June 8, 2015

“Though Burundi is going through a very delicate situation, ADISCO has not lost sight of its mission of reconciling people. Our core belief is that poverty is rooted in the loss of self-confidence, which in turn fuels a feeling of fatalism and resignation. We want to free people from feeling that they are condemned to a life of poverty.” That belief has won Deogratias Niyonkuru, and the organization he co-founded, ADISCO, a King Baudouin African Development Prize.

The King Baudouin African Development Prize rewards organizations and individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to development in Africa by highlighting their works-their inspirational stories of hope, struggle and success in Africa-for the global public’s attention.

In Burundi where the current political situation has cast a dark cloud over the country’s democratic process and reconstruction efforts, a ray of light is peeking through that cloud in form of local organizations that are trying to bring some sort of normalcy and stability to their communities.

Given that it’s almost a decade since the civil war ended in the country, and huge strides have been made by individuals and local organizations to put that deadly past behind it, it seems a shame that one man’s action, President Nkurunziza’s insistence to run for a third-term in office, will claim victory over years of efforts and progress that have been made.

That was the backdrop upon which the selection committee chose ADISCO (Appui au Développement Intégral et à la Solidarité sur les Collines) as this year’s prize winner for its “conviction that sustainable development can only come through empowering people and making them self-reliant,” and though its work in encouraging Burundians to implement local initiatives that foster economic and social development for their community and reinforce their autonomy.

In a show of the committee’s belief that “the winner should inspire and illustrate the many positive changes that are spurred on by Africans, for Africa. – ADISCO was a perfect match,” said Koen Vervaeke, Chairman of the King Baudouin African Development Prize selection committee and Director for the Horn of Africa, East and Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean at the European External Action Service.

ADISCO’s efforts to reinforce community and citizens autonomy through economic and social development initiatives are paying off with more than 200,000 people have been involved in its programs, so far.

The reward prize worth $225,000.0 (€200,000.0) that comes with the award will go a long way to help ADISCO continue its work for food security, healthcare, social protection, and youth policies in Burundi communities.

The organization, who sees itself as an advocate for the less fortunates in the communities and works through five initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship among youth, advocate on behalf of farmers for better agricultural management and resources to improve production thus increasing incomes is emerging as a part of the solution to end poverty on the continent and find some sort of compromise between State and civilians. And that’s more than a reason to cheer for Africa’s future.

“I’m incredibly humbled to receive this prize on behalf of ADISCO,” said Deogratias Niyonkuru, Secretary General and co-founder of ADISCO upon receiving the prize at the Royal Palace in Brussels, with King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium in attendance.

ADISCO, founded in 2006 at the outset of the country’s reconstruction efforts after the civil war, trains and encourages farmers to mobilize resources for their own development through solidarity groups called IGG. It also promotes agricultural cooperatives to improve production and farmer’s revenues in the value chain and helps set up mutual health organizations to improve access to healthcare.

Another area of focus is the promotion of youth entrepreneurship and advocacy for better agricultural, social protection and youth policies.

The organization’s mission and the award coincidentally reflect some recent changes in donor’s thinking about aid to Africa, and socioeconomic development in general: There is a new stress on tough accountability for aid recipients and promoting awareness of the positive changes that Africans are making for Africa.

The Brussels-based King Baudouin Foundation, created in 1976, to mark the 25th anniversary of King Baudouin’s reign is an independent foundation that provides financial support to organizations and individuals annually and is active at the local, European and international level, looks for sustainable ways of contributing to justice, democracy, development and respect for diversity.

The history of aid to Africa has been controversially muddled with corruption, and often producing little more than an alphabet soup of initiatives/programs that spurred economic advancement on the continent.

That was until a few years ago. Led by the Gates Foundation, donors now aim not to just give money, but to encourage civil societies and local organizations to take charge of their communities.

That awareness and accountability are spurring positive actions from newly energized non-profit organizations such as ADISCO, whose development model can easily be adapted because of its simplicity, and it’s rooted in African culture and local knowledge, and depends little on outside support.

The $50 gifts from individuals that seems like a drop of water in the ocean, complimented with official monetary award prize such as the one given by the King Baudouin Foundation can, and are bolstering communities’ socioeconomic health toward a better future.


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