AIMPO - African Initiative for Mankind Progress Organization

Sanitation and Hygiene Education Community Centre in Gicumbi-Byumba, Rwanda

Credit: AIMPO

USD 25.000 grant
to improve health and hygiene 
among Batwa communities of Gicumbi-Byumba 
by constructing a sanitation and hygiene education center 
equipped with education materials and ten toilets.

on this page, we aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the significance of this grant. Here, you can learn about the community served by this project and the particular challenges they face. We also offer insights into AIMPO, the Indigenous-led organization we proudly support, and a thorough account of the project they are undertaking. We invite you to delve further, consider becoming an ally, and discover ways to offer direct support to AIMPO, all detailed on this page.

The Community

The Batwa in Rwanda

The Batwa are widely recognised as the Indigenous inhabitants of Africa's Great Lakes Region.
Their ancestral territories lie in the equatorial forests of Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

For millenia, these forests provided the Batwa with sustenance, medicine, and sacred sites and rituals, but they were evicted from their homelands in waves of transnationally-influenced forest conservation and development efforts throughout the 20th century. In Rwanda, much of their traditional territory now falls under one of the country's national parks: Volcanoes, Gishwati, and Nyungwe.

To further complicate the matter, the Government of Rwanda has embarked on a 'de-ethnicisation' campaign to remove ethnic identity from the public discourse as well as policy after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. As a consequence, the Indigenous Batwa have become even further marginalised because their invisibility is now institutionalised. Officially, the Batwa aren't considered  Indigenous Peoples (like they are in Uganda), but Historically Marginalized Peoples (HMP).

A 2018 report by a Senate special commission estimated that there are 34,000 HMP in Rwanda, a country with a total population of 12.95 million. The same report points out that 95% of HMP in Rwanda live in poverty, 87% in extreme poverty. Spatially, socially and economically marginalized, HMP lack access to land, housing, healthcare and education, perpetuating a vicious cycle of dispossession and impoverishment.

Displaced from their ancestral territories, the Batwa population in Rwanda lost access to the resource-rich forests they inhabited for millennia. This has severely impacted their livelihoods, cultural identity, and well-being. On top of that dispossession, and despite efforts by a few civil society organizations, the Batwa in Rwanda continue to face political, economic, and social discrimination.

Conservation and tourism initiatives often exclude the Batwa, as they require costly start-up and membership fees for cooperatives and associations. Cultural tourism opportunities mainly operate at the cooperative level, leaving individual Batwa artisans without access to funding. Housing and landlessness issues have worsened due to climate change, resulting in forced relocations that disproportionately affect them. Access to education remains challenging, with high dropout rates among Batwa children due to financial constraints, lack of resources, and discrimination.

Credit: AIMPO

The Problem

In 2022, AIMPO conducted a health assessment in the Batwa communities of Gicumbi district, in Rwanda's Northern Province. Hygiene and sanitation coverage in villages such as Bukamba remains remarkably low. Of the 72 households visited by AIMPO, 68 practiced open defecation, and 56 lacked basic sanitation facilities.

Inadequate sanitation coverage has led to the persistence of fecal-oral diseases and the contamination of surface and underground water sources. Lack of access to safe drinking water and appropriate sanitation have been significant concerns within this community. Moreover, due to several concurring marginalization factors, the community's own responsibility for personal hygiene, housekeeping, and cleanliness must be promoted.

Credit: AIMPO

In September 2023, AIMPO once again visited the villages in Gicumbi, and met circumstances even more distressing than those identified during their initial survey. They came across overcrowded houses - a small dwelling can be shared by as much as 8 individuals. Furthermore, most homes are completely devoid of any basic household materials. It's worth sharing AIMPO's own words, "It is truly disheartening to witness everyone sleeping on a floor covered in dirt, without mattresses, mosquito nets, bedsheets, or blankets. A large number of people coexist with their cows and sheep under the same roof." When there is a roof. AIMPO points out that most houses are even deprived of essential iron sheets.

Credit: AIMPO

This creates an ideal breeding ground for fleas and ultimately leads to a widespread infestation of jiggers, an incredibly painful parasitic infection, which poses a major threat to the community's health and well-being. The absence of roofs leads to the parasites falling directly into overcrowded homes, where many sleep in a small room. Without professional medical care, it's common for villagers to try to extract the parasite, which lodges itself near finger and toenails, using unsterilized knives. This often leads to other infections, for which no health care will be provided either.

Credit: AIMPO

Cooking in the traditional Rwandan manner goes on indoors, but there are no kitchens. The excessive smoke poses several risks and leads to breathing problems. And without essential utensils, such as saucepans, plates, forks, and spoons, food contamination is all too frequent.

Basic clothing and footwear, essential for maintaining personal hygiene and protecting from parasites such as jiggers, are also lacking.

AIMPO was very clear in their assessment of the situation: the people in Gicumbi are grappling with extreme poverty, living in deplorable conditions, and, most urgently, facing a severe hunger crisis.

The Grantee

AIMPO - African Initiative for Mankind Progress Organization

Established in 2001, the African Initiative for Mankind Progress Organization (AIMPO) is a nationally recognized, non-governmental and non-profit Batwa-led organization, dedicated to the advancement of Rwanda's Indigenous Batwa population, legally categorized as 'Historically Marginalized Peoples' (HMP). The Government of Rwanda required the organization to change its name from the African Indigenous Minority People's Organization to its current name in 2007, claiming that the recognition of ethnicity and indigeneity is not relevant to Rwanda.

Credit: AIMPO

Their mission is to advance individual and collective rights, facilitate sustainable development, and promote social, political, and economic integration of the Batwa into society. AIMPO conducts community mapping to understand challenges and resources, collaborates with local and international organizations to secure land rights and scholarships, empowers the Batwa through livelihood programs, and provides livestock for improved nutrition and crop production. Through their impactful efforts, AIMPO has made significant changes in the lives of the Batwa, upholding their rights and fostering sustainable development.

Credit: AIMPO

Richard Ntakirutimana (Batwa), AIMPO's director, has dedicated his life to delivering high-impact, cost-effective, and culturally competent capacity-building programs to the Batwa in Rwanda. He has done so while also bringing visibility to the Batwa through his academic work.

AIMPO's staff, volunteers and members almost exclusively identify as Mutwa/HMP, and live and work in all of Rwanda's five provinces, enabling AIMPO to establish strong relationships with communities all over the country. This structure has led to AIMPO's extensive experience in implementing projects related to local participation in the public sphere.

AIMPO has partnered with the Government, the UN Human Rights Council, the European Union, and several other international foundations and agencies for the more than 60 long- and short-term projects they have accomplished since 2001.

Credit: AIMPO

In over 20 years of truly extraordinary grassroots work, AIMPO has: 

Secured Land Rights; Created social and economic development programs, including for women, youth, and persons with disabilities; Built schools and offered scholarships opportunities; Provided Human Rights training to communities; Worked on projects to improve reproductive health; Developed Food Security solutions and improved nutrition; Promoted sustainability through projects to manage waste and protect the environment; Offered skill development programs; Organized campaigns to prevent AIDS and raise awareness; Brought clean water and sanitation to communities through WASH projects; Helped more people get health insurance; Advocated for women's rights and their participation in politics.

Credit: AIMPO


Official Website

The Project 

Sanitation and Hygiene Education Community Centre in Gicumbi-Byumba, Rwanda

With a simultaneous focus on infrastructure and education, this new Center built by AIMPO will improve hygiene, washing practices, and overall health of around 360 community members.

The project includes the construction of ten toilets - 1 for every 3 neighboring households - while also empowering the community to plan for improvements and to own and operate WASH facilities. 

At the same time, the Center will feature educational materials aimed at improving the community's knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding sanitation and hygiene management, therefore also improving the community's self-esteem.

Credit: AIMPO

The project entails several other activities to promote hygiene, like door-to-door visits and campaigns. It recognizes the influence of faith leaders, local leaders, and community members who will be trained to spread hygiene messages. A sanitation toolkit has been developed to enhance the project's impact. Two trainers will train community hygiene promoters, ensuring widespread knowledge and skills.

Local leaders at the village, cell, and sector levels will actively participate in the project's implementation and continue monitoring its progress, success, and impact even after completion. AIMPO will be affiliated with the Joint Action Development Forum of Gicumbi and collaborate with local partners in the district to promote and improve the socio-economic conditions of the communities beyond the project's phase-out. Additionally, community members will be identified and trained to ensure their capacity to sustainably monitor the project's outcomes and impacts once it concludes.

As mentioned above, the Batwa communities in Gicumbi where this project is being implemented find themselves ensnared in a dire hunger crisis. The ambitious endeavor to construct the Health and Hygiene Education Community Center encounters heightened complexity as community members, integral to the project's success, grapple with profound vulnerability. Consequently, this grant extends its reach beyond infrastructure development, earmarking resources to provide essential emergency food support—a sphere where AIMPO has cultivated expertise over many years.

Credit: AIMPO


As mentioned above, AIMPO found a dire situation in their latest visit to Gicumbi. To deal with the urgent problems faced by the community, AIMPO is working to build partnerships and access funding opportunities for two other important projects: improving the housing infrastructure and developing food security solutions.

Construction of the new Sanitation and Hygiene Education Community Centre began during this latest visit, but AIMPO also embarked on a community outreach program to improve overall community hygiene, provide relief from jigger infestations, and enhance the overall well-being of the community members.

Credit: AIMPO

4 AIMPO staff members and 12 volunteers from the community conducted home visits to engage directly with community members. During these visits, the team provided guidance on proper house cleaning techniques and hygiene practices. AIMPO distributed hygiene kits containing essential items such as soaps to every household, and the team conducted hands-on demonstrations on the proper use of these items. A community-wide clothes washing event was also organized, and AIMPO provided basins and soaps for this purpose, fostering a sense of communal participation.

Faced with the severe health implications of jigger infestations, the team organized sessions to help community members heal from jiggers. Skilled professionals were brought in to safely remove jiggers, clean wounds, and provide necessary medical care.

Credit: AIMPO

Recognizing that personal hygiene extends to grooming, AIMPO arranged for a professional barber to provide haircuts to community members who wished to partake, boosting self-esteem and overall well-being.

AIMPO also supplied essential food items to the community to alleviate immediate food insecurity concerns. This included staple foods such as maize flour.

The response from the community was overwhelmingly positive. Community members were eager to implement the hygiene practices they had learned and appreciated the immediate relief provided by the jigger treatment. 

Besides continuing to work on the Sanitation and Hygiene Education Community Centre, AIMPO is committed to the long-term well-being of the community. To ensure sustained improvements in hygiene and living conditions, they plan to conduct follow-up visits to monitor progress and address any emerging issues. AIMPO is also exploring opportunities for skill development and income generation within the community.

Credit: AIMPO


In November, AIMPO returned to Gicumbi, renewing its commitment to addressing the hunger crisis afflicting the Batwa community amidst the ongoing WASH project implementation. Beyond immediate nutritional relief, AIMPO broadened its relief efforts to include the distribution of essential cooking utensils, as it seeks to address systemic issues contributing to food safety concerns.

This comprehensive assistance package comprised 1750kg of Maize Flour, 1750kg of Rice, 1750kg of Beans, 210 L of Oil, along with 140 Basins and 140 Saucepans.

AIMPO's holistic approach aligns with its history of significant food security initiatives among Batwa communities in Rwanda. The organization's ongoing research aims to identify sustainable and reliable food sources tailored to the unique needs of this community. However, given the urgency of the prevailing circumstances, the distribution of emergency food support remains a paramount and timely measure to confront the immediate challenges on the ground.

A few weeks following the distribution of emergency food support, AIMPO took another significant step by procuring sweet potato seeds. Subsequently, the organization rallied the Gicumbi community for a day dedicated to planting this new crop.

In its commitment to ensuring both immediate and sustainable food security, AIMPO is strategically targeting the communities' primary vulnerabilities. By doing so, it is laying the groundwork for the successful establishment and operation of the Sanitation and Hygiene Education Community Centre.

Watch our interview with AIMPO's Executive Director, Richard Ntakirutimana:

Azimuth World Foundation is a proud supporter of AIMPO and we urge you to support their work as well. To make a donation directly to AIMPO, please visit the "Support" page on their website. 

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