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Burundi -- Geography

total: 27,830 sq km
land: 25,650 sq km
water: 2,180 sq km

Location Burundi is located in Eastern Africa, between 20 and 30' 40 and 30' South, longitude 290 and 310 East. It is bordered on the north by Rwanda, on the west by Zaire, and on the south and east by Tanzania.

Physical Description Burundi lies on the Great African Plateau formed by the Nile and Zaire River basins. The western slopes of the ridge-line forming these rivers descend abruptly into the Great East African Rift Valley toward the Rusizi Plain and Lake Tanganyika. The eastern slopes rise toward the central uplands. Three natural regions are thus formed: the Rift Valley called the Imbo, along the western border; the eastern zone, known as the Kumoso; and the central mountain region. The Rift Valley is a narrow plain that runs along the Rusizi River and the shores of Lake Tanganyika, ending in the foothills on the western Zaire-Nile divide. The entire Rift Valley lies below 3,500 feet in elevation. The Komoso is formed by central and eastern plateaus, with an average elevation of 6,000 feet, and by savannas along the eastern border, where the average elevation is 3,400 feet. The central mountain region is formed by a series of ridges running north to south that is generally less than 16 kilometers wide and 8,000 feet high. The eastern slope of this range in south-central Burundi gives rise to the headwaters of the Rwanda River, one of the sources of the Nile.

Climate Although Burundi is located within 50 degrees of the equator, none of its regions is uncomfortably hot. Burundi's climate differs from that of the adjoining Zaire basin because its higher elevations moderate temperatures. The central plateau enjoys pleasant weather, with a temperature averaging 20 C (68 F). The Imbo region is warmer, with an average annual temperature of 25 C (77 F). The higher elevations of the eastern plateau are generally cooler, with temperatures below 19 C (66 F). The eastern savannas are hotter, with average temperatures reaching 23 C (73 F). June, July, August, January and February are generally dry months. A long wet season lasts from March to May; a short wet season begins in September and ends in December. Rainfall is commonly irregular, with heaviest concentrations of rain in the northwest. Rainfall on the plateaus averages 119.4 centimeters, declining in the lower regions to 76.2 centimeters per year. Violent rainstorms are frequent at the higher elevations.

Forests Much of Burundi's natural vegetation has been cut to allow for cultivation. The forest that once covered the slopes and high plateaus has been felled, the land transformed by plowing and by brush fires intended to enrich the soil or to provide fresh pasturage in the dry season. Deforestation has resulted in gulleying, severe surface erosion, and the rapid destruction of the topsoil. Natural vegetation survives only in Burundi's lowest areas. The shore plain of Lake Tanganyika remains forested savanna. The shores of the country's rivers and lakes are covered with bamboo and swamp plants.

Lakes and Rivers Burundi's rivers flow into two basins of two major rivers, the Zaire and the Nile. The most important river flowing into the Zaire basin is the Rusizi, which has its source in Lake Kivu and forms the border between Zaire and Burundi. Among its many tributaries are the Lua, which forms part of the border with Rwanda; the Nyamagana; the Kaburantwa; and the Mpanda. Other rivers flowing into Lake Tanganyika include the Ndahangwa, the Doma, the Mulembwe and the Nyengwe. The Ruvubu and Kagera are the southeastern sources of the Nile. The Kagera forms the border between Burundi and Rwanda, as does part of the Kanyaru. The Ruvubu separates Burundi from Tanzania. Burundi's southeastern region is drained by the Muragarazi, which forms the border with Tanzania.

Natural Resources Natural resources include nickel, uranium, rare earth oxide, peat, cobalt, copper, platinum (as yet unexploited), vanadium

Land Use Arable land is about 43%; permanent crops 8%; meadows and pastures 35%; forest and woodland 2%; and other uses adds up to 12%.

Irrigated Land In a 1989 estimated, about 720 sq. km of the land was irrigated.

Environmental Concerns Environmental concerns include oil exhaustion and erosion; deforestation; habitat loss for threatened wildlife populations. Burundi is party to international agreements protecting Endangered Species; It has signed but not ratified agreements on Biodiversity, Climate Change, Law of the Sea, and Nuclear Test Ban.

Sources: Encyclopedia of the Third World, 1993, pg. 273. CIA World Fact Book.

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