Burundi: A new market revives a community


Alice at the construction site of the Mutambara market in Burundi. (Photo: UNDP)

"Every morning, I feel like my energy is renewed when I remember I have to go to work at the Mutambara market construction site", says Alice Niyondiko who lives in Rumonge Municipality in southern Burundi.

Highlights

  • Former refugees make up more than 6 percent of Burundi's population (UNHCR).
  • At the end of 2008, there were 11,568 untried and open land dispute cases primarily resulting from mass returns.
  • UNDP's community recovery program goal is to increase Burundi’s household income by 20% by 2014.

Alice returned to the country in the wake of the civil war that ravaged Burundi for almost two decades, when the government began repatriating almost 800,000 refugees from Tanzania and neighbouring countries.

Without land or income in her new host community, she had to work in the fields of neighbours to support her family. Now, she works on building a new market as part of a community reconstruction project sponsored by UNDP and the Burundi government that creates temporary jobs for returnees and vulnerable groups.

Targeting about 10,000 beneficiaries, the project is part of a broader recovery program that supports the sustainable reintegration of people affected by the conflict. Thanks to the program, returnees, displaced persons, former combatants and vulnerable persons now have improved access to income and basic social services. Moreover, the program has a mentoring component that encourages peaceful coexistence with host communities.

"I get up early, prepare the children and leave for work at 8:00 a.m.", says Alice. "In the evening, I return home with rice, oil, flour and soap that I buy with money I earned from the project. In the past, I used to return empty-handed. My children did not have enough to eat; we were almost always hungry at home", says Alice.

For three months, this job will enable Alice  to earn daily income sufficient to provide for her family's basic needs, but also to save and build up a little capital for the future. With these savings, she will be able to join other beneficiaries who, at the end of the project, form associations to launch income-generating activities.

According to one of the beneficiaries, Dieudonné Nahimana, creating sustainable businesses is the best way for him and his friends to express their gratitude for this life-saving project.

Dieudonné and his 12 friends plan to start a loincloth business between Burundi and Tanzania.

They have begun putting aside money so one of their associates can obtain a passport, which will enable him to commute between Mutambara and Tanzania.

The project also helps local traders. "While my daily sales sometimes dropped to 5,000 Burundi Francs (about USD 4), it currently rises to about 40,000 Francs (USD 35), as construction workers buy from me", happily declares Christophe Harushimana, owner of a shop in the Mutambara market.

"With a modern and covered market, many new shops will be constructed here.  There will be less robbery too", affirms Christophe who has been robbed in the past.

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