Burundi: Reclaiming forest reserve while improving livelihoods

A woman of the environmental association Dukinkibira in Burundi.
The women of the association are building frames for the beehives. Photo : UNDP Burundi.

During Burundi’s civil war, thousands of people sought refuge in the Kibira forest reserve near the capital Bujumbura.

But since the war ended in 2002, damage to the forest has been exacerbated as internally displaced persons and nearby communities cut down trees to clear land for farming, and use the wood for fuel.

With the support of various organisations, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, an association of 350 women, Dukingirikibira (“Let us protect our forest”), is working on reforestation initiatives as a way to rehabilitate the forest reserve, while earning income.


  • 1300 women and around a hundred men, all economically vulnerable, take part in the reforestation activities.
  • Approximately 300,000 seedlings (of indigenous plant varieties) made it possible to re-timber 116 hectares of forest over 2 years.
  • Reforestation helps limit soil’s erosion in a country where 90 percent of the population depends entirely on agriculture.
  • Environmental activities make it possible to fight poverty by generating income for the local population.

On a regular basis, the association receives technical advice from expert agronomists on reproducing indigenous species, new agricultural techniques, how to improve yields, and ways to diversify their activities.

“Before, we believed that trees were only meant for firewood for cooking,” says Marie Nduwimana, who heads the association. “Today, each woman recognises the usefulness of trees - that they enable us to earn money to provide for our basic needs and to buy educational supplies for our children.”

Since 2010, the association members have planted more than 300,000 seedlings of indigenous forest species on 116 hectares of land. They also earn income from combining agriculture and forestry initiatives in a sustainable way, selling avocado and plum trees and passion fruit vines, among other products.

The association invests 70 percent of the profit from these initiatives in other income-generation activities, and in a fund for members to borrow from.  They have already purchased and installed some 200 beehives and are preparing to harvest the honey, which they intend to sell for profit.

The other 30 percent of the funds is shared with the forestry department and the local authorities also responsible for maintaining the forest.