I had the opportunity to visit Plant With Purpose’s program the Pare mountsins of Tanzania a few months ago to participate the third annual Village Savings and Loan (VSLA) Competition Celebration. The event was the culmination of a year long competition, where 125 VSLA groups competed in tree planting, adoption of organic farming methods such as composting and pest management.
Groups arriving for the celebration
We’re in the process of putting together a video of the celebration, but I thought I’d post a few pictures. It was a joyful and inspiring day, especially encouraging to hear farmers talk about how they were learning from each other, the impact on their farms, and their hopes to do even more in the coming year. (Photo credit to Shaun Boyte.)
Plant With Purpose’s team of agronomists, with prizes for the winners
Sharing knowledge and vegetables
In the past I’ve written a little bit about Burundi and Plant With Purpose’s work there, and now I’m super excited to be visiting in about a week. In a short period of time, the program there has made really dramatic progress in improving people’s lives and I’m looking forward to seeing things and to getting to know Burundi. But first, some of the bad news:
- Burundi has one of world’s shortest life expectancies: 50.4 years (Source: United Nation’s Development Program-UNDP)
- Burundi has suffered from ethnic conflict/civil war on and off for 30 years, which killed roughly 300,000 people and displaced many thousands more
- Burundi ranked 185th out of 187 countries on the 2011 UNDP’s human development index, and 80% of its 8.5 million people live below the poverty line
- Burundi’s economy is dependent on agriculture, which accounts for about 90% of employment, but the average plot size is only 1 acre (Sources: World Bank, IFAD)
- 57% of children under five suffer from malnutrition (CIA World Fact Book: Burundi)
Much of the farming in Burundi is done by women
These grim stats are the reason Plant With Purpose chose to work in Burundi; the needs are great. But in the five years we have been there we have seen some fantastic results and the program is expanding rapidly. The outstanding leadership of our local Burundian team has been the key. Here’s some of the good news. According to our most recent impact evaluation, farmers working in partnership with our local program:
- Are more than twice as likely to eat dairy and fruit products each week
- Are able to save 25% more money than non-participants
- Are currently harvesting an average of 31 different kinds of crops, compared to only 20 among non-participants
The result of these activities has been improved family health, reduced stunting among children, and a greater sense of hope an unity in the local community. These are just a few highlights of the progress farmers in Burundi are making – I am really looking forward to learning more when I visit.
If you’d like to learn more about Burundi’s history and current challenges through the voice of Burundians themselves, I highly recommend Peter Uvin’s Life After Violence; this short book has been an invaluable resource for me as I prepare to visit Burundi. And if you’d like to support Plant With Purpose’s work in Burundi by sponsoring a village where we work, go here.
On this trip I will also be travelling to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with our amazing friends at Wings of Kilimanjaro, but thought I’d post on Burundi first. More to follow!