First visit to Bibungo

Jul 7 2016

Back in March, we started our second children's porridge project in the Parish of Bibungo. This is an area which sits on the hillside above the Nyaburongo River roughly 5 kilometres north-west of Kigali.

Bibungo is a spartan place and easily missed from the mutatu tax-bus as it negotiates around pot-holes on the road to Rutonde. The village shop is a blue cabinet propped up by the roadside selling cheap watches and sunglasses. A few yards further on, sugar cane lies bundled into neat pyers ready for transporting to Kigali. The bus stop is a wooden bench overhung by banana trees. It is mid morning and just up the hill the open-air Pentecostal church is in full swing as the sound of its choir carries across the valley.

This is our first visit to Bibungo and the inaugural batch of children who will receive daily porridge for six months. The plan for the day is to meet the children and their mothers then tour the area to meet some of the widows who have received goats. These plus the rabbits which are distributed to the children when they complete their six months are the key to helping families become self-sufficient.

The children and their mothers have been waiting for our arrival and gather in the church hall. The air is hot. The children are well behaved and receive their porridge in orderly fashion as their mothers tell us how grateful they are. A daily meal seems little, but to families which don't see food every day, it is a comfort to know the children are receiving something.

After meeting the children and their mothers we set out into the baking sun and up the steep hillside to find some of the widows who have received goats. The first port of call is to a lady who has lived on her own since her son left her. She is very pleased with her animal which has since produced two kids. These provide much needed income.

Further up the sometimes precipitous hillside we pass through a small banana plantation. If it weren't for the bare-foot children and the the decrepit small houses, the scene might be called idyllic. The trees provide welcome shade from the scorching sun and running through the place is a burn which flows in gentle curves, irrigating ground that would otherwise be parched. The soil is being used to grow a leafy crop called dodo for sale in the Kigali markets.

Our climb continues to a solitary house where we find a lady who must be in her eighties but who looks after five grandchildren. On her door is painted a red cross, signifying that this building, modest as it is, has been condemned. These crosses appear on a number of buildings and signify that the house has been condemned and that the occupants must find somewhere else to live. This lady doesn't know where she will move to.

Life in Bibungo can't be easy. Aside from clambering up and down a steep hillside, there are few resources. The locals live among banana trees but these are owned by people living elsewhere. We are hoping that the introduction of livestock will enable the people here to generate income and in turn allow them to grow what crops they can, either to sell, or to eat.