Paying it forward in Democratic Republic of Congo
Planting corn in a conflict zone may seem like a slow solution to an immediate crisis. But a community-based approach by Solidarity and Support for Development Action, a local NGO, is helping build unity and economic development within the fragile country.
Over the last two years almost a million people have been displaced in South Kivu, a province in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Conflict between armed groups and the Congolese army, as well as fighting between various militia and rebel groups, has forced many families to flee their homes.
Rather than living in camps, the majority of displaced people live with host families. Violent cattle thefts prevent many people from livestock farming, meaning unemployment and food shortages are common. Cleaning clothes or selling fruits on the roadside are some of the few means of generating an income.
As part of their reintegration activities, Solidarity and Support for Development Action have created a simple self-financing agricultural model. They give 100 kg of seeds to a farmer, usually to grow corn or sorghum. Once cultivated, the crop produces a much larger batch of new seeds. The farmer keeps part of his yield, reimburses the NGO, and pays forward 100 kg of seeds to another farmer.
It’s a solution that generates income and also creates solidarity within a community of people from different backgrounds. This self-financing approach is crucial in a region where development programmes are often underfunded.
In addition, they provide training to young people in mechanics, welding, carpentry, sewing and food processing. The NGO says participation in the GNDR network has enabled them to significantly develop their collaboration and partnership capacities. They have connected with other organisations in the country that deliver agricultural and education programmes.
The GNDR online Community Platform has also given them access to learning materials, from webinars to toolkits, to online courses and publications. These resources have strengthened their knowledge in fundraising and results-based NGO management. Since joining the network they have been supported by MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, as well as Women in Africa Initiative and Vitamin Angels International.
The organisation says that it’s important to pass on what they learn to other organisations, so they can access capacity building and funding opportunities. It’s not just the farmers that pay it forward, but also organisations working in the conflict zone.
Photo credit: Solidarity and Support for Development Action
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