Marie Habonimana is a thirtyish Burundian farmer and livestock herder who was illiterate until several months ago when USAID provided her with an opportunity of a lifetime.

Marie lives in the hilly north-central Muramvya Province known for its tea plantations and eucalyptus trees.  When USAID’s Burundi Agribusiness Program introduced literacy training in her community in 2010, Marie seized the opportunity to learn to read and write.

Today Marie is proud of her new skills. She is especially pleased because now she can register the daily sales of her milk volumes, the price she negotiates, and the monthly value of her milk.  Because Marie writes everything down, no milk collector can fool her by suggesting that she gave them a different volume or sold the milk at other than the negotiated and registered price.

Marie calculates that by writing down all of her transactions she has recovered at least 10 liters of milk, worth about four dollars, that would have been lost to the collectors. Marie will invest this recovered revenue in improved animal forage for her cow in order to increase the animal’s milk and manure production.

USAID’s Burundi Agribusiness program is helping to expand and diversify rural economic opportunities in Burundi through technical, trading and marketing support to Burundi’s coffee, horticulture and dairy sectors.  Since 2008, USAID has provided livelihood-enhancing assistance to approximately 61,607 farming households in Burundi.  Fully 17% of these households are headed by women.  Since April, 2010, USAID has provided literacy training to approximately 2,171 farmers, 92% of whom are women.