Burundi's women of war turn to rice

  • The need

  • What IRRI has done

  • The impact

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Burundi's ex-combatant women turn to rice farming

The women of Burundi were among those who suffered and fought during the civil war that started in 1993. The bloody internal battle lasted more than 10 years, and when peace came in 2005, many of the women were not included in reintegration programs. This left them not only physically and mentally scarred, but unemployed, economically destitute, and socially excluded.

Burundi's ex-combatant women turn to rice farming

IRRI was one of several groups that helped some 400 of Burundi's ex-combatant women gain a foothold again in their lives. CARE, Survivor Corps, and CEDAC provided psychosocial support to help the women integrate themselves back into society; CONSEDI conducted vocational training for economic development, and IRRI taught the women to grow rice.

“In 2009, we started working with 10 groups of ex-combatant women by getting each group 1 hectare of the best irrigated land in the country and showing them how to grow rice on it,” said Joseph Bigirimana, IRRI liaison scientist and coordinator for Burundi. “These women are turning their own lives around—they just needed a helping hand to get started.”

“In the first year, we paid for cost of renting the land, seed, and fertilizers,” he added. “The women were able to pay these costs themselves the following year, from the profits they made in the first season.”

In an interview, the women stated that the most important thing was that the project gave them access to land, which they would not have had otherwise.

Burundi's ex-combatant women turn to rice farming

Elisabeth Nibigira, a participant and mother of 4 children, is grateful. “Because of the IRRI project, I now feel reintegrated into society. Other people no longer look at me as an excluded ex-combatant.”

“I used to eat rice only on feast days or when I get money from hard labor. Now, with IRRI's help, I produce rice myself and can eat rice with my children whenever we need it,” she added.

The women learned to grow rice and test new rice varieties and farming technologies through a farmer field school. Back in their own fields, the women in turn passed their new knowledge to others.

The pilot project was financially supported by the Howard Buffett Foundation.

children of Burundi

Despite the successes that IRRI had achieved and continue to achieve, there’s still a lot of work that needs to get done and the Institute can’t do it alone. Funding plays a very important role on whether or not we could do more. This is where you come in.

Help us continue this project by donating to IRRI. The donation you give will enable us to continue our important research and, ultimately, help eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

More than just money, we encourage you to share these stories on social media and in your personal networks. Spread the word.

Your support can help turn this vision of a bright tomorrow into a reality.

Give to IRRI through the following:

  • Direct bank deposit

Bank Account Name: International Rice Research Institute
Bank Account Number : 6212-56654027
Bank Address : Bank of America, N.A., OUE Bayfront#14-01 50, Collyer Quay, Singapore 049321
Swift Code : BOFASG2X



Through a rice research and development project, women who recently fought in the civil war of the east African country of Burundi are getting unprecedented access to farm land and training to produce rice and are building better livelihoods for themselves, their families, and communities.


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