women in Burundi

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CRS in Burundi

Ranked 185 out of 189 countries within UNDP’s Human Development Index, Burundi is a land-locked country in East Africa where 72% of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day. The third most densely populated country in Africa, Burundi is also challenged by a history of civil war, regional displacement, epidemics, and natural disasters. Having worked in the country since 1961, CRS serves the poor and vulnerable through coordinating complex and multi-sectoral emergency and development programs (visit our programming map to see our current geographic presence). Placing partnership at the core of its work, the country program worked jointly with government ministries as well as 10 local and international NGOs in 2018. Across CRS Burundi’s projects, focus is placed on empowering youth and leveraging savings and internal lending community (SILC) groups to promote social cohesion. The country program also maintains a skilled taskforce prepared to rapidly launch quality emergency responses.

Burundi farmer

A Burundian farmer whose child is targeted for CRS nutrition support adopts improved agriculture practices promoted by the Amashiga program. Photo: Michael Stulman, CRS, 2017.


Launched in 2014, the USAID/Food for Peace-funded Amashiga Program works with communities in Burundi to address the underlying causes of chronic malnutrition. The development food assistance program (DFAP) operates in all seven communes of Muyinga, across 809 different communities. With the goal of leading sustainable, nationally replicable improvements in child nutrition, the program is designed around three integrated purposes – nutrition, agriculture, and governance – with CRS’ signature gender approaches implemented to support couples in making joint decisions about household well-being. To ensure sustainable change, the program supports the immediate nutritional needs of pregnant and lactating women and children under age 5 while working to strengthen systems with leaders at the local, communal, and provincial levels. In 2018, the program directly supported hundreds of thousands of people and trained mothers, farmers, and private services providers to help their communities reduce malnutrition.

Cultivated by 40% of Burundian farmers, coffee generates significant income for vulnerable communities, but productivity is constrained by poor farming practices and difficult market access. In response, CRS launched the Ikawa Yacu Project in August 2017 to complement the Amashiga Program’s impact amongst coffee producing communities in Muyinga. To strengthen inclusivity within the coffee sector, CRS implements its signature couples’ strengthening curriculum, The Faithful House, to reinforce joint decision-making on the use of coffee revenue to address household needs. The project also actively engages youth in the coffee sector, encouraging a new generation to support the sustainability of coffee production in Burundi. While most were ready to abandon coffee production at project launch, the 4,035 participating households are now farming 8,456 fields containing 994,147 coffee trees.

With support from USAID, CRS launched the Dukire Tubane Project in September 2017. Implementing CRS’ innovative people-to-people (P2P) approach to social cohesion, the project draws diverse youth from across Burundi’s political, social and ethnic divides together to break down divisions by emphasizing commonalities to develop a shared vision of the future. To strengthen youth resilience and capacity to live in harmony, the project team works in close collaboration with local authorities including administrators and police to help shift community perceptions of youth from perpetrators of violence to peacebuilding leaders. Dukire Tubane youth participants are now working in collaboration with local authorities to address development challenges including unemployment. In addition to SILC programming, financial frustrations for youth are addressed through project accompaniment to develop and implement quality small group business plans.





People served: 1,340,932

Population: 11,844,520

Size: 10,747 sq mi; about the size of Maryland

CRS' History in Burundi

Catholic Relief Services opened its Burundi office in 1961 to support the influx of 160,000 refugees from present-day Rwanda. In 1962, operations were expanded to include maternal and child health care and social welfare. In 1986, CRS shifted its activities toward long-term sustainable development in the areas of agriculture, health (including HIV and AIDS), microfinance, and peace and justice. When war broke out in 1993, CRS addressed emergency needs while continuing development projects. Since the signing of the Arusha Accords in 2000, the country has experienced increasing relative peace, but chronic issues related to malnutrition, land conflict and social exclusion continue to negatively impact Burundi’s longer-term socio-economic development. CRS and our partners continue to serve the most vulnerable through post-conflict recovery and development programming.