Customer Story

ISABU Lab – Burundi

Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU) is a government institution under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in Burundi. The institution is an umbrella under which various laboratories operate offering services in different agri-sectors. Its vision is to contribute to the establishment of a dynamic agricultural sector based on innovative technologies, knowledge and approaches that meet the needs of users and improve the well-being of the people.

The journey to adoption of AgroCares soil testing technology by ISABU

The journey to adoption of AgroCares soil testing technology by ISABU was initiated by a non-governmental organization (ZOA) in partnership with the PAPAB project through a grant from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands implemented in 2015 till 2020 to sustainably increase food production in Burundi. Through a proposal put forth by ZOA, a partnership was established with AgroCares that led to the calibration of soils in Burundi to enable the use of AgroCares soil testing technology in the country in the year 2016.

Later on, in the same year, a team of representatives under the partnership project visited the AgroCares offices in Kenya to ascertain the working of the technology and laboratory set up. This left the team more confident and convinced about the technology leading to the next step of purchasing the lab and having it installed at the ISABU institution as a stationary lab. We are glad that among the many research institutions and universities that expressed interest in having the lab set up in their premises, ISABU was selected (Elena, Lab manager).

Why AgroCares soil testing labs under the ISABU umbrella

Although a number of soil laboratories exist in the country with a wet chemistry lab present at the ISABU institution, the labs have not had the sole mandate of fully serving the small-scale farmers. Their focus has been majorly on research related programs and this created a gap on knowledge of soil health and fertility status among the small-scale farmers (Elena, Lab manager).

ISABU therefore embraced the set up AgroCares soil labs under the institution in order to reach out to small-scale farmers who were still engrossed in traditional farming methods. We aimed at passing on knowledge to the farmers focusing on soil health for improved productivity. Also, with ISABU’s vision to contribute to the establishment of a dynamic agricultural sector based on innovative technologies, AgroCares technology comes in handy to complement the vision (Elena, Lab Manager).

What we love about the AgroCares technology at ISABU

The AgroCares technology for soil analysis has proven to be a great method of analysis for us because of the ability to analyze many samples within a short period and deliver results in no time. It has also enabled us to offer the service at an affordable price making soil testing easily accessible to small scale farmers including those from the most remote farming regions of Burundi (Ezechiel, research analyst).

As an analyst who runs soil samples in the lab daily, I get to experience the outstanding features of the sensor technology; the short duration within which results are produced, well-structured reports that are easy to interpret by the farmers and the simplicity of the process of analyzing soil in comparison with conventional wet chemistry laboratory process that is laborious. We also enjoy the prompt and satisfying assistance we get from the AgroCares's technical support team whenever we need it (Ezechiel, research analyst).

I just love the fact that we are not handling chemicals in this lab because the procedure of acquiring chemicals including verification is such a tough and lengthy process here in Burundi. Thus working with sensor based instruments for analysis in the lab turns out to be economical and fast for our operations. Also happy to say we can keep our environment safe with no chemicals in use (Elena, Lab manager).

Impact of the technology

Since the setup of the laboratory in 2016, approximately 8,000 farmers across Burundi have benefitted from this service: “the technology turned out to be a bridge, connecting the ministry of agriculture with smallholder farmers in need of soil testing services at affordable prices, with the aim of increasing their productivity at reduced costs (Ezechiel, research analyst).

Additionally, the service we offer through AgroCares Liab has enabled ISABU to establish collaborations with other like-minded partners within and outside Burundi in running projects to reach out to underprivileged farmers and provide them with holistic knowledge on agricultural production for better livelihoods.

This in turn is helping ISABU with attaining one of the institutional goals; improving the well-being of people throughout the nation (Ezechiel, research analyst). Researchers within our institute have appreciated the technology and are currently including the services of Liab as a component of their research programs running within the institute under the ministry of agriculture for policy making (Elena, Lab manager).

Outlook for the future

Since we noticed a good number of farmers, more so the potato farmers coming back to us with feedback of improved yields, we plan to have a budget allocation for farmer sensitization and training programs annually. This will enable us reach out to more farmers across the farming regions in Burundi (Elena, Lab manager).

We are also considering setting up a tracking system on farmer feedbacks and improvements realized with the implementation of recommendations from the soil tests alongside embracing good agricultural practices as we continue to help farmers shift from the traditional farming methods (Ezechiel, research analyst). With the understanding of the crucial role of partnerships, we are looking more into strengthening the existing ones as we scout for more in our course to holistically support smallholder farmers.

Our recent partnership with International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) and stakeholders in the seed sector has enabled us to serve close to 800 farmers in the months of July and August 2023 with IFDC recommending farmers to do soil tests at the ISABU LiaB. We believe our mandate as ISABU to respond to the needs of Burundi farmers continually, will be possible through embracing new technologies and establishing more partnerships in the agri-space as we forge ahead (Elena, Lab manager).