On Saturday, December 16, 2023 30,000 bamboo seedlings were planted as part of the tree day celebration in Zone Mubone, in Bujumbura rural in afforestation efforts under the theme “forest and health”.
“Our wish is to see Bujumbura city as a green city”, said a permanent secretary in the Bujumbura mayorship office.
Each Burundian is encouraged to plant at least two trees after cutting one to avoid deforestation.
The nationwide program is intended to address climate change aftermaths.
The government availed about 30 thousand bamboo seedlings to plant at the riverbank of Muzazi river located in Mutimbuzi in Bujumbura Rural. The latter has been one of the regions where deforestation has been driving erosion on mountains and rivers.
According to Global Forest Watch (GFW) data, in Burundi, the top 3 regions were responsible for 56% of all tree cover loss between 2001 and 2022. Bururi had the most tree cover loss at 7.87 kilo hectare (Kha) compared to an average of 1.97 kha. Bujumbura rural ranked third with 5.32Kha.
Ordinary citizens, some living near the Muzazi river and dozens of people including women, men and youth coming from the neighboring locality, were over the moon.
“I am ecstatic to celebrate this special day dedicated to a tree day. Trees are part of our lives. They provide us fresh air. I encourage all the citizens to avoid logging in and erosion”, said Hakorineza Marie- Jose, resident of Mutimbuzi.
Vice-president Prosper Bazombaza led the exercise in zone Mubone, Mutimbuzi commune, in Bujumbura rural along with other top officials from the ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
Burundi has stepped up its tree plantation efforts by launching the national program dedicated to Tree Day. The program was launched in 1979.
“Forests and savannas have been fully protected, although we have not yet reached our target”, said Bazombaza.
“Without forest, there is no life”, said Bazombanza. Trees therefore, he added, play a vital function on hillsides, increasing water sources and protecting the soil from erosion, and on roads, trees protect vehicles from accidents that can harm people.
Between 1992 and the present, the tree rate increased from 3% to 8%.
The national program aims to cover approximately 30% of the surface area of Burundi with trees by 2030.
The current national program, which is on the government’s agenda, encourages every individual to plant trees in public places. Through this campaign, a large number of tree seedlings are set to be planted.
Bujumbura, the economic capital of Burundi, has been chosen to lead the initiative as it has been experiencing the effects of climate change, mainly caused by water overflowing in its main rivers and Lake Tanganyika.
Approximately 16,000 seedlings are planted every year across the country. Furthermore, around 25 million tree seedlings, including fruit trees and bamboos, are planted in public areas.
According to Bazombaza, in addition to human illegal poaching, people are still involved in bushfires.
“Trees help tackle global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air while releasing oxygen into the atmosphere”, said Thierry Nizigiyimana, an environmental student who attended the event.
A bamboo tree also plays a pivotal role in helping combat landslides effects.
Bamboos to fight against landslides
“Planting bamboo in potentially loose soil can serve to hold the earth in place with its dense and wide-spreading system of roots. This can limit erosion, particularly the large-scale sheet that can lead to fatalities and damage to properties”, said Thierry Nizigiyimana
This is the only tree variety that is best suited to plant along river banks in order to mitigate landslides.
Thierry encouraged the local government executives to initiate the planting of trees across the country.
The bamboo tree has a wide-spreading root system capable of holding loose soil. In other words, the tree is deep-rooted and best suited against landslides. It was learned that the roots of a bamboo tree are capable of expanding by 25 percent to hold six cubic meters of soil.
Bamboo anchors the soil with its spreading root system thus preventing landslides. Aside from this, bamboo is used as a barrier against soil erosion and other environmental services such as protection of water sources though reforestation of watersheds.
Despite the government’s efforts, wildfires in Burundi remain catastrophic.
According to InfoNile investigations published in August 14,2023, there were at least 13 cases of illegal wildfires reported in local news outlets in Burundi between 2010 and 2020. The fires burned up about 8,000 hectares of land, mostly in northern, western and southwestern Burundi.
“Approximately 1,000 hectares are burnt to ashes nationwide due to bushfires nearby reserves and forests, said Léonidas Nzigiyimpa, an environmentalist at Conservation et Communauté de Changement-3C , who is also a representative and former director of the Burundi Environment Protection Authority (OBPE).
In Burundi, bushfires are also prohibited within the boundaries of the protected areas.
Wildfires spilled over nationwide
The spread of the wildfires depends on the region, according to the general director of OBPE, Jean Berchmans Hatungimana. In 2017 and 2018, nationwide, between 700 and 900 hectares were burnt in total. In 2019, about 800 hectares were decimated nationwide, he said.
Apart from bushfires, deforestation has been one of the pleas of trees in Burundi. According to Global Forest Watch (GFW), in 2010, Burundi had 553 kha of tree cover, extending over 21% of its land area. In 2022, it lost 1.61 kha of tree cover, equivalent to 993 kt of CO₂ emissions.
In addition, according to GFW data from 2002 to 2022, Burundi lost 360 ha of humid primary forest, making up 1.1% of its total tree cover loss in the same time period. Total area of humid primary forest in Burundi decreased by 1.4% in this time period.
Burundi among the climate change effects-battered countries
“The impact of climate, energy and the environment on children and their families in Burundi”, a 2021 report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says children are hard hit by the effects of climate change due to their vulnerability.
It showcases that one in two children under the age of 5 suffers from chronic malnutrition. With 94% of the population employed in rain-fed agriculture, the report states, the fragility of this dependence is visible during prolonged dry seasons, late or intense rains. Chronic undernutrition is responsible for a slowdown in the growth of children. It reached 52% of children under 5 in 2020 and at least 30% of children nationwide.
Additionally, climate change can have devastating effects on children’s health. As malaria is the leading cause of death among children, it is getting worse as previously cold regions become warmer.
“Cholera and other water-borne diseases could become more common due to contaminated water, lack of water for hygiene and damaged infrastructure following natural disasters,” the report emphizes.
Climate change further affects women’s access to social services. As for gender-based violence, the report says, 4% of women and girls suffer gender-based violence when they want to access essential services, and 4% when they get water and food. These figures could increase if, due to climate change, access to essential services deteriorates and distances to fetch water lengthen.
More than 90% of Burundians are socio-economically vulnerable
As reported by the World Bank (WB) ,the country is losing its natural capital base at an alarming rate because of climate change. It, in addition, loses 1.6% of its GDP each year as 5.2% of its area is wiped off due to land degradation from 2020.
“Approximately 98% of Burundians are socio-economically vulnerable to the effects of climate change. But this socio-economic vulnerability is distributed spatially, with the North-East and Eastern regions of the country recording the highest vulnerability,” reports the WB.
On the other hand, according to World Bank , around 41% of Burundians are highly exposed to conflicts and multiple climatic risks (floods, landslides, droughts, etc.), especially in the West and North-West regions of Burundi.
Same report states that 99% of Burundians lack the adaptive capacity to withstand the effects of climate change, such as droughts, floods and landslides, which are already affecting Burundians.