The government of Burundi has recently banned a group of farmers from cultivating farmland in the Kibira Forest natural reserve. On the face of it this may seem in the interest of forest conservation. However if the conservation is detrimental to the livihood of local farmers and people are dying due to shortage of food then conservation becomes questionalble and we have to ask in whose interest does it lie. The World Rainforest Movement believes the government of Burundi are pampering to outside interests. This is the typical approach pushed by global capital with interests in biotech prospection and tourism, which seeks to establish forest reserves and national parks devoid of people, like stranded isles in the middle of a context of devastation.
In [the northern province of] Kirundo people are dying because of food shortage; we are worried that the government will not allow us to harvest our crops in the Masango Zone yet it has not been able to feed all people starving in Kirundo, Michel Niyonsaba, 44, the farmers’representative, said. He added that recent heavy rains had destroyed their homes and some of the crops yet the government had not provided them help. The severe food shortage that haunts northern Burundi affects more than half a million people and has even caused people to die. Declining rainfall is one of the major reasons for it. Burundi is a small country of 27, 834 sq km; Large sections of the 5 million population have been displaced by economic crisis and years of continuous conflict between various militia from neighbouring Rwanda and Congo and this has contributed to the destruction of the forests. As long as the conflict continues and people are insecure in their respective environments removing them from the forest will only add to their displacement and increase their poverty and vulnerability. It is this that the government needs to address and not the interests of outsiders who care nothing for local people or their needs.