They break the cycle of poverty

Posted on 1 March 2022

From November 2018 to October 2021, 1,400 children and adults have moved from extreme poverty to economic and social autonomy in Rwanda.

Poverty is multidimensional. It is more than the inability to ensure a sustainable livelihood due to a lack of income and resources.

These 200 families were struggling with a variety of complex challenges, including malnutrition, lack of clean drinking water, limited access to education and information, disease, poor housing and environmental conditions, social discrimination and exclusion, and adverse climatic conditions.

The main objective of the VillageFXB project in Mbare and Mbuga was to build the resilience of these impoverished families so that they could move out of multidimensional poverty.

The fundamental pillar of our model is economic strengthening. Its main innovation is the donation of seed capital—in lieu of loans—thus allowing families to achieve economic autonomy. Families are also given training in business management and financial literacy, enabling them to start income-generating activities (microenterprises) and gradually earn enough money to meet their daily needs, facilitate their financial inclusion, and continue to prosper after the program ends.

Along with economic strengthening, FXB ensures that every family member has access to basic human rights through four additional pillars: food security, access to education and critical health & social information, access to adequate health services, and a healthy home & environment.

For FXB, combating poverty also means fighting against all forms of discrimination, particularly gender discrimination, in order to balance relations between men and women so that the latter, who are more exposed to poverty, can access the same economic and social opportunities.

Despite the successive constraints related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FXB staff made more than 7,000 individual visits in three years. During periods of confinement, the progress of program participants was monitored remotely, by telephone or text message.

The positive results at the end of the program indicate that the families have really taken ownership of the project and have been able to move out of their extreme poverty. They now have a solid foundation to continue to thrive. In addition, 2,000 people have benefited from FXB’s presence in their communities, particularly through its numerous capacity-building sessions.

Objective 1 : Strengthen the economic capacities of families.

  • All 200 families have at least one operational income-generating activity.
  • The average monthly income of families has increased by 307% in semi-urban areas and 326% in urban areas.
  • Families save 8% of their income in semi-urban areas and 14% in urban areas.
  • The 9 VSLA groups (Village Savings and Loans Associations) are dynamic both economically and socially.
  • All the families have benefited from training related to economic strengthening, either through specific sessions or, individually, during home visits.
  • The COVID crisis has of course had a negative impact on the economic activities of the families and, de facto, on their ability to save for a few months in 2020 and a few weeks in 2021. 75 families received extra financial support to boost their economic activities.

Objective 2 : Ensure their food security and eradicate child malnutrition.

  • 99% of families eat 3 meals a day, compared to 1% at the beginning of the program.
  • No family has gone a day without food since the end of the second year of the program thanks to the initial nutritional support, the cultivation of vegetable gardens or fields, and the gradual increase in household income.
  • No child under 5 years of age shows any sign of malnutrition.

Objective 3 : Improve their access to health care and prevention.

  • 100% of families have access to a health insurance plan, they have been trained to take care of their health and sleep under a mosquito net.
  • Nearly 100% of beneficiaries know their HIV status, compared to 6% at the beginning of the program. 45 people are HIV positive and have access to adequate care.
  • Knowledge of family planning has increased and half of the couples use a “modern” method of contraception.
  • 834 young people are registered in 15 anti-AIDS clubs initiated by FXB during the program. In addition to AIDS, young people are also made aware of the various forms of violence against women and the prevention of early pregnancy.

Objective 4 : Improve their living conditions and hygiene.

  • Each family has at least one functional hand-washing station and one latrine.
  • 104 families have rehabilitated their homes and 19 have built new homes.
  • In the more urban context of Mbuga, 46% of families have been able to connect their homes to the water system, which is a major step forward in access to basic needs.

Objective 5 : Support the schooling of children and youth and enrich the knowledge and skills of adults.

  • During the 3 years of the program, children, youth, and adults received support for school materials and fees on a sliding scale. 95% of the children are in regular schooling.
  • 33 youth have received vocational training and toolkits to help them either find a job or start an income-generating activity. 60% have found a job. 13 youth have just completed their training and are still looking for work.
  • Parents and the community have received training related to early childhood development, women’s and children’s rights, inheritance rights, the role of fathers, and intra-family violence.

This program was made possible thanks to the support of the City of Paris, the Augusta Foundation, Symphasis, the Canton of Valais, the Comptoir de Méditerranée, and Swim for Life. We are very grateful to them.



Jean-Marie recounts his path to independence

Marie Josée and Jean-Marie’s family is one of 200 families who participated in the program. They have 6 children.

“Before joining the VillageFXB program, we lived in great poverty. I used to cultivate for others to earn a few pennies; my income was between 600 and 700 FRW per day and I used it to go to the cabaret and drink local beer until midnight regardless of my responsibilities as the head of the family. I ended up at the police station several times after beating my family because I was drunk.

Marie-Josée was the one who was responsible for the family, I didn’t give her a penny to support them. When she couldn’t find a day job, the children had nothing to eat. The only room in the house was used as a kitchen and we slept on the floor. I had no latrine, no shower, and not enough clothes for all 6 children. Having soap to wash was hard to find for us. The children had dropped out of school because we could not afford to pay school fees and materials.

After being selected to enter the program, my family’s life and mine, in particular, changed completely. The FXB staff worked hard with me to make me aware of my shortcomings and responsibilities. I changed my behavior to be better.

Thanks to the training and seed money, we started a livestock project and other income-generating activities related to trade. With the help of FXB and our profits, we were able to build an annex to our house, an outdoor kitchen, a dish rack, a latrine, a shower, and handwashing station, and raised beds. We have also purchased mattresses and chairs and are able to save 13,000 FRW each month.

The children have returned to school, they have good materials and we are now able to pay school fees and incidentals regularly. We have improved our nutrition because the staff taught us how to cultivate a vegetable garden, we know the components of a complete meal and we eat three times a day. Our family has recovered and it is truly a new life for all of us.”