Insider mediators assist families in resolving coffee land disputes in Rutana

Type: Author: Cenap/Interpeace

In Burundi, coffee production is a central part of the economy. In the 1980s, in a spirit of growth, the state strictly regulated coffee growing and management practices. Owners of land along the main roads were required to plant coffee. If they did not, they could lose their right to use the land to other coffee growers.

In the Rutana area, two families made an amicable arrangement to comply with this obligation. To keep her land, one landowner lent it to a family seeking farmland to grow coffee and bananas. Unfortunately, when the landowner died, this agreement disappeared. Her descendants demanded the restitution of the land. Tensions were so high that the local authorities advised both families to take legal action.

To avoid a costly lawsuit, the families accepted the offer of insider mediators to help them resolve their conflict. After a lengthy discussion facilitated by the mediators, the landowner’s children understood better the ancient practice of supporting farmers lacking land and the need to find a solution that would benefit both families. Finally, both parties reached a new agreement. They decided that the landowner would get his land back once the bananas were ready to be harvested. In addition, the farmer would be able to cut the coffee cuttings and replant them on his land. Finally, as a sign of reconciliation, the two families celebrated their agreement over a banana beer.