In the spring of 1994, Murebwayire Godanse fled the genocide in Rwanda that killed many of her neighbors and friends. In August of the same year, she returned to live in her home country, later settling in the region of Mayange, located about 40 km south of Kigali, the capital city.
The years that followed her family’s return were extremely difficult. The region suffered from periodic drought and pervasive hunger to the point where an emergency food relief center was set up in 2006. Godanse and her husband did the best they could, raising their five children on meager crops of maize and sorghum. Farming on nutrient-depleted soils, using poor methods like scattering seed, and erratic rainfall were the main reasons that Godanse was barely able to produce enough food for her family to survive.
She sought other methods to make money. With small loans, she purchased bananas and made juice to sell. Still, with her husband unable to find work due to a childhood injury, Godanse could not earn enough money to pay for her children’s school fees. Unable to cope with the overwhelming burden of feeding a family of seven, she sent her youngest child to live with a relative in Kigali.
In January 2006, the Rwandan Government designated Mayange as the country’s first Millennium Village. With the introduction of improved seed and fertilizer, by the summer, Godanse and her family saw their farm yields increase dramatically. They not only had enough to eat, they also had a crop surplus and were able to enroll all of their children back in school.
“Before the project, we had crops, but the harvest was smaller. When the project started, we were hungry… Our houses were empty,” said Godanse. “Now the fear is gone, the hunger is over. In my family we eat and we are satisfied due to the great harvest.”
Godanse was able to bring her youngest child back home and he is now doing well in school.