Burundi ranks 132 out of 157 countries in terms of progress toward meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (Sachs et al. 2017). According to the most recent data, the maternal mortality ratio is 712 per 100,000 live births, 27 percent of female deaths are related to pregnancy or childbearing, and one in 13 children will die before reaching 5 years (ISTEEBU and ICF International 2017, WHO 2015). Burundi ranked last on the Global Hunger Index 2017, (where 2.6 million people were projected to live with continual food insecure as of October 2017. According to the 2016–2017 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the country has one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition (stunting or low height-for-age) globally (56 percent), affecting over 1 million children under 5 years(National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies in Burundi)and ICF International 2017). Burundi is also facing three main environmental challenges: degradation and exhaustion of soils, degradation of forestry resources and human environmental degradation. Already deforestation, soil erosion and heavy rains have resulted in floods and the destruction of climate infrastructure in the country, which has left the country more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (Ministry of Land Management, tourism and environment, 2007). As the World is facing COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need to promote one health and agroecological approach as part of prevention and control of pandemic and potential epidemics (Ebola, Measles, COVID-19, cholera, and others) in low income country like Burundi.
In response to this crisis, Ubuntu Village of Life will partner with different global and local universities and International organizations, with the aim of developing a Health and Agro-ecology Research, and Learning Center (HARLC) – an incubator for innovations using one health, and agro-ecological model that can be scaled-up throughout Burundi and beyond. One Health is a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach—working at the local, regional, national, and global levels—with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment, while Agro-ecological model emphasizes biodiversity, recycling of nutrients, synergy among crops, animals, soils, and other biological components, and regeneration and conservation of resources while increasing agricultural production. The main areas of focus will include: Equity, human and animal health, food security, nutrition and livelihoods. These areas are so critical as they advance all the Sustainable Development Goals on a local level.