Today we take you on a ride to Gihanga Commune in Bubanza Province. In this community, bicycles are a necessity for daily survival. Community members most basic needs, like access to clean water, can only be met by riding miles from home on bike. The most common phrase we heard to describe Gihanga was a striking one: “To Ride Is Life.” These 4 words, echoed over and over, carry the same weight for children and adults alike in Gihanga Commune.
Ride a mile in the shoes of Burundians from Gihanga Commune. But first, Gihanga through the eyes of someone from the big city, Bujumbura…
In Gihanga Commune, in the eastern province of Bubanza, there is no access to water tanks or even clean water, so they suffer the consequences of having to go very far distances just to fetch water. Imagine if you don’t have a bicycle, you die twice: you die of malnutrition and tiredness. If you can’t carry a big, heavy jerry can of water on your head for a long distance, walking on foot, then your only option is to use dirty water from wells and rivers. Here, the “rich” must have a bicycle, even if it’s an old worn-out one, in order to help collect water.
Women are the best bicycle riders in Gihanga Commune. Despite being either pregnant or carrying a baby on her back, she will still ride a bicycle to collect water. Because of the condition of life here, mothers, children, and fathers need to ride for water and other problems their community faces.
And, finally, Gihanga through the eyes of those for whom “To Ride Is Life…”
I am from Bubanza in Gihanga Commune. In my home village a bicycle is a great tool in our daily life. We use it for transportation for different activities like fetching water, transporting baggage, and so forth. Once in Gihanga, you find ladies and children of 8 years riding bicycles with jerry cans. I started to ride at the age of 8. Even at that young age, we had to ride almost 4.5 miles in order to find clean water.
Every family should have a bicycle in Gihanga. Maybe in America it is a car that everyone should have at their home, but in Gihanga Commune, you can give up every other thing except to live without a bicycle.
Apart from fetching water, a bicycle has helped me make money in holy days by going to Rukoko forest to find firewood to collect and sell. It has also helped me make money through fetching water for a construction site, where I could earn $3.50 per day. It has helped our family survive. Because to ride is life, if you don’t have bicycle then you are nothing in society, because everything is done by a bicycle.
If you don’t know the importance of a bicycle, come and ask me and I will let you know how I get school materials and fees through riding. If there weren’t bicycles, I know hundreds of families, including mine, that could not survive. A bicycle is not a vehicle for amusement. But it is a vehicle that helps lots of families survive in my area.
Life is impossible for Gihangans without a bicycle – it’s really true that to ride is life.
We are lucky to work with our Burundian partners and friends in-country, and we are ever grateful to them for sharing intimate stories from their communities and lives. We couldn’t bring you these stories without their commitment to BFI. Deep gratitude to today’s contributing authors: Schadrack Ndayihimbaze, Innocent Niyongabo, and Jérémie Ntirandekura.
Communities like Gihanga Commune are the reason BFI is sending a 6-person team to RAGBRAI. Support communities who need the most in Burundi! Help BFI meet our $50k goal for RAGBRAI by donating today: https://www.classy.org/campaign/cycling4burundi/c191396.