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Featured Member: Interview with Jonas Habimana BIFERD

Jonas Habimana, Founder and Executive Director of BIFERD working on the field with communities, North Kivu Photo: BIFERD

"Through our multi-sectorial approach, we encourage collaborative projects involving civil society stakeholders and government representatives to ensure that national disaster reduction systems have an effective impact on our communities."

Interview by Nisma Le Boul | London, February 5th

What does your organisation do?

Based in Goma (North Kivu) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, BIFERD (“Bureau d’Information échange, recherche et développement” in French) is an information, research & development, community training organisation. Founded by Executive Director Jonas Habimana. BIFERD works with local communities by developing various initiatives linked to sustainable development: education, women’s empowerment, health, nutrition, WASH and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). 

We have decided to include disaster management initiatives in the wake of the catastrophic consequences of armed conflict in North Kivu. North Kivu has been a region prone to armed conflicts for more than a decade now, but also suffers from a volatile environment due to natural hazards. The eruption of the Nyiaragongo volcano in 2002 located North from Goma is one instance of this vulnerability. BIFERD conducts evidence-based studies to ensure the impact of its projects and shares the data collected with other organisations and the local government in the region. We intervene in 60 villages of the region and mobilise the communities through “Community serving groups”.

How would you describe its role as part of civil-society?

BIFERD works daily in the field with hundreds of volunteers from the community. Additionally, we share our local community knowledge with INGOs (International Non-Governmental Organisations) and North Kivu’s local government. Through our multi-sectorial approach, we encourage collaborative projects involving civil society stakeholders and government representatives to ensure that national disaster reduction systems have an effective impact on our communities. We hold a neutral position within the community that translates to independence. Ultimately, BIFERD serves as the “connector” between North Kivu communities and other governmental and development stakeholders.

What is your role, what does it entail?

I am BIFERD’s founder and current Executive Director. As a Congolese national, coming from the region makes it easier for me to apprehend the local context and the vulnerable situation of our communities. On the downside, as I must oversee our organisation’s activities andit can be very time consuming. BIFERD’s lack of funding often means that I have to use my personal funds to pay our volunteers or our access to internet. Overall, my role has allowed us to build great visibility to reach our region’s local populations and the overall development sector in Democratic Republic of Congo.

When did your organisation join GNDR? 

BIFERD joined GNDR in 2015

Why did you join GNDR?

Knowledge sharing was a big part of our decision to join GNDR. Our aspiration was to be in contact with other members regionally, but also have the opportunity to share best practices as well as learn from other members worldwide during GNDR’s global events.

Consider 3 benefits of being a GNDR member?

BIFERD has participated in GNDR’s 2016 Global Summit in Bangkok where I was able to share experiences with other members. I am also a member of GNDR’s Regional Advisory Group (RAG) for the West and Central African region. 

Finally, GNDR facilitated funding from the Eleanor L Rathbone Charitable Trust that supported several initiatives in the region. Among them, the funding of £1000 supported the school fees of 30 orphans who lost their parents during the conflict, financed the purchase of drinkable water collection tanks in primary schools as well as the livelihood of women who have suffered sexual gender based violence.

Could name one area of improvement for GNDR? 

GNDR is a great network but I have to point at members’ need for more support in terms of funding. I would also hope for GNDR to increase collaboration with other regional organisations (CSOs and INGOs) able of supporting our initiatives on the ground in order to unify our forces and thus guarantee more impact on the community.

What do you think are your biggest achievements as an organisation?

I believe we had a lot of achievements to be proud of through the years:

  • Consultative status for the United Nations Economic & Social Council for DRC (ECOSOC) since 2017.
  • Supported 275 displaced families throughour food security programme.
  • 60 focal points volunteering in the “little” North Kivu region (Petit Nord Kivu) with the primary mission of analysing and evaluating the early warning systems put in place in the region.
  • Community serving groups created to enhance local communities’ capacity to respond to emergencies (natural or man-made hazards)
  • BIFERD is part of several major humanitarian coordination groups in the North Kivu region

Has your organisation got any awards?

Yes. We received the “Award 2017- Initiatives for climate change” (Trophées 2017- Initiatives Climat in French) award in 2017. BIFERD’s has been granted 2000 euros to support our community resilience to climate change programme. We should receive the funds in spring 2018.

What should GNDR do to sustain or increase members' engagement or participation?

I would like to see GNDR’s visibility increase in the region, I am sad to say that the network is yet to be known in DRC. Raising the network’s profile at national level seems to be an imperative for more actions at local level.

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