Burundi is a sovereign country situated in East Africa. It is a landlocked country bordered by Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The East African country is among Africa’s smallest countries. It occupies an area of 10,747 square miles. Burundi is mainly comprised of vast plateaus with an average altitude of 5,600 feet above sea level. Due to its proximity to the equator, Burundi experiences equatorial climate. Most of the natural resources in Burundi have not been fully explored due to the lack of technology and infrastructure. Some of Burundi’s natural resources include arable land, natural forests, wildlife, water resources, peat, gold, nickel, and other mineral deposits.
Burundi's Natural Resources
Most of Burundi’s land is suitable for farming. The country is heavily dependent on agriculture. It is estimated that agricultural productivity contributes 50% of Burundi’s national income. Additionally, 90% of Burundi residents work in the agriculture sector. The two main export crops grown in Burundi are coffee and tea. Coffee and tea provide the largest share of foreign exchange to the small East African country. Other crops grown in Burundi include cotton, maize, bananas, sorghum, and sweet potatoes. The farmers also rear animals such as cattle, pigs, poultry, and goats. Approximately 90% of Burundi's farmers are small-scale producers who farm on their small pieces of land. The average farm size in the country is one acre. Most farmers grow crops for their family consumption. Agricultural produce in Burundi is always insufficient to meet local needs. The country often suffers from food shortages despite being a largely agricultural economy.
Burundi has big forests as part of its natural resources. The country is home to some indigenous forests of the Central African region. The forests are made of old hardwood trees. Burundi also has human-made forests which are an important resource for the country. As of 2011, an estimated 172,000 hectares of land in Burundi was covered with forests. The forests accommodate numerous birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Besides, the natural forests have more than 2,500 plant species most of which are native to Burundi. Local communities use the trees in the forest as fuel in the form of firewood. The forests also provide timber to the country’s timber industry. The timber is used in construction, making furniture, and in paper factories. Some of the timber is exported to neighboring countries since the 1990’s Burundi has lost large portions of its forests to logging and human encroachment. A lack of regulation on forest use in the country has led to rapid loss of forests in Burundi. A sharp rise in the human population has also led to increased deforestation as people search for more agricultural land. Currently, it is estimated that 9% of forest cover is lost every year to illegal loggers in Burundi.
Burundi has a variety of wildlife resources. The country is home to some rare species of wild animals such as African elephants, rhinos, leopards, buffalos, and lions. The animals are protected in the country’s five national parks. The wildlife in Burundi is an important income generator mainly through tourism in the country.
Burundi has an abundance of water bodies despite being a landlocked nation. Its most significant water resource is Lake Tanganyika, which is the world’s second largest freshwater lake by volume. The lake is situated on the southwestern border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Burundi also has other lakes such as Lake Rweru and Lake Cyohoha. In addition to the lakes, Burundi has several rivers that flow through its land. The rivers and lakes are an important resource to the nation as they sustain the fishing industry in Burundi. Most of the fishing is conducted on Lake Tanganyika. Fishing provides a livelihood to many citizens in Burundi from fishers to fish traders. The water bodies also provide water for irrigation to the important agriculture sector in the country.
Peat is a natural resource formed after vegetation, and other organic materials have slowly decomposed for many years. Burundi has significant amounts of peat deposits estimated at 600 million tons. The peat reserves are mainly found in Buyongwe in the northern part of the country. Burundi has not invested in peat exploration. The government formed the National Peat Office to lead in the exploration of the resource. Peat is a suitable alternative source of fuel to firewood and it is mostly used as fuel in prisons and military camps in Burundi.
Burundi is home to rich nickel deposits. The country is estimated to have as much as 180 million tons of nickel reserves. In 2014, the Burundian government established the country’s first nickel mine in Musongati. The mine is jointly operated by the Burundi government and a privately owned company. However, exploration of the commodity was halted after nickel prices fell sharply in the world market. Burundi is listed as one of the nations in the world with rich nickel deposits that remain unexplored.
Burundi has some significant gold deposits on its land. Most gold reserves are found on the northern part of the country. The country produced the highest amount of gold in 2006 at 9,500 pounds. At the start of the 21st century, gold was estimated to provide 90% of income from mineral exploration in Burundi. The government partners with private companies in exploring the gold reserves.
Use of Natural Resources in Burundi
Burundi has remained a poor country despite its wealth of natural resources, and this has been attributed to poor management of resources in the country. Due to the ethnic war in the country in the 1990s and early 2000s, Burundi did not have regulations on the use of natural resources. As a result, most of the resources such as forests were destroyed by rebel groups. Additionally, Burundi lacks modern technology needed in the exploration of some minerals. As a result, the exploration is done manually by small-scale explorers. Manual exploration of natural resources leads to wastage and a poor market for the resources. Burundian government has recently partnered with private companies to help in the extraction and exportation of its mineral resources.