Stories from the Farm: Their Favorite Food at Every Meal

Stories from the Farm: Their Favorite Food at Every Meal
Staff Writer
From, by Evariste Bagambiki

It's nine in the morning in Ruhinga, Rwanda, and everyone in Odette Nyirahabineza’s family is busy doing something different. Her daughters, Chantal Mujawimana, 21, and Françoise Nishimwe, 19, are working in the field; her husband, Francois Sebitabi, feeds the milk cow; and her youngest children, Collette Ibyimanikora, 17, Domina Iradukunda, 14, and Emmanuel Kwizera, 12, are at school. Just outside their mud-walled home, Odette picks grass and pebbles out of the beans that she will cook for lunch.

Before Odette married her husband François Sebitabi in 1994, she never thought about planting beans, let alone making them a part of her daily diet. It all started when her first child, Chantal Mujawimana, started to eat solid foods around the age of two.

“Beans were Chantal’s first favorite food. If there were no beans on her plate, she would be in tears. So I would make sure to put at least a little bit of beans on her plate at every meal,” Odette says.

A year later, Odette was blessed with her second child, little Françoise Nishimwe. Given her experience with her first baby, Odette wasn’t altogether surprised when, around the two-year mark, it became clear that beans were also Françoise’s favorite food. Odette began to think loving beans was hereditary. With plans to grow her family, she started cultivating beans on her farm, which was less than one acre in size.

Her kids’ love of beans was the main reason Odette decided to grow beans, but it wasn’t the only one. A nutrition officer from the nearest health center had taught Odette that beans are very nutritious. Odette was excited to grow more beans because of the protein they would deliver to her growing children.

“Beans are very nutritious—they make me strong, and I can work in my field until sunset,” Odette says. “I had known the secret of beans before, but speaking to the nutrition officer confirmed it.”

As the years went by, Chantal and Françoise grew older, but their love of beans remained as strong as when they were toddlers. Odette and her husband had five more children, all of whom shared their older siblings’ enthusiasm for beans.

Over time, it became clear that Odette’s 220-pound bean harvest was just not enough to feed such big family. Once her harvest ran out, she would sell some of her bananas to buy beans, so that she could feed her family while she waited for her next beans to mature enough to harvest.

“I was not able to purchase clothes for the kids regularly anymore. At a certain point, I started using the income from my bananas to buy beans instead of buying clothes,” Odette says.

With seven kids to feed and clothe, Odette decided to enroll with One Acre Fund in 2012. She purchased fertilizer on credit and learned improved planting techniques, including how to micro-dose fertilizer and how to properly space seed. Her hope was that the improved planting techniques would be enough to turn things around for her family. 

That year, Odette’s beans harvest doubled. She and her family were able to enjoy beans grown on their own farm year-round, and she was once again able to buy the children the clothes they needed. The next year, Odette increased the amount land where she grew beans.

“I thought big when I expanded the amount of land for bean-growing; I was no longer worried about the harvest shortage. Since I was secure with having enough beans for food at home, I planned to sell my surplus to pay for our needs in the future,” Odette says.

In 2013, Odette’s dreams came true. That year, she sold her bean surplus and purchased a goat for US$13. That goat has since produced three more goats. Odette is still raising all of them, though she is planning to sell two of them in September to buy Christmas clothes for her children.

“My harvest store room never runs out of beans. Even better, there are no more tears from any of my kids because we don’t have beans for dinner. When I chose to grow beans those years ago, I knew I made the right choice!” Odette says.

One Acre Fund staff live and work alongside farmers like Odette, helping them improve their harvests and grow their way out of hunger and poverty. Apply to join One Acre Fund’s family of leaders today

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