Burundi – celebrating success after four years’ work with returning refugees


After decades of a devastating conflict that claimed more than 300,000 lives and caused the displacement of over one million people, the Republic of Burundi continues to recover from the wounds of inter-ethnic violence. The 2004 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the August 2005 elections that brought to power the former rebel movement created favourable conditions for the repatriation of Burundian refugees. By early 2011, over 500,000 individuals had returned. The country has been struggling to cope with the challenges of reintegrating these returnees from neighbouring countries. The issues include illiteracy, poverty, lack of access to land and housing, limited or no livelihood opportunities and environmental degradation.  It’s even worse for returning women and girls, who are also widely subjected to sexual and gender-based violence.

FH’s programme achievements

Major achievements of the past four years include:

  • 8 primary schools constructed, 49 teachers recruited and 3,260 students (nearly 50% female) enrolled
  • 18,000 households given seeds, tools and training in improved agricultural practices and over 6000 given goats
  • 1.4m tree seedlings planted to restore community forests
  • 80 income generation groups trained and provided with start-up grants
  • critical assistance provided by FH in addressing SGBV concerns. These include monthly awareness campaigns, initiatives in secondary schools,establishment of 31 community-based SGBV prevention committees, training of 55 police officers and magistrates in SGBV prevention and response, and training and funding of 12 women’s self-help groups.

Checking curriculum materials for new primary school


Community association members in front of their fields

Appreciative comments

Here are some of the comments from community members who benefited from the project:

  • “This project brought us together returnee and host families, Hutu and Tutsi families for a common cause of poverty. The new community associations create trust in us so that those who have been in Tanzania can see our commitment to loving them and reintegrating our lives as we share our daily lives.” – Valerie Nkeshimana of Dusabikanye (Let us help each other) Association
  • “Probably the main reason for the success of this intervention is its holistic nature. While the shelter aspect was not addressed under this project and remains a priority need, the project made great contributions to the key sectors including agriculture and food security, livelihoods, environment and education. This is no doubt in alignment with the Government’s priorities and was highlighted by President Nkurunziza’s visit to the project and his opening of Itahe School.” – Ir. CyriaqueNshimirimana, Governor of Ruyigi Province.
  • “I commend the project for its great contribution to improving learning conditions in Mishiha commune. From learning under the shade of a tree to modern facilities fully furnished, you can see the difference….” – Patricie Busindu, Principal, Musemo Primary School in Mishiha Commune.

Sewing livelihood group in action


SGBV training for high school students










Looking to the future

This critical recovery assistance, which has successfully been provided for the returnee families, has laid a foundation for FH’s continued longer-term development activities.

FH’s ongoing work in Burundi can be followed on our website: http://fh.org/work/countries/burundi

About Martin

Emergency Response Unit, FH. Based in Buckinghamshire, UK and formerly a mechanical engineer with BP. Attends parish church of St. James, Gerrard's Cross.