Philosopher dedicated to the fight against malaria

Ginette Karire is a philosopher by training, researcher, entrepreneur and founder of one of the first Artemisia Houses in Burundi, in Bujumbura (2015), with her social enterprise Karire Aceci. This atypical career has been driven by a strong ethic of responsibility and action to serve “something greater than oneself “. Here’s a fascinating portrait of a woman committed to fighting malaria with plants.

This is the story of a young philosopher, trained in Cameroon and later in Lebanon, who began a doctorate in philosophy at Laval University in Quebec in 2005. She is passionate about the issue of the humanism of the Other and intersubjectivity for an ethics of responsibility. Inspired by the writings of Gabriel Marcel, and in particular his ” Essay on Concrete Philosophy “, she soon aspired “to bring philosophy down to earth by connecting with reality, with poverty, with international cooperation, with the real issues that affect people’s lives“. It was a discovery that would shape her career and her life.

From philosophy to international cooperation

In 2007, after working as a researcher at Laval University on bioethics, medical ethics and environmental ethics, she founded ACECI, an NGO focusing on the ethics of international cooperation. “I was familiar with the North and the South,” she says, “but it’s in the South that the real issues and realities are to be found”. Her goal: to develop concrete projects (back to Gabriel Marcel) and implement them in the South. Her NGO seeks to promote genuine sustainable development through, with and for local populations, notably through the fight against poverty, environmental management, a green and sustainable economy, and the promotion of culture and authentic social values.

In 2010, she decided to return to Burundi and initiated the international campaign to implement the Millennium Goals. Ginette gives examples, with her talent for making complicated things simple. “Fighting poverty is a fine objective, but what does it mean? For me, in concrete terms, it means putting money in people’s pockets, creating income and therefore projects that enable people to live”.


Fighting malaria with plants

In this way, she developed the Cataire project, and brought the mosquito repellent plant (known as catnip) back from Canada, which she planted in Burundi to prevent malaria and enable farmers to sell their crops. One thing led to another, and she realised that hundreds of wild plants needed to be cultivated and protected in her country. A number of which, including Artemisia, could also be effective in the fight against malaria. “At the time, many people were working with Artemisia in Burundi, but the plant was not widely available. Artemisia, like catnip, is also a very good mosquito repellent”.

But the “mosquito repellent” was not part of the national plan to combat malaria. From 2010 to 2014, Ginette took up the baton. At the Ministry of Health, she criss-crossed the country to promote the virtues of these plants. From 2014 to 2016, she began making products, soaps and lotions from catnip, lemongrass and eucalyptus. Then, in 2016, given the success of the initiative, she set up a social enterprise to buy raw materials from local people, to process, manufacture and sell.

Ten years later, in 2020, the use of mosquito repellent was registered in the Burundi national strategy for the fight against malaria.

The shop in Bujumbura
Herbal tea for everyone

One of the first Artemisia houses in Burundi

The Artemisia House had not yet been founded when Ginette began her business. She met Lucile Cornet-Vernet in Paris, during COP21 in 2014-2015. The two women bonded, and Ginette took part in the collective that laid the groundwork for the NGO.  In Burundi, she became the flag-bearer for the Artemisia House, raising awareness among politicians, religious leaders and village communities. In 2015, she set up one of the country’s first Artemisia Houses in Bujumbura, to make and sell Artemisia-based herbal teas.

Almost ten years later, she is proud of the work she has accomplished. “In 2010, when I returned to Burundi, people knew nothing about herbal teas in general, and even less about Artemisia herbal tea. People drank tea and coffee. Today, every family in the country drinks herbal tea as a hot beverage made with plants, and knows all about Artemisia”. She points out that she has never been alone in this marathon. In an effort to create a strong network across the country, she has worked with medical students, radio stations and national TV channels. She is also proud to have made the Artemisia House in Bujumbura an open house, where people can come when they want to discover this plant and taste the herbal tea.


The future Bubanza processing plant, under construction since January 2024 and financed by the MdA.
The future open-air dryer, currently under construction

She is currently setting up an ecovillage in Bubanza, on a 5-hectare site, with a social business model farm that could supply Artemisia afra plants: “We are moving towards agroforestry with the three dimensions of the One Health vision: human, animal and environmental health. This will be my aim for the next 10 years, with one objective: to move towards self-sufficiency, which is also part of the Artemisia House philosophy”. Ginette concludes: “Philosophy has thought too much about the world and must now transform it. As a trained philosopher, I play my part in the world in which I live”.