Caring for the environment in Burundi

Posted by Sarah Caughey on Tue, 16 Mar 2010 | Bookmark: digg this Post this to Post this to Facebook

“God saw all that He had made; and it was very good” Genesis 1 v 31

Burundi’s environment is as much affected by climate change as any other country. The recent lengthy civil war has also taken its toll on natural resources. It has become imperative therefore that action is taken to prevent the exploitation of these resources and to address environmental concerns.

Speaking recently on the occasion of the planting of over 6000 trees in his diocese, the Archbishop, the Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi, referred to the mandate from God to care for the whole of creation and that failure to do so affects not just the physical but also the human and social environment.

The occasion at which he was speaking was part of events associated with a major three year project that was launched in February 2008 in partnership with Christian Aid and Lambeth Palace to conserve and restore Burundi’s environment.

The main focus of the project is to assist poor communities in all six dioceses to identify, prepare for, reduce, and overcome the impact of emergencies and disasters.

It aims to undertake the reforestation of land, to improve the productivity of family plots, to enable better management of water and soil, and to build the capacity of the Anglican Church and local communities.

The project provides the Church with the opportunity to engage with the community at all levels, especially with local Government, schools, the military, the general population, as well as parishes. It is a vehicle for peace building as people cooperate together, and sets an example for the children and youth.

In 2008 just over three million trees were nurtured in nursery beds. During the National Environment Week held in December of that year a variety of trees were planted out throughout the dioceses. During the week, while visiting Bururi administrative province, the President of Burundi endorsed the work of the Church by viewing the nursery beds for Matana diocese and meeting with members of the environment club from the Lycée at Matana, a Church secondary school.

National initiatives provide the Church with opportunities to work collaboratively with the Government and other organisations. On National Tree Day in December 2009 that brought to a conclusion an Environment Week organised by the Government and UNDP, a total of 5500 trees were planted around the town of Gitega and in a rural area in Gitega diocese.

Young people in particular are being encouraged to accept responsibility for their environment. A number of secondary schools now have environment clubs that provide opportunity for students to understand some of the issues relating to their environment and climate change. In January 2010, for example, environment clubs were inaugurated in Makamba diocese in three secondary schools in order to engage the youth in understanding the need to care for and respect their environment. Pupils from the schools took part in a competition against each other about the environment and then 4000 trees were planted on a mountain almost completely denuded of trees.

Survival is dependent on immediate and decisive action especially in a country where most of the population relies on subsistence farming and where significant changes in the climate will cause reduction in agricultural output leading to famine and hunger.

It is being acknowledged internationally that poor nations are likely be more severely affected by climate change and ecological instability than others because they have fewer resources available to cope with the ensuing challenges and threats.

Archbishop Bernard calls on all those concerned to join in the work of advocacy in order to mobilize agencies into action so that sufficient assistance is available for sustainable development programmes to be implemented. Such actions will fulfil the commands of God to love God and neighbour and to act as good stewards of all of creation.