As a nation, Burundi remains an extremely poor country and the situation is not improving for the majority of the population. Almost half of households, around 4.6million people, do not have enough to eat and more than half of the children have stunted growth because of malnutrition (World Food Programme 2016). There is limited access to clean water, sanitation and less than 5% of the population has electricity. (World Bank 2016)
The AVEC Programme continues to help widows in Burundi.
Joselyne's visits to the AVECs February 2019
There is clear development within the AVEC programme compared to preceding years. Fecabu continues to oversee consolidation and initiation of new projects and
AVEC members remain positive about the savings and loans programmes.
1. Kinama, Cibitoke, Carama
All group activities continue, with loans shared amonst their members.
Soap manuafacturung continues, but with some difficulties. The soap is a quality product, which requires loans to buy raw materials. It is appreciated by the customers who do buy but sales are low because of the cost. One solutiuon from the members is having a machine to make production quicker and larger scale to bring down costs.
2. Rukaramu, Terimbere
This group has 24 members and is in its fourth year. They have a community field growing cassava, peanuts and maize and say that they are proud to work cooperatively. One of them is visually impaired and the other memebers are able to give him extra help.
Harvest has begun and will be complete in early March - it has been a good harvest so far. The field has been rented at 80,000 FBu and the expected return on maize, peanuts and cassava will be 300,000 FBu. They would like to buy this field, which is for sale at 1,500,000 FBu. This would enable them to farm varied crops, producing an income to feed and educate their children. They would need extra financial assistance to make this major purchase.
Initiation of project to sell improved household cooking stoves
We are initiating a project to offer improved stoves, burning charcoal or firewood, to all AVEC members. Food can be left to cook safely unattended whilst the women are working in the fields.
On the day of the launch, we had a stock of 80 stoves to sell, of which only 12 are left. The cost of a stove is 4000, 5000 or 15,000 FBu, depending on size. We would like to make them available to all, but need help with the capital costs.
The stoves also mean selling jobs for young people, who make 500 FBu on each purchase.
In Karehe, Kayanza, Rango and Gitega, we currently run groups with 238 war widows. More than 70% still live in IDP (internally displaced persons) camps and are very vulnerable. They are grouped into 12 AVECs, attached to local churches.
Here are some individual stories:
Odette is a woman widowed after being married a very short time, who also lost many of her male relatives. Since then she has also lost her mother and mother-in-law.
Despite being left all alone, she is now responsible for a group of widows in Karehe.
Following a loan enabling her to cook porridge for sale, she now been enabled to run a food shop.
There are several members who are in need of emergency aid:
Adele, an elederly widow living alone, who is part of Kinama group - she is sick and needs the very basics of life. Joselyne was able to visit with a gift of money.
Egide, (see below in the report from Summer 2018) the former facilitator of Rukuramu group, was killed in a road accident at the beginning of February 2019, leaving a widow with 7 children.
Hope and her daughter, deserted by her husband some years ago, are both HIV sufferers in need of help with medical expenses.
Joselyne's visits from Summer/Autumn 2018
During August, the members of the Kinama AVEC group shared out the savings put by in the last 8 months, mainly to be used in paying school fees for their children. They have recently increased the amount of money put by each month, forseeing the need to meet such family expenses.
The widows of these 3 villages were reunited in September for training in finances and income generation. They have identified products they can trade in such as avocado, tomatoes, vegetables and freshwater fish from the lake and have agreed small loans so that they can make a start, totalling 1 million Burundian francs, shared among 45 widows.
In Rango, there are 3 AVEC groups, composed of 51 widows. A local church leader from Nyabibuye came to join them to encourage them. Almost everyone here lives on IDP sites. In Nyabibuye itself, there are 82 widows, so the need for support and mentoring is very great. However, agriculture alone is not enough, especially in times of poor harvest.
Kayanza district end September 2018
In Kayanza district, we met assembled leaders, representatives from the 30 local AVECs, from the churches in Mihigo, Bugorore, Kididire, Nzove, Gatsinds, Buye, Kabataha, Gatwe, Butaganda and Murama. They are committed to starting further new groups as the demand for AVEC participation is so high. They report their standard of living has really improved.
Rukarama was visited at the beginning of Octber. Some families who received goats a year ago met with us to tell us their success stories:
Joselyne reports that her vehicle is now in poor condition, which makes visiting the different provinces really difficult. This last set of trips was managed on motorcycles or using public transport - both hard on her back.
Joselyne waiting for public transport, as here in an isolated place.
The other major problems she reports are rural poverty despite the hard work of the AVECs and the inability of very poor people to access any treatment for HIV/AIDs.