As most of you know, Burundi has been experiencing some political unrest. Although things appear to be returning to normal, the political situation has had some effects on the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund and our development projects, especially in the capital city, Bujumbura, where the protests were located. Our policy during this time of political uncertainty has been to try to continue but to be very cautious with our limited and precious development resources.
The first effect was to delay the funding of three new development projects. From our 2015 Call for Proposals, the African Governing Committee selected three new development projects and recommended that they receive the usual grant. The North American Governing Committee approved the distribution of the money for the three development projects. However, the three projects are all going to be implemented in Bujumbura. Since the protests resulted in considerable fear; making people afraid to travel around the City and causing some beneficiaries to move away from their communities, we decided to delay the funding and start-up of the three new projects. We decided to wait until we think the projects have a greater chance of success. We are watching the situation and we hope to be able to provide the first installments of money in the near future.
The second effect was the need to develop a conservative approach for our existing, previously funded development projects; an approach designed to preserve the project resources. We contacted all of our project managers and suggested that they and their beneficiaries preserve the project resources by avoiding risks, even if it meant delaying new initiatives. For the most part, the rural based, outside Bujumbura projects have been able to continue without any losses or major setbacks. Although there have been some delays for our urban based, inside Bujumbura projects, the existing projects are pretty much in the same condition as before the protests and political unrest began.
The rest of this newsletter provides an update on some of our 12 existing, previously funded development projects. The following provides brief progress reports on the four development projects that received grants as a result of 2014 Call for Proposals.
Making Bricks in Mugaruro Quarter, Buterere Commune, Project Manager, Audace MPAWENIMANA
Based on the needs and recommendations identified in his master’s of business administration thesis, the project manager, Audace MPAWENIMANA, designed a project to develop the capacity and improve the socioeconomic lives of brick makers in Buterere Commune. The project provides training and financial assistance to the 15 people who make bricks, grow rice and are committed members of the association. The training focuses on improving brick making and management skills. The financial assistance consists of providing support for other income-generating activities. Some of the income is being reinvested back into the association to ensure that the project sustains itself and grows.
Recent Activities and Results:
This project was off to a very good start. Audace, the project manager, organized 15 brick makers and rice growers into an association; something like a cooperative. The association has officers and the membership includes 5 women, 10 men and a portion of the membership are Batwa. The project has been successful in producing and selling bricks. In addition, the project has planted, harvested and sold rice.
Since the project is in a community near to the location of the political protests in Bujumbura, some of the association members lost their sense of security and moved away temporarily; right when a crop of rice was ready for harvest. Fortunately, the project found the means to harvest the rice.
Savings and Loans: Christian Initiative for Women’s Development in Gatumba, Project Manager, Christine KAMIRAMEYA
Gatumba is an over-crowded, poverty-stricken village 15 kilometres outside of the capital city of Bujumbura and on the way to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The purpose of the project is to use micro-financing to bring together a group of 20 in-need women for mutual support and development. Employing a participatory approach, the project provides opportunities for self-development and capacity-development, loans for income-generating activities and economic development and, thereby, provides benefits for the women and their families. Each member has signed an agreement; a social contract to support the association and its covenants. The repayment of loans and the payment of interest are designed to sustain the project and its growth into the future.
Recent Activities and Accomplishments:
Christine KAMIRAMEYA, the project manager, has organized an association of 22 female members who have signed agreements, taken loans and started income-generating businesses. In spite of the political upheaval and concerns about travelling around in Bujumbura, some team member members have been willing to attend meetings and the loans are being repaid.
Most of the income-generating businesses involve selling food (e.g., vegetables and fruit). As the project manager has reported, people need to eat during periods of political unrest and, therefore, the businesses have continued.
Since the loans will be repaid in the near future, the project will go into a second phase that will involve more loans for the current members and include recruiting another team of women who will join the project.
Breeding Goats at Nyambuye Zone in Isale Commune, Project Manager, Desire CIZA
This project was designed to improve the socioeconomic conditions of 17 community-selected beneficiaries in a rural area just outside Bujumbura. The beneficiaries were to be organized into an association of committed members. The project planned to provide female goats to each association member; a female representative of a needy household. For the first two gestations, one of the kids would be distributed to other beneficiaries. In addition, the association members would be trained and assisted to compost and grow crops. The proceeds from the goats and the crops are expected to sustain the project and improve the quality of life for the represented households.
Recent Activities and Results:
The implementation of the project has gone very well. There is an association of 17 committed needy women and many more women want to join the project. The association has elected officers and the members pay monthly dues. The association members have at least 27 goats and they have planted, harvested and sold a number of crops.
The association was growing a crop of cassava in a field near a secondary technical school. Given the political unrest, the students stopped coming school and more than half of the cassava crop was stolen by thieves. We expect the project to continue in spite of this set back.
Farming Peanuts with Landless Women in Giharo, Rutana, Project Manager, Barthelemy MINANI
Giharo commune is predominately populated by repatriates from Tanzania. This project was designed to work with 20 poor, uneducated, landless and disconnected women; widows and other single parent women. The women would be organized into a self-help association that will become a self-governing and self-sustaining cooperative. The women have been trained to grow peanuts. In the first year, the women were paid for their work and they were better prepared to provide food and shelter and education and health services for their children. The proceeds from the sale of peanuts will be reinvested into the association and, possibly, the women will be able to buy their own land and become financially independent.
Recent Activities and Accomplishments:
The project has 20 women beneficiaries who are members of the association. The association members harvested 583 kilograms of unshelled peanuts. The next planting of peanuts was delayed to wait out the dry season and, now, to wait out the political unrest. The political situation frightened the beneficiaries and they have considered returning to Tanzania once again. We know that Barthelemy was going to meet with the beneficiaries and try to provide comfort and support. At this time, we do not know if the beneficiaries left the country and, if so, if they are still out of the country.
The peanuts project above is located in Rutana; Barthelemy’s home province. The drive from Bujumbura to the Rutana project and Barthelemy’s home is time-consuming and relatively expensive. Barthelemy is not able to travel home very often. During my last visit, I learned that Barthelemy had become engaged. When I was organizing a field visit to Barthelemy’s project, I found out that Barthelemy wanted to take his fiancée, Pascasie, because she had never met his family.
Pascasie, Barthelemy and his family were grateful for the opportunity to meet Pascasie. The rest of us were grateful to Barthelemy, Pascasie and the family for allowing us to share this special moment in the family’s life.
Some time has passed since our visit to the project and the family homestead and the wedding day in rapidly approaching. Yes, Barthelemy and Pascasie will be married on Saturday, August 29, 2015.