IRRI’s objective in Burundi is to enhance the national capability in research on rice and rice-based systems in the country. IRRI first started working in Burundi in 2008 when a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the country and IRRI was signed. The beginnings of this agreement were first born when current IRRI Liaison Scientist and Coordinator for Burundi, Joseph Bigirimana, attended the Rice Research to Production Training Course at IRRI in 2006 where he met with IRRI management.
Following this preliminary meeting and further work by Joseph in Burundi, the Burundian government officially asked IRRI to collaborate with it. In 2006, IRRI sent experts to Burundi to investigate the rice production environment and saw there were opportunities for collaboration.
IRRI has since established an office in the capital Bujumbura within the campus of the University of Burundi, where laboratory and other facilities are shared with the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences. IRRI now employs 19 staff in Burundi including a regional coordinator, two regional breeders, six researchers, eight technicians, and two administrative assistants.
In 2009, the first joint project with CARE Burundi was established with support from the Howard Buffett Foundation to train ex-combatant women in rice production. IRRI is also sharing rice breeding lines with Burundi that are being tested at a number of IRRI field sites around the country in different rice production ecologies.
In November 2010, two Ministers of Burundi government visited IRRI fields on the Imbo plain. The two Ministers were Prof. Julien Nimubona, Minister of High Education and Scientific Research, and Ir. Odette Kayitesi, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock. They were accompanied by the Vice-Rector of Burundi University. In their speeches following the visit, both Ministers congratulated IRRI for its important role in food security in Burundi. They also highlighted rice as one of the government’s priority crops for the country and encouraged IRRI to continue with rice research.
In October 2013, a new IRRI-Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office opened in Bujumura, Burundi. This will serve as a regional rice research hub to help support the development of the rice sector in Africa.