Janine Ndagijimana’s parents came from Burundi. But she was born in a refugee camp in Rwanda, a neighboring country. In 1994, her family fled Rwanda at the start of the genocide and settled at another refugee camp in Tanzania.
Ndagijimana arrived in the United States in 2007. She settled in the northeastern state of Vermont and began to dream of farming. While deciding what to plant, she thought back to her time in Tanzania.
It was at the refugee camp that she considered growing African eggplants, known as “intore,” in her native Kirundi language. She bought vegetables from farmers and sold them at the refugee markets. She saw that growers of African eggplant were making a lot of money, but she did not have the land to grow the fruit herself.
Ndagijimana remembered how a person would receive just 3.6 kilograms of food, which was usually only corn and beans, to eat for two weeks.
“Life was not easy because even the food they provided was not enough for one person,” she said.
Janine Ndagijimana displays African eggplant also called bitter ball or garden egg, harvested from her field in Colchester, Vermont.