Burundi: CASOBU – reconstructive work and fight against poverty

 
Kayanza, Gitega, Ruyigi, Bujumbura: are some of the provinces that have seen projects run by AMU-CASOBU. 30,000 people have been directly involved.

CASOBU (Cadre Associatif des Solidaires du Burundi) was founded by a group of volunteers from the Focolare Movement in Burundi, one of the poorest countries on the planet. The country has emerged from a twelve-year political and ethnic conflict, with the displacement of a million people and 300,000 dead. The purpose of the Association is to seek for lasting solutions to the problems of poverty through solidarity and mutual support. Its activity cannot be assessed only in terms of infrastructure development and improved socio-economic conditions, but in the spreading of certain values: solidarity, unity and fraternity.

CASOBU’s first focus is in rural contexts. They have taken up several projects, with the support also of AMU, the NGO inspired by the Movement for co-operation in development. For several years CASOBU has been involved with community microcredit projects. These have helped several hundred people, mostly women who are family breadwinners,  achieve economy autonomy.

In 2008 CASOBU’s social action concentrated upon Ruyigi. The town of Butezi has 6,700 families who live by subsistence farming. During the civil war most of the population fled to refugee camps in Tanzania and now, on returning to their own country, there are numerous problems of readjustment. This initiative takes a three-pronged approach:

  • ñ    nutrition and agriculture: after an initial distribution of emergency foodstuffs to 800 families, the aim is to develop independent food sources, with the distribution cassava cuttings, cows and goats to displaced people and refugees;
  • ñ    aid for orphans and widows;
  • ñ    schemes for the prevention of Aids, run in collaboration with public bodies, and schemes for the prevention malaria, which is responsible for the deaths of numerous children under 5.

The members of CASOBU are trained and skilled people, filled with the gospel spirit of service. Their main aim is to listen attentively to those they meet: ‘We often find ourselves behaving like mothers and fathers of people who more than anything have a burden of pain to share with others.’

In Butezi there is an area where nearly three thousand families live. Only about a hundred of them have clean water, the others draw water from unsafe sources or directly from streams and pools and are exposed to serious illnesses. This means there is need of a new project to bring drinking water to the area, and the first of five has already begun.

The strong points of this initiative are: the involvement of local people in the work and in implementation committees to conserve springs and maintain the infrastructure already set in place. The local people accept that they must give the necessary land and accept the difficulties that arise from works being carried out in their fields. All cooperate to rebuild social bonds.

The way the members of CASOBU live and how they work strike many people: ‘Often,’ said Innocent from Kayanza, ‘to have a job you have to pay, but here we have noticed a difference. They look in the register of those have already given a voluntarily contribution to the project and they enrol you without any kind of corruption…. Whether you are a simple labourer or a skilled worker, all are on the same level.’

Certainly, not everyone understands immediately what is being done, and patient work by CASOBU is fundamental for helping people realize that these projects are aimed at the common good. Three years after the first project, it is possible to note a significant improvement in the health of families and especially of the children. The latest initiative for access to clean water was in Kibingo (in the province of Kayanza), and it benefited 600 families and 1,200 pupils at the local primary school.

Anyone who wishes to participate in the work of CASOBU on behalf of people of Burundi, even with just a one-off gift, can use the following bank details:

Account name: Associazione Azione per un Mondo Unito

Bank:  Banca Popolare Etica, Rome branch.

IBAN: IT16G0501803200000000120434

SWIFT/BIC: CCRTIT2184D

Payments should be marked for: ‘Progetti in Burundi’.

Burundi is a small country in Africa with enormous lakes, and it is one of the poorest places on earth. In the 2011 report by the United Nations Development Programme it was ranked in the third last place (185th) in the league table of Human development. The most vulnerable groups in the population are Aids sufferers, widows, teenage mothers, orphans and people with disabilities. There is also a need to achieve national reconciliation and to rebuild the nation’s economy and social fabric.

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