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Tackling poverty and conflict through microfinance

Posted on: May 23, 2016 1:08 PM
Crops, such as these peppers, are not the only fruits of a microfinance scheme run by the Anglican Church in Burundi and Unicef - poverty reduction and peace building are also resulting from the scheme
Photo Credit: Anglican Church of Burundi
Related Categories: Burundi, poverty, Reconciliation, UN, UNICEF

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] A partnership between the Anglican Church of Burundi and the United Nations’ children’s agency Unicef is helping to tackle poverty and strengthen peace by financing small-scale cross-community agricultural projects. It comes at a time that the UN warns that the troubled country has been plunged into “civil unrest, growing insecurity, indiscriminate violence and sharp economic deterioration.”

The effect of flooding two years ago caused extreme poverty for the people of Gasenyi in Mutimbuzi Commune. Their fields were washed away in the storms and the people – most of whom depend on agriculture to survive – lost everything, including their crops.

The local parish provided land to a new community association, which used it to grow vegetables and fruits. The 100 people in the association used some for consumption and were able to sell the rest to generate income. And a saving and credit system has helped to fund small individual projects that is restoring some of the activities that were lost in the floods.

But the scheme has done more than help to tackle poverty: peace building is an integral part of the association’s work. Gasenyi was badly affected by the crisis of previous years; and divisions remain in the community. But the new association is bringing people from different ethnic groups and religious denominations to work together to tackle the challenge of poverty.

“They enjoy working together to bring change to their lives,” the Anglican Church in Burundi said.

One of the association’s members, Ciza Madelaine, was full of praise for the scheme: “We are now able to pay school fees for our children, it’s possible to feed them,” she said, “some of us bought goats and others rent fields for agricultural business all because we get incomes from our association”.

EAB_Gasenyi

People from different ethnic groups and religious denominations are working together to tackle the challenge of poverty in a scheme supported by Unicef and the Anglican Church of Burundi.
Photo: Anglican Church of Burundi

Unicef’s partnership with the Anglican Church of Burundi was highlighted in its annual report for 2015, published last week. In it, the agency paints a bleak picture of life in the country. “Since April 2015, a security and political crisis linked to the electoral process, has plunged Burundi into civil unrest, growing insecurity, indiscriminate violence and sharp economic deterioration,” they say.

“The situation has pushed thousands of civilians to flee their homes and has affected overall programme implementation. In spite of this challenging environment, which includes the temporary evacuation of non-critical staff and the retreat of major donors, Unicef Burundi continued to implement its regular programmes for children and women in 2015 while strengthening its emergency preparedness and response activities.”