Rebuilding in Rwanda: The Power of a Mother’s Love

Surviving time in a refugee camp, but then losing her husband to malaria, Athanasie and her family returned to Rwanda to farm coffee. As a single parent, she was worried about how she would survive. With the training she received from TechnoServe, Athanasie worked hard to create a healthy and prosperous future for her family – one coffee tree at a time.

Athanasie with two of her daughters.
Athanasie Musabyimana standing with her children
Athanasie (right) with two of her daughters.

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in 2016 and was updated in March 2020.

When violence broke out in Rwanda in 1994, Athanasie Musabyimana was 20 years old and eight months pregnant. Along with her husband and son, she fled to a refugee camp in Tanzania. The trip was hard as she was nauseous and could barely walk. When they arrived, conditions were challenging. “We were packed together like blades of grass,” Athanasie explains. There, she gave birth to a daughter. Because food supplies were limited in the refugee camp, she couldn’t breastfeed her daughter and she thought she was going to die. Three of her children had tragically passed away previously, and so Athanasie named the little girl Nzamwitakuze, or “I will give you a name if you survive.” 

But her daughter did survive. They returned to Rwanda to settle down as farmers. Shortly afterward, Athanasie’s husband died from malaria, leaving her a young widow with two children and her parents to support. She constantly struggled to make ends meet and feed her family.

Rebuilding with Coffee Income

So Athanasie turned to coffee farming. She joined TechnoServe’s agronomy and business training program as part of the Coffee Initiative.

Look around, it’s all poverty. Coffee is what brings us money.”
— Athanasie Musabyimana

Using what she learned from the program, Athanasie increased the yields and the quality of her coffee harvest. “From TechnoServe, I learned better composting, better pruning, and how to use fertilizer for coffee.”

TechnoServe also helped coffee cooperatives access financing to build wet mills. The new wet mills enabled farmers like Athanasie to get better prices for their coffee cherries.

But what I really learned was how to rejuvenate my trees. The quality was so good that we sold it to Starbucks.”
— Athanasie Musabyimana

In this short video, meet Athanasie, hear about her farming challenges, and learn how TechnoServe taught her how to develop a business plan and process coffee more efficiently. 

Hard Work Equals Success

As her income grew over the years, Athanasie continued to invest in her farm, buying more land and doubling her coffee holdings. By 2014, Athanasie had tripled her income, earning approximately $420 for the year.

Athanasie expanding her home
Athanasie is expanding the house where she lives with her parents and children.

Athanasie now runs a successful coffee farm and has expanded into growing maize. The boost in income has enabled her to support her household of six, affording medical insurance for her extended family and school fees for her children. Athanasie’s son, Ndimubanzi Jean Bosco, farms with his mother, and her younger daughter, Uwineza Denise, attends school.

Her daughter, Nzamwitakuze Dina, has not only survived, but thrived: she recently completed the first phase of secondary school and hopes to attend college. The profits from her farm have also allowed Athanasie to start renovating and expanding her house.

You can make a difference in the lives of coffee farmers like Athanasie. Help other farmers by donating $100.