Hi there, I’m Spiffy! I interview the best and brightest entrepreneurs making an impact here on Planet Earth. Today I’m speaking with Emmanuel Niyoyabikoze, founder and CEO of Greening Burundi, who is working to make Burundi a greener place. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Hi Emmanuel, what challenges are you addressing with Greening Burundi?
Emmanuel: Well, Spiffy, Greening Burundi’s vision is the protection of the environment, natural resources, and the living environment. We aim for a dynamic of sustainable, equitable, and clean development. I lead Greening Burundi's activities related to the maintenance of healthy living environments, intense reforestation activities, information, and environmental education.
Spiffy: What did you see that motivated you to do this work?
Emmanuel: Burundi has been greatly affected by deforestation, having serious consequences on the environment and agriculture, and increasing poverty. Burundi has lost half of its large forest cover in the last 20 years. The remaining forests are threatened by these developments and will vanish completely if degradation continues. As a result of climate change, the agricultural sector that provides many with their livelihoods is seriously damaged. Poverty is lodged in households, and there are many diseases linked to malnutrition. Faced with these scourges, I felt challenged as a young Burundian to contribute to reforestation to protect the environment—I launched Greening Burundi to find and implement sustainable solutions.
Spiffy: That must be a lot to take on! How are you working for a more equitable world?
Emmanuel: Greening Burundi is working to preserve existent forests, increase forest cover, and contribute to the eradication of poverty and food insecurity. We are fostering a lasting high quality of life for the community while safeguarding long-term environmental sustainability by growing trees—including fruit and multi-purpose trees—and promoting agroforestry systems. Our mission is “planting trees for healthier populations and a better environment.”
Emmanuel Niyoyabikoze planting trees on the sides of the Kidahwe River in Bubanza Province, Burundi. (Photo credit: Didier Niyokwizigirwa)
Spiffy: Your work will take on all of the issues you mentioned at once, what milestones have you reached?
Emmanuel: Greening Burundi is currently at a stage of implementing its missions and since its inception, many people have been educated on the environment and more than 850,000 trees planted out of a goal of 50 million trees to be planted by 2040. We also have nurseries with about 1.5 million trees being set up as we speak! Reforestation is Greening Burundi’s objective and is participating in ecological re-balancing and increasing soil fertility, stopping the phenomena of floods, landslides, and leaching of soils that occur during showers.
Spiffy: How have you faced failure and overcome it on your journey?
Emmanuel: The establishment of Greening Burundi was a rather difficult course for me. My ambition, courage, love, and passion for nature guided me to overcome certain barriers I encountered. Failure can happen but it does not mean giving up. It means you need to continue to seek ways to find solutions and achieve your dreams to be successful.
Spiffy: What’s a lesson you learned unexpectedly from someone?
Emmanuel: I learned how to handle challenges and focus on my goal from my parents. When I have challenges and obstacles, I approach them to offer me advice. I inherited this passion for protecting the environment from them.
Spiffy: Thank you for your insights! It has been a pleasure, Emmanuel.
Emmanuel Niyoyabikoze is a climate activist from Burundi, and Greening Burundi is the result of his initiative, efforts, ambitions, and concerns for his community and Burundi. Emmanuel is hands-on and invests all his time in the project. He liaises with communities, schools, neighborhood chiefs, and officials to organize and lead tree planting action and educational initiatives. (Nominated by One Young World. First published on the Ladderworks website on July 21, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Elias Ross Trupin. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.