In advance of my next trip to Burundi to visit our development projects, project managers and beneficiaries (end of July to mid-August), I am pleased to provide you with an update or progress report on one of our projects. As most of you know, the political unrest in Burundi adversely affected some of our projects, especially those inside Bujumbura. The report below describes the rebuilding and return to development for one of our projects that lost almost all of its beneficiaries and was somewhat inactive for a few months. Fortunately, the project manager, Audace, has worked diligently to rebuild the membership of the association (recruit new beneficiaries) and return to the critical development activities.
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. The project was expected to provide training and financial assistance to 14 people who made bricks and were committed members of an association. The training focused on improving brick making and management skills. The financial assistance consisted of providing support for other income-generating activities. Some of the income would be reinvested back into the association to ensure that the project sustains itself and grows.
The project was designed to help vulnerable people to become more economic independent by making bricks and pursuing agriculture activities, especially in rice growing. The project began with 14 beneficiaries composed by 6 women and 8 men. In this first group, the majority were Batwa (members of the Twa ethnic group) who are very poor and landless. In order to meet their basic needs, the Batwa work seasonally in agriculture activities for other people. They do not have regular jobs or much money for food, dressing/clothing, shelter, education and health services for their themselves or their children.
The project was implemented successfully and made and sold several batches of bricks and harvested, distributed and sold some crops of rice; the project was meeting its objectives and was self-sustaining. The political unrest in Bujumbura affected the community and its members. Unfortunately, last year 12 members/beneficiaries of the group ran away because of the nearby political unrest in Bujumbura. The project protected its capital and went into a period of inactivity.
Rebuilding the Membership
To reactive the project, the project manager selected another group to join the project. He recruited 16 new members, composed of 14 women and 2 men. Now the project has 18 beneficiaries (15 women and 3 men of the Twa ethnic group with the same socio-economic situation as the first group).
A meeting was held in March to welcome the new members and evaluate and decide what to do in the next three months.
Returning to Development, Planting Rice
At the March meeting, it was decided to continue with their monthly meetings and continue making bricks and planting rice. It was decided to use the remaining project money and small contributions from the beneficiaries to rent a field for rice with a view of acquiring a harvest and raising more project money. After renting a the field for growing rice, it is was necessary to develop and care for a nursery of rice seedlings and prepare and plant seedlings in the rest of the field.
The association members must prepare the bigger part of the field for planting the seedlings, replanting the seedlings and growing the rice.
Once the rice field is planted, it is necessary to fertilize and weed the rice field. While the rice is growing, some of the beneficiaries with support and assistance from other members will work for other people to raise money for the association.
When the rice is ready, the association members will harvest the rice, save some rice for seed, distribute some rice to members and sell most of the rice. The money will then be used to continue with the development activities. Some of the money will be used to buy firewood to fire the bricks and the association is considering using some of the money to buy and raise pigs. I am looking forward to making an onsite visit to the project and meeting with the beneficiaries.