We met Emmanuel, Justin and Blaise at the beginning of this year. The three men are based in Kaziba, a town in the hills close to Walungu, and lead a civil society group called Raise Hope in Congo (RHC). The organisation provides microfinance to local families, help with children’s education and has instigated a tree-planting program.
They explained that people travel from Kaziba to Bukavu on lorries, either crammed onto the back trailer or perched high on top of goods. It’s dangerous and uncomfortable and they wanted a loan to purchase a minibus so that people could travel in more comfort and safety and with more dignity.
In fact several minibuses already ply the five hour route, but demand for travel by bus is higher than supply and their proposal made sense financially as well as socially. They demonstrated they could make a profit that could be used to support their ground level projects and bit-by-bit they could save to buy their own minibus outright.
We agreed to fund the purchase and RHC began driving the route in May since when they have generated a small profit each month to support their projects.
But it’s not easy. The dirt road has deteriorated as a result of use by the heavy lorries on the way to and from Banro’s mining operations in Luhwindja, which is a few kilometres beyond Kaziba. There appears to be little action from Banro to repair the road and local vehicles are struggling with the cost of breakdowns and repairs.
People living in Kaziba and Luhwindja have a very negative view of Banro, it seems because the company has forcibly pushed out local miners and provided little to compensate for the heavy handed disruption caused by their activities. Whatever the validity of these views it would be helpful to the local community if Banro invested in improvements to the road to Bukavu. Their standing in the community would recover and the people would have better access to the markets in Bukavu.