BLOG Category: health

Understanding Family Planning Practices in Burundi

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Jun 23, 2014 Category: Health Tags: burundi education family government women

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.

When Drinking Water Impacts Farming Productivity

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Apr 07, 2014 Category: Core Program Health Tags: children chlorine

In honor of World Health Day, we decided to take a moment to reflect on an activity that many smallholder farmers undertake at the start of their day: fetching water.

It's a common sight early in the morning in western Kenya: women and children walking alongside the road with empty, yellow containers in their hands. If they are lucky, they will only have to walk a kilometer or two to the nearest village well, where they will lower the containers into the ground to scoop up water they will then carry home.

Yet more often than not, farmers walk long distances to reach the nearest water point—especially during the dry season—with little or no promise that the water will be clean and safe to drink. Coming directly from the ground, the water can be contaminated, leading to diarrhea, typhoid, or cholera. All this has a profound impact on their ability to farm and feed their families.

When farm families fall sick, they are not able to tend to their crops. They end up spending the little money they have saved for food and school fees on medical bills and pharmacy prescriptions. Or in some cases, funeral fees. Diarrhea is the number one killer of children worldwide.

This year, One Acre Fund delivered chlorine to over 115,000 households across East Africa as part of our loan package. That means over 500,000 women, men, and children will have treated water that is safe to drink. We estimate our chlorine distribution will prevent 75,000 cases of diarrhea among children under the age of five, saving lives and freeing up money for food and school fees.

Farming is the dominant activity of the world’s poor. One Acre Fund’s goal is to make this activity significantly more productive so that farmers can grow their way out of hunger and poverty. But smallholder farmers face extraordinary external risks every day that can make this impossible to achieve. Contaminated drinking water is one of these risks and cannot be overlooked. Safe drinking water means healthier, happier, and more productive farm families—both on their shambas and off.