prohibited items.

Agriculture accounts for just over a third of Burundi’s GDP. Still, the country is heavily dependent on food imports. War, migration and drought have caused great damage to agriculture since the 1990s. A minority of the population has secure access to food. Half of the children under five are chronically malnourished, according to the UN, whose agricultural body FAO estimates that 15 percent of the population is in need of humanitarian aid. For Burundi defense and foreign policy, please check prozipcodes.

Sweet potatoes, cassava, bananas, corn and vegetables are grown for their own consumption. Commercial agriculture is limited and largely dominated by coffee, which in some years can account for more than 90 percent of export earnings. The dependence on coffee is a scourge, as the market price varies widely. In order to broaden the agricultural economy, since the 1980s, efforts have been made to grow tea, sugarcane, cotton and rice.

The plantations are important employers. About 800,000 burundians, or a tenth of the formal labor force, are found on coffee farms. Around 300,000 work on the tea plantations. Tea is the second largest export crop.

In Burundi many breed livestock. However, depletion of the soil due to overgrazing is a threat to agricultural production. Other problems for agriculture are conflicts over the right to land, as well as poor distribution of fertilizers.

The small remaining forest cover is quickly reduced by harvesting, including for fuel. Between 1990 and 2005, Burundi is estimated to have lost more than a fifth of its forest land.

Fishing takes place in Lake Tanganyika but tends to decrease in importance. The war years, when the lake was often closed to fishing boats for safety reasons, contributed significantly to the decline.


Agriculture’s share of GDP

30.6 percent (2016)

Percentage of land used for agriculture

79.2 percent (2016)

  • Abbreviationfinder.org: Offers how the 3-letter acronym of BDI stands for the state of Burundi in geography.



Peace negotiations begin

Representatives of the government and opposition groups start new peace talks in Uganda under the leadership of host country president Museveni. A new round of negotiations will be held in January and the AU threatens sanctions against those who do not set up or otherwise interfere with the peace dialogue. The AU Commission President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma asks the UN Security Council to support the planned peacekeeping intervention in Burundi. President Nkurunziza says that without the UN’s explicit approval of the African force, he will command military resistance as soon as it sets foot on Burundian soil.

A new association of resistance groups is formed

Several armed resistance groups come together under the name of Burundi’s Republican Forces (Forebu). The purpose of the new organization is stated to be to “protect the people” and to ensure that the Arusha agreement that put an end to the civil war 1993-2006 was complied with. The main objective is to oust President Nkurunziza.

AU peace force is rejected

The African Union (AU) decides to send up to 5,000 peacekeeping troops to Burundi. It would be the first time that the AU applies a rule to send a peace force to a member country without its consent. The AU gives the Burundi government four days to approve the decision but says that the soldiers should be dispatched regardless of what the government says. The Bujumbura Parliament and Government respond that they will regard the peace force as an invasion and occupation force and that the UN Security Council must approve such military intervention.

Hard fighting between the army and opposition

December 11

Three concerted attacks are carried out against military facilities in Burundi. According to the army, 79 were killed by the attackers and eight soldiers. The battles are the toughest since the failed coup attempt (see May 2015). According to several witnesses, soldiers go from house to house in areas where the opposition is strong, seize young men and kill them. The day before, the army is fighting a battle of up to 100 men in southwestern Burundi.

More dead in battles

During one day at the beginning of the month, at least seven people were killed in fire fighting and grenade attacks in and around Bujumbura.


Leading government politicians are sanctioned

The United States is facing sanctions against four leading Burundian politicians, including the regime’s second man, Secretary of Defense Alaine Guillaume Bunyoni. They are prohibited from traveling to the United States and their potential financial assets in the United States are blocked. They are accused of being responsible for the escalating violence in Burundi.

Several NGOs are banned

The government has so far banned ten NGOs accused of supporting anti-regime groups. The organizations have worked with human rights issues, child support and the fight against corruption.

UN resolution calls for negotiations

The UN Security Council adopts a resolution condemning the violence, arrests and violations of human rights in Burundi. The resolution calls on the government and the opposition to immediately begin negotiations to reduce the risk of genocide . Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is invited within 15 days to propose how an international peacekeeping force should be able to help stop the crisis. Both sides of the conflict say they are satisfied with the resolution and the opposition calls on the UN to send a peace force as soon as possible. The EU decides to evacuate the relatives of diplomats and the Belgian government calls on all its citizens to leave Burundi if they do not absolutely have to stay there.


Fighting in Bujumbura

About 10 people are killed in fighting in Bujumbura between security forces and a government-hostile group.

The National Dialogue Commission is established – and boycotted

At the end of the month, a commission will be appointed to work on the government’s mission to promote national dialogue. The opposition distrusts the Commission and calls for a boycott of its work. One opposition leader says that what needs to be discussed is the president’s illegal third term, security issues and the demand for the private media to start working again.

Tight relations with Rwanda

The government has a high ranking diplomat from Rwanda. A few days earlier, the Burundian government has accused Rwanda of training rebels in order to destabilize Burundi. Relations between Burundi and Rwanda have deteriorated during the autumn. Rwanda has criticized President Nkurunziza for his attempt to be re-elected for a third term. Burundi has in turn accused Rwanda of giving free rein to General Godefroid Niyombare, who was behind the failed military coup in May (see May 2015).

EU sanctions against government representatives

The EU decides to impose sanctions on four high-ranking persons in the Burundian regime. Their potential assets in the EU are blocked and they are forbidden to travel to EU countries.


Nkurunziza requires the surrender of weapons

President Nkurunziza says people who have weapons without a permit are given a month to leave them. He admits that “a few” people at the security service have committed murder or torture, but that they must be held accountable for their crimes.

The UN warns against civil war

UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein says there is a great risk of a new civil war in Burundi. The Jordanian prince says that murders, arrests and imprisonment are steadily increasing. Almost every day, dead people are found in parts of Bujumbura, he says, adding that the victims in many cases carry traces of torture and are often found with tied hands. Many of the victims have been reported as arrested by the SNR intelligence service before being found dead.

Army Chief of Staff avoids attacks

An attack is directed at the country’s army chief but this one escapes unscathed.


Opposition parties form a new alliance

1 August

A number of opposition parties form the umbrella organization National Council for the Restoration of the Rule of Law and the Arusha Peace Agreement (CNARED).

The president’s inner circle forms government

The hopes that Nkurunziza will appoint a broad government that can work for national reconciliation are shameful. The new government is dominated by people who are considered tough and who are close to the president. The ministerial posts that go to the opposition are not considered particularly influential. Nkurunziza also imposes an irreconcilable tone in connection with the formation of government, saying that “the groups that threaten the security of the nation should be destroyed.”

Torture charges from Amnesty

Amnesty International accuses the police and security forces of having committed gross violence and pure torture against persons suspected of protesting against the government. In a report based on a series of interviews, Amnesty describes how arrested persons were beaten with iron pipes and burned with acid.

Nkurunziza swears presidential speech

20th of August

Six days earlier than planned, Nkurunziza resigns the presidency and begins his third term in office.

Former army chief is killed

Former Army commander Colonel Jean Bikomagu is shot to death outside his home in Bujumbura. Bikomagu, who belonged to the Tutsi minority, led the Burundian army during the civil war. The murder causes the AU to once again appeal to all parties in Burundi for “the greatest possible restraint”. The AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says further escalated violence could have “catastrophic consequences” before the entire region.

The CNDD-FDD’s district chairman is killed

Another day later, a CNDD-FDD district president was killed on a street in Bujumbura.

Leading human rights activist shot

The day after the murder of General Nshimirimana, one of Burundi’s leading human rights activists, Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, is seriously injured when he is shot by a man on a motorcycle.

High ranking general is killed

A general who stood close to President Nkurunziza is killed when his car is shot down with rockets and automatic weapons in Bujumbura. General Adolphe Nshimirimana was considered in practice the second highest leader of the regime. He is believed to have been responsible for the strike against the hostile demonstrations in the spring. The attackers are said to have been dressed in army uniforms.


Opposition leader becomes Vice President

Despite the election boycott, the opposition takes its seats when Parliament is opened. Opposition leader Agathon Rwasa is elected first deputy president through the support of the ruling party. Rwasa, who advocated electoral boycott, says he decided to “get into the game” to seek a solution to the country’s crisis, but he is accused by other opposition politicians of treason.

Continued criticism from election observers

UN observers say that although the election day was relatively peaceful, the elections were not conducted in an environment that made a free and credible election process possible. The observer group criticizes restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, as well as the unilateral reporting by the state media. Similar criticisms are voiced by regional observers and by the United States.

Nkurunziza is re-elected

The Election Commission announces Nkurunziza as the winner in the presidential election with just over 69 percent of the vote. Opposition leader Agathon Rwasa, who boycotted the election but remained on the ballots, gets 19 percent. Voter turnout across the country is reported to be just over 73 percent, but in Bujumbura only 30 percent. The opposition does not recognize the election results and demands that a unity government be appointed.

Sharp criticism of the presidential election

The African Union (AU) is choosing for the first time not to send election observers to a member country. The reason is that the security situation does not allow for a free and fair choice. Three representatives of smaller opposition parties challenge Nkurunziza, but the four main opposition leaders urge their supporters to boycott the election. The think tank International Crisis Group says that in practice it is a choice with a single candidate and that the political climate is at risk of leading to a new civil war. According to Doctors Without Borders, around 1,000 Burundians flee into Tanzania every day.

Continued unrest

Election Day is preceded by a night of shooting and explosions in Bujumbura. Two men are found dead, a police officer and a member of an opposition party.

Mediation attempts are canceled

The EAC’s attempt to mediate between the political parties is interrupted without success. A statement from the Government of Uganda states that the parties promised to continue the negotiations. Just two days before the planned presidential election, however, the government stops talks with the opposition.

Deferred presidential election

The presidential election is postponed by six days, until July 21.

Struggles between the army and suspected rebels

Several people designated as “rebels” are killed in battles with army soldiers near the border with Rwanda. According to the army, about 100 suspected rebels are arrested. Former general of the intelligence service Léonard Ngendakumana, who participated in the coup attempt in May, says that soldiers loyal to him were attacked by the army. Ngendakumana has said in a series of statements that the attempts to overthrow the president continue.

CNDD-FDD wins the parliamentary election

The Election Commission announces that the CNDD-FDD wins the parliamentary election with 77 of the 100 people elected. The ruling party’s ally Uprona gets 2 seats. Despite the opposition boycott, the newly formed Alliance Independent Coalition for Burundian Hope gets 21 seats. The alliance is led by Agathon Rwasa and Charles Nditije.

Mediators are asked to leave the country

The government calls on UN mediators to leave the country. The Senegalese diplomat is criticized for “lack of respect for Burundi’s sovereignty”, as he has had closer contacts with the opposition and diplomats than with the government side. He is accused of participating in an “international conspiracy” against Burundi.

Withdraw assistance after criticized elections

The UN observer group states that the parliamentary elections were not conducted in free or credible forms and that it was done “in a climate of terror and threat”. The United States decides to withdraw aid for certain security projects in Burundi and calls on the country’s government to postpone the planned presidential election.


The parliamentary elections are held

May 29th

Despite the opposition boycott of the opposition and despite the fact that both the EU and AU have called home their observers, the parliamentary elections are being conducted. The EU threatens to further reduce its aid. The President of Parliament also leaves the country on the grounds that he was threatened after calling on the President to resign. In the weekend before the election alone, another nearly 10,000 Burundians left the country, according to the UN, which estimates that around 144,000 have fled since the unrest began.

Re-election campaign starts despite boycott

A number of community organizations and most opposition parties urge the people to boycott the upcoming elections and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urges the authorities to postpone the elections until a better social climate is created. The government rejects the demands and President Nkurunziza officially launches his reelection campaign.

Still many on the run

Since the end of April, UNHCR has registered nearly 127,000 Burundians as refugees in neighboring countries, of which almost half have traveled to Tanzania. Many more are believed to have left the country without being registered.

Students enter the embassy area

A few hundred students enter the US embassy area after being ordered by police to leave the nearby camps where they have been since the end of April.

Endangered Vice President flies

Second Vice President Gervais Rufyikiri flees the country and seeks protection in Belgium. He says he was threatened after accusing President Nkurunziza of violating the constitution by running for election for a third term.

Peace talks without the ruling party

Opposition politicians, religious leaders and civil society representatives stand up as UN mediators try to gather all parties to peace talks. In contrast, the ruling party does not have CNDD-FDD and representatives of the presidential office.

Several victims in grenade attacks

Four people are killed and some 30 are injured in grenade attacks in a city north of Bujumbura and in the capital. The government and the opposition blame each other.

Many affected by the unrest

Domestic human rights movement Aprodeh says the roughly eight weeks of turmoil have claimed at least 70 lives. About 500 people have been injured and more than 1,000 arrested according to the organization.

The UN warns against youth militia

The UN Commissioner for Human Rights warns that the youth militia Imbonerakure (see April 2014) is becoming more violent and risks pushing an already tense situation “across the border”. The group is accused of torture, ill-treatment and extrajudicial executions.

The choice is pushed forward

The government postpones the parliamentary elections until June 29 and the presidential elections until June 15. Opposition leader Agathon Rwasa calls Nkurunziza a dictator and says elections cannot be held until security is restored, an independent election commission has been set up and the media is again allowed to act freely.


Almost no free media

After the street protests and the coup attempt, Burundi is basically free of media. All independent radio stations have had their equipment destroyed or stolen by government loyal soldiers.

The mass escape continues

According to the UNHCR UNHCR, over 105,000 Burundians have moved to neighboring countries, more than 70,000 to Tanzania, just over 26,000 to Rwanda and over 9,000 to Congo-Kinshasa.

Revolt is knocked down

Since the coup attempt was announced, fighting in Bujumbura erupts between soldiers supporting the coup makers and soldiers loyal to Nkurunziza. It is unclear who is in control of the city as well as where the president is. After almost two days, government loyal soldiers can knock down the revolt. Most dome leaders are arrested and the president returns, but street protests continue.

General makes coup attempt

May 13th

General Godefroid Niyombare, former ambassador and head of the intelligence service, announces on radio that the government is dissolved and that he will form a committee to restore “national harmony”. President Nkurunziza is currently abroad. Niyombare is surrounded by several high-ranking army and police officers as well as a former defense minister when he announces that he will work with civilian groups to form a transitional government aimed at conducting democratic elections. Nkurunziza dismisses the Twitter coup as “a joke”, but cheering crowds rush to the streets to celebrate.

Foreign aid to the elections is withdrawn

Burundi’s largest individual donor in Belgium cancels planned support for the € 2.2 million elections. Two million have already been paid out. Belgium is also withdrawing support for the police force. The EU holds the equivalent of just over SEK 16 million that would have gone to organizing elections. The government of Burundi appeals for contributions from citizens to be able to conduct the elections.

Violent riots continue

May 7

The AU Commission President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says it seems impossible to make elections in the prevailing social climate. On the same day, at least four people are reported to have been killed in continued clashes. A man suspected of being a member of the government party’s youth union Imbonerakure is reported to have been lynched to death by a crowd.

Mediation attempts are made

May 6

Foreign ministers from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania come to Bujumbura to try to mediate the conflict. Representatives of the government and the opposition hold talks on the crisis.

Nkurunziza’s candidacy is approved

The Constitutional Court approves President Nkurunziza’s candidacy in the upcoming presidential election. The Court points out that his first term in office should be seen as a transitional solution, since he was then elected by Parliament, and therefore should not be counted. The court’s vice-chair Sylvère Nimpagaritse refuses to support the decision and leaves the country after the death threat. According to Nimpagaritse, the entire court has been subjected to strong pressure from people in high standing and also received death threats.


Nkurunziza is elected presidential candidate

The ruling party CNDD-FDD appoints Nkurunziza as its presidential candidate. The message triggers street protests that are knocked down by riot police with water cannons and tear gas. At least six protesters are reported to be shot dead by police. As the protests continue, the authorities shut down the country’s largest independent radio station RPA, which for several months has reported extensively on the government’s strike against oppositionists.

Extensive unrest for the elections

Concerns are mounting before the presidential election. Hundreds of people are said to have been arrested in connection with protests against President Nkurunziza. Sixty-five of them risk life imprisonment after being prosecuted for “participating in the uprising”. Two policemen and a civilian are killed in a grenade attack blamed on the protesters by the police. The government threatens to deploy the army against protesters if protests continue.

Mass escape before the presidential election

The UN estimates that more than 8,000 Burundians flee to Rwanda or Congo-Kinshasa during the first two weeks of the month. The reason is the rising tensions in Burndi ahead of the disputed presidential election in June. As the army then begins patrolling the streets of Bujumbura, the refugee stream increases. In two days, more than 5,000 Burundians flee to Rwanda and 3,800 go to Congo-Kinshasa.

University of Bujumbura is closed

In an effort to stop the ongoing protests, the authorities are closing the University of Bujumbura and forcing thousands of students to return to their homes. Hundreds of people gather outside the US embassy in the hope that it will give them protection.

Nkurunziza’s candidacy is being reviewed

The Constitutional Court decides to review President Nkurunziza’s decision to run for election. However, the opposition believes that the trial is pointless because the court is completely loyal to Nkurunziza. The AU’s Peace and Security Council calls on both sides to remain calm pending the ruling of the Constitutional Court. Russia and China block a French attempt to get the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in Burundi.


Call for Nkurunziza

Some 80 members of the CNDD-FDD governing party urge President Nkurunziza not to seek re-election as they feel this violates the Constitution. The party leadership excludes ten members who are considered initiators of the call, including three members of parliament and a provincial governor.

Mediators urge Nkurunziza to resign

Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, an international mediator in Burundi, says after a visit to Bujumbura that there is a great risk of a new wave of violence if the constitution is not respected and the president resigns.

Radjabu escapes from prison

Hussein Radjabu, former chairman of the CNDD-FDD, escapes from the prison where he has served a 13-year sentence for overthrowing activities since 2008. Radjabu fell out of favor with the regime when he began to pose a political threat to President Nkurunziza.


The government conducts “peace demonstrations”

The government is organizing “peace demonstrations” in Bujumbura with several cities. The official speeches are directed at the opposition, NGOs and the media, who are jointly accused of wanting to overthrow the country in war.


Opposition leaders are jailed for bribery

The opposition party Frodebus’s Vice President Frédéric Bamvuginyumvira is sentenced to five years in prison for bribery. Bamvuginyumvira, who has previously been vice president, has been seen as a serious challenger to Nkurunziza in the June 2015 presidential election. Frodebu accuses the government of trying to push the opposition ahead of the general elections.

Burundi Agriculture and Fishing