Written June 2009
Countries: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda
IFDC and Helpage are working together to mobilize rural communities to improve roads in Central Africa’s Great Lakes Region. Helpage, an IFDC partner in the implementation of the CATALIST project, is a non-governmental development organization based in Kigali, Rwanda.
CATALIST is increasing food security, reducing poverty and improving regional collaboration to foster peace and security.
Through CATALIST, Helpage and IFDC are improving access to remote areas with high agricultural potential through road rehabilitation. This should develop inter-community and cross-border trade and increase rural incomes.
Helpage uses the labor-intensive work (HIMO) approach to reduce poverty by creating temporary jobs (primarily road and other infrastructure development) for rural communities. The organization also contributes to environmental stability and the improvement of production systems through reforestation and agroforestry techniques.
“I am a farmer. I used to grow beans, sweet potato and cassava,” says Liberatte Siyonarera, an 18-year-old woman from Burundi working at the Mparamirundi-Buvumo road project site. The road cuts through a major potato production region in Burundi and links to Rwanda. It was once impassable, but rehabilitation of the road will facilitate the movement of goods and services and enhance trade between Burundi and Rwanda while providing jobs for farmers like Siyonarera.
“I have been working here for the past five months,” Siyonarera says. “With my pay, I was able to buy a cow that produces milk for my family and manure for our farm. I can also afford to buy clothes and other things that I like.”
On the combined road rehabilitation and environmental protection project sites, 8,926 people were employed: 4,557 in Burundi, 664 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 3,705 in Rwanda, according to Bonaventure Uwimana, Helpage regional program director. This labor force included a high percentage of women as well as poor farmers, widowers, displaced persons and demobilized soldiers.
“Laborers work at the sites from two to seven months for a daily wage of nearly $1.50,*” Uwimana explains. “With such incomes, the farmers are able to invest in their farms and crops, family health and children’s education.”
*Annual incomes in the three project countries average between $100 - $250.