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How We Collaborated to Implement Holistic Solutions

Tackling a single challenge frequently unveils a complex web of interconnected issues. And though we know we can’t solve everything, it’s also clear that holistic solutions are needed to create transformative change.

Recently, we had an opportunity to expand our impact in two projects in Burundi, an East African country of about 13.2 million people that is the second poorest in the world. The country’s economy is dominated by small-scale, rain-fed, subsistence agriculture, which employs about 90 percent of the labor force.

Climate shocks in Burundi – including rising temperatures, droughts, and irregular rainfalls – impact food availability. Some 55 percent of children under the age of 5 are chronically malnourished.

The Rockefeller Foundation, through its grantee the World Food Programme, supported an initiative to shift its school feeding programs towards more nutrient-dense meals such as fortified whole grain maize meals and high iron beans.

In support of this initiative, we visited Rukuruma I & II schools in Bujumbura Rural Province in Burundi, with some 1,580 students who were receiving meals prepared with fortified whole grain in partnership with the Fortified Whole Grain Alliance.

We were excited that the students were getting the meals, but troubled to see the schools had no access to clean water. The kitchen was also in a state of disrepair and exposed to the elements, increasing the potential for food contamination.

refurbishing of a school kitchen
Before and after photos of the refurbishing of the school kitchen. (Photo credit Kagwiria Koome)

Water Provides Sanitation, Solar Energy, and Income

Collaborating with Amazi Water pointed to a way forward on two fronts. Amazi, founded in 2015, is working to provide sustainable access to clean water to every Burundi community by 2028.

Through a donation to Amazi, we were able to support the school with a borehole as we rehabilitated their kitchen. The access to clean water also ensures food safety is prioritized as we work towards nourishing learners’ meals.

We also provided them with solar power, which offered light and was used to pump underground water into the school, improving learning outcomes. Because the pump and lights are powered by renewable energy, this is a sustainable solution for the community.

Where do the farmers come in? The water will be used to grow vegetables for the schools throughout the year. Excess produce will be sold to the community and profits set aside for maintenance and repairs.

Development demands a holistic approach to address root causes and systemic issues. But the challenge can yield positive outcomes. Collaborating with communities and others to boost access to nutritious meals while simultaneously improving water supplies, lighting, and clean cooking facilities is deeply rewarding.

The opportunity to provide lasting solutions to Rukuruma I & II school environment was a clear example of collaboration for social good.

  • man sitting with young kids at a table eating food together
    William Asiko, Vice President for The Rockefeller Foundation's Regional Africa Office, during a visit to Rukaramu School. (Photo credit Kagwiria Koome)