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opinion

Working in Burundi; the world’s forgotten country

Life is hard for most people in Burundi, a landlocked country in east Africa struggling with food security and malnutrition. Andre Nsengiyumva talks about how Triodos charity partner Send a Cow is helping rural families use sustainable agriculture to become self-sufficient.

The Global Happiness report was released in March this year announcing a leaderboard of 156 countries rated on a variety of indicators including GDP, social support and life expectancy. Finland took the envious first place position, making headlines around the world as the ‘happiest country’. At the bottom of the list and barely mentioned was Burundi, the unhappiest.

A small landlocked country in east Africa with a population of 11 million, it’s the second most densely populated country in the continent. It’s where I was born and where I continue to call home, but it’s also a country many people have never heard of.

There’s no denying that life for most people is hard. In 2017, Burundi ranked at the bottom of the Global Food Security Index.  Nearly two thirds of children are malnourished; many are visibly weak, stunted. Malnutrition isn’t a hidden endemic, it’s a tangible thing that you see every day living in Burundi on the faces of those around you.

Despite the huge level of need, Send a Cow – the charity that I work for – is one of the very few international NGOs working in the country right now. While there are some organisations supporting refugees on the border, Send a Cow supports rural families still in their homes, the families who experience poverty and hunger every day. These people are quietly living on the fringes of society, isolated and forgotten.

I’ve seen firsthand how, with the right support, these families can transform their lives and become self-sufficient, making poverty and hunger a thing of the past. Send a Cow recently finished a three year project where we trained rural Burundian families in sustainable agriculture, business skills and gender equality. The results were incredible and illustrate just how determined and hardworking these families are. On average, farmers were earning just 30 cents a day. By the end of the project, they were earning an average of $2.90 and eating a varied diet.

One of the people in the project was Bonaventure (pictured) who once struggled to feed his family and send his children to school. After three years training and support with Send a Cow he is self-sufficient and doing better than he ever imagined. With the farming and business skills he learnt from Send a Cow, he is growing a wide range of crops which his family eat and sell, generating a vital income. With that money he bought livestock and solar panels so his children can do their homework at night. He also invested in a sewing machine and opened a small shop which acts as both a tailors and a tea shop. He told us: “The training helped me change my mindset, and taught me new techniques…We kept our spirits up, and waited for the time when we could realise our dreams.”

That project has now come to an end and people like Bonaventure now have the skills, knowledge and confidence to thrive without our support. But Send a Cow’s presence in Burundi can’t end there; not when so many more families are struggling to survive.

That’s why we’ve launched Burundi: The Forgotten Country, a new campaign to support our work in Burundi. The money raised will enable us to help even more families like Bonaventure’s to transform their lives whilst raising awareness of the country itself and the issues people living there face. Together we can remember Burundi and help its people to live healthier and happier lives. To find out more or to support the campaign visit www.sendacow.org

CV
Send a Cow

Send a Cow enables poor families in Africa to grow enough food and earn money by developing strong community groups and sustainable farms which integrate crops and livestock. They are a charity partner of Triodos Bank.

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Trina 5 months ago

Enlightening and inspiring. I shall donate to Send a Cow.

Emma 4 months ago

I am simply glad there is someone who hasnt forgotten Burundi. For me – nowhere else on earth can quite compare with the way these people have to live, the level of fear, the brutality, they face everyday. Many organisations I heard had been forced to leave (including one run by a Burundian for orphans, now operating in Rwanda), and the media so controlled that even journalists outside the country continue to receive death threats. Some of the stories / images that do make it out of the country are so chilling. Thank you for helping these desperate people.