Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

I took an extended East Africa trip in May 2018, but with only a limited number of days in Burundi. But since I've been there many times before, I was able to focus on just a few washing stations in a limited area, Kayanza and Ngozi. Here are some photos and thoughts from the trip - T.O.

  1. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Daily Crossings

    At the Rwanda-Burundi border near Bugarama, near Congo. While some cross easily, tensions between Rwanda and Burundi are certainly present. For me, I always have some sort of problem at the border and it usually comes from Burundi security. Often they ask for a "Fanta" meaning any type of soda, meaning $20 USD. :-(

    Read More
  2. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Bicycles and Borders

    Burundi is especially pedal-driven, in rural and urban areas, and as we crossed in the later evening the light and bikes had a bit of magic.

    Read More
  3. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    All Presidents People

    There were added tensions with this trip. 2 days after I departed there would be a referendum vote which, among other things, would lift term limits completely for President Nkurunziza. Truckloads of supporters or some other faction were on the roads, the same road where 26 were killed in a raid from Congo rebels just the day before I arrived.

    Read More
  4. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    I swear the eyes followed me ...

    ...like an old Scooby Doo episode. Anyway, the former PE teacher who still plays soccer but has those who foul him arrested, and always scores 2 goals ... I mean he can't be a controlling power monger? In a country were people live daily with amazing courage (see bicyclist photos) there is one thing they seem to fear most. Him.

    Read More
  5. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Hanging in Style.

    Headed to Ngozi via Kayanza. The hand painted sign styles show such skill, and I dread the day they are replaced with computer inkjet printed banners. Bike culture is everywhere, old and not-so-old Indian-made Phoenix bikes highly stylized.

    Read More
  6. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Loaded Fully

    Largely empty containers I am sure, but in a place where owning a bike is being in the transportation industry, big loads are common. I see people hauling easily 100 kgs of Fanta, Beer, Bananas (probably for making banana beer!)

    Read More
  7. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Covered Drying in Kayanza

    Not really covered drying. This is the drying beds when it is covered with plastic because rainy weather threatens. Rain during the drying time is a big problem, as it seriously increases the number of days it takes to dry coffee, and that's not good for quality. But covering the Coffee with plastic protects it from gaining moisture, and that's a very good thing.

    Read More
  8. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Rama Farmers Cooperative

    Rama women’s group is an organization 129 members producing natural coffee. This land was given to them by local governor and they planted coffee 3 years ago so this is first harvest. So the idea here is to have the woman participate in all parts of coffee because traditionally if they just picked the cherry and the man brought it to the station not only did they not get the money back into the home

    Read More
  9. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Rama Bourbon

    Clumpy Bourbon variety, but I am not sure specifically which type. This is at the farm of the Rama women’s group and it is all going toward special natural lot. While this tree is producing heavily at three years, they seem to have a lot of disease plagued trees too. The agronomist with us had good suggestions for them.

    Read More
  10. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Fruit and Fungus

    At Rama, they have many trees suffering from Antracnose, Dieback Fungus, and types of leaf fungus, like coffee leaf rest. Here's a picture of some ripe fruit along with the leaf that has CLR. The advice was to wait until the fruit was more ripe to harvest, and I was showing them the type of fruit we like to see packed.

    Read More
  11. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Nursery at Mubuga

    An extrensive nursery is important to encourage farmers to replant with new healthy trees. The problem is that the government determines which type of coffee is acceptable to plant. In one case the nursery had thousands of seedlings of a non-approved variety, and the government came and destroyed all of the plants. It is difficult to do business in Burundi when the regulations change so dramatically from year-to-year. Decisions are capricious… Oddly it sounds familiar to home.

    Read More
  12. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Hand Picking at Rimiro Washing Station

    Hand-sorting of the parchment coffee is an important quality step, especially when the wet milling machine can't remove all the defective seeds, or the pulp or is nicking the seeds. Goal is to buy 500 ton cherry. They have 7 collection sites. Some collection sites are managed by a cooperative. They can be difficult to control for quality because their cherry sometimes sucks and they deliver it late.

    Read More
  13. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Naturals in Unnatural weather.

    Burundi doesn't always have the best climate for making natural coffee, simply drying the cherry as it comes from the tree. I feel naturals need to dry within 14 days or so, then have plenty of rest time afterward to stabilize. If they dry too slow or in wet weather, the taste can go south. This is at Mubuga station. Didier is manager. 300 tables. 400 tons is target. 1580 meters.

    Read More
  14. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Farmer Accounting at Nemba in Kayanza

    To account for all the coffee cherry brought in each farmer has a unique ID and card. Though the system is now done on a tablet, they still use the paper cards as a backup. The Burundi regulations do not allow prepayment to farmers. So all cherry must be recorded for later payment. They also track their member and non-member farmers this way. Nemba CWS in Kayanza. Nemba Colline. Won COE 2015 and best of Burundi 2016. Francs is government set price. 600 is what they pay here to compete.

    Read More
  15. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Power Control

    Coffee mill visit in Gitega town. They are adopting equipment from a closed dry mill in Bujumbura, the capital, to create a new specialty coffee process line in Gitega. Also there will be a new warehouse for handpicking coffee. They will have something like 1200 handpickers the mill. Arthur Ayel at Sucafina Budeca Mill in Gitega

    Read More
  16. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Raised Beds for Drying

    I'm visiting Burundi a bit early in the harvesting season and the weather has not been cooperative with effective drying of coffee. While there are sunny mornings, afternoons are often raining heavily during my visit. To my knowledge, all coffee in Burundi is dried on raised beds, which is much better to protect coffee by covering it in these rainy episodes. Rimiro Bugestal station.

    Read More
  17. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Bike To Work

    Much coffee is brought to washing stations strapped to the back of the sturdy steel bicycles, that are also used as taxis in general transportation. Given the frequent gas shortages, bicycles make even more sense. And they are beautiful.

    Read More
  18. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Make it Last

    The determination and ingenuity to use something beyond what most would consider its lifetime is truly inspiring. It's one of the things I love about traveling, as if every object is written over with a human presence, a willfullness, something urgent. I see it as expressive. I know I am wrong tho.

    Read More
  19. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018


    Most coffee processing systems involved floating the parchment coffee. But floating the coffee cherry has great benefits. In Burundi, the farmer is usually tasked with floating the coffee. Floaters are light coffee with at least one defective seed. They will be bought by the washing station as well, but having them removed increases the quality coming from the pulper

    Read More
  20. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Sorting Coffee Cherry

    Having farmers sort the cherry might seem like an additional burden, but it can motivate them to pick more selectively and leave the under-ripe coffee cherry on the tree to mature. That is a better proposition for them, as the ripe cherry receivers 600 francs and unripe or floater coffee gets only 250. Nemba CWS Kayasnaza

    Read More
  21. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Bringing Coffee to Gakenke

    This is the typical seen it a washing station where a farmer is bringing in their coffee cherry and participating in seeing it weighed. What's nice is to see the women bring the coffee to the station. Historically women might pick the coffee but the man of the house would bring it, take the money and hopefully it would make it back to the household. But that sometimes didn't happen. Kayanza. Gatara. Gakenke colline. 1675 meters here.

    Read More
  22. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Lalcafe Yeast

    Lalcafe Yeast for coffee processing fermentation. I have heard about these yeast additions for fermentation. It's the first time I've seen someone working on it in the field. The problem is these are very expensive and you cannot to propagate them yourself. In fact when I tasted the yeast processed coffee versus regular process, I preferred the latter.

    Read More
  23. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Decor Exterior

    On the way to a washing station, a beautifully decorated house with flowers. For some reason painting the mud wall is recommended in the sake of human health and sanitary concerns. Honestly I'm not exactly sure why, or if an unpainted wall would somehow transmit for harbor disease? Anyway it's beautiful.

    Read More
  24. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Travel Realities

    There's some notion that traveling to distant locales is exotic and exciting. But this is often when I end up seeing each night. It's OK I don't like to watch TV when I'm traveling anyway. But there are many hours spent sitting in cars sitting in hotels sitting on airplanes, staring at blank walls. Ngozi Plateaux Hotel

    Read More
  25. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Mouse Trap with a Fish

    One of the photos that made me laugh out loud from this trip was not one that I took. Arthur sent me this image from his house, a mouse trap armed with a dried fish. Why not? I wonder if you could harm a fish trap with the dried mouse?

    Read More
  26. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    How to Get There

    It's very common in Burundi that the cyclists grab hold of a truck on the uphill's. It takes great skill, as they usually have to sit sidesaddle to reach past the handlebars and hold on. You could say it's not safe, but very little is safe, anyways

    Read More
  27. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    The Probox

    These great Toyota wagons are imported, and usually decorated. This sign seems remarkable. People are incredibly easy going, taking anything in stride, and showed remarkable patience. Because they have to.

    Read More
  28. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Not Captured

    Some years ago I started taking photos that essentially forced my camera to fail. In doing so I felt something liberating about the idea of capturing a subject, especially one who didn't choose to be captured. It represented the speed in transience of traveling through an area that you don't really know.

    Read More
  29. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Fail to See

    I have many hundreds of these types of images and I always enjoy looking at the details. They're kind of a surprise which is nice. Failure is interesting. Some faces or seen or not seen. I thought I would start including some of these in my travelogues because, well, why not.

    Read More
  30. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018


    I realize that the images might fall victim to another kind of romance and aestheticization, representing colors and emotions, blah blah blah. It's not really how I see them

    Read More
  31. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Fashion Shop

    Offering elegance in the small town, everything is a little more interesting in Burundi. Gitega area.

    Read More
  32. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    Super Star!

    There are way more salons here than in California. And they all have a unique approach. I love the personalities of the businesses in Burundi. I wish cafes in the US were as varied.

    Read More
  33. Burundi: A Photo Set from May 2018

    End Note

    Heading back to the border with Rwanda, we made one less stop for some bread and honey, an impromptu breakfast. This little party boy wished us adieu. ha ha

    Read More