Impact of COVID-19 on food security and agriculture
Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world, is characterized by a fragile political context, population displacement, epidemics and recurrent natural disasters (109 recorded between October 2018 and June 2019) including torrential rains and strong winds.
This has resulted in the total or partial destruction of crops, homes, schools and health centres, and remain the main cause of population displacement. Recurrent shocks are likely to continue to disrupt the livelihoods and resilience of the most vulnerable populations, limiting agricultural production and exacerbating food insecurity. Indeed, the agriculture sector consists of subsistence farming and represents the most important driver of the economy, contributing to 39.8 percent of the country’s GDP, with 80 percent of the production used for consumption.
Following the first cases of COVID-19 reported in Burundi, the Government put in place a series of preventive measures, including quarantine sites, screening tests and the closure of borders, in order to contain the spread of the disease. Although the results of a rapid assessment conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on the impacts of COVID-19 on agriculture and food security are expected in July, negative effects on food accessibility due to increased prices are already observed (maize for example is 37-61 percent above prices from the same time last year). Furthermore, the 14-day quarantine has already led to a slowdown in trade and is disrupting cross-border markets, affecting employment opportunities for casual labour and incomes. Vulnerable households in the Congo Ridge Millet, Eastern Lowlands, East Arid Plateaus and Buragane livelihood zones, strongly reliant on casual labour and trade with neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo and United Republic of Tanzania, have been particularly affected by border closures during the lean season (April–May). In addition, some produce intended for export, such as citrus fruit typically exported to Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, have flooded local markets, causing prices to drop.