Burundi is emerging from a prolonged period of instability. As it transitions to a new era of economic development, one of its key challenges is going to be rapid demographic growth.
Burundi’s birth rate of 6.4 births per woman in 2010 is the sixth highest in the world. Since the country gained independence in 1962, the population has grown from 3 million to an estimated 9 million. It’s a young country too, with almost 50 percent under the age of 16, and the UN expects Burundi to grow to 13 million by 2050.
All this growth could have a major impact on rural livelihoods, putting more stress on under-developed agricultural systems. As the amount of fertile land per person shrinks, the choice for many farmers will simply be to grow more or eat less.
Family planning could slow the population growth. Properly designed programs, using education and promoting access to contraceptives, give couples the tools they need to choose the size of family that’s right for them. While the Burundian government and a variety of NGOs have committed to increasing family planning, progress has been hard won. A 2010 survey found rates of contraceptive use to be just 22 percent among women aged 15-49, even though contraceptives are provided free of charge at all government health centers and hospitals.
For One Acre Fund, family planning is a way to improve food security for Burundians. In November 2013, we launched our first-ever family planning assessment. A total of 1992 women between the ages of 19 and 49 and men aged 19 to 60 in Muramvya Province participated in the survey. Participants included One Acre Fund clients, non-clients living in areas where One Acre Fund works, and those living just outside One Acre Fund areas.
Among the key findings:
• The vast majority of individuals surveyed could define family planning, knew of multiple methods of modern contraception and knew where family planning services could be accessed.
• More than 95 percent reported having mostly positive views of family planning.
• 33 percent of couples reported practicing a method of family planning.
• 39 percent of women who said they wanted no more children currently practice family planning.
• Health concerns related to the side effects of contraceptive use were the most common reason cited by women for not practicing family planning.
The One Acre Fund team in Burundi is investigating ways it can promote access to family planning services among its farmers. We’re still in the early stages, but eventually we hope to collaborate with the Burundian government to improve the capacity of health centers and hospitals to deliver high-quality family planning services.