Potatoes were introduced around 1900 to Burundi by German missionaries when the territories were a German colony. In 1919, following World War I, the territories were administered by Belgium until independence in 1962.
Local adoption of the potato crop was initially slow, and it was not until the 1930's that potatoes became a significant food crop in suitable production areas. The stimulus for increased production came in part from imports of new varieties and clean seed from Belgium. In 1979, the Burundi Government, with Belgian assistance, established a program for potato improvement. The Programme d'Amélioration de la Pomme de Terre operates under the auspices of l'Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU).
The most suitable areas for potato production in Burundi are the highlands of the Nile-Congo divide along the northeastern borders with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.