Imagine a small town in a lush green landscape with two mighty rivers running through it. Residents – farmers, nurses, children, merchants, mothers, miners, teachers – all going about their daily business. The town is called Bihambwe, located in North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Like any other town, rush hour can be a stressful time of day here, but the people of Bihambwe faced a particular challenge. The Mumba and Mema rivers flowing through town had no bridge or infrastructure connecting their opposite banks. The town was effectively cut off from roads and cities such as Goma, the capital of North Kivu, which limited socio-economic opportunities.
Hope Yese Kireka runs one of Bihambwe’s schools and explains, “Before the construction of the two bridges, the population suffered a lot. We had to pay to travel by piggyback on young men to cross the rivers. We had many cases of drowning, especially children, but also our cows, goats, sheep and pigs.”
Local hospitals and health centers were supported with medical provisions from civil society groups, but the sick and injured were also transported on people’s back to reach care. Farmers and miners transported their goods to sell outside of town with great difficulty, depressing production and income for the area.
After the implementation of the iTSCi program in North Kivu province in 2014 to support responsible trade in tin, tantalum and tungsten minerals, the local government and communities were able to raise more revenue from contributions from mineral exporters and reinvest it back into the community through a locally managed basket fund. The Bihambwe community and the North Kivu provincial government decided to allocate more than $400,000 from their basket fund to build two bridges over the Mumba and Mema rivers, solving many of the residents' problems.
Bihambwe Bridge was inaugurated in July 2015, and Mema Bridge in May 2016.
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