Today, October 13, is a public holiday in Burundi. That is why the country has already celebrated the International Day of Disaster Risk Reduction four days earlier. The celebration was a great opportunity to assess the progress of the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. Raising awareness about taking ownership of reducing vulnerability and building resilience to disasters were also crucial parts of this celebration.
This year’s DRR day is taking place during a plethora of tragic events. Apart from the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, in Burundi and many other places in the world, infrastructures and lives have been destroyed by disasters such as earthquakes, drought, landslides, cyclones and heavy floods.
Despite all this, Burundians have celebrated DRR day with great optimism for a better future. People from all over gathered for special ceremonies at the Mubere stadium. They planted bamboo stalks to protect the banks of the Nyatubindi and they laid the first stone for the construction of the bridge over this important river in the province of Cibitoke.
During a speech, a government representative stressed the importance of mobilisation of the community and leaders at all levels for their effective involvement in disaster risk reduction. He encouraged partners to intensify their efforts. The message was clear: any development that does not take the risks of disasters into account is subject to fragility.
The community manages its own project
The celebration contributed to Cordaid’s work in Burundi. Cordaid and Empowering Response Burundi (ERB) have implemented a project to strengthen the resilience of three communities in Rugombo, a town in the province of Cibitoke.
Using the Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) approach, each community conducted its own disaster risk assessment. They identified disasters in order of priority: strong winds, erosion, floods and drought as their main disaster risks. They had also identified the effects of climate change as a high risk for future generations.
Less risks and better incomes
Based on this assessment, each community has developed and implemented an action plan to mitigate and adapt to those risks. The first micro-project stemming from this action plan was the production of trees for agroforestry and fruits. These trees reduce the vulnerability of homes, public and private infrastructures and crops to strong winds. They fix the soil. In future, they will also serve as sources of income for a number of households.
Erosion of the steep slopes of the hills causes the soil to lose its fertility. To reduce this particular risk the villagers planted calliandra, a genus of flowering plants in the pea family. It has the helpful quality of stopping erosion.
To further contribute to environmental protection and to follow the 2018 national decree banning the use of plastic bags in Burundi, biodegradable baskets have been introduced to replace the plastic bags previously used in the development of nurseries. These baskets are made of local materials from the trunks of dry banana trees and have a few great advantages: they do not pollute, you can find the material anywhere, it doesn’t cost a lot to produce and selling the baskets generates an income.
Producer Schools Fields: local problems, local response
The Producer Schools Fields (PSF) approach strengthens the ability of producers to analyse their production systems, identify their main constraints and test possible solutions.
Three communities are experimenting with vegetable crops: cabbages for Rusiga and Cibitoke and eggplant for Kiramira. These crops, one of the main sources of income for many households in the region, are being threatened by diseases and pests, resulting in low production and less income. The PSF sessions will allow producers to find sustainable solutions to reverse that trend.
This project aims to reduce the risk of disaster, increase incomes and diversify nutrition for 3,060 persons from 510 households. The sale of fruits and vegetables, as well as the production of trees in the nurseries, will help the communities forward, also long after the project has ended.