PARTICIPATING IN THE SATURDAY MORNING COMMUNITY WORKS PROGRAM:
I am a big fan of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s Saturday morning Community Works program. All the Barundi are encouraged to voluntarily work on a community improvement project for a couple of hours every Saturday morning. The President travels throughout the country a lot and he gets directly involved in the Community Works program. During my most recent visit to Burundi, I found out that the President would be attending and supporting a community project at Gitega; he would be contributing to the construction of a new university.
Hope Africa University’s main campus is located in Ngagara Commune. I have been hoping that the students of Hope Africa University would become involved in the Saturday morning Community Works program and contribute and give back to their community (Ngargara). Accordingly, I took three students (Fabien, Nahomie and Agel), all involved with student government, to Gitega to participate in the Saturday morning Community Works program. We worked, we had a great time and we saw the President working and heard him speaking to the large crowd that had gathered to participate in the community work.
Of course it their decision to make, but I hope the Students’ Council will decide to support and organize a Saturday morning Community Works program outside the main campus. I think the Ngagara community would appreciate it and I know the university and the students would feel good about it. Perhaps the President will someday participate in the Saturday morning Ngagara Community Works program, started and maintained by students of Hope Africa University.
During my recent six-week visit to Burundi, I was able to meet with project managers for each of the 12 development projects that have received grants from the Student Grants Program of the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund. In addition, I was able to make field visits to almost all of the projects. This newsletter provides brief reports on two of the development projects.
* Breeding Goats at Nyambuye Zone in Isale Commune (started 2014), 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 were 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. The project manager, Desire CIZA, has done a very good job. The project manager has established an association of 17 committed women. The association has elected officers and monthly dues.
The female beneficiaries, women from needy families, were selected by the community. The beneficiaries have signed an agreement in support of the aims and the benefits of the project, the responsibilities and the obligations of the association and elected officers. Once the association has about 20 members, more women will become involved and start a second association. Noting the success and benefits of the project, the project manager has reported there are 200 women who would like to join the project!
Each of the 17 women has been given a goat; one of the goats died after having 2 kids but it will be replaced soon. In addition to the adult goats, there are now 11 kids that will be distributed to other women. Counting the kids, the project already has 27 goats!
The women have been trained to compost. The association rents land for cultivation. The project has had harvests, distributions and sales of beans, cassava, maize (corn) and ilenga lenga (amaranth, a spinach-type vegetable). Currently, the association has two fields of cassava that will be harvested soon.
Special Note, Special Experience:
We invited Barbara Rose, another visiting professor from Spring Arbor, Michigan, to accompany us on the field visit to project. To get to the project and meet the beneficiaries, we had to park the car along the road and walk uphill the last 300 or 400 meters; a steep walk in the heat of the day. The photograph below was taken on our way back to the car; it shows the ruts well but it does not show the pitch. It was a challenge getting to the project and getting back to the car.
Barbara Rose and I were delighted to see the project manager, the beneficiaries, the goats, the kids and the crops. We appreciated everyone coming out to meet with us. We did not expect that these poor women would present us with gifts. However, they wanted to show their gratitude for the grant, the project benefits and our visit. It wss an unexpected but very pleasing experience.
* Savings and Loans: Christian Initiative for Women’s Development in Gatumba (started 2014), 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:
The project manager, Christine KAMIRAMEYA, has organized an association of 22 female members. She is meeting regularly with the members of the association; the women who signed the contract and agreed to the aims and responsibilities of the Savings and Loans project. Some meetings are educational and some are business meetings. All of the 22 women have loans and all of the members have developed some type of small income-generating businesses!
The businesses are going well and the loan payments are being made. The association is generating a considerable amount of money from the interest on the loans. As the capital increases, the women will be encouraged to invite other needy women to join the project, establish the beginnings of another association and take advantage of the educational and financial benefits.
Special Note, Special Moment:
Our field visit consisted of visiting some of the businesses that have been started and, then, joining the association members for one of their regular meetings. Before our field visit, the women had exchanged names in order to exchange small gifts. After the meeting, the women presented their gifts. It was fun to see the delight all over the women’s faces!