Congolese people hit hard by economic downturn get agricultural support
The Democratic Republic of Congo is a nation in crisis. Rich in diamonds, gold and nickel, the country has long depended on the extractive industry. But when the global economic recession caused the price of minerals to plummet, mining companies across Congo closed, and hundreds of thousands of workers were laid off. Already reeling from years of conflict, which continues to ravage parts of the country, many families have been forced to eke out a meager living on their land. And they are struggling to survive.
When disaster hits, children don’t have much to fall back on — especially when they are underweight and fragile to begin with. In the country’s south, thousands of them currently face malnutrition.
Action Against Hunger has fanned out across the area to contain this acute malnutrition crisis, treating more than 6,500 children on the brink of starvation since the beginning of the year.
A New Beginning for Congolese Families
Treating malnutrition’s symptoms alone is not enough. Action Against Hunger is providing Congolese families with lasting solutions to hunger — with seeds and tools, training in agricultural techniques to improve productivity and access to activities that will generate income well into the future.
In the village of Kibenga, Mabamungo Ruzuba lost all her working and gardening tools during recent conflicts in the area. Without these tools, she was unable to support her husband, grandmother and five children. In addition to providing her with tools and enough seeds for this year’s harvest, Action Against Hunger showed Mabamungo and her neighbors how to increase their crop yields.
“What gave me great joy were the seeds that ACF gave me for the 2009 planting season. Action Against Hunger gave us hope by giving us tools and seeds,” Mabamungo said. “The ACF representatives showed us how to save a part of the crops for future seasons, which I’ve done. With what we’ve learned, if Action Against Hunger were to leave I would use the techniques they taught me, and I would be able to live.”
Papa Bangoi lives with his wife, Maman Enkobili, and their four children in the town of Buta. Life has never been easy for Papa Bangoi: childhood polio has left him unable to walk and without the means to provide his family with the nutrients they needed to stave off hunger. Last June, Action Against Hunger supplied him with eggplant, tomato, amaranth and spinach saplings, a rake and a water hose, as well as training on how to plant a garden.
So far, the garden has produced three harvests and allowed the family to use their limited income on their children’s school fees. “Around this time last year I was buying vegetables at the market, but this year I was able to save money,” Papa Bangoi said. “Now I have some for the kids’ school, which is great because the new school year is just around the corner.”
And in Minova, Bushu Kaoma lost his sole source of income when his banana trees were destroyed by wilt, a crop disease common in war-torn eastern Congo. Without a steady source of income, Bushu, like Papa Bangoi, no longer had the means to feed his family or educate his children. Action Against Hunger helped Bushu destroy the contagious wilt by giving him tools to uproot the diseased trees. Then, he received safe banana cuttings to replace the uprooted trees and the seeds and technical training he needed to plant a harvest of string beans and corn.
“Planting seeds in line like Action Against Hunger showed me has many advantages, compared to the old method I was using, where I just planted them at random,” Bushu said. “By doing this, I realised that I need many fewer seeds and that the production can increase. Now I can check on the garden by stepping between the lines, without damaging the plants.”
Action Against Hunger has worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996. It currently carries out programmes in nutrition, food security, and water & sanitation in the provinces of Kasai, Province Orientale, Katanga, North and South Kivu, Bandundu and Kinshasa.