Burundi: Returning to a normal life after war

Espérance Nibigira, 35, Burundi.
Espérance Nibigira, 35, has benefitted from of a post-war community solidarity project in Burundi. (Photo: UNDP)

Some mornings Espérance Nibigira, 35, wonders how she will find the energy to begin the day. As a combatant in the north-west of Burundi during the civil war that raged between 1993 and 2005, resulting in 300,000 deaths, she suffered an accident on the battlefield that left her disabled and suffering from amnesia.

Since returning in 2009 to her village of Bwayi, in the province of Cibitoke, this widowed mother of three has tried gradually to return to a normal way of life. However, her physical and intellectual capacities have been undermined, and the money she was given upon her demobilization has only enabled her to obtain essential goods.

Highlights

  • Communities in Burundi’s Cibitoke province on the Rwandan border have been devastated by two decades of ethnic conflict and civil war.
  • UNDP has helped facilitate a community solidarity project to reintegrate ex-combattants into Burundi's society and revive its economy.
  • The project has provided 60 community groups in Burundi with livestock and agricultural training.

Unable to work in the fields, Espérance struggles to provide for her family. Fortunately, though, a community solidarity initiative, launched with assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and financial support from the Japanese government, has provided a glimmer of hope for Espérance and her three children.

The initiative aims to promote social cohesion in Burundi through facilitating the peaceful reintegration of ex-combatants into Burundi’s society. It is also intended to increase residents’ access to sufficient stores of quality food.

Its achievements include educating ex-combatants about the best practices and techniques for raising livestock and market gardening, as well as organizing workshops to promote effective group dynamics and teach conflict-resolution. 

In addition, 1200 women who are members of 60 associations in the provinces of Cibitoke, Bubanza and Bujumbura have been given small herds of sheep, pigs and poultry to raise as a community.

Espérance, who has no access to land and is ineligible for microcredit, is among those eagerly awaiting the receipt of livestock. "I am hopeful that one day a project such as this one will rescue me from poverty. The 4 goats which I may be receiving will be a tremendous blessing for me," she says confidently.

The local governments in Burundi’s war-torn provinces will also provide the women's associations with land on which to raise their animals. Other agencies in charge of the communal development service will supervise the women's efforts by monitoring the rate at which the livestock population increases.

Alphonse Zigaba, the provincial representative of the former combatants, welcomes this initiative.

"Women represent the cornerstone of the prosperity of the household,” Zigaba stated. “If women are provided with assistance, this will facilitate efforts to promote family development and all of society will benefit as a result."

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