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Burundi: Environment, too often neglected

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Burundi: Environment, too often neglected

The CCCM sector has learned from its experiences in both conflicts and natural disasters, and has been continuously reviewing its projects, programs and responses. This first edition of CCCM Case Studies presents 12 summaries of CCCM activities from 11 different countries. The purpose of this publication is to provide lessons as a knowledge base to support humanitarian operations (in both emergency and protracted contexts). Programs introduced in these case studies were implemented by CCCM Cluster agencies, as well as national authorities, in response to large-scale displacement caused by different types of humanitarian crises: these include earthquakes (Haiti), floods (Namibia, Thailand, Pakistan), typhoons (the Philippines), conflicts (Burundi, Kenya, Myanmar, Pakistan, Uganda, Yemen), and complex emergencies (Colombia). In light of these diverse contexts, each case study portrays experiences, successful practices, challenges and lessons.

This case study from the refugee camps in Burundi (2006-2011) covers the period when there was a dedicated international NGO Camp Manager and the subsequent handover of camp management responsibilities to national authorities. The NGO was initially appointed Camp Manager in 2006; its responsibilities included service provision responsibilities in Education, Shelter, and Distribution. Although not typical for a refugee operation, Camp Coordinator (lead agency), Camp Administrator (national authorities), and Camp Manager (NGO) titles were assigned to the relevant organizations. However, initially roles, responsibilities and accountability were not clearly determined. CCCM training was conducted in order to develop some clarity, and resulted in the formulation and signing of a written agreement clearly stipulating which agency was responsible for which activities. The document served as a useful reference that led to a productive and amicable relationship among the different actors until 2011 when the NGO handed over camp management responsibilities to national authorities.


The environment is an extremely important, yet often neglected, aspect of managing a camp throughout its life-cycle. As it is a cross-sectorial issue, part of the challenge is that it is not clear which actor is ultimately responsible and accountable for monitoring and advocating for environmental issues. Consequently, they ‘fall through the cracks’. The Burundi refugee camps suffered in this regard as environmental aspects were not fully considered until several years after the establishment of the camps. This changed in 2007, when the government of Burundi specifically requested the camp management agency to reduce or find alternatives to the quantity of cooking firewood distributed for use by camp populations, as well as opening erosion ravines affecting host communities. Subsequently the camp management agency initiated a wider range of environmental activities.

Actions Taken

Among the actions taken were a Professional Environmental Assessment, conducted to propose possible solutions, the testing of briquettes (wood chips/rice husks/manure) as an alternative energy source, a year-long sensitization campaign on better wood storage, utilization and cooking techniques, distribution of improved fuel efficient stoves, setup of environmental and host community committees, erosion gulley mitigating measures put into place and tree-planting initiatives undertaken with camp and host communities.


The sites suffered from extremely low overall tree survival rates, approximately 5% in camps; 10% in the host community. Other challenges were the non-compliance with briquette use as they were not suitable for humid environments; the non-sustainability of the cost of briquettes in the long term. The gulley slowed but was not halted despite significant investment and beneficiaries were clearing slopes for cultivation and camp security was unwilling to tackle the issue.


Cooking firewood distribution and consumption were reduced by one-third and a forum for regular dialogue on environmental issues took place between host camp communities through new committees. Environmental conservation was pursued in new camps through erosion mitigation measures and conducting Rapid Environmental Assessments. The survival rate of trees increased within school compounds due to direct supervision of teaching staff.


Read the full document here.