This Newsletter begins with a brief travel update but primarily focuses on our novel Restoration Grants and describes what has become our first two Restoration Projects. The Newsletter ends with a very nice, a “must-read” Letter of Thanks from Beneficiaries.
Right after participating in Hope Africa University’s early February 2020 Graduation Ceremonies, I left Burundi. I had already paid for my return trip for May and part of June 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic had its own agenda and my flights were cancelled. I have missed visiting Burundi, our Project Managers, our project beneficiaries and working onsite with Hope Africa University personnel. Finally, after more than 18 months, I am delighted to announce that I have restored my tickets and I am planning to return to Burundi in early October and stay into the early part of November.
As you probably know, the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund (HMODF), provides small, one-time, start-up grants for development projects that are expected to become self-supporting, self-sustaining, self-managing and self-governing. Any student or graduate of Hope Africa University is eligible to respond to our Call for Proposals and submit a proposed project of their own design (almost all of our projects are focussed on agriculture development and engaged in crop cultivation and animal husbandry). From each competition, the most promising projects are selected and provided with a grant and the student or graduate who submitted the proposal becomes the long-term, volunteer Project Manager. With guidance from the Project Manager, the association of poor beneficiaries (almost all women) are expected to become self-supporting; develop sufficient ongoing income from selling harvests and/or animals and, thereby, improve their lives and be able to continue long into the future.
Since 2011, the HMODF has provided 25 start-up grants to 25 development projects. Although our projects experience challenges, all of the projects have been able to function longer than the first year and beyond the grant money. Most of our projects have been able to become self-supporting and continue for years following the receipt and use of the initial grant money and some projects have spawned additional extension projects with their own associations of women.
In February of 2018, the first nine students graduated from Hope Africa University’s Community Development Master’s Program. The US-based Advisory Committee of the HMODF decided to have a Special Call for Proposals for interested Community Development graduates. Two proposed agriculture development projects were selected and provided with the usual one-time, start-up grant.
- Supporting Poor and Vulnerable Women by Raising Pigs and Cultivating Crops at Kajaga in Mutimbuzi Commune, Project Manager: Aimé Fidèle NINGEJEJE
- Supporting Batwa Women in Breeding Goats and Cultivating Rice at Rubirizi in Mutimbuzi Commune, Project Manager: Guillaume GAHUNGU
In late 2018, both of the projects got off to a reasonable start with development of an Association of women and the investment of the grant money in animals and crops. By the end of 2019 and through no fault of the beneficiaries, both of these projects were experiencing serious challenges.
Aimé’s pigs and crops project experienced devastating challenges; disease killed all of the pigs and flooding destroyed all of the crops and some of housing so some of the beneficiaries needed to relocate. The other project lost its Project Manager by resignation, lost some of their goats through disease and flooding caused the loss of crops and housing. Both projects appeared to have very little or no chance for recovery. Although Aimé’s project was inactive for a quite a period of time, he remained as the Project Manager. Shortly after the resignation of the original Project Manager for the other project, Barthelemy MINANI, another Project Manager with his own project, agreed to serve as the Project Manager for the Batwa goats and crops project.
Given these circumstances, the US-based Advisory Committee decided in September of 2020 to cancel the annual 2021 Call for Proposals for one-time, start-up grants and, for the very first time, to allow the two seriously challenged projects to develop a revised proposal for a Restoration Grant. Using our normal project proposal outline and format, both Project Managers developed project restoration proposals. The proposals were reviewed by the Burundi-based Advisory Committee and were recommended for a Restoration Grant. The restoration and renewal of both projects began in the first part of 2021.
RESTORATION GRANT AND RESTORATION PROJECT
- Supporting Poor and Vulnerable Women by Cultivating Rice and Beans and Breeding Goats at Kajaga in Mutimbuzi Commune, Project Manager: Aimé Fidèle NINGEJEJE
The Project Manager for this now goats and crops project is Aimé Fidèle NINGEJEJE. Before and after graduating from the Hope Africa University’s Community Development Masters’ Program in 2018, Aimé has worked for Hope Africa University. For a number of years, he held a key position in the Office of the Academic Secretary (the Registrar’s Office) and he was recently promoted to Head of the Communications Department.
To reactivate, restore and renew the development project, Aimé drafted, revised and finalized a complete project restoration proposal. The final proposal was submitted to the Burundi Advisory Committee and it was reviewed and recommended for Restoration Grant. As usual, the grant money was provided through the usual signed agreement with the Project Manager who receives the money by installments and the installment money is presented to the beneficiaries before it is deposited in a secure account. The Project Manager works with Association members to ensure the money is used wisely and for the intended purposes.
Now, there are 6 poor and vulnerable women as the project beneficiaries. The women are organized into a re-established Association called the TURASHOBOYE Association which means the We Can Association. Like the original project and all of our projects and through the Association, the project aims to become self-managing and self-governing and completely self-supporting and self-sustaining through agriculture activities; animal husbandry and crop cultivation. The restored project will breed goats instead of pigs. The Association will own the first 6 goats and the first generation will be given to the 6 Assocation members. The project will cultivate rice and beans and establish an internal microfinancing function.
After receiving the restoration money for the project’s activities, I (Project Manager, Aimé) gathered the members and started by telling them that the proposal for the restoration had been accepted by the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund and that now even the first round of the restoration money is available. In order to be transparent, I showed them the money and the agreement so that they can see for themselves the exact amount of the first round of the restoration money (975.000 BF). I explained to them that the money was for farming rice and that the one for raising goats will come after. I then reminded them the objectives and aim of the Association and we finished our meeting by agreeing that they are going to search for a land to rent where we will cultivate rice.
The Association managed to rent land quickly and the women immediately started to prepare the rice field. As soon as they finished, they started to plant the rice seedlings that had been bought.
Rice needs water but not too much water. Unfortunately, heavy rain and flooding from Lake Tanganyika “invaded” the rice field.
Even though a large part of the rice crop was destroyed, the members of the Association did not give up; they continued to care for the remaining rice by weeding and fertilizing. Fortunately, there was a harvest of 300 kg but it was much smaller than expected.
Breeding Goats and Microfinancing
The rain and flooding also caused the beneficiaries to scatter again. Wisely, it was decided to pause the project until the water receded. Accordingly, the purchase of goats, the return to farming and the launching of microfinancing awaits the safe return of the beneficiaries to their community. Fortunately, most of the Restoration Grant money is still available. We remain optimistic about the successful restoration and renewal of the agriculture development project.
RESTORATION GRANT AND RESTORATION PROJECT
- Supporting Batwa Women in Breeding Goats and Cultivating Rice at Rubirizi in Mutimbuzi Commune (2018), Project Manager: Barthelemy MINANI
When the original Project Manager unexpectedly resigned, Barthelemy MINANI willingly agreed to become the Project Manager in early 2020. Barthelemy’s first project began in 2014 (Farming Peanuts with Landless Women in Giharo, Rutana) but the project ended in 2015 when the beneficiaries abandoned the project and returned to refugee camps in Tanzania. Barthelemy continued to work with the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund by assisting Project Manager Kilongo with reporting on his project (Welding Workshop at Buterere, 2014). Barthelemy MINANI became a Project Manager again when he received a grant for his second proposed development project (Supporting and Sustaining the Livelihood of Widows and Orphans at Rubirizi, 2019).
This project has 15 beneficiaries. All of the beneficiaries are poor, vulnerable Batwa (pygmy) women: 18 to 60 years of age. The beneficiaries are organized into an Association that has has committed members and officers and holds regular participatory meetings for all of the members. The aim of the development project, the Association and its members is to become self-supporting, self-managing and self-governing. The project will continue to breed goats and cultivate crops. The restored project has added a microfinancing function.
To restore and renew the development project, Barthelemy drafted, revised and finalized a complete project restoration proposal. After the final proposal was completed and submitted, it was reviewed and recommended for Restoration Grant. Grant money is provided through a signed agreement with the Project Manager who receives the money by installments and the installment money is presented to the beneficiaries before it is deposited in a secure account. The Project Manager works with Association members to ensure the money is used for the intended purposes.
Although the goat breeding function was seriously challenged, five of the beneficiaries already had a goat or more than one goat. To restore and renew the goat breeding function of the project, the grant money was used to purchase 10 female goats that are owned by the Association but cared for by the Association members who never had a goat or whose goat had died. The first generation of kids from the 10 new goats will be owned by the women who do not have goats.
As expected, the female goats multiple so some women have more than one goat and the women own a total of 18 goats.
The Batwa women are working as a a team to overcome the serious challenge of hunger. This is largely done by cultivating rice and amaranth (lenga lenga), using compost and organic fertilers and sharing part of the harvests.
With money from the Restoration Grant, the Association members were able to rent two fields; the Association paid 1,000,000 BIF for the two fields. A rental agreement was signed between the landowner and the Association.
The Batwa women enjoyed harvesting rice from the field.
The Batwa women enjoyed bagging the rice to take out of the field.
After drying the rice, it needs to be loaded into sacks. The larger part of the harvest is sold to generate revenue to continue with crop cultivation (self-support).
In July, the Association members harvested 2050 kg of rice. They shared 9 percent of the 2050 harvest which was equivalent to about 184 kg and each woman received just over 15 kg. They decided to save about 187 kg for seed. They sold about 1,680 kg for 1,000 BIF per kilogram and gained 1,680,000 BIF.
Part of the rice harvest was shared. Each member of the Association received about 15 kg of rice. “It was a great joy!”
The project beneficiaries also cultivated amaranth or lenga lenga to consume and to sell. Cultivating amaranth is a good business during the dry season when other crops cannot be cultivated in fields.
Members of the Association have created a microfinance account. The microfinancing function will allow individual Association members to borrow money for income-generating activities and family emergencies.
THANK YOU LETTER FROM BENEFICIARIES
According to Barthelemy MINANI, the Project Manager, the following is:
“A letter of thanksgiving from the Batwa Women at Rubirizi, addressed to John McCready and to the Donnors for their support. This letter is a sign of love and recognition to the donors. When I visited the association, I met them with this letter which I was asked to transfer to John McCready.”