Responding to climate change: Community-based aquaculture development in Burundi

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Responding to climate change: Community-based aquaculture development in Burundi

Come end of April 2016,118 members of the Rural Collaborative Network for Development (RECORD), a farmers’ association in Burundi, will earn 44,800,000 Burundi Francs (about US$ 22,400) from fish farming based on climate smart agriculture principles. Broken down, they will earn 17,500,000 Burundi francs (about U$8,750) from the sale of tilapia; and 27,300,000 (about US$13,650) Burundi francs from selling catfish. This is mainly as result of ASARECA-supported project on going beyond climate smart agriculture.

Welcome to Kibimba watershed in Gitega Province in Burundi, the home of the 118 (57 women and 61 men) who have established eight (8) fish ponds, where they are growing tilapia and catfish. In 2015, they earned USD$ 9,000 from fish alone. This year, however, they are out to increase their income by growing fish in two cycles of six months.

Chicken in a poultry unit in Gitega Burundi

“We have 1,750 tilapia and 1,820 cat fish in the ponds. We can estimate the yield because we have been monitoring their growth and health,” says Evariste Manirabona the President of the Association. This is one of the sites ASARECA and Institut de Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU) are implementing the project, “Sustainable agricultural water productivity enhancement for improved food and nutrition security in Eastern and Central Africa.” This project is anchored on scaling climate smart agriculture to landscape levels across the Eastern and Central Africa.

Launched in 2014 as a follow up of an earlier project implemented in the region, the project is ongoing in two sites in Burundi, i.e Muhembuzi watershed in Kirundo province and Kibimba watershed in Gitega Province. Muhembuzi is a semi-arid zone with fertile soil but with insufficient rainfall for crop survival (700 mm and 1200mm from November to mid May). Kibimba watershed in Gitega Province is a tropical zone where rainfall is moderate (1200 mm from October to the end of May), but the soil is poor. 

According to Jean Pierre Twagirayezu of ISABU, who is also the Country Principal Investigator of the project, the farmers in the 29.8 ha watershed with an estimated population of 13,977 people, requested ISABU to provide technical backstopping in realizing integrated watershed management benefits. ISABU researchers conducted a site characterization to determine opportunities related to the site such as soil, water and human resources.  The exercise also showed that although the population was keen to make the best out of their landscape, they lacked the technical know-how on integrated practices including efficient management and use of water, landscaping and nutrient recycling etc.

Beans in grown uphill using water from the fish ponds

Twagirayesu says, since the intervention started, a range integrated and reinforcing activities have been designed and are underway. The project has trained farmers on how to establish ecologically strategic fishponds using water catchments at the valleys. This is reinforced with appropriate fishpond management best practices and fish nutrition skills. Above the fish ponds, the farmers have been facilitated to rear chicken after receiving training on best poultry management practices in nutrition, control and treatment of various diseases, and using locally available water for poultry and using chicken droppings to fertilize the soil. According to Evariste, in every poultry cycle of about three months, the farmers rear up to 250 chicken. In a year they can do four cycles, producing 1,000 chickens.  “In the last cycle we sold 250 chicken at 9,500 Burundian Francs per chicken, earning 2,375,000 Burundi francs in all (about US$ 1,188),” he says.  “Converted to four cyles in a year, this is about U$4,752.”

As a means of improving soil moisture and productivity, the project has trained 173 people (80 women and 93 men) in moisture enhancing innovations including producing-improved manure through composting by adding ash, soil rich in humus and organic fertilizers. They were supported to establish 468,000 cuttlings of penisetum and banna grass to improve the ecosystem. In addition,  nutrient rich water drained from the fish ponds is handy for soil fertility. This has formed a basis for introduction of improved varieties of vegetables, banana and beans with accompanying improved practices of water management. To date, a total of 55 of farmers (24 F) have fully adopted mini irrigation in an area of 1.5 ha.

According to Dr. Hezron Mogaka, the theme leader Natural Resources and Eco-systems services, ASARECA, the philosophy behind the innovations is using available water efficiently to increase water catchment and moisture content.  “This can be achieved through replenishing practices such as re-forestation, enhanced grass cover, terracing, Tumbukiza pits and manure production to enhance soil fertility,” says Dr. Mogaka. “Soil that is protected, is fertile and has adequate moisture content easily supports crop and livestock production because it is not vulnerable to soil erosion.” In addition, the project is designed to address the three pillars of climate smart agriculture at a landscape level which are: increased agricultural productivity at farm level, enhanced watershed resilience to climate-induced stresses, and reduction on emissions from agricultural practices.

Courtesy of their acquired capacity to improve their soils, harvest water, retain it in the soil, farmers in the watersheds are producing 25T/ha of onion, 20 T/ha of tomato, 30,000 cabbages/ha leading to income improvement to the tune of US$ 729 at landscape level from vegetables.  They have been introduced to a new variety of amarunthus through vegetative multiplication. This variety is perennial while others are seasonal and is important for household nutrition and health.

According to Jean Pierre Twagirayesu, the ISABU scientist in charge of the project, a total of 403 farmers (246 F) have diversified to produce improved climbing bean varieties namely: AND10, MUHORO, G13607 and MAC44 at Kibimba and three improved bush bean varieties INAMUNUHIRE (IZO201245), AKARYOSHE (Mooore88002) and MBUNDUGURU) at Muhembuzi in 2.3 ha and are realizing increased income of at least US$ 450 at farmer level from beans.  A group of 4 farmers have been facilitated to establish banana plantation on 1 ha with nutrient rich water from fishponds as a main supply channel.

To ensure that farmers benefit from a total package of value chain approach, eight (8) researchers at ISABU have been trained to make business plans, skills that are to be passed on to the farmers through extension and outreach. A module on carbon smart agro-forestry, livestock management and knowledge smart beans and vegetable production, water smart management practices and fish farming have been produced to train initially 60 farmers. Information has been made available at the project sites on trends and changes in water demand, market opportunities and barriers to enterprise diversification and value addition, gender roles and participation in AWM.

Before the project, the population was not harnessing water from the existing eight run-down fishponds optimally, including using it for irrigation. The activities in the valley were stand alone, because the farmers had no clue of the benefits of integration.

Date Published: 
Saturday, 09 April 2016