Resilience in Action: Gitaza Community Adapting to the Encroaching Threat in the face of Climate Change

Resilience in Action: Gitaza Community Adapting to the Encroaching Threat in the face of Climate Change

By Ambrose Emodingo & Curity Ogada

Located within the rural landscapes of Rumonge Province in Burundi, Gitaza emerges as a dynamic community renowned for its robust social fabric. Its proximity to the bustling shores of Gitaza Beach adds to its vibrancy, offering a hub of activity and interaction.

However, amidst this lively backdrop, a sobering reality unfolds as Gitaza contends with the profound impacts of climate change, notably manifested in the relentless rise of Lake Tanganyika’s water levels. This environmental challenge casts a shadow over the community, compelling its residents to confront and adapt to the ever-changing dynamics of their natural surroundings. 

The Gitaza Community vibrant with activity.

Fifty-two-year-old Mkiwa Msigaro expresses his amazement. Just four years ago, they used to live where the shores now line the beautiful lake. However, after some time, they noticed the lake swelling towards their homes and encroaching upon the shores. 

Mkiwa, a seasoned fisherman for 42 years reflects on his extensive experience as he grapples with an unprecedented phenomenon. Expressing deep dismay, he recounts the gradual encroachment of the lake’s swelling waters upon their once tranquil community. 

“The inexplicable rise of the water levels has left us utterly perplexed,” he murmurs. “Slowly but surely, it crept closer to our homes, compelling us to seek refuge on higher ground, uprooting our lives in the process,” he explains.

Inquiries about governmental intervention or clarification regarding the situation yield disheartening responses. For the past four years, the community has been engulfed in uncertainty, left to piece  together fragments of their shattered existence amidst the ominous silence from authorities.” 

As a veteran fisherman, Mkiwa, explains the rising levels have deeply affected their livelihood, there is less fish compared to 4 years ago and that means the community has to venture into alternative means  of livelihood to make ends meet. Mkiwa, however, says he will remain a fisherman.

A concerning sight unfolds as the lake extends its boundaries, with a widening pool indicating further land absorption in the near future unless effective mitigation measures are promptly implemented.

boy and man walking past shores
Encroaching waters of the lake on land

Various community members have showcased their adaptability and resilience in response to this pressing issue. These are their stories. 

A boy trying to fish
A boy takes a chance at fishing on the new deep end where fish flock in the morning. 

The Gitaza community embodies resilience in the face of adversity. Despite being displaced from their homes due to the relentless encroachment of the lake onto their beach, they remain united like a jovial family. To an outsider, it’s not immediately apparent the challenges they endure amid the vulnerability of their climate.

Amidst the ambience of camaraderie, a local brewer pours a calabash of freshly made banana beer for a customer. This space serves not only as a hub for enjoying the brew but also as a sanctuary where community members gather to exchange stories, share experiences, and most importantly, revel in moments of laughter and joy. 

woman selling banana beer
A local brewer serving her customers
Rice sellers at Gitaza beach
Rice sellers a stone throw away from the beach.  
Ann sugarcane seller
A smile graces Ann’s face as she tends to her sugarcane stall, just 50 meters away from the encroaching shores of the rising lake. Despite the looming concern, she remains undeterred, her focus steadfast on providing for and educating her family.
Two girls fetching water at Gitaza
Two girls set out on a task to fetch water from the lake for home use. 
Two men mending their boats
Fishermen, mending their boats, getting ready to surf the lake for a late afternoon fishing excursion.
A boy fetching water at Gitaza beach
A boy enjoying the perks of having the waters close to their home, washing dishes just by the shores of the beach.

In this community, it’s clear: the community faces a phenomenon they don’t understand and may never fully recover from. Yet, their energy and spirit will see them through. 

It is after all a tight-knit community and they have mastered the art of resilience in the face of adversity. We had to take our leave back to Bujumbura, but we have learnt  about the power of positivity, from this beautiful community of Gitaza 

This story was produced with support from InfoNile and MICT under the 2024 #EverydayNile Project.

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