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Working with the world's poorest people to transform their lives

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Getting started in Kirundo, Burundi

Ulli von Baggehufwudt has recently been hired as Concern’s programme support officer in Kirundo, Burundi. Despite having a very hectic start in the new job, Ulli has been kind enough to write to us at Concern.net.

In the following piece, Ulli talks about the first few weeks working in Kirundo.

I joined Concern Burundi at a very interesting stage in the organisation: all three programmes (Education, Livelihoods and Health) in the country are about to start new projects. In the province of Cibitoke, Concern has been working with health and education for 10 years now, but we only just opened an office in the province of Kirundo to start a longer term livelihoods programme with the rural population. This lush region, formerly known as the “bread basket” of Burundi, has suffered from drought over the past few years. As a result, agricultural production, on which most of its population depends, has dropped to a bare minimum.

When I got to Kirundo, the team was already busy gathering information about the people in the area. In discussions with community representatives, from the chief to the poorest people, their ways of life were looked at, the hazards that affect their province, their traditional coping strategies and what they see as their priority problems and needs. One of the more time-consuming tasks in my first weeks here has been to translate all this information into English and get it all from flip charts, big pictures and diagrams into the computer. So now we have to analyse all this information and try to find ways in which to respond to the needs of these people. From all that information, we then have to formulate a proposal for a three year programme.

It’s good to know that the team has been in Kirundo for a while and they seem to know the area by now. It is also very reassuring that Concern’s livelihoods advisor from Dublin is coming for a 10 day visit to help us with the initial stage of analysis and maybe get a bit of focus into our colourful ideas. 

As I sit down with the programme manager to celebrate that we got all preparations for the visit ready just in time, and as we watch the sunset over Lake Cohoha he asks: “Isn’t this ironic? Here you have lakes with water enough to irrigate the whole country and yet, just a couple of kilometres from here people are dying due to drought? Could that be the real meaning of poverty?” I don’t want to get philosophical now but at least it’s a reason to stay in Kirundo and start doing something about it. 

Find out more about Burundi by clicking here