Overcoming Obstacles in Burundi
Written by Plant With Purpose on June 21, 2016 in Annual Report, Overcoming Obstacles
Plant With Purpose partnering families are overcoming some tremendous obstacles. From imposing politics, ethnic tensions, limited resources, lack of services, and feeling emotionally defeated, roadblocks to brighter futures present themselves at every turn.
Yet, as Plant With Purpose walks alongside vulnerable families, reality is changing. Despite the obstacles, hope is breaking through as lives and land are transformed.
Obstacles in Burundi
Burundi’s history is stained with violence and instability. It has been over a year since Burundi’s ruling party announced Pierre Nkurunziza was running for a third term as president. This was deemed unconstitutional by demonstrators and ignited various protests in the country. The political violence has shaken the country and led to the violation of human rights. Today, protesters have been labeled as “terrorists” by the authorities. Hundreds have been tortured and killed since the protests began, and thousands have fled the country and sought refuge in Tanzania, Rwanda, Europe, and beyond. Apart from the political violence, Burundi faces high levels of extreme poverty and food insecurity, with more than 500,000 individuals requiring urgent emergency food assistance. The socio-political crisis has only exacerbated the already fragile living conditions of Burundi’s population.
Most of the conflict and tension has been centralized in the capital of Bujumbura. During a recent field visit, Plant With Purpose’s Africa program officer Jared White shared that had he not known the news, he would have never known the crisis was happening. Although political uncertainty remains, Plant With Purpose fieldwork has continued to give Burundi’s people the resources to rise above the crisis.
The Importance of Saving
Political instability continues to impact Burundi. Most of the conflict remains isolated in the capital city of Bujumbura allowing Plant With Purpose’s program to continue reaching rural communities. However, two of the 267 savings groups temporarily closed as members fled, joining the more than 180,000 refugees.
Since spring, Village Savings and Loan Associations have seen a substantial increase in savings rates. Partnering farmers are saving substantially more of their income from harvests than they have historically. Many groups raised their VSLA share price to enable higher savings rates. This trend toward increased savings indicates a desire to accumulate cash reserves.
Elias Nahimana became a member of the Twiyunge savings group in January. As trust was established, Elias increased the amount he saved. A loan was borrowed to purchase a goat, an asset that will continue to give through birth of offspring and production of milk. Elias plans to compost the waste from his goat to fertilize his fields.
Cash reserves and increased assets are providing stability during this period of political uncertainty.
In April 2015, Burundi’s president’s decision to seek a third term led to demonstrations and violence. The situation continues to bring outbreaks of conflict, interruption of services, and a deteriorating economic outlook. Despite the political crisis, Plant With Purpose fieldwork continues. Staff have proven to be resilient and creative in dealing with unforeseen obstacles. A high priority has been set on staff safety.
Program focus has shifted from large-group “Theology of Work” seminars, to small-group tree planting efforts. The program has become an important source of hope, strength, and stability.
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The Reversing Deforestation and Redemptive Agriculture sections originally appeared in the 2015 Annual Report. View the complete report here.