Burundi is amongst the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, due to a combination of political, geographic, and social factors . With a large proportion of the population living below the poverty line, the majority of Burundians have very limited capacity to adapt to increasing temperatures and more extreme rainfall . The country ranked as 165 out of 181 countries in the 2020 ND-GAIN Index, which summarizes a country's vulnerability to climate change and other global challenges, in combination with its readiness to improve resilience. Based on the index, Burundi is the 22nd most vulnerable country and the 173rd most ready country .
Since the 1930s, Burundi has experienced an estimated increase of 0.7-0.9°C in its average annual temperature . Changes in the duration of wet and dry seasons have also recently been observed. Total precipitation has declined, and the long-wet season ends sooner (often in April) while the short-wet season starts later (in October). This means that the ‘long dry season’ is further prolonged and can now be considered to last from May to September. This intensification of dry and wet seasons in Burundi has resulted in more severe droughts and floods .
Burundi’s climate is expected to continue to change. By 2050, mean annual temperature is expected to increase by between 1.5 and 2.5°C, and mean annual rainfall is also projected to increase. This projected increase in rainfall seems to be strongly associated with an increase in high intensity rainfall events rather than in the frequency of rainy days , . By 2050, rainfall patterns are likely to be altered such that there will essentially be two six-month seasons, one rainy season lasting from November to April and a dry season covering May to October .
Burundi has a history of extreme events that are considered climate-related. For instance, nationwide, Burundi has experienced severe droughts, resulting in crop failure and a 35% livestock mortality (1998 - 2005), as well as severe floods in 2006 and 2007 . During the period 1996-2016, over 3 million people in Burundi were affected by drought, in addition to the 94,800 people affected by floods . Such events have been estimated to result in a loss of 5-17% of the country’s GDP per event. Further, climate change trends are expected to increase the frequency and intensity of floods and droughts in Burundi, threatening the country’s water availability and food security, which is already extremely fragile .
Agriculture is the source of livelihood for the majority of the population in Burundi , employing about 90% of the labor force and contributing around 30% of the country’s GDP . It is also largely practiced on a small scale and dependent on climatic conditions . The expected impacts of climate change pose a significant threat to agriculture production. Heavier rainfall is expected to result in floods that damage crops, soil and infrastructure, while it can also increase the presence of pests or diseases that affect food crops and livestock. Prolonged periods of drought will likely lead to lower water levels and therefore decreased crop and livestock productivity, as well as increased livestock mortality. The yields of main staple crops in the country, such as maize (a secondary staple crop), beans and sweet potato, are expected to decrease gradually, with a decrease in maize yield of 5-25% predicted for the next decades. Rising temperatures and erratic or lower rainfall will have also negative impact on Burundi’s primary exports of coffee and tea, which account for about 90% of foreign exchange earning . This heavy dependence of the Burundian economy on rain-fed agriculture increases the country’s humanitarian, social, and macroeconomic vulnerabilities to rising temperatures and extreme weather shocks .
Climate variability is expected to also threaten Burundi’s industry, energy, and health sectors, as well as the country’s biodiversity. Periods of rainfall deficit/prolonged dryness and strong precipitations will likely have several consequences in the country, including the recrudescence of water-borne diseases like dysentery and cholera .
On a global scale, and a regional scale, Burundi emits a very small amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) .
As stated in its First Biennial Update Report (BUR: 2022), considering the 2005-2019 period, Burundi was a net emitter in 2005, and evolved into a GHG sink in 2006, remaining a sink until 2019. This was as the GHG removals of the Land category were higher than the emissions of all sectors combined. Total national emissions have increased by 98% over these 15 years (with increases in all sectors). The AFOLU (Agriculture Forestry and Other Land Use) sector has remained the largest emitter throughout this period, with the exception of 2005, followed by the Energy, Waste and Industrial Processes sectors .
Key policies and governance approach
Burundi’s main priority actions related to climate change are described in the country’s submissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) . The country has prepared its 2020 updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC: 2021), its first Biennial Update Report (BUR: 2022), three National Communications (2001, 2010, 2019) and a National Action Plan for Adaptation (NAPA: 2007). At the institutional level, the MINEAGRIE (Ministry of the Environment, Agriculture and of Livestock) deals with issues related to climate change , supported by the Geographical Institute of Burundi (IGEBU) and the Burundian Office for the Protection of the Environment (OBPE) .
In its updated NDC, Burundi expanded the geographical and sectoral scope of its adaptation ambition, while making an unconditional pledge to reduce emissions by 3.04% by 2030, or 12.61% with international support. Adaptation in the NDC covers Energy, Agriculture, Water, Health and Ecosystems. Additionally, the NDC includes the development of a logical framework to monitor and assess the implementation of the priority mitigation and adaptation actions .
The NAPA, developed in 2007, aimed to produce a list of urgent and immediate priority actions to contribute to the country's efforts to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. Such priority actions were to be integrated into the country's development strategies, and were to benefit from the support of interested donors, since Burundi has very limited capacities for adaptation. In the NAPA, identified priority actions included, among others, popularise rainwater harvesting techniques for agricultural or domestic use; improve the seasonal early warning climate forecasts; identify and popularise dryness resistant forest species; and popularise short cycle and dryness resistant food crops .
Burundi has also developed and adopted several other policies, strategies and plans related to climate change, such as the National Strategy and Action Plan on Climate Change (2013); the National Forest Policy of Burundi (2012); and the National Strategy and Action Plan to Combat Soil Degradation 2011-2016, among others .
Successes and remaining challenges
Prior to the country updating its NDC, an analysis of the implementation of Burundi’s 2015 NDC was carried out. Under the 2015 unconditional objective, over 5 years, Burundi had planned to afforest 20,000 ha in the forestry sector and to build three hydroelectric power stations in order to bring the electrification rate to 35%. By 2020, both targets had fallen short, only 11,033 ha had been replanted and no hydroelectric power stations had been built, though four were under construction .
From this analysis, a number of shortcomings to the implementation of the 2015 NDC in Burundi were identified as: the absence of a national coordination framework for NDC implementation; lack of indicators for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the NDC; weak capacity for the mobilization of resources; absence of a national climate finance MRV system; insufficient capacity building and technology transfer actions; and finally, low awareness on ownership of the NDC by all stakeholders .
The updated 2020 NDC attempts to address these shortcomings. For example, planned actions include the development of a logical framework with measurable monitoring indicators for the monitoring and evaluation of NDC implementation and the sensitization of all actors involved (political decision-makers, planners, local authorities and grassroots communities while respecting the gender dimension) to the implementation of the NDC. However, despite these improvements, for the successful implementation of the 2020 NDC, the country must overcome the challenges it faces related to inadequate funding and technical capacity. This will require significant financial, human and technological resources from both the country and the international community .
Initiatives and Development Plans
To mainstream climate resilience across all sectors, a series of World Bank-financed projects have supported the government’s efforts to build resilient ecosystems and livelihoods. Included in these efforts, is the $4.2 million Coffee Landscapes Project which aimed to address the causes and consequences of land degradation. The approaches piloted were replicated and scaled up in the $55 million Coffee Competitiveness Project, the $30 million Landscape Restoration and Resilience Project and the $6 million Global Environment Facility Additional Financing. Together, they sustain the efforts by extending system-level landscape restoration, terracing works, and community livelihood resilience activities. By 2023, a total of 192,117 hectares of degraded land on 31 hills will be converted to integrated landscape management practices .
- The successful implementation of the NDC 2020 requires significant financial, human and technological resources from the country and the international community.
- Encourage technical and financial partners to invest in the field of climate change.
- Human resources from the public, private and civil society sectors are essential for the implementation of climate change adaptation programmes.
- The need for capacity building on climate change and the implementation of the NDC remains a national priority. There is a need for capacity building of stakeholders from target Ministries of research institutes, the private sector and civil society.
- Support research and development in the field of climate change.
- Develop a capacity building plan for better ownership by the various stakeholders.
- Raising awareness among relevant stakeholders of the importance of adaptation and advocating for the recognition of adaptation to climate change as a national priority is essential.
 Juergen Voegele, Veronique Kabongo and Arame Tall, WORLD BANK BLOGS (2021). Building resilience in the land of 3,000 collines: Rooting out drivers of climate fragility in Burundi. [Online]. Available: https://blogs.worldbank.org/africacan/building-resilience-land-3000-collines-rooting-out-drivers-climate-fragility-burundi.
 University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (2022). ND-GAIN Country Index. [Online]. Available: https://gain.nd.edu/our-work/country-index/rankings/.
 International Monetary Fund. African Dept. (2022). Burundi: Selected Issues, IMF Staff Country Reports, 2022(258), A001. Retrieved Nov 29, 2022, from https://www.elibrary.imf.org/view/journals/002/2022/258/article-A001-en.xml
 United Nations Development Programme (2022). Global Climate Promise: Burundi. [Online]. Available: https://climatepromise.undp.org/what-we-do/where-we-work/burundi.