Building skills and a better future in Burundi

Ariella (20) started a plan to generate income for herself

Etienne Niyongabo
Building skills and a better future in Burundi
UNICEF Burundi
23 July 2020

This article was originally published by UNICEF Burundi here.

Ariella Nininahazwe is 20 years old and is from Bukeye, Nyanza lac, Makamba, in the southern part of Burundi.  She is the youngest child in her family and lives in the countryside. Ariella is one of the 30,000 adolescents who has been enrolled in a youth skills program implemented by UNICEF Burundi. The program seeks to empower young people by equipping them with skills such as self-awareness, self-confidence, problem-solving, citizenship, and civic engagement.  

One of the program's strategies is organizing participants in solidarity groups and introducing financial literacy to increase their economic resilience and income management capacity. Each solidarity group has a savings and credit union fueled by contributions from members. Each member can access funds to stimulate their small start-up business.  

Ariella was quick to understand how this system was going to help her. She borrowed 50,000 BIF (28 USD) the first time to start a small vegetable business, so she bought eggplants, tomatoes, and onions from local farmers and sold them in town. "When I paid back my loan, I was encouraged by friends to reinvest the profit into another business," she says. Ariella took out another loan worth 100,000 BIF (56 USD) to start her second venture and grow rice. She paid for seeds and fertilizer, and she hired three other members from her group to help her plow the land.  

"At first, I was hesitant because planting rice is a long-term investment, and you only reap benefits if you are consistent with hard work. Now it's been four months, and my rice field is beautiful, getting ready for the harvest… I worked so hard for it. I am so happy to see the results in front of my eyes!" she affirms.  

Other members of her group also took out loans to grow rice. By coming together as small scale farmers, they collectively bargained on prices of fertilizer inputs and seeds. This also facilitated their transportation to the rice field and, most importantly, created other business opportunities throughout the value chain for other members of the solidarity group.  

Ariella explains that what motivated her to do this was when her life-skills group leader asked her to identify her lifelong aspiration and a strategy to fulfill it. "I soon realized that for me, it was to become a doctor. But this goal comes with major challenges, so I quickly realized that in order to succeed, I had to have a plan to generate income for myself." Ariella's plan came true.  

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