Burundi: National and Local Vulnerability Assessments

The approach

The German-Burundian Project on Climate Change Adaptation seeks to support the Burundian Government in implementing appropriate adaptation measures and in mainstreaming climate change adaptation into policies and strategies at all levels. The vulnerability assessment forms an integral part of the national adaptation plan (NAP) process in Burundi.

Scope and entry points

Located in the heart of Africa, Burundi is a small landlocked country that ranks amongst the poorest countries in the world. More than 46% of the population suffers from hunger and the outlook remains critical. Burundi is a mountainous country with a tropical humid climate. One of the most profound challenges for the country however remains the very high level of population growth, presently at around 2.4–3.1% per annum. For a country that has already an extremely high population density (average of 310 inhabitants per km², and up to 500 per km² in the most densely populated areas), this poses enormous stress on its remaining natural resources. Latest climate change scenarios indicate significant increases in annual mean rainfall and temperature, extended dry spells and occurrence of extreme weather events. These parameters will further increase soil erosion – already a major problem today due to unsustainable agricultural practices – and will consequently further increase Burundi’s level of vulnerability.


How it works

The vulnerability assessment conducted in Burundi followed an 8-step approach outlined in GIZ’s Vulnerability Sourcebook. In addition to these steps, comprehensive and scientific modelling of climate change impacts for Burundi was conducted based on two scenarios: a more pessimistic view based on RCP 8.5 models and a moderate view based on RCP 4.5 models. The objective was to provide the Government of Burundi with reliable data and scenarios in order to be able to adapt to those. The vulnerability assessment was conducted for three timelines: status quo in 2014, 2030-2060 and 2070-2100.
One of the key challenges at the onset of the work was related to difficulties in gathering relevant data. Burundi being a postwar country, most government archives are in disorder and documents and information are patchy. In addition, data were often in the hands of individuals only (at government or project level). Another challenge was the lack of data at local level. Often aggregated data were only available at national and provincial level, making it difficult to develop clear messages for the community at smallest administration levels.
Accompanying the entire process, four national workshops were organized with all relevant stakeholders. These allowed participants (government and civil society) to better understand the process and to share their views and expertise on the subject. In addition, an expert group was created to advise and steer the process. Members of this expert group were chosen based on their expertise in order to facilitate data acquisition and to ensure ownership of the process. After the workshops the expert group was consulted to decide on open questions and to define further steps.


Specifics of application

  • Stakeholders and institutional set-up

Commissioned by the German-Burundian Climate Change Adaptation project in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Water, Land and Urban Planning and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the vulnerability assessment at national level was conducted by an expert team from three different institutions, namely (1) adelphi, (2) EURAC research, and (3) the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). All results were regularly mirrored in an expert group comprising experts from various sectors and institutions from Burundi. Concerning the vulnerability assessments at local level, relevant stakeholders were the local administration as well as the habitants of the relevant zones.
Activities started in November 2013 and lasted for about 11 months. One determining factor for the lengthy process was the development of scientific models based on climate change scenarios for Burundi; another factor was the process to gather all relevant data and information necessary to conduct a comprehensive vulnerability assessment.

  • Input

As indicated above, the vulnerability assessment was conducted by three different institutions (adelphi, EURAC, PIK) in close collaboration with the GIZ Project on Climate Change Adaptation and its partners. Key for the process was the technical expert group and the regular exchange with a larger group of stakeholders in different workshops. Especially the creation of the expert group constituted of experts from various Burundian ministries and institutions with the purpose of mirroring and discussing results and next steps was pivotal to create ownership for both the process itself and its results. This approach however applies to the vulnerability assessment at national level only. The activities at local level in the identified intervention zones were carried out in close collaboration with local governmental and non-governmental actors as well as the local population in the respective zones. National and local data were gathered from various ministries, government institutions, projects and donors.


  • Output

Three highly visual outputs of the vulnerability assessment at national level were created in the form of vulnerability maps for the three factors erosion, drought and malaria prevalence.
Based on these maps and in close consultation with the expert group, highly vulnerable areas or so called “vulnerability hotspots” were identified to guide the identification of three pilot watersheds where the project will plan and implement adaptation measures for the protection of soil and water resources with the communes and communities. A list of criteria and indicators was established in order to reduce the initially long list of potential sites.

In the three identified watersheds, local vulnerability assessments were then conducted with the objective to identify the challenges when it comes to climatic impacts on the soil and water resources and to identify jointly with the local population appropriate adaptation measures to be implemented by the project.

A number of publications summarize the findings:
1) Climate Change Report for Burundi (English and French)
2) Analyse intégrée de la Vulnérabilité au Burundi – Introduction et Analyse Intégrée de Vulnérabilité face au changement climatique au niveau national (French)
3) Analyse de Vulnérabilité au niveau local (French)
4) Méthodologie détaillée de l’Analyse de Vulnérabilité nationale (French)
5) National vulnerability maps for erosion, drought and malaria

  • Capacity required and ease of use

For the preparation of climate change scenarios, sound scientific expertise is required. Conducting a vulnerability assessment was done for the first time in Burundi, which is why little experience was available to build on. However, a number of resource persons were available, contributing to the success of this work and building their knowledge and capacities on vulnerability to climate change.

Conclusions for future application

  • Outcome and added value

The results of the vulnerability assessment form the basis for mainstreaming climate change adaptation into national and local policies, strategies and investment plans. While the German-Burundian Climate Change Adaptation project will be able to pilot adaptation measures in three little watersheds, other actors may use this experience and information for the identification of highly vulnerable zones that merit attention in the selection process of appropriate adaptation measures.

  • Potential for replication

The methodology used for the vulnerability assessment in Burundi is based on a standardized approach outlined in GIZ’s Vulnerability Sourcebook. This allows for the replication of this approach, which is of special importance when it comes to the monitoring and evaluation of results of adaptation measures. In future it is very likely that developing countries will be able to mobilize funds for conducting vulnerability assessments from different international climate finance mechanisms. This makes this approach highly interesting and valuable.


GIZ (2014). The Vulnerability Sourcebook – Concept and guidelines for standardized vulnerability assessments.

GIZ (2014). Analyse intégrée de la vulnérabilité au Burundi. Volume I: Introduction et Analyse Intégrée de Vulnérabilité face au changement climatique au niveau national, Burundi: GIZ.

GIZ (2014). Analyse intégrée de la Vulnérabilité au Burundi. Volume II: Analyse de Vulnérabilité au niveau local, Burundi: GIZ.

GIZ (2014). Analyse intégrée de la Vulnérabilité au Burundi. Volume III: Méthodologie détaillée de l’Analyse de Vulnérabilité nationale, Burundi: GIZ.

GIZ (2014). Climate Change Projections for Burundi. A Summary for Policy Makers, Burundi: GIZ


For further information please contact:

Juliane Wiesenhuetter, Projet “Adaptation au Changement Climatique pour la protection des ressources en Eau et Sol“ (ACCES), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, E-mail: juliane.wiesenhuetter@giz.de.