Burundi Insights: Funding in a Fragile State

Dedo Baranshamaje, of the Segal Family Foundation works on the ground in Burundi.

This April 3-5, Pangea was happy to host Dedo Baranshamaje of the Segal Family Foundation. The SFF is a private foundation, funded by American Barry Segal to work in Sub Saharan Africa since 2004. Pangea first learned of the SFF after Africa pod member Darrell Johnson’s 2013 volunteer experience in Burundi, and Pangea is currently funding two organizations in Burundi on their recommendation: SaCoDe and UCBUM.

Burundi has been a troubled region in particular since their presidential elections last summer, causing operational and communication issues with our partners in that country. Dedo’s visit gave us insights into funding in fragile states, the history & culture of Burundi, and the approach of the SFF to its funding and its own operations.

There are many similarities between Pangea Giving and SFF. Both believe in respect for the efforts of people around the world to improve their lives by working with and for their local communities. Both groups encourage organizations to grow responsibly and sustainability, building their capacity over a grant cycle of many years, often with operational grants after the introductory year. And both groups believe strongly in relationships.


The Africa pod learning about the state of Burundi and why SFF is standing by their partners there.


But how do you identify the visionaries who can make local change happen? For the SFF, it means having employees on the ground, living in the areas being funded, meeting with locals and observing first hand who the local change-makers are. It also means providing not only financial support, but assisting with peer-to-peer connections and providing capacity building workshops. One of these programs, the Burundi Social Incubator, had weekly classes over a period of months, involving every aspect and every staff member of the participant organizations. Both of our Burundian partners are “graduates” of this program.

This innovative program has ceased due to Burundi’s political instability. SFF continues to fund in Burundi, as do we. Those bedrock relationships are a huge part of funding under such circumstances. If you work with people you know and trust, when schedules slip or the number of people served is less than intended, funders try support their partners efforts in whatever ways possible. There’s no magic bullet.

Dedo Baranshamaje’s visit was a reminder of that and his insights and inspirations were a valuable gift to Pangea.