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DRC: Increase in income enables business diversification

Florent’s life in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been turned around, thanks to P4P and its partners. Now other farmers in the south-eastern region of Kabalo want to follow his example.

Florent Banza Ilunga has become the pharmacist of Kitule, a small town in northern Katanga. He has been running this tin shack business since September 2011, selling basic medication to the 4000 inhabitants of Kitule.

For years, Florent grew cassava a small piece of land of around 0.2 hectares, 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 did not have the experience, the training or the wherewithal to make it work.

But this changed in 2009 with the start of P4P in the area. Jointly programmed by WFP and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), it supports smallholders to organise into cooperatives, increase their productivity and give them access to markets. Florent’s farmers organisation “Dilume” was set up by FAO in 2009. Today, Dilume has 21 members, including five women.

For Florent, it felt like a breath of desperately needed fresh air. He received 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, Florent planted 1.3 hectares and managed to harvest 1.1 tons of cassava. He had received the permission to cultivate additional land for free from his community. Selling part of his increased harvest to WFP, he earned about US$ 220. His first idea was to get some nice clothes for his wife and children. But after careful consideration, they decided to invest the money in another income-generating activity: Kitule had a health centre, but it did not have a pharmacy. Florent decided to invest US$ 173 into the establishment of a little shop and stocks. 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 from Kitule had to travel eight hours by canoe just to get some aspirin. Now, they only have to walk over to Florent’s little shop.

Despite his pharmacy’s economic success, Florent has not given up farming. He is in the fields by 5 o’clock in the morning, then heads back to open the pharmacy by 10. Florent has become something of a local role model. Since September 2009, he is the  president of his farmers’ organization. He visits his membership on Sundays, to raise awareness and motivate them.

His ambition 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 microcredit system so he can further expand his farming interests.