Stories of Change

From top to bottom: Irakoze, Nibizi, Ndayizeye and Kabura in their garden plots in Nyarugusu refugee camp.

Vegetable harvests and new skills for refugees in Tanzania

Tanzania’s Nyarugusu Refugee Camp is home to tens of thousands of Congolese and Burundian refugees. CWS has been working in the camp for years, and most recently our focus has been on helping residents build businesses and earn a living.

The previous phase of this program was called REFLECT. Then, starting in April 2019, we launched a pilot program focused on agricultural productivity. Thirty refugees from Nyarugusu participated alongside 120 people who live near the camp in the Kasulu District. The program’s goal was to support participants as they increased their vegetable harvests and earned additional income.

In Nyarugusu, we have started a community garden area. Part of the space is used as a demonstration plot, where experts help program participants learn about different types of crops and how to grow them most effectively. The rest of the space is made up of plots belonging to individual participants. They are free to sell or eat what they grow. The 30 farmers, most of which had participated in the REFLECT program in the past, focused on growing amaranths, cabbage, onion, green pepper and eggplant.

Nibizi Jeanette Nsabiyunva and Irakoze Eric Bilahila have both been participating in Agricultural Productivity Project and REFLECT activities for a few years, and they each received sewing machines and tailoring lessons in an earlier phase of the program. Now, they are cultivating spots in the garden, too. “I’m doing tailoring activities to earn some money and sustain my family’s needs,” Nibizi, a mother of six, says. She also expects to earn about $37 this year from selling amaranth and green pepper.

Irakoze, 29, has embraced vegetable farming and is now a lead farmer who helps encourage his fellow participants. “I’m grateful that I have different skills obtained from CWS programs. I can now make organic pesticides and compost, and I know how to sew different clothes and earn some income for my family,” he says. “Last year, I planted different vegetables and sold out. I earned about $55. This year I have planted more vegetables and I hope to earn more than last year. On top of that, I have started selling some of the vegetables now and I earn up to $3 a day.”

Kabura Eliakim Bandyatuyaga lives in Nyarugusu with his wife and seven children. Like most of his neighbors, he struggled to make ends meet. He opened up a small retail shop in order to provide for his family. Through REFLECT, he secured startup capital of about 220 pounds of rice. “I did not end up just selling rice in my shop, but instead I was able to add other products including sugar, soap and many other small items. This was made possible by the profits I earned from selling rice,” he says.

When the agriculture phase of the program started, Kabura jumped at the opportunity to participate. Now he’s growing vegetables like eggplants and cabbages. In 2019, he earned $44 from selling his harvest, and he had plenty to share with his family and neighbors. He expects to earn at least that much again this year. “I’m really grateful for the Tanzanian government for allowing us in their country, and to Church World Service for the support in the vegetable farming project,” he says. “Our families are also grateful for this support. May the good Lord bless you.”

Finally, let us introduce you to 31-year-old Ndayizeye Johnson Nzobarinda. He has been participating in REFLECT programs for years, and credits this work for teaching him to read and write and develop skills like mushroom farming and vegetable production. “Vegetable farming helps my family, and we are now living a good life, earning some income from selling the vegetables,” he says.

Nibizi, Irakoze, Kabura and Ndayizeye are all from Burundi. In 2015, more than 100,000 people fled Burundi following a failed coup, protests and a humanitarian emergency. We are proud to support our Burundian neighbors as they build new lives in safety in Tanzania, and we look forward to the continued success of the participants in the REFLECT program.