Rural Burundian Cuisine

Burundi has been called the hungriest nation on earth.  Studies by the IFPRI in 2013 and 2014 determined the GHI (Global Hunger Index) for 120 countries, and Burundi scored the most hungry.  One study concluded that 73% of the population of Burundi is undernourished. 

So what do people in rural Burundi eat?  Well, mostly what they can grow.  The vast majority of rural Burundians are subsistence farmers, eating from their own gardens.  Most can not afford to eat prepackaged foods that are sold in the cities.  Especially not these days, as prices for imported and packaged goods are rising.

This spring we took a field trip to see how a Burundian friend prepares her meals.  This is what we learned.

It is no surprise that Burundian women work very hard to prepare food for their families.  Here are some pictures of working hard in action.  After hoeing and cultivating, women harvest food from their gardens.  Here our friend Thérèse harvests manioc, which is like a starchy bland potato.  

Then the women chop firewood

and carry water from the well 

so that they can cook their manioc and pumpkins

or beans.

Another common dish is peas with chopped pumpkin leaves.

The stems of the leaves are peeled like this 

and then boiled using wood-burning brick ovens like this one.

After a whole lot of work to prepare it, the finished product tastes good and is filling.  With no added sugar, preservatives, colors, or flavorings.   Unfortunately this local diet, while high in organic fresh produce, does not contain high levels of protein, calcium, or calories.  More protein-rich foods such as meat, milk, and even eggs are too expensive for the majority of our patients at Kibuye.  In fact, UNICEF reports that 58% of children in Burundi are chronically malnourished.  Stay tuned for another blog post highlighting one of the ways that Kibuye Hospital helps to improve nutrition in our area.

Despite widespread hunger, Burundian people are hospitable and eager to share what they have with guests.  We are grateful for friends in this community like Madame Thérèse with whom we can share food and time together.

1 comment:

Jennifer Ronco said...

Thank you for sharing! It's moving at the very least!