The naturally beautiful and culturally diverse Africa is enhanced with lush rainforests on the top of the hills and across the lakes and beaches of Burundi. Burundi, or the Republic of Burundi, as it is officially known, is rightly called the Heart of Africa. Burundi is one among the 54 fully recognised sovereign states or countries of the African continent. The country is also known as the ‘Land of Kirundi speakers’. It is also well known for Lake Tanganyika, world’s second largest and deepest freshwater lake. The country is home to a wide variety of wildlife and vegetation. The Savanna grassland, amazing rainforests, pygmies, hunter gatherers and various tribes characterize this part of the world, which struggles between modern society and their own traditional ways. Let us understand more about this African country.

Where is Burundi located?

A landlocked country, Burundi is located in the African Great Lakes region of Southeast Africa and is bordered by Rwanda towards the north, Tanzania to the east and the south and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. Despite being landlocked, much of the south-western border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika. Located more towards Central Africa, it lies between 3°30’S latitude and 30°E longitude and is very close to the equator. Out of its total area of about 27,830 sq km, about 26,680 sq. km is occupied by land and about 2,150 sq. km by water. Comparatively, it ranks 147th in the world and is slightly smaller than Maryland.

How is its topography and climatic conditions?

As Burundi lies very close to the equator, it enjoys a tropical climate. Most of its terrain is hilly and mountainous and almost dropping to plateau levels in the eastern parts of the country while some of its parts are plains. Lying in the equatorial region, it experiences two wet seasons, between February–May and from September–November, and two dry seasons, between June–August and December–January. The lowest point is Lake Tanganyika at 772 m whereas the highest point is Mount Heha at 2,670 m and the annual average temperature varies with altitude. It faces natural hazards like flooding, landslides and droughts and environmental issues like soil erosion and deforestation.

What is its flora and fauna like?

Flora and fauna of Burundi is composed of species of plants, birds, vertebrates, variety of reptiles, species of amphibians and fish species. The flora is characterized by evergreen lush bush lands and grasslands as well as Afromontane vegetation and rainforests which include many varieties of exotic flowers and trees like acacia. The fauna boasts of many species of birds and animals. Endangered species of birds such as yellow canary, frog and hippopotamus are found here. Chimpanzee, wild dog, lion, African golden cat, cheetah, squirrel, shrew and otter are its protected species. African buffalo, Sitatunga, waterbuck, korrigum, Impala and klipspringer are on verge of extinction due to large scale hunting.

Which are religions followed and languages spoken here?

Most of the Burundians are Christians, with about 60% of the population being Roman Catholics while about 5% are Protestants. However, remaining Burundian population follows traditional African religions. The official language of Burundi is Kirundi, which is spoken by nearly 29.7 % of the Burundians and the second official language is French, spoken by about 9.1% of the population. Burundians residing by Lake Tanganyika as well as in the capital city of Bujumbura speak the Swahili language. English, however, is spoken by a minority of the population.

What is their overall culture?

Traditionally, young Burundian men play the drums carved out of tree trunks during ceremonies, followed by an accompanying dance form which is very athletic where young men jump high and spin around. Inanga and Idano are the important traditional musical instruments. Dance and music is an essential part of the Burundian culture. Folklore is passed onto the younger generation by means of poetry, fables, legends, riddles and proverbs. Old practice of polygamy is gradually disappearing and men are in charge of the house while women do the household chores. The traditional dress in villages is a ‘Pagnes’ or a wraparound worn by men and women whereas western dresses are worn by both men and women in the cities. Burundians are very social people and like to meet each other. They greet each other by handshake with their right hand. Pointing of fingers is considered very rude. Principles of Christianity are followed during marriage and other events.

What are their food habits?

Daily food of the Burundians includes beans, corn, peas, millets, sorghum, cassava, sweet potatoes and bananas. Red kidney beans are the staple food and they also enjoy cassava flour boiled in water and stirred to make a thick paste called Ugali.  Fish is consumed in areas around Lake Tanganyika. Meat consumption is very less. Sometimes, goat and sheep meat is eaten but cow meat is strictly forbidden as it is considered sacred. In the cities, French bread is very popular and tea and coffee is the common beverage. Beer is an important beverage and is consumed at all important social events. Also, Burundians prefer to produce their own traditional drinks like the banana beer and sorghum beer. Normally, they have a large meal at noon and some leftovers or tea at night. The Burundi diet is a representation of the African food and it may also depend on the economic conditions. The Burundians usually prefer homemade food.

What are its economic features?

Due to the scarcity of natural resources, agriculture is the main occupation of Burundi and about 90% of the population is engaged in agricultural and farming activities. Agricultural products of Burundi include coffee, cotton, tea, corn, sorghum, sweet potatoes, banana, cassava, beef, milk and hides. Industries that contribute towards its development are light consumer goods like blankets, shoes, soap, beer, assembly of imported components, public works constructions and food processing. It exports commodities like coffee, tea, sugar, cotton and hides to Germany, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sweden, China, Uganda, Egypt and Belgium. On the other hand, it imports commodities like capital goods petroleum products and foodstuffs from Saudi Arabia, China, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, India and South Africa.

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