How a bunch of bananas could save a family this Christmas

How a bunch of bananas could save a family this Christmas

You might not think a few bananas could make a lasting difference but Violette is proof otherwise.

Just two years ago, single mum Violette Bukeyeneza was living in desperate conditions and struggling to survive in Cibitoke, Burundi. Her husband had abandoned her five years previously, leaving her with the heavy task of caring for 11 children (in an already dilapidated house) with no source of income. That is until she took part in Concern’s Graduation programme and started her very own banana juice business. Coincidentally, Cibitoke translates from Kirundi (Burundi’s official language) to mean “the land where bananas are plenty”, making this story all the more fitting.

Violette Bukeyeneza and her children Alain (11), Idrissa (7), Rachid (5), Amida (13), and Seraphine (10) in their dilapidated house. Photo: Darren Vaughan/Concern Worldwide.
Violette Bukeyeneza and her children Alain (11), Idrissa (7), Rachid (5), Amida (13), and Seraphine (10) in their dilapidated house. Photo: Darren Vaughan/Concern Worldwide.

But first, what is the Concern Graduation programme?

Our Graduation programme is an extremely effective way of moving vulnerable households out of extreme poverty. It helps programme participants with income support, skills training and mentoring in order to meet their goals and essentially ‘Graduate’ from poverty.  Currently, 4,000 households (that’s 24,000 people) are participating in this programme in Burundi and working their way out of poverty.

Turning bananas into goats

With the series of cash transfers, skills training and coaching that Violette received from the Graduation programme, she was able to start her own business selling banana juice twice a week, earning herself a weekly profit of around 10,000 – 15,000 BIF (€4 – €7). Although this might not seem like a lot, it was the first step in completely transforming Violette and her family’s life. You see, Violette knew exactly what she needed to do next.

She started saving what she could each week until finally, she had enough to purchase a goat for 55,000 BIF (€26). Now, thanks to her bananas, she had a goat and thanks to her goat, she had nutritious milk and premium manure.

Goat’s milk is an excellent source of protein and calcium (especially important for young growing children) and their manure can be used to fertilise crops and vegetable gardens. Better yet, Violette could sell any surplus milk at the local market, earning her that bit more. Pretty good work for a bunch of bananas right? However, Violette did not stop there.

Violette Bukeyeneza outside her dilapidated house with her goat. Photo: Darren Vaughan/Concern.
Violette Bukeyeneza outside her dilapidated house with her goat. Photo: Darren Vaughan/Concern.

By maintaining a strong work ethic, Violette’s business only grew further. Today she has a total of five goats, one cow, one pig, coffee trees and a flourishing vegetable garden with crops such as beans and onions.

With all her profits, Violette was able to make some much-needed home improvements to her two-bedroom house. An extension was added, meaning the whole family could finally stay together at night, as previously her three sons had to sleep at a neighbour’s house. Violette also completely replaced her home’s roof with sturdier corrugated iron sheets to block out any rain.

Her home now has essential household items like a table, chairs, and cutlery, and her children can all go to school in clean uniforms with all the necessary schoolbooks and stationary.

Violette Bukeyeneza with her cow. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Concern Worldwide.
Violette Bukeyeneza with her cow. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Concern Worldwide.
Violette Bukeyeneza watering her home garden at her home in Bukinanyana, Cibitoke. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Concern Worldwide.
Violette Bukeyeneza watering her home garden at her home in Bukinanyana, Cibitoke. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Concern Worldwide.
Violette Bukeyeneza sitting at her new kitchen table with her children, Amida Tuyishimire, Rashid Niyogushimwa, Lievain Irankunda, Idrissa Nzoyisaba 8, and Ghyslaine Iteriteka 6. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Concern Worldwide.
Violette Bukeyeneza sitting at her new kitchen table with her children, Amida Tuyishimire, Rashid Niyogushimwa, Lievain Irankunda, Idrissa Nzoyisaba 8, and Ghyslaine Iteriteka 6. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Concern Worldwide.
Violette Bukeyeneza with her coffee beans. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Concern Worldwide.
Violette Bukeyeneza with her coffee beans. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Concern Worldwide.
Violette Bukeyeneza (45) and her son Lievain Irankunda 3 (M) with the pig she has bought from the profits of her business at her home in Bukinanyana, Cibitoke, Burundi.Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Concern Worldwide.
Violette Bukeyeneza (45) and her son Lievain Irankunda 3 (M) with the pig she has bought from the profits of her business at her home in Bukinanyana, Cibitoke, Burundi.Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Concern Worldwide.

When I got the chance to sit down with Violette to discuss all of her achievements, it was hard not to notice the confidence beaming from her. I think it really hit home when at the end of our chat, she proudly and simply said;

Now there is nothing I can’t afford

Violette Bukeyeneza

Concern Gifts

Often with Concern Gifts (our alternative gift offering for Christmas), it’s not so much investing in a gift but more so investing in a person. Violette is a shining example of what can be done when just a little guidance and support is provided… along with a few bananas.

You can help thousands of people like Violette this Christmas by purchasing a Concern Gift for a loved one. If bananas are not quite your favourite pick, no need to worry, there are over 25 other gifts to choose from.

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