Rebuilding one’s life after a conflict or a natural disaster is always not an easy task for the rural poor. They have limited resilience capacities and require sometimes longer periods of time to get back on their feet. In this fragile transition period, WFP in partnership with local NGOs assists vulnerable conflict-affected populations in eastern DRC through agricultural projects to help them grow enough food for their families.
Carrying a pickaxe and a watering can, Butozi Mbabajende, walked down the valley where some 800 people were busy digging in preparation for the planting of 80 hectares of marshland. Within walking distance of Kitchanga, a town 80 km southwest of Goma, the valley is home to an agricultural project set up by a local organisation, PADEC, working in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP).
Butozi (42) decided to join the project as he had no occupation in the camp where he was living, waiting for security to be restored in his village, Kinyoma, in Masisi Territory. He is one of some 10,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in Kitchanga’s two camps since 2007.
Before fleeing his village after a rebel attack, Butozi was a farmer and used to grow cereals and beans. But, without land in Kitchanga, he is unable to grow his own crops.
“To farm here, you have to pay a lot of money to a landowner or share the output with them after harvest,” he says. “This is too much for most displaced families.”
Kitchanga lies on the edge of the Virunga National Park, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The available land around the park is mostly used for grazing, which further restricts farming opportunities. With the influx of IDPs in Kitchanga, demand and competition for land have increased, sometimes resulting in interethnic clashes.
To help landless and food-insecure families like that of Butozi, WFP started a food-for-work programme in 2010 involving the draining of marshland for use in farming. This involves digging channels to allow water to run off. In so doing, a dark brown, fertile soil is uncovered.
Though designed to promote food security, the project also contributes to reinforcing social cohesion between communities fractured by years of conflict. On the project site, men, women, displaced, returnees and local residents work side by side while their children play together, regardless of ethnic origins.
To enable participants grow enough food for their families, the marshland has been divided into 800 metre square plots per households. Participants are given seeds and trained in basic farming techniques to help them on their way.
WFP plans to assist more than 12,000 food-insecure people in North Kivu through its food-for-work programme in 2014.