Bujumbura - When the sun goes down in Bujumbura, Burundi’s economic capital, the streets on the eastern hills of the city are filled with people jogging and walking amid the green vegetation.
However, for the past few months, runners were always struck by the sight of a massive ravine – a narrow steep-sided valley- nearby. Despite the nice and quiet atmosphere, heavy rains and landslide have ravaged the neighbourhood.
“The situation got worse in January 2021 when the strong rains and violent winds uprooted a tree next to the gutter” recalls Pascal Runyange, lawyer and father of four.
Pascal is living with his family next to where the disaster happened. The earth shook the family house, and the gutter was thrown into the Muha river. The resulting landslide created a large ravine, destroying Pascal’s fence and parking lot in the process.
“It felt like it was an earthquake, which was very scary,” said Pascal.
Burundi is one of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change in the world.
Gasekebuye, a populated locality in Bujumbura is among the most at risk of climate change related disasters such as landslides and flash floods, according to a risk mapping elaborated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with the National Platform for Risk Prevention and Disaster Management of Burundi.
The frequent heavy rains have been damaging an important street gutter in Gasekebuye, built to facilitate the flow of water from the main road to the river.
In Burundi, IOM is conducting community-based actions to prevent and mitigate the risks of disasters and displacements. Nearly 91 percent of displacements in Burundi are due to natural hazards.
Florence, Prosper and Felix are residents of the rural part of Gasekebuye and familiar with the ravine. They are among the 97 workers who were part of the rehabilitation and stabilization of the ravine. The rehabilitation exercise was facilitated by IOM Burundi in collaboration with the Burundian office of urban planning, housing and construction (OBUHA).
"Only strong partnerships with the public and other stakeholders can contribute greatly to disaster risk reduction and resilience at community-level," said Emmanuel Noel, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Programme Manager at IOM Burundi.
Such interventions include “cash-for-work” (CfW) scheme - a type of assistance that provides cash directly to selected individuals, households, or community recipients to participate in work activities that benefit the whole community.
“In addition to the pay, this work is helping us to protect our homes and keep them safe from destruction,” said Felix Niyoyakunze, who took part in the CfW scheme.
The selection process is inclusive and based on a range of criteria. Gender parity is one of them, ensuring 50 percent of the workers at the ravine were women.
By contributing to the rehabilitation, Felix, Prosper and Florence became more aware of good practices to prevent and mitigate the risks of natural disasters.
“This situation made me realize that before building, we need to do an analysis and maintain distance between houses and rivers. For those already living in areas at risk of landslides, they can protect themselves by planting trees for example,” Felix explained, adding “now I know that I will build my house far from rivers.”
The rehabilitation of the Gasekebuye ravine is the first of a series of mitigation activities in areas prone to natural disasters in Burundi. After three months of work, the ravine has been stabilized and a reinforced concrete pipeline constructed to facilitate the flow of water.
Now the structure is stable and additional measures, including planting trees, are in place, thanks to the partnership between IOM, the community and the Government of Burundi. The funding was provided by the European Union as part of efforts to strengthen resilience to natural disaster risks in Burundi.