Every six months our team visits Rwanda and the village of Bwiza. We check in on the progress of the pygmies, provide them with vitamin and nutritional supplementation, answer their questions about health and development, and give them recommendations for simple yet effective ways that they can improve their lives and help their community. Below you will find reports from our Field Manager on the Pygmy Survival Alliance Facebook page, along with the latest entries from our blog detailing our most recent trip.

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September 28, 2011 - Celebration of Claude

Claude is PSA's Field Officer. He dedicates his time to the people of Bwiza. He is a soccer star and is using his talents to form a soccer team with the children of the village. We took time out and with the help of Dr. Susan threw a big birthday party for Claude.

September 19, 2011 - Welcome song to Bwiza

Check out our first day back in Rwanda. We participated in a village counsel meeting. Listen...

August 22, 2011 - More farmland for Bwiza

The people of Bwiza have decided to use a recent donation from the US Embassy in Kigali to build terraces to improve their agricultural output. The village of Bwiza is located on steep and rocky hillsides, but the residents are able to cultivate a number of nourishing crops by digging a series of level fields in the hillside. There are 40 new terraces, so each family will own two.
Additionally, a veterinary officer was recruited to follow up with the animals in Bwiza. The officer will visit the village three times a week.

August 22, 2011 - Basket weaving in Bwiza starts up

Thirty-two people in Bwiza are learning to weave traditional Rwandan baskets, as part of paid training provided by UN Women. COPHAD’s representatives on the ground are helping coordinate the project, which will provide the villagers with training five days a week for six months on how to weave a high quality product.

The goal is to generate income. Morale is high!

August 22, 2011 - Bwiza’s musicians perform – get your copy today!

Bwiza's performance group has just released a new CD of traditional songs about peace, unity and hope. This is unique music that you can't hear anywhere else!

With a donation of $35 or more, you can have your very own copy of the CD.

(Please write “Kwizera CD” in the “Special instructions” section when you make your donation.)

Thank you very much for your support!

June 3, 2011 - See our progress! 2008-2011

In 2008, Pygmy Survival Alliance began working in the village Bwiza, Rwanda, with a population of about 150 people. At that time, the village was physically close to the capital, Kigali, but the living conditions were dramatically worse. Bwiza residents lived in stick houses and went without eating on a daily basis because of lack of food. Their children were slowly dying of malnutrition, and the adults had almost no hope for the future.

The Community of Potters Health and Development (COPHAD) project started because the leaders of the Community of Potters in Rwanda (Batwa Pygmies) asked us to help them stop the decline in their population. COPHAD empowers people to solve their own problems using their own resources. With the people, we develop a plan that they can do themselves, together with our help.

COPHAD applies broad methods to a specific, critical focus: to find and address the root causes of poverty and illness and reverse them. We have focused on inexpensive interventions with a big impact -- our first project being the distribution of cheap, blue plastic shoes to everyone. Even now, we are sometimes known in Bwiza as the people who "taught the pygmies to wear shoes".

We had no clue that those shoes would not only help children to attend school and women to work in the market; but also, to help women gain equality, and to reverse the longstanding cultural prejudice historically maintained by Bwiza's neighbors against the villagers.

COPHAD saves lives, improves the welfare of the poorest people in one of the poorest countries of the world, and is both affordable and sustainable. After three years in Bwiza, we are on the verge of establishing food security -- and that comes after we have already achieved universal health insurance, 100% primary school enrollment, total restoration of traditional dance and performance traditions, rising standards of living and remarkably, even gender equality. Sixty new brick house are now being built in a collaborative partnership with the government of Rwanda and Bwiza's surrounding neighbors. And, the people of Bwiza have become the only certified agricultural cooperative in Rwanda based in a former Batwa community. They are first pygmies to ever own cows.

In Bwiza, COPHAD used humanitarian aid, public health, education, sanitation and hygiene, nutrition, agriculture, the arts and business to create a positive change cycle leading to reduced infant mortality through enhanced socio-cultural adaptation. The result has been to unlock human potential and transform peoples’ lives.

Services delivered and outcomes achieved by Bwiza villagers 2008-2011

COPHAD Provided Services

BWIZA Delivered Outcomes


New access to market and school

School uniforms

5 children started school; now all are in primary; 2 in secondary

Village Health and Development Council

First-time village leadership structure and performance with ongoing leadership training

“Mutuelle” Health Insurance Cards

First-time attendance at Health Centers and Health Care, now with women routinely seeking pre-natal and delivery care in a supported health center

De-worming + Vitamin A supplementation

First-time decreased incidence of diarrhea; improved health, school attendance and energy levels

Health education: sanitation & hygiene

Built five latrines, began hand washing practices; now overall visible improvement in hygiene of the people

44 Plastic roof tarps

44 stick houses re-built with new roofs

Nutritional Supplements

First-time amelioration of kwashiorkor in vulnerable infants

Manure for gardens, plus seeds

Better gardens and crop yields; reduced food insecurity

Micro-finance planning

New business initiatives, creating 5-person trading partnerships to trade in goat skins and vegetables

Technical Assistance to dig a surface well and build water collection tanks

Healthier water, more productive use of time, better water available for goats and cows

Liaison with Ministry of Agriculture

Started rock quarry; sold dump trucks full of stone daily

Hoes, shovels, pickaxes

Built 62 farming terraces; crop yield = 1 ton beans in first year; even greater yields thereafter

Liaison with US Embassy, Kigali

Pygmy song and dance troupe “KWIZERA” organized and performing; now, new CD produced and distribution ongoing

Monitoring and Evaluation Services

Data-driven basis for program development; post-intervention survey ongoing June 2011

Creation and training of “ABAHUZA” Cooperative

Leadership training, financial management, business and agricultural education

Liaison with Executives of the Cell, Sector, District and Ministry of Local Government

Partnership relationship for housing construction and future spread of COPHAD development methods to other poor Rwandan communities

Liaison with Heifer International

Donation of animal husbandry curriculum

Coordination of multiple donor groups

Establishment of goat herd; now with over 96 goats. Introduction of cows; now with 11 cows.

Compressed-earth brick machine

Thousands of bricks made to build new houses

June 2, 2011 - Bwiza performance group CD to be released

Bwiza’s performance troup, Kwizera is set to release a CD of traditional songs this year called “Songs of Bwiza”. It will include music that promotes messages of peace and understanding. The recording was made by Phil Vernon from British Columbia, Canada with the help of an international group of volunteers and will be available for purchase soon on

This is big news for the community.

When we first met with the people of Bwiza we told them that we’d heard pygmies used to dance for the king of Rwanda, and so we asked if this community still danced. They responded, “No.” We asked them through the translator, “Why not?” And they told us that they couldn’t sing and dance anymore because they were hungry.

Now, with food security improved in Bwiza, people are singing and dancing again! Volunteer Karl Derringer generously donated costumes and arranged for them to perform at the US embassy’s crafts fair in 2009.

June 2, 2011 - Training, training and more training!

Private sector organization, Women for Women, is conducting training for 120 women on entrepreneurship once a week for four months. In attendance will be 13 women from Bwiza. The group will learn about small business ventures like making juice, raising poultry, and selling milk.

Karl Deringer, one of our volunteers, has also helped to encourage entrepreneurship by promoting groups of five persons to form teams for trading local resources at markets. They “buy low” at one market and then carry the goods to another market where they can “sell high”. In this way, the teams are learning money management skills. Starting with a loan of about $10 per person, they have been able to pay off the loans after several months. (Left: Members of the cooperative hold salt licks they were able to buy for their cows using their profits.)

Heifer International is also conducting training with 40 community members from Bwiza’s “ABAHUZA” cooperative on effective animal care and husbandry. Since 2008, livestock in Bwiza has grown from 1 cow and 34 goats, to 11 cows and 96 goats. Bwiza residents have expressed the need for more training on how to care for the animals.

In the training, community members will learn the signs of a sick goat or cow so they can identify ailing animals. They will also learn how to administer medicine to the livestock, if the illness is serious. (Right: A trainer teaches the group about proper grazing for cattle.)