Work and Life During The War Years in Burundi. 2004

From time to time I will be posting emails that i wrote during the war years to  friends and colleagues in other countries regarding our goat project and security and life in general – especially 2002 – 2006. Events have indeed improved!
Friday, August 20, 2004

Friends & Colleagues –

Many of you have written about recent fighting here in Burundi – that took place last Friday.

Indeed, over 160 refugees – mainly women and children – were brutally slaughtered in a transit refugee camp about 4 klms down the road from us towards the Congo border. This was a deliberate effort to derail current, delicate negotiations on power-sharing amongst contending ethnic and political groups that were to take place this week. Those responsible are amongst the desperate, who will go to many lengths to keep a real, power-sharing government from being finalized – but 99% of people here and in the region desperately do want it – and it will happen.

Gatumba, mass burial following the outrages.

This Monday evening saw 4 more hours of intense fighting near us, while email services, the internet and electricity were sporadically ‘down’ much of the week. Wednesday a mob stormed the Congo Embassy, which is just across from the Greek Butcher – which I was unfortunate enough to have entered.

Riot police and military arrived, tear gas was lobbed. The iron gates & bars had been hastily raised at the butcher [all shops here have bars and/or steel doors]. We all patiently awaited mob, tear gas and law enforcers to leave – which finally did happen.

Waiting at the Greek butchers for the fighting to be controlled

In addition, the last month out here on Lake Tanganyika has been a period of MAJOR BREAKDOWN of just about everything: email; internet; electricity; water – sometimes;  phones – sometimes; etc.

Goat farming traditionally is low-input, and that’s just what our 150+ foundation/multiplication herds have been receiving during July and August! And they have have been doing just fine …. 42 new kids birthed  in July as a matter of fact, all dropped with no trouble; most twins and 2 sets of triplets. One death due to premature birth.

One of the two buck herds going out to the commonlands

Another kind of breakdown took place with a check that had to be signed by me before it could be deposited. I requested it be sent by DHL. But instead of sending the check THROUGH DHL, it was sent TO the address of DHL-Burundi by regular mail … and never arrived : ( .

These funds were to be used for air fare to South Africa and back to attend the 8th International Congress on Goats, where I was to deliver an invited paper.  So most unfortunately, I was unable to attend – or even notify colleagues and organizers at the University of Pretoria of this unhappy development due to power and email outages – until quite late.

Back to the goats during July: A couple of cases of pneumonia, a lot of soremouth of the young and of Theileria – a nasty tick-borne disease that purebred Central African Goats are genetically able to resist or tolerate. Another mysterious skin condition that began as what seemed to be soremouth but spread all over the body and visually is quite different from soremouth – a fine 87.5% Alpine-CAG doe with twins was most seriously affected.

The worse case of 'soremouth' in our herds, one of the German Alpine bucks that I brought over from Kenya with help from GTZ. This is a major reason exotic breeds have problems in coming to tropical Africa - lacking genetic ability to counteract effects of tropical diseases. That is why cross-breeding up to the 3rd. degree must be done.

Now that we’re [almost] back into 21st century-style operations, I will get samples sent down to the major vet lab in South Africa via the South Africa Military direct air flight for examination. But another hitch: there is no formalin in the country now – and new shipments won’t be arriving for another month …

Vet technician, paravets and herders - hands-on training key to success.

As for the skin problem, I’m beginning to think that the vast herds of cattle [1000s] with which our goats share the commonlands along Lake Tanganyika may be bringing in ‘new’ pathogens from the Congo or elsewhere – from which they are coming due to fighting.  Though also  it could be goat pox. With no operational vet lab in the country or updated training of vet staff here in Burundi – or livestock movement controls/disease monitoring – we’re really strapped in this kind of situation.

Some of the does that are being bred 'up' using our German Alpine and South African Boer bucks.

Oh, and for our cooking-colleagues – how about creature-comforts like cooking when ‘all’ systems fail? Once the gas ran out, we used charcoal and that works just fine. With no refrigeration, leftovers are put in pots or bowls loosely covered and then placed on a tray filled with water so that ants and other invaders can’t munch away. Even perishable foods will keep that way for at least 12 hours and then you re-boil to kill any bacteria and store again. Once boiled, the goat milk also keeps for at least 12 hours.

The does crossed up to 75% and above can be milked. The doll is from a school in Florida that asked if I'd organize a series of pix for the students, showing aspects of goat husbandry here in Burundi using 'Flat William', whom they sent.

Well, not to complain: 98% of the population in Burundi – i.e., everyone but persons living in the capital of Bujumbura and several small provincial towns – never have running water, electricity or other than dirt roads or paths + no glass windows and all cooking done by wood fires. These are our project clients – all eager and willing smallholder goat farmers.

Now that I’ll soon be downloading the many emails that have been accumulating, I’ll be skimming them over the next few days. Anyone who has sent me an email during the last 6 weeks should resend – TO THIS YAHOO ADDRESS UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE – since I’m sure many emails have been refused in the ‘mailbox’ due to being full.



As for the paper I was to deliver at the University of Pretoria, it was published out of ILRI (International Livestock Research Centre, Nairobi) – topic was ‘The Role of Restocking in Crisis Mitigation‘.

More on our goat project here:  ‘ Heart of Africa’  Burundi Goat Rehabilitation Project


About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-Central, Burundi, Cuisine, Dairy goats, East central Africa, Goat farmer, Goats, Lake Tanganyika, Livestock, Living here, War Games and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Work and Life During The War Years in Burundi. 2004

  1. Pingback: Livestock Restocking in Burundi: More Complicated that ‘The Gift of a Goat’ « Dianabuja's Blog

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