BULLETIN: Promising Developments in Agriculture Development

With the leadership of the Free Methodist Church of Burundi (FMCoB), Hope Africa University (HAU) is a Christian liberal arts university located in Bujumbura, Burundi. Hope Africa University’s vision statement is “Facing African Realities.” Friends of Hope Africa University (FHAU) exists to support HAU and its vision is “African Solutions for African Realties.”

The Burundian realities include being one of the poorest countries in the world; a very small, densely-populated, high birth rate country with a very young population of 12 million people. Ninety percent of the people live in rural areas as poor farmers with very small, overworked, hand-cultivated plots, using low production, traditional methods. Accordingly, Burundi has very serious food insecurity and tremendous malnutrition (60% chronic malnutrition rate among children).

I have come to believe that the greatest development need in Burundi and the greatest development opportunity in Burundi is agriculture development.

This BULLETIN describes some very important and exciting developments in agriculture development in Burundi.

  • Agriculture development and the Haley McCready Ourreach and Development Fund
  • Agriculture development and the Free Methodist Church of Burundi
  • Agriculture development and Friends of Hope Africa University
  • Agriculture development and Hope Africa University

I have come to believe that the Free Methodist Church of Burundi, Hope Africa University and Friends of Hope Africa University have a special opportunity to collaborate, to work together to ensure that practical agriculture training, demonstration and development are extended and easily accessed by local farmers in their own fields throughout Burundi.

This BULLETIN concludes with a brief project progress report on one of our Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund agriculture development projects; a report that includes testimonials from two of project beneficiaries.

DEVELOPMENT OF AN AGRICULTURE DEVELOPMENT FUND 

The establishment of the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund (HMODF) was suggested by the late Dr. Eiie BUCONYORI who was both Bishop of the Free Methodist Church of Burundi and Rector of Hope Africa University.

Bishop and Rector Elie Buconyori

The first two start-up development grants were presented to the Project Managers by Rector Buconyori during Hope Africa University’s graduation ceremonies in 2011.

Project Managers for First Two Development Projects

Right from the beginning, any student or graduate of Hope Africa University was able to submit a project proposal of their own choosing; their own design. Ten years later, the HMODF has provided 25 start-up development grants and, given Burundi’s realities, it should be no surprise that 23 of the 25 of the grants (92%) have gone to agriculture development related projects. The HMODF has become an agriculture development fund. Every project that receives an initial start-up grant is designed to become self-supporting, self-managing and self-governing. Our agriculture development project model has evolved and now our projects share the following central features.

  • An Association; developing and maintaining an association of women
  • Crop Cultivation; cultivating, harvesting, sharing and selling crops
  • Animal Husbandry; breeding, distributing and selling goats or pigs
  • Internal Microfinancing; developing capital, providing small loans for personal and income-generating purposes
  • Self-help; providing self-help support to fellow members through the association

When the HMODF began, the Free Methodist Church of Burundi (FMCoB), Friends of Hope Africa University (FHAU) and Hope Africa University (HAU) were not involved in agriculture development. However, the last three or four years have brought some very important and exciting agriculture developments and the HMODF is trying to support these developments. We hope to benefit from these developments; especially, the development of easily accessed, community level practical training and demonstration on high productivity agriculture methods.

DEVELOPMENTS IN AGRICULTURE DEVELOPMENT 

Free Methodist Chuch of Bunrundi (FMCoB)

With the leaderhip of Bishop Déogratias NSHIMIYIMANA and as part of a ten-year strategic plan, the FMCoB developed the Community Mobilization for Holistic Transformation Program in 2015.

Bishop Déogratias NSHIMIYIMANA

The purpose of Community Mobilization for Holistic Transformation Program is to holistically transform the lives of Burundian people by mobilizing people in the community to identify their real needs and empowering them in meeting their own needs; to assist families improve their own lives and find solutions to social problems.

In 2017, the FMCoB began to develop the Community Mobilization and Holistic Transformation agriculture development project; an exceedingly exciting, well-conceived and well-designed project; an exemplary project with huge potential. Managed by Executive Secreatary Evariste BIMENYIMANA, the FMCoB project aims to have national impact by taking advantage of its unique local physical presence throughout all of Burundi.

Executive Secretary, Evariste BIMENYIMANA

The Community Mobilization for Holistic Transformation agriculture development project will meet its objectives through developing a community model, using a training-of-trainers approach, employing natural agriculture methods and developing agricultural sustainability infrastructure and, thereby, empowering rural communities with the purpose of extensively maximizing the impact of holistic community transformation.

With respect to its unique physical presence and potential for national impact, the Church is in all 18 provinces and has 45 districts, 258 parishes, 531 ordained pastors, 1,260 lay leaders, 179,000 adult members and 100,000 youth members. The FMCoB plans to train 2 people from each of its 45 districts and these 90 trained people will in turn train 10 more people from their respective communities (a total of 900 people).

The strategy for the agriculture project is to form cooperatives of 15 people each, empower them for community and personal needs assessment, build their capacity to meet their own needs and work with them to execute and implement projects that they have developed. The agriculture development project involves two inter-related agriculture activities; breeding animals and cultivating crops. The project is already taking place in 13 districts and the FMCoB expects to initiate and support agriculture activities in Church associated communities throughout Burundi.

Breeding Cows
Raising Cows
Harvesting Onions
Growing Corn

Friends of Hope Africa University (FHAU)

In 2019, FHAU envisioned an agriculture training program with national reach and national impact; a land-grant university type extension program whereby over the next generation an increase in agriculture productivity would eliminate the threat of famine and reduce malnourishment by 90 percent. FHAU commissioned Gina and Travis Sheets, Senior Fellows with the Sagamore Institute and agriculture development experts with Africa experience, to conduct an exploration of the needs and opportunities for HAU developing an agriculture education and training program to serve all of Burundi.

Travis and Gina Sheets, Sagamore Institute

I was fortunate to be able to support the planning of the exploration process and attend many of the meetings with the key informants. I was pleased that the exploration included the HMODF; there was a consultation with our Project Managers, an onsite visit to our multi-project and multi-association Kabezi agriculture development location and I had significant direct access to the Sheets throughout their exploration process.

Project Managers and the Sheets
Some of the Association Members
The Sheets Listening to Presentations and  Louise NTIRANYBAGIRA, Our Program Coordinator, Ready to Translate

Following the exploration, the Sheets submitted their report in a document entitled Report to Friends of Hope Africa University on Burundi’s Agriculture Extension and Education Opportunities. The Sheets’ Report recommended a land-grant university type model with two components; (1) a two-year professional, vocational education program and (2) an ongoing extension, outreach practical training and demonstration program. The Sheets’ Report provides a valuable blueprint for developing the critical extension and outreach program.

The extension, outreach program would include working with partners and use a training-of-trainers approach to ensure that practical training and demonstration would extended and become easily accessed by local farmers in their own fields throughout Burundi. The aim of the new agriculture extension and outreach program is to have national impact on agriculture techniques and practices and, thereby, significantly increase agriculture productivity throughout Burundi. Since agriculture is pursued throughout Burundi by poor community farmers with small plots and using traditional, low productivity methods, the desired impact on productivity requires practical training and demonstration of more modern, more productive methods (e.g., an adapted form of Farming God’s Way or an equivalent set of techniques). The practical training, demonstration and support must have national reach; be available and accessible at the community level for community farmers throughout Burundi.

To be successful in having national reach and national impact, the extension agriculture program requires internal and external partners with physical presence throughout Burundi. Our principal partners with shared interests in agriculture development include the Free Methodist Church of Burundi (FMCoB) Hope Africa University (HAU) and Friends of Hope Africa University (FHAU). Our additional key “internal” partners with some involvement in agriculture development and some physical presence throughout Burundi are the International Child Care Ministries (ICCM), Sister Connection (SC) and the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund (HMODF). The potential key “external” partners that are involved in agriculture with physical presence include Christian Aid, Opportunity for Peace and Community Development, Agakura Jeunesse Providence, Catholic Relief Services, One Acre Farm, World Relief and many more.

What is envisioned is to work incrementally with internal and external partners in developing a set of decentralized regional level sites that would provide onsite practical training and demonstration in modern, high productivity methods (e.g., an adapted form of Farming God’s Way or equivalent techniques). The regional training, demonstration action centers would employ a training-of-trainers approach and coordinate ongoing extension and outreach services, consisting of easily accessed practical training and demonstration for local farmers in their own fields. Only by direct observation of increased productivity are local farmers likely to switch to more modern, much more productive methods.

Hope Africa University (HAU)

After the Sheets completed their report, Rector Victor BARATOTA lead the development of a proposal to the National Council on Higher Education, seeking approval for HAU to start a new two-year agriculture professional, vocational program in Bujumbura.

Rector Victor BARANTOTA

Before submitting the proposal, the Rector asked the Free Methodist Church of Burundi (Bishop Déogratias NSHIMIYIMANA) and the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund (Dr. John McCready) to develop and sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) as separate partner organizations in support of the proposed new agriculture education program. I was delighted to be invited to develop a MOU and seized the opportunity to emphasize and support the development of the critical extension, outreach, training-of-trainers component, extending easily accessed practical training and demonstration to local farmers throughout Burundi. Accordingly, the folllowing MOU excerpt describes the roles for the HMODF.

The HMODF is best suited to contributing to identifying networks and partners to ensure that practical extension agriculture training and demonstration are accessible to community farmers throughout Burundi and, thereby, agriculture productivity is increased in all parts of Burundi. Accordingly, the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund commits to the following developments and actions.

  • Contribute to developing strong collaborative working relationships with the key partners (Hope Africa University and the Free Methodist Church of Burundi)
  • Contribute to developing the required networks and partnerships for providing practical agriculture training and agriculture development to farmers throughout Burundi; Government Leaders, Government Officials, Cooperatives and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs)
  • Contribute to developing and maintaining a Strategic Planning and Coordination Committee on agriculture education, agriculture extension training and agriculture development for all of Burundi
  • Serve on the Strategic Planning and Coordination Committee and contribute to approved projects, assignments and activities
  • Contribute to the development of a strategic plan for ensuring the development and maintenance of a comprehensive and integrated agriculture extension education, training and development for all of Burundi
  • Contribute to planning and coordinating of easy access to practical, local agriculture training and demonstration throughout Burundi (e.g., Farming God’s Way or Foundations for Farming)
  • Coordinate the extension training and field training, demonstration at some or all of the HMODF agriculture development projects (particularly at the Kabezi and Isale multiple development project sites)
  • Develop proposals for the required resources to support the education, extension and field training functions and activities
  • Encourage and develop data collection and evaluation for the education, extension and field training functions and activities

The proposed two-year agriculture education program was approved; it has started in Bujumbura and has 67 students. For national reach and impact, HAU still needs to turn its attention and priority to the development of the critical extension and outreach component.

Developing National Reach and National Impact 

To meet the full vision for national reach and national impact on increasing agriculture productivity and reducing malnutrition, the extension and outreach still needs to be developed. I know know that FHAU and President Betty Overton remain interested in the development of the essential extension and outreach component.

President, Betty Overton

To be successful in having national reach and national impact, the extension and outreach agriculture program requires collaboration of internal and external partners with physical presence throughout Burundi. Our principal partners with shared interests in agriculture development include the Free Methodist Church of Burundi (FMCoB) Hope Africa University (HAU) and Friends of Hope Africa University (FHAU).

We need collaboration with our additional key internal partners with some involvement in agriculture development and some physical presence throughout Burundi and these include the International Child Care Ministries (ICCM), Sister Connection (SC) and the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund (HMODF). We need collaboration with key external partners that are involved in agriculture with physical presence and these include Christian Aid, Opportunity for Peace and Community Development, Agakura Jeunesse Providence, Catholic Relief Services, One Acre Farm, World Relief and many more.

What is envisioned is to work incrementally with collaborating partners in developing a set of decentralized regional level sites that would provide onsite practical training and demonstration in modern, more productive methods (e.g., an adapted form of Farming God’s Way or an equivalent approach). The regional training, demonstration action centers would employ a training-of-trainers approach and coordinate ongoing extension and outreach services, consisting of easily accessed practical training and demonstration for local farmers in their own fields throughout Burundi. Only by direct observation of increased productivity are local farmers likely to switch to more modern, much more productive methods.

BRIEF REPORT ON AN AGRICULTURE DEVELOPMENT PROJECT

  • Breeding Goats and Cultivating Crops for Vulnerable Women from Mihigo Colline, Kayanza Province, Project Manager, Dieudonné IRAMBONA

Dieudooné IRAMBONA, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree from Hope Africa University, has been the volunteer Project Manager of this agriculture development project for three years.

Dieudonné IRAMBONA, Project Manager

Dieudonne has made two special leadership contributions to the project. Right from the beginning, he convinced the women that the Association should pay for health insurance for all of the members (see the Association President’s testimony below). After the women received and owned the original goats, Dieudonne convinced the women that it was in their best interests to ensure that the Association also participates in the ownership of some goats (see Breeding Goats section below).

Association 

The Association is comprised of 16 vulnerable women who came together through breeding goats and cultivating crops. At the beginning of the project, 16 female goats were puchased and distributed to the 16 Association members. The women in the Association are responsible for the work in the field, follow-up, harvesting and identifying other needs to address to make sure the Association is strengthened. Officers of the Association are in charge of the daily coordination of the activities with support of the Project Manager if needed.

Association Members Working Together, Preparing Soil for Planting

The Association has helped members to strengthen their social cohesion and enhance their unity within their diversities. Women have set their own program for mutual self-help, especially in cultivation activities. They are supporting vulnerable families in the community in general and, especially, widows and old people.

Breeding Goats

The Association now has a total of 39 goats; 29 goats belong to the individual women and 10 goats now belong to the Association. Goats that belong to the individual Association members are sometimes sold to support the woman and her family. Goats that are owned by the Association are sometimes sold to support the continuation of the crop cultivation activities. The goats provide fertilizer that helps in the rehabilitation of the plots, thus making the plots more productive.

Beneficiaries’ Children Holding Goats

Cutivating Crops

The Association members recently planted corn; some to share and some to sell. Normally, the women are responsible for the work but because the men have come to understand and appreciate the women’s work, they sometimes help with some of the work.

Corn Growing in the Field
Caring for the Corn

Mircofinancing

Members of the Association started by contributing 300 BIF per week. In 2020, the members agreed to increase their contributions to 500 BIF per week. The money is used for loans are for personal and income-generating purposes and must be repaid with 5% interest.

Testimonials:

These women are thankful for the benefits of the Association. Below are their stories:

My name is Béatrice NZOHABONIMANA. I am the leader of this association. I have never seen an association like this. The local administration knows that this is an association that is supporting women to enhance their socioeconomic stability and leadership. Our husbands are happy with the results of this association. We are one forever. We dream in changing this Mihigo. Today, every member of the association holds a health insurance card. We are changing our mindsets and holding our future.

My name is Anésie BUKURU. I am the oldest woman of the association. I appreciate the way young women are working together. That is very important. I have goats, a hoe from the association and many packages of food to share with my family. I am pleased by the way we are working together, thinking and prospering together