Mediatrice Horimbere, a subsistence farmer in central Burundi, faced the same harsh reality each morning: she could only afford one meal a day. With limited income and failed crops, the 32-year-old mother would prepare a single dish of cassava or sweet potatoes for her five children.
“They were always sick,” she says of her children’s health a year ago. “When I would take them to the health centre, they would tell me that I’m not feeding them properly. But because I did not know [what to do], I just left it the way it is.”
Mediatrice lives alone with her children, and cultivates on a small plot of land behind their mud-brick home. “What I grow, I just give to my children,” she says, adding that she doesn’t produce enough food to sell for additional income. Her husband, who lives in the capital city of Bujumbura, works as a house servant. Although he visits his family every few months, his meagre income is not enough to sustain their needs when their crops fail.
In Burundi, more than 80 per cent of the population lives under the international poverty line of 1.25 US dollars a day, reports UNICEF.
Mediatrice and her family live in a rural village within the Rutegama Area Development Programme (ADP), an area where World Vision works in Burundi. In January 2011, community development workers invited Mediatrice to a World Vision training session about planting and crop maintenance.
“Before, we were just planting in any manner,” says Mediatrice, who had not received previous training on how to cultivate effectively. “World Vision has given me knowledge.”
Through the training, Mediatrice learned how to properly sow seeds and care for her garden at each stage of its growth. She also learned affordable ways to diversify her crops — providing a more balanced diet to her children. Each of these techniques has helped her to become more resilient to the effects of unpredictable weather. “I have learned how to deal with the climate change,” Mediatrice says confidently.
After the training session, World Vision gave Mediatrice soybean seeds to plant in her garden. “I did not know about the beans. It was the first time I saw the soybeans with my eyes,” she admits. Mediatrice now uses the beans as a more nutritious alternative to maize.
“I like soya porridge,” says her 10-year-old daughter Merisa. The first-grader also enjoys working in the garden. “I like helping my mother to grow crops,” she says.
Mediatrice is proud of the increase she has seen during harvest time. “Before I learned about the good practices in agriculture, the harvest was too low. But now the harvest is good,” she explains. “That’s why I can eat three times a day. My children are no longer hungry.”
Mediatrice, who also received training on how to prepare balanced meals, is eager to share the information she has learned. “If I see my friends or my neighbours facing the same problems I had with my children, I advise them on what they should do.”
By Nicolette Beharie