Field Exchange Nov 2002: Combining two livelihood assessment approaches in Burundi

Summary of assessment report1
This article summarises the food security aspects of an innovative study by CARE, combining two livelihood assessment approaches in Burundi. Although the assessment also related to social services, health, education, water and housing, only the food security related findings are highlighted here.

Since October 1993, Burundi has experienced social and political crisis. However, an inclusive transitional government and on-going peace talks between warring parties are hopefully bringing a halt to nearly a decade of conflict. The generalised high levels of insecurity have caused a massive internal population displacement. An estimated 14% of the total population are located in displaced camps while another 350,000 Burundians live in Tanzanian refugee camps. In addition, the HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to claim more and more victims in households which are already weakened by social inequity and destitution.

A food security assessment was conducted in Giteranyi and Butihinda communes in the province of Muyinga, North-Eastern Burundi, between November 2001 and January 2002. The overall aim of the assessment was to gain a better understanding of the food security situation prevailing in the province, particularly in the two targeted communes. The study adopted two specific approaches, namely the Household Livelihood Security Assessment2 (HLS) and the Rights-based Approach (RBA).

The objectives of the study were to:

  • Analyse human rights and the food security situation in the province of Muyinga.

  • Identify the most vulnerable and marginalised social groups in the targeted communes.

  • Strengthen CARE staff and partners' capacity by undertaking a participatory holistic evaluation, analysis and utilisation of collected information in program design and implementation, following a Rights-based Approach.

  • Explore potential opportunities to remedy identified gaps.

  • Generally develop usable tools for integrating HLS and RBA founded on a true case study.

In order to achieve this, data gathering focused on a number of key areas:

  • food security situation

  • vulnerable and/ or marginalised groups

  • social services related constraints

  • root causes of human rights violations

  • existing opportunities within the community

  • rapid institutional mapping.

Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRA) were used to ensure the participation of various social groups, including but not limited to women, the youth, Bashingantahe or traditional leaders, the Batwa, representatives of development committees, associations and returnees from Tanzania.

Main findings

Giteranyi and Butihinda communes are exposed to food insecurity because of the following factors:

  • Social and political factors

People in the two communes experienced considerable suffering during the crisis of 1993. These include massive destruction of socioeconomic infrastructure, looting of property, internal displacement and migration to neighbouring countries. There has been an alarming reduction in the number of livestock, which further deepened the poverty of households which are no longer able to undertake breeding activities.

  • Climatic factors

The food security situation worsened due to threeyears of drought-induced poor harvests.

  • Demographic factors

Land is over-exploited due to an increasing demographic pressure in both communes.

  • Low support to farmers

Given the small size of farmlands, production increase can only be realised through an intensive farming system. However, rural farmers are not trained and agricultural inputs are scarce. In addition, the low purchasing power of rural farmers does not allow them to access necessary inputs.

  • Lack of rural credit

The financial sector is not generally very developed and is not adapted to rural credit. Existing structures are not efficient and accessible to many people.

Human Rights Situation

Essentially, the poor are being exploited by the rich. It has also been observed that some groups are excluded, marginalised and are constantly subject to social injustice. Exploitation of the poor may be seen through the exaggerated and high interest charges on money they borrow to meet their immediate cash needs for medical treatment, to purchase seeds and for school fees. Administrative and judiciary authorities exercise injustice by illegal detentions and partial judgments. Among the excluded and marginalised are Batwa, abandoned and/or street children, orphans, immigrants, returnees and womenheaded households. These categories have no land to cultivate and rarely access social services.

The Batwa are not represented in local administrative structures, while women are often denied the right to inherit land from their parents. The girls' education rate is lower than boys' and women are not represented in key administrative positions.

Some lessons learned

The integration of RBA in HLSA made it possible to make an in-depth causal analysis of the precarious living conditions in Butihinda and Giteranyi communes. The findings of the study should enable the CARE country office to identify leverage points on which advocacy work for poverty alleviation could be based.

The RBA focuses on the most vulnerable and the marginalised and any development program to be undertaken in Muyinga province must address human rights issues to advance definitely equal access to resources and basic social services.

We found that discussing issues of rights and responsibilities was not easy, especially in a large and diverse group of people. The team may have gleaned more information by investing a greater amount of time in talking to people in informal settings.


It is essential that vulnerable communities should be actively involved and consulted in the identification of priorities and targeting of beneficiaries to ensure equity in accessing programme benefits.

There should be no gender-based discrimination against women, and strategies must be developed to ensure that women's rights are protected and respected when their spouses pass away.

The Batwa must be integrated into society and their rights to access land should be guaranteed like other components of the Burundian community. Their land must be delineated and registered to ensure that nobody will expropriate and expel them in the future.

In addition, the Batwa must be supported and encouraged to take part fully in all development activities like other Burundians.

Supporting the reintegration of abandoned children with their families or relatives is a core priority, as is the need to put in place well-designed mechanisms and systems to adequately support and care for the elderly and the disabled.

In future studies, CARE staff must be prepared to manage different situations and discussions concerning ethnic issues, especially when discussions focus on the identification of persons responsible for the violation of people's rights. Assessment teams must make preparations in advance to handle sensitive issues as tactfully and objectively as possible.

Based on the lessons learned from this assessment, CARE Burundi needs to carefully analyse and make decisions on how RBA could be best incorporated in overall programming and project design. The Country Office must take into account the rights of individuals instead of being a mere service provider. Each action should reflect this new commitment in order to advance effectively RBA in programming.

CARE International in Burundi Design, Monitoring and Evaluation Team (Marie AndrÈe Robert, Vincent Niyungeko and Rashid Rehema) led the study team involving participation of 15 CARE employees.

For further details contact Vincent Niyungeko or Chris Necker at email: carebur@careburundi.org


1 CARE Burundi. Assessment Report on Household Livelihood Security and Rights-Based Approach in the Province of Muyinga, Burundi, June 2002

2 HLS is an assessment methodology developed and employed by CARE.