From agriculture to resilience building: developing potential in the DRC
Canadian funded interventions by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) aim to revitalize local economies and livelihoods.
Sharlotte Kavira is showing off her new skills. The blackboard in front of her is covered with arithmetic and spelling exercises. The numeracy, literacy and basic business training she received from WFP and FAO have given her skills and more importantly, confidence she simply didn’t have before. “I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved,” she says. “Now I am happy to give my opinion during discussions about how we should run our farmer organization.”
Sharlotte is one of 2,500 women supported by the Purchase For Progress (P4P) programme, implemented in partnership by WFP and FAO in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Canadian funded programme aims to help conflict-ravaged communities survive but by empowering the 12,500 families of smallholder farmers, also offers them a better future. There is a special focus on women, who receive training on how to run and grow their businesses — from planting to harvest — or how to carry out other income generating activities. Women also receive support so that they can sell products like baked goods, livestock or charcoal. This way, they can make a profit to reinvest or improve their living conditions. Sharlotte bought chickens, adding much-needed diversity to her family’s basic diet.
Mother-of-eight Devota is also deeply involved in the P4P project. As a member of a P4P-supported farmers’ organization, she was trained to improve the quantity and quality of her crops. She worked on four hectares of land that produced 12 tons of food during the 2017 agricultural seasons. She kept 360 kg of corn and 240 kg of beans for her family and sold the rest to a P4P- supported local company that processes crops — which includes drying, milling, packaging and marketing. Her earnings that year amounted to US$ 5,400. “This huge sum allowed me to solve many problems: school fees for my eight children and the rehabilitation of my house. Later on, I bought goats and a new plot. With P4P, I understood that agriculture can be a business,” says Devota. Her story is a great example of what can be achieved through WFP and FAO’s work to build resilience and empower women.
Contributions from Canada also support the “Home Grown School Meals” programme. Each month, WFP is able to buy 114 tons of food from farmer organizations and use it to provide nourishing meals for some 27,000 schoolchildren, half of them girls, in 43 schools. Farmers are able to access a stable market and earn income during the entire school year, which in turn, helps gradually strengthen the local economy.
Knowing their children will receive at least one meal a day at school means that parents are less likely to pull them out for domestic work, so attendance is higher and the prospects for some of DRC’s future generations are brighter. Children’s nutrition and school results improve. Supporting education and viable livelihoods can even help reduce local conflict, relieving some of the desperation that can drive communities back into renewed violence.
“These WFP programmes work in synergy and complement each other. For us, it’s all about innovating the way we help, offering more sustainable solutions and contributing to a more peaceful tomorrow for a population that has known more than its fair share of pain and suffering,” says WFP Country Director in the DRC Claude Jibidar.
Working with government and local partners, WFP is constantly looking for new ways to increase the effectiveness and impact of its activities, even in the challenging conditions of a country like the DRC.
“WFP and FAO believe in the potential of brave and resourceful Congolese like Sharlotte and Devota, and works with them every day to realize that potential and boost the local economy,” adds Jibidar. Donors like Canada have historically shown great generosity, but the fact is that aid operations in the DRC remain woefully underfunded.
While ten percent of the world’s humanitarian needs are to be found within the DRC’s borders, the country receives just three percent of global aid funding.
Africa’s second largest country by area, the DRC has seen millions of people die in successive brutal wars. With elections coming up, 2018 could mark a tipping point in the country’s history. Supporting programmes including those by WFP and FAO — initiatives that offer real hope and sustainable impact — will be vital for achieving stability and peace.
A story by Jacques David, Jose Ndenda and Johnny Hogg.