Improving the effectiveness and sustainability of value chains in fragile and conflict-affected countries such as Burundi can, in the long-run, contribute to stabilise the broader ecosystem in which such chains are evolving.
An open and candid discussion about the challenges and opportunities of such an ambitious goal took place during the closed door expert session “partnering for local value chain development in contexts of instability”, organized by the Platform in The Hague on 26 April 2016.
Financed by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the research project that culminated in this event brought together partners from the public, private, civil society and research sector, including Heineken International and its subsidiary Brarudi, Spark, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Clingendael’s Conflict Research Unit (CRU). Following a presentation of the main research findings the discussions focussed on the interaction of conflict causes and business constraints in the context of Burundi and explored concrete impact channels between the sorghum beer chain and persisting conflict dynamics.
Effects of the 2015 crisis on the value chain
The violence that broke out in Burundi in April 2015, has had an impact on the general economy of the country and on the sorghum beer value chain in particular. The impact that for example inflation, foreign currency shortage, and growing insecurity have had on all chain actors and their activities were discussed as well as the coping mechanisms of farmers, truck drivers, the brewery and distributors, NGOs and finance institutions. Stakeholders around the table were keen to exchange good practices as well as to explore areas for improvement.
Interaction between the value chain and its broader context
Opportunities for positive influence stemming from the company’s position in the country as the largest operational private company were debated by the participants. Increased interaction across conflict lines, the transfer of knowledge and information, and the creation of jobs and business opportunities, particularly for young men and women in the rural areas were put forward as positive influences attributable to the collaborative efforts of chain actors and supporters.
On the other hand, threats to the sustainability of the chain and its interaction with broader conflict dynamics were highlighted as well. Volatility of markets, devaluation of local currency and rising living costs not in line with incomes and margins, risks of co-option and growing insecurity were discussed as potential disruptive issues hampering the sustainability of the value chain.
Keep an eye on our website for more information on the outcomes of the research study.