Women bring solutions to waste management in Burundi

women recycling in burundi
Women in Cibitoke, Burundi, recycle waste as part of a programme to reintegrate returnees and ex-combatants into society. (Photo: UNDP Burundi)

In the northwest province of Cibitoke in Burundi, Peruth Ndayiramye wakes up every morning to fetch food and water for her family, and to take her goat out to graze.

“After that I wash myself, I entrust my children the house work to be done, and I’m going to work,” Peruth says.


  • Four waste-management projects in Burundi are employing vulnerable populations of ex-combatants and returnees, 80 percent of whom are women.
  • Half the women employed by the project are widows, and their new incomes are helping them farm, trade and provide for their families.
  • Each employee receives US $2 per day, of which $0.50 is saved and $0.20 is set aside for social contribution.
  • The program is a PPP (Public Private Partnership) funded by UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery. Its grants cover materials and wages for the first six months of operation; ultimately, the project must be financially self-sufficient to ensure its sustainability.

One member of a team of 60 ex-combatants, returnees and other vulnerable people, Peruth is part of a new waste-management initiative charged with clearing the littered city streets. With the support of UNDP, the initiative provides daily garbage removal, storage and disposal.

 “This project that is being implemented here in Cibitoke is a set of initiatives PPP (Public and Private Partnerships) that fall within the scope of women empowerment, as most women here are economically vulnerable,” says Jean Bukware, regional coordinator of UNDP Burundi.

The pilot project is overseen by the Association for the Integrated Development of Burundi, or AIDB.

“We started off by identifying the beneficiaries, working closely with the municipal authorities,” says Project Representative Jovite Bayavuge. They then organized workshops to raise awareness of the project’s benefits, and later organized training sessions for workers.

The women collect garbage that families place in bags provided by AIDB. The waste is then stored in specially-designated neighborhood areas before trucks transport it to a landfill located outside of the city, where workers sort the waste. Organic material is separated from plastics and scraps and turned into compost.

In 2012, four pilot projects were initiated in the provinces of Cibitoke and Bubanza; they seek in particular to empower women, who constitute 80 percent of those involved. Half of them are widows.

“There are women who had no livelihood,” says Jacqueline Ndikumana, a project beneficiary. “Today with the money they earn from the project, the women can begin to do farming, trading and cover other needs.”
Ruben Tubirabe, Economic Advisor of Cibitoke Province, says the positive change has been visible.

 “All the waste that was piled up for months at the Cibitoke market have been removed by the association,” he says.

The economic contribution of households (a monthly fee of 50 cents), and the sale of compost from the organic materials collected will eventually be the two main incomes for the project.

“I personally have improved my livelihood; I bought a goat,” Peruth says. “I (am) working my way out of poverty. I have bought household tools, and that is very helpful to the family.”

If positive effects of the project are confirmed, it may be extended to other parts of Burundi.