Poverty is rife with the Burundian population, more than 90% of whom are agro-pastoralists using rudimentary tools. This does not spare the Batwa who, in the past, made a living from hunting, gathering and making clay pots.
The arrival of large industries is a problem for this part of the Burundian population which has found it impossible to make profitable their labor efforts and to obtain sufficient food due to the lack of customers to sell their manufactured products.
To overcome this problem, they united their strengths and knowledge by coming together in a cooperative. The latter creates employment for young Batwa, fights against famine and therefore effectively fights poverty.
Founded in 2016 and directed by Kamana Epipode, the “KOBANI Cooperative (Cooperative of traders of products manufactured by Batwa ) is based in Giheta commune of Gitega province.
It currently has seventy-five active members. It intervenes in almost all areas of life: agriculture, animal husbandry, education and health. Also, she executes income-generating projects.
A cooperative that is being built gradually despite the difficulties
The founding president says: “Our goal is to help the government by creating jobs. All our 75 members work in synergy. We produce material that is used daily in households.
As an ethnic minority cooperative, we have problems that block us. If it happens that we are treated at the level of other cooperatives, we can contribute to the development of our country.
“In the locality called Kukirato, we bought a plot of 100m by 50m and we are in the process of building a multipurpose room of 60m by 20m. As I speak, the construction work of our offices and annexes are in progress. Masons and workers are well paid “adds the founding president.
A fierce fight against poverty
To be able to fight against poverty, this Batwa cooperative makes basketry and manufactures many things which are sold to the rest of the population.
Agriculture is characterized by artemisia which is the medicinal tree. These leaves are used to make a powder which helps fight against malaria and is distributed free of charge to the Batwa.
In doing so, the cooperative makes a considerable contribution to the achievement of Objective 3 of sustainable development aimed at enabling everyone to live in good health and promote the well-being of all at all ages.
The trades (which come from a distant history of this ethnic minority) are based on pottery, basketwork, sewing, all of this generating income for the cooperative. It also acts in the protection of the environment.
Difficulties linked to the product sales market
Kobani suffers from a critical lack of customers. Their products, although belonging to ancient Burundi, have difficulty in being consumed.
The few customers of this cooperative are restaurants, KEZAMIA salon, Hotel Source du Nil, Maison Freri, Liberi, Galerie Alexander and the Living Museum. But the cooperative does not give up, it participates in exhibition fairs selling their products.
The cooperative contributes to the fight against unemployment, contributing to the achievement of Objective 8 of sustainable development which aims to promote sustained, shared and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Although its manufactured products seem to be useful for households, they are sold at a very low price. Also, it is not able to export them. Only their customers, after having bought them at a shameful price, would manage to export them for huge profits.
It is time for this cooperative to benefit from the attention of authorities and organizations capable of supporting them to achieve stability and be able to sell their products at reasonable prices. This will be accompanied systematically by the development of the members of the cooperative, and therefore the definitive eradication of poverty in this community .
By Canon Felix