Florent serves a customer in his shop (Copyright: WFP/Celestin Mulumba)
P4P - an innovative scheme designed to promote the interests of small holders - has turned around the life of one famer in the Demcratic Republic of Congo. Now others want to follow his example.
Florent Banza Ilunga has become the ‘pharmacist’ of Kitule. He has been running his tin shack business since September 2011, selling basic medication to the 4000 inhabitants of this town in northern Katanga.
For years, Florent cultivated manioc on a small holding, barely managing to feed his wife and eight children. His attempts to diversify into peanuts weren’t very successful and he couldn’t make ends meet. He just didn’t have the experience, the training or the wherewithal to make it work.
Then in 2009 along came Purchse for Progress (P4P), a joint programme between WFP and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to support small holders and give them decent access to markets. This really was like a breath of fresh air for people like Florent. He got a hoe, a machete, quality seeds….and, crucially, the training he so badly needed.
“I really started getting into farming and I worked hard at it”, he says.
Investing his money
In his second year with P4P support, he planted 1.28 hectares and managed to harvest 11 sacks of 100 kilos each, in other words 1.1 tons. His earnings: US $ 220. His first idea was to get some nice clothes for his wife and children. But then they thought about it and decided it would make more sense to invest the money in another income-generating activity. Kitule may have had a health centre but it didn’t have a pharmacy. Florent decided to invest all his money (US $ 173) and, by early 2012, he had made a profit of US $ 1,260.
Expanding his business
His business is a hit all round. Before, people had to travel eight hours by canoe just to get some aspirin. No longer…. So now Florent has two jobs. He in the fields by 5 o’clock in the morning and is back to open the pharmacy by 10. He is president of a farmers’ organization, OP Dilume, which was set up by FAO in 2009 and which has 21 members, including five women. He visits them on Sundays, to raise awareness and motivate them.
Florent has become something of a local role model. His ambition now is to expand his business, to build a brick house and to ensure that his children continue to get a good education. He also hopes to get access to a micro credit system so he can build up his farming interests.