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Historical changes in the traditional agrarian systems of Burundi: endogenous drive to survive from food insecurity

  • Sanctus NiragiraEmail author
  • Marijke D’Haese
  • Jeroen Buysse
  • Jos Van Orshoven
  • Jean Ndimubandi


The global farming conditions have gone profound mutations that steadily increased vulnerability among smallholder farmers. As consequence, rural households have set mechanisms of livelihood adaptation in order to preserve consumption requirements and secure the family living. They define livelihood through a complex system and interactions, taking place across scales that lead to emergent properties and self-regulatory mechanisms. This paper provides a detailed account on how traditional agriculture in Burundi, has evolved over time, what triggered the changes and how they have affected the household food security and farmer’s attitude in the communities. The country is an agricultural based economy faced by land constraints, market and policy failures, and rapidly changing local climate patterns. The paper gives a historical overview of the organisational and functional features of the agrarian system, and the adaptive changes in farming practices. This brings a good understanding of the relationships between them and their implication on farmer’s behaviour and livelihoods. Results show that despite the deteriorating conditions, farmers have managed, over time, to adapt agricultural production to new opportunities and constraints. The paper concludes by showing that farmer’s adaptation is not everlasting. The findings of this study highlight that endogenous adaptation has reached some limits in Burundi. Today, the rates of conflicts over resources, poverty and food insecurity among households are very high. Stringent policy support is needed to help farmers sustain agricultural intensification and restore the country’s self-sufficiency in food production.


Farming conditions Traditional agriculture Endogenous adaptation Food security Burundi 


Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical standard

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Agronomy and Bio-engineeringUniversity of BurundiBujumburaBurundi
  2. 2.Faculty of Bioscience EngineeringGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesKU Leuven (University of Leuven)HeverleeBelgium

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