Friday, December 11, 2009

Village Spotlight: Muzye, Burundi

by Kate McElhinney

It has been one year since Plant With Purpose began working in Burundi, a small country in Africa sandwiched between Rwanda, Congo, and Tanzania. After enduring years of civil war and ethnic conflict, the country is now finally moving toward a peaceful state and refugees are trickling back into Burundi to regain their land and piece their lives back together.

Plant With Purpose has been working with the Dushirehamwe Association in the village of Muzye to help them rebuild their agricultural infrastructure such as farms and forests which were destroyed during the conflict. The Dushirehamwe Association, whose name means “we make something together from what we have”, is a community based organization that was founded in 2004 and currently has about 30 members. Two-thirds of the group are recently returned refugees.

One member, Leoni Karenzo, (the woman in blue on the far left hand side of the first photo) has experienced tremendous personal growth during the past year. After fleeing Burundi, she received training in a Tanzania refugee camp on how to make improved woodstoves. Now she and other returnees are able to share this knowledge with other group members because of Plant With Purpose's initiative to promote improved stoves through training. This skill has helped build Leoni’s self-esteem and is helping with her acceptance in the community, while at the same time helping Plant With Purpose to promote a valuable technology.

This year, the Dushirehamwe Association has been planting improved varieties of cassava, a valuable and nutritious root crop. Now the cassava harvest is about to begin and the group is very excited. Cuttings will be taken for group members to plant on their own farms, giving them varieties of cassava that are resistant to local disease, and will reduce future risk of food shortage. The remaining cuttings will be sold as the demand for improved varieties in Burundi is high. The roots of the cassava will be consumed by member households, or sold at the local market. The groups are very interested in finding new and more profitable ways to market cassava. Plant With Purpose is looking into various processing and marketing technologies that could help farmers improve their income and access new markets.

These triumphs are encouraging, but there is still much to be done. You can help the village of Muzye rebuild their community by partnering with Plant With Purpose to sponsor Muzye for only $30 per month. Your support, which will be matched for up to one year, will go toward improving their farming methods, finding ways to sell their increased production of cassava and banana, and helping the groups increase their savings and loan capacity. Visit or call (858) 274-3718 to learn more about sponsoring a village.


Kate McElhinney serves as the Marketing Coordinator for Plant With Purpose. She plays an integral role in executing the company’s marketing campaigns and PR efforts. Kate also coordinates the annual gala and is Editor-In-Chief of the company newsletter, The Sower.

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