JRS closes food security projects, guaranteed long-term impact

Report
from Jesuit Refugee Service
Published on 06 Feb 2013 View Original

Bujumbura, 6 February 2013 – When she returned home to Burundi, after 16 years as a refugee in a camp in Tanzania, Astérie Kantore realised she had lost everything her family possessed before the war. She no longer had a house and felt like a foreigner in what was once her own community. She would have to rebuild her life from zero.

Four years later, the 31 year-old mother of two spoke to JRS about how things have improved.

"In the beginning my husband and I struggled to get by. We worked the land but the harvests were never enough. But then we learned new agricultural techniques which would allow us to increase our production. So not only do we feed our family, but we have the money to buy farm animals", Astérie confided.

The story of Astérie Kantore is similar to those of another 18 former refugee families assisted by the Jesuit Refugee Service. After years of exile in Tanzania, JRS managed food security projects between 2008 and 2012 to help them with the reintegration process back home in Burundi. More than a half million Burundians returned home between 2002 and 2012, after the outbreak of a bloody civil war in 1993 between the two main ethnic groups, Hutu and Tutsi, in the country.

Innovation. With the implementation of the JRS projects, in the eastern provinces of Muyinga and Rutana, groups of former refugees, as well as members of the local population, have learned and put into practice agricultural and animal husbandry techniques which have increased their production yields and improved the health of their livestock.

Each participant family received two goats from JRS and training on how to care for their livestock. Thanks to the goats, the families are able to produce the fertiliser to grow beans, cassava, bananas and other fruits and vegetables, thereby increasing yields and ensuring their children a more varied diet. Each family is then expected to donate two kid goats to another family, thus promoting the process of food security through what is referred to as a 'chain of solidarity'.

Other innovations introduced cropping systems to prevent soil erosion, the use of high yield seeds, the repopulation of goat livestock, and the construction of enclosures for goats.

Long-term impact. "Before the project was launched the former refugee and local communities in Giteranyi and Giharo lived in extreme poverty. They used archaic agricultural and animal husbandry techniques and we not able to produce enough food for their own families", said JRS project coordinator in Muyinga, Adelin Niyonsaba.

After four years in this region of Burundi, JRS is leaving convinced the positive impact made will be a long lasting one.

"During this period the population has quadrupled their agricultural production. We're leaving men and women who, without this programme, wouldn't know how to put in practice what they have learned. Now, they can disseminate these techniques to future generations. We've closed our projects with the knowledge of having trained the population to work and not to depend on humanitarian organisations", explained Mr Niyonsaba.

JRS projects have also contributed to the development of peaceful relations between former refugees and local communities. Both have improved their ability to gain access to food, thus decreasing the amount of conflicts related to landownership or the use of survival theft.

"I remember when I returned to the village, the locals thought we'd stolen food from their fields. But now we live in harmony and have also established agricultural associations together. We're one community now", said Astérie Kantore.

At present, JRS manages two projects in Burundi, informal education for women and girls in Kibimba in the eastern province of Rutana, and the Great Lakes regional office in the capital Bujumbura. The Jesuit organisation is currently assessing new possible areas of intervention in favour of the more than 32,000 newly returned refugees following the closure of Mtabila camp December last year.

Danilo Giannese, JRS Great Lakes Africa Advocacy and Communications Officer