Friday, June 3, 2011

See our progress! 2008-2011

In 2008, Pygmy Survival Alliance began working in the village Bwiza, Rwanda, with a population of about 150 people. At that time, the village was physically close to the capital, Kigali, but the living conditions were dramatically worse. Bwiza residents lived in stick houses and went without eating on a daily basis because of lack of food. Their children were slowly dying of malnutrition, and the adults had almost no hope for the future.

The Community of Potters Health and Development (COPHAD) project started because the leaders of the Community of Potters in Rwanda (Batwa Pygmies) asked us to help them stop the decline in their population. COPHAD empowers people to solve their own problems using their own resources. With the people, we develop a plan that they can do themselves, together with our help.

COPHAD applies broad methods to a specific, critical focus: to find and address the root causes of poverty and illness and reverse them. We have focused on inexpensive interventions with a big impact -- our first project being the distribution of cheap, blue plastic shoes to everyone. Even now, we are sometimes known in Bwiza as the people who "taught the pygmies to wear shoes".

We had no clue that those shoes would not only help children to attend school and women to work in the market; but also, to help women gain equality, and to reverse the longstanding cultural prejudice historically maintained by Bwiza's neighbors against the villagers.

COPHAD saves lives, improves the welfare of the poorest people in one of the poorest countries of the world, and is both affordable and sustainable. After three years in Bwiza, we are on the verge of establishing food security -- and that comes after we have already achieved universal health insurance, 100% primary school enrollment, total restoration of traditional dance and performance traditions, rising standards of living and remarkably, even gender equality. Sixty new brick house are now being built in a collaborative partnership with the government of Rwanda and Bwiza's surrounding neighbors. And, the people of Bwiza have become the only certified agricultural cooperative in Rwanda based in a former Batwa community. They are first pygmies to ever own cows.

In Bwiza, COPHAD used humanitarian aid, public health, education, sanitation and hygiene, nutrition, agriculture, the arts and business to create a positive change cycle leading to reduced infant mortality through enhanced socio-cultural adaptation. The result has been to unlock human potential and transform peoples’ lives.

Services delivered and outcomes achieved by Bwiza villagers 2008-2011

COPHAD Provided Services

BWIZA Delivered Outcomes


New access to market and school

School uniforms

5 children started school; now all are in primary; 2 in secondary

Village Health and Development Council

First-time village leadership structure and performance with ongoing leadership training

“Mutuelle” Health Insurance Cards

First-time attendance at Health Centers and Health Care, now with women routinely seeking pre-natal and delivery care in a supported health center

De-worming + Vitamin A supplementation

First-time decreased incidence of diarrhea; improved health, school attendance and energy levels

Health education: sanitation & hygiene

Built five latrines, began hand washing practices; now overall visible improvement in hygiene of the people

44 Plastic roof tarps

44 stick houses re-built with new roofs

Nutritional Supplements

First-time amelioration of kwashiorkor in vulnerable infants

Manure for gardens, plus seeds

Better gardens and crop yields; reduced food insecurity

Micro-finance planning

New business initiatives, creating 5-person trading partnerships to trade in goat skins and vegetables

Technical Assistance to dig a surface well and build water collection tanks

Healthier water, more productive use of time, better water available for goats and cows

Liaison with Ministry of Agriculture

Started rock quarry; sold dump trucks full of stone daily

Hoes, shovels, pickaxes

Built 62 farming terraces; crop yield = 1 ton beans in first year; even greater yields thereafter

Liaison with US Embassy, Kigali

Pygmy song and dance troupe “KWIZERA” organized and performing; now, new CD produced and distribution ongoing

Monitoring and Evaluation Services

Data-driven basis for program development; post-intervention survey ongoing June 2011

Creation and training of “ABAHUZA” Cooperative

Leadership training, financial management, business and agricultural education

Liaison with Executives of the Cell, Sector, District and Ministry of Local Government

Partnership relationship for housing construction and future spread of COPHAD development methods to other poor Rwandan communities

Liaison with Heifer International

Donation of animal husbandry curriculum

Coordination of multiple donor groups

Establishment of goat herd; now with over 96 goats. Introduction of cows; now with 11 cows.

Compressed-earth brick machine

Thousands of bricks made to build new houses

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