The city of Byumba is located in the north of Rwanda and has about 70,000 inhabitants. It is the capital of both Gicumbi District and Northern Province. Although the economy has benefited from increased tea and coffee exports in recent years, most agricultural activity takes place at a subsistence level. This means that people eat the food they produce themselves. However, harvests are often small and some families struggle to feed their children. In addition, rural areas like Byumba lack adequate infrastructure, which means that many children cannot go to school.
Since 1997, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Byumba.
Like all over Rwanda, many people in the Gicumbi district are employed in the agricultural sector. Most of them rely on farming to produce food for their families. A large proportion of rural families have only one hectare of land available to them, which is too small to earn a living. It also leads to over-farming and the degradation of the land, making it largely infertile. Farmers struggle to produce enough food to provide for their families. These factors contribute to the extremely high levels of malnutrition in the country, which is particularly dangerous for children. In fact, many children show signs of limited physical and intellectual development due to lack of enough nutritious food.
Although the level of education in Rwanda is generally improving, the availability of education is a matter of great concern in the Northern Province. In Gicumbi District, more than 65% of the population are completely illiterate, meaning they cannot read or write at even the most basic level. Children from rural areas often have to travel long distances to reach the nearest school. Sometimes they cannot afford to do so, or their parents need their help at home or contribute to family income. Furthermore, most teachers have not been sufficiently trained and receive very low wages, all of which can lead to low levels of motivation in the classroom. All this diminishes children’s opportunities for a better future.