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Burundi: ASTI–ISABU Country Factsheet
Léa Vicky Magne Domgho, Ferdinand Nganyirinda, Marie-Chantal Niyuhire, and Gert-Jan Stads
International Food Policy Research Institute and Institute of Agricultural Science of Burundi
During the years immediately following the country’s 2003 peace agreement, donor funding to agricultural research flowed rapidly, prompting increased spending. Growing violence and deepening political corruption in more recent years caused many donors to suspend or cut aid, with negative effects on the country’s agricultural research expenditures. As of 2014, Burundi invested 0.46 percent of its AgGDP in agricultural research, well below the minimum investment target recommended by the African Union and the United Nations.
The total number of agricultural researchers has risen over time in response to the recruitment of young scientists at ISABU and the return to Burundi of a large number of Burundian professors from universities abroad, prompted by improved salary levels in the higher education sector. Nevertheless, the country’s agricultural R&D capacity remains very weak in terms of the number of researchers qualified to the PhD-degree level, especially at ISABU and the other government agencies.
Unlike their university-based counterparts, ISABU’s scientists are classified as public servants, not researchers. As a result, their salaries are much lower, creating a challenge for ISABU to attract and retain well-qualified researchers. In addition, the benefits of CAMES membership (francophone Africa’s higher education council) further attract researchers away from ISABU to universities. However, based on their academic focus, universities have much weaker linkages with farmers compared with ISABU, which focuses on applied research of relevance to the needs of producers.
Strategic resource use
Given the tremendous constraints to agricultural research agencies in Burundi, government and higher educaton agencies need to pool their scarce resources more efficiently. By collectively identifying research priorities and sharing staff and infrastructure, these agencies could create synergies in the conduct of research, ultimately generating outputs to enhance agricultural production. The government has an important role to play in this regard in terms of providing the necessary policy environment to stimulate cooperation.
Burundi: ASTI–ISABU Country Factsheet
Gert-Jan Stads, Léonidas Ndimurirwo, and Léa Vicky Magne Domgho
International Food Policy Research Institute and Institute of Agricultural Science of Burundi.
The numbmber of agricultural researchers increased rapidly between 2008 and 2011 due to a substantial influx of young scientists at ISABU and the return to Burundi of a large number of professors from universities abroad.
The overall quality of agricultural R&D capacity remains very weak in terms of the number of agricultural researchers qualified to the PhD-degree level.
Following a period of growth, reduced government and donor support caused overall spending levels in Burundi to decline during 2008–2011.
Burundi: ASTI–ISABU Country Brief
Magalhaes, Eduardo Castelo; Beintema, Nienke M.; Ndimurirwo, Léonidas
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR); and Institute of Agronomic Sciences of Burundi (ISABU)
Unsurprisingly, investments for agricultural research in Burundi suffered enormously as a result of the civil war. Donor funding halted, government contributions to agricultural research declined, and significant numbers of qualified researchers left the country, including all the expatriates. Since 1997, funding has rebounded somewhat. The government increased its contributions to ISABU and donors contributed some funding mainly through joint projects with ASERECA and the CGIAR.
Nevertheless, ISABU’s current funding levels are still less than half the pre-war levels, and the institute will need to raise additional funding to rebuilt its infrastructure.
Burundi: ASTI–ISABU Country Note
Stads, Gert-Jan; Ndimurirwo, Léonidas
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); and Burundi Institute of Agronomic Sciences (ISABU)
The political turmoil that hit Burundi in 1993 wreaked havoc on the country’s agricultural R&D. Much of Burundi’s research infrastructure was damaged or destroyed, donors withdrew, and overall investment and capacity levels plummeted. It was not until the signing of the 2003 peace treaty that the country’s main donors (Belgium and the World Bank) returned to the scene, leading to a revival of agricultural R&D investment—albeit at a timid pace. In 2008, Burundi’s investments in agricultural R&D totaled 3.3 billion CFA francs (or 9.6 million dollars PPP, both in 2005 prices), which is still far below the levels recorded before the 1993 crisis. Agricultural research capacity levels have also shown an upward trend since 2003: in 2008, Burundi employed 98 FTE agricultural researchers.
Despite this slow recovery, a number of major challenges still need to be overcome. ISABU, Burundi’s main agricultural R&D agency, lacks a critical mass of PhD-qualified researchers. This is a serious impediment to running high-quality research programs and attracting external funding. Additionally, scientists do not consider ISABU to be an attractive employer mainly because its salaries are low compared to those offered by universities, NGOs, and international organizations. In December 2010, the national government responded to this challenge by modifying the status of ISABU’s researchers. The institute can now offer much higher salaries and there is hope that it will succeed in attracting and maintaining suitably qualified researchers.
Burundi’s agricultural sector has been severely weakened by the decade-long sociopolitical crisis and the harmful impact of climatic disturbances, which have become more frequent since 2000. Agricultural R&D can play a crucial role in helping to increase production and providing opportunities for rural populations to boost their incomes. This in turn will lead to greater food security and the alleviation of poverty. The onus is therefore on the Burundi government to define a precise set of national R&D priorities and develop a matching set of agricultural R&D programs to address these priorities in a relevant and coherent way. The realization of real progress necessarily implies long-term support from the national government, donors, and the private sector.