"I am a well known trader in our locality!" Helping communities in Burundi to build businesses

Violette and her family in Burundi. Photo: Concern Worldwide.
Violette and her family in Burundi. Photo: Concern Worldwide.
News16 May 2022Tony Cuddihy

The Tubehoneza Programme in Burundi is helping families like Violette Nizigiyimana's to get back on their feet and start new businesses.

Violette Nizigiyimana is a 37-year-old mother of five and a member of a Savings and Internal Lending Community (SILC) group that has helped her and her family to turn their lives around. 

The SILC group is supported by the Tubehoneza Programme, of which Concern is a part, which looks to build resilience against natural, economic and political crises and help communities out of poverty.

Violette explains how life was for her and her family before she joined the group. 

"I was very afraid, I thought that being in associations was for rich and educated people," she tells us.

"My household only lived on a few pennies from the labour that we had to provide to the neighbours every day, I had resigned myself to this situation. We ate only once a day, and among my five children, two were malnourished and were even enrolled in the care centre.

"We [even] slept on the floor, without a blanket."

Violette and her family's situation has improved dramatically. Photo: Concern Worldwide.
Violette and her family's situation has improved dramatically. Photo: Concern Worldwide.

Everything changed for Violette, her husband Ndagijimana and their children when the Tubehoneze Programme came to their community in Burundi.

"I had a great experience!" Violette enthuses.

"This is the first association I have been involved with since I was born. I was among the first ones to join the savings association as taught by the Tubehoneza Concern staff."

Violette felt that the small amount of capital she held at the start would not lead to anything, but was ultimately able to take out a small loan in order to start her business selling vegetables in the community.

"I started saving at 500FBU (Burundian Francs). After 3 months, I contracted a debt of 20,000FBU and I started a small business of selling vegetables.

"With the profit earned I decided to rent a field with a contract to harvest in this field three times when the harvest is ready. I then became a wholesaler of these vegetables and even added the trade of tomatoes."

Violette's business is beginning to take shape. Photo: Concern Worldwide.
Violette's business is beginning to take shape. Photo: Concern Worldwide.

Strengthening the business

In order to strengthen her business, Violette joined forces with a friend and they pooled their resources.

She explains how she had money to start a shoe business and bought some small livestock, and this allowed her to earn a lot more and ultimately improve the living conditions of her household.

"Today, I can't believe it! I am a well known trader in our locality. I have small livestock, I bought a plot of land at 600,000FBU that I cultivate using good agricultural techniques learned.

"I even bought two television sets and their accessories.

"One of these TVs and accessories is used to show awareness films to the community, which gives me money in return. On average, I can have an income of 80,000FBU (almost €40.00) per month. The other TV set is used in my household for the entertainment of my children.”

Violette and her family in Burundi. Photo: Concern Worldwide.
Violette and her family in Burundi. Photo: Concern Worldwide.

Continuing to work together

Another benefit of the programme, insists Violette's husband Ndagijimana, comes in the form of the gender equality component that helps couples to work together to build a stronger household. 

"Our household is now very developed," says Ndagijimana.

"My wife is very active, we earn a lot, she involves me, she consults me before doing anything [and] this has improved also thanks to sensitisation that she had in another component of [the Tubehoneza Programme, around Engaging Men]. I am very happy because all these sensitisations have [helped us to avoid] possible conflicts related to the management of this rising standard of living."

Both Violette and Ndagijimana have future projects in mind; he plans to buy a motorcycle cab as a way to boost their income further.

"At the stage where Tubehoneza leaves me, I am confident that our household will not go back, we will continue to work together to diversify our income resource," says Violette. 

African child holding onto older sister

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