Partnership joins forces in Burundi for improved agriculture
Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries. It is faced with food shortages, a high population density, negative effects of climate change and the aftermath of a prolonged civil war. It also has a difficult export position, as a result of which most of the population is dependent on subsistence agriculture. The Achmea Foundation is joining forces with its partners HealthNetTPO and Wageningen University to help the people of Burundi achieve progress. The project director Wim van Esch of Achmea talks about the cautious process of reconstruction in a fragile country.
“We at the Achmea Foundation aim to help the people who need it most,” is how Van Esch begins his account. “And that’s why we came to be active in Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world. Due to years of civil war the social cohesion is under pressure and there is little mutual trust among the population. Basis prerequisites for rebuilding the country include availability of and access to good-quality food, a good healthcare system and financial services. With our project Fanning the spark we are working together with our partners to improve both healthcare and agriculture.”
Getting down to work
Through the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) the three partners received a grant from the Facility for Sustainable Enterprise and Food Security (FDOV). The FDOV programme is carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “This grant facilitated our project budget and so we could really get down to work. Throughout the project the Dutch state is remaining involved in the project and also makes on-site visits. When we’re in Burundi we drop by at the embassy to discuss how things are going.”
Everything is connected
The goal of the project is to increase food security, health and financial security at the village level. “We apply an integrated approach here,” explains van Esch. “You see, a healthy farmer is able to practise better farming and therefore earns more. Thanks to good information about new and more modern agricultural techniques, farmers can get a higher yield from their fields. This improves the food supply situation and farmers can earn a little more by selling part of this extra yield. And this in turn leads to greater financial security. The process can be accelerated by the use of microcredit loans. And with higher incomes they can also insure themselves against illnesses or other setbacks. And so everything is connected.”
The most important principle of the project is that ultimately the local population should do things themselves, i.e. achieve self-sufficiency. Van Esch continues: “To remain with the metaphor of Fanning the spark: we light the fire but it’s up to the Burundian people themselves to keep the flames going. And from time to time, of course, we help to feed the flames a little. We provide our knowledge and experience, but it’s up to them to continue the process. We help the farmers and their fellow villagers to become aware that a secure existence requires more than planting the crop and then hoping the harvest will be good. Thanks to cooperation and, where necessary, insurance and microcredit loans these farmers will soon have a much more secure existence. Solidarity is the keyword here. After all, we’re stronger together.”