Monday, 10 March 2008

Burundi Food Production Shows Modest Improvement, but Half the Population Goes Hungry

Sobering thought: Burundi’s population has grown 33 per cent since 1988, but food production has dropped 41 per cent. The figures appear in a report prepared jointly by Burundi's Ministry of Agriculture, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), following a joint assessment in January.

Things improved slightly during the last harvest—up 2 per cent over the previous year’s—but still 600,000 of the nation’s 8 million citizens will need food aid since there is a shortfall of 486,000 tonnes of grain. A third of the population consumed only 1,400 kilo-calories per person per day while fully half of all households had what the report called “adequate, consumption in terms of quality, quantity and diversity.”

Nevertheless there is some good news. “Concerted efforts by the government and FAO…led to a gradual improvement of cassava production, a revival of large-scale gardening as a source of food and income for vulnerable households and a better banana and sweet potato crop,” the report adds. It also calls for “sustained donor support” for the country, which is” emerging from more than a decade of civil strife.’

Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital, is the scene for part of my new novel The Violets of Usambara. That we are in the middle of planning a couple of book launch events where there will be good wine and tasty nibblies is almost embarrassing when considered against the background of this report. But that is, of course, one of the concerns of the book: what is the right thing to do, and can we undo what has been done in the past?

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