DRC-women-fetching-woodAfter leaving the swamp where they cultivate, women must go to fetch water, sometimes traveling long distances. When back from the field, along their way, they collect wood, which they carry on the head.

DRC Village Women Toil But Reap Little Economic Benefit

By Mugisho Theophile, COFAPRI Founder/Executive Director

Feeding Off Their Sweat, Everyday

Most village women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) live on rudimentary cultivation of their small plots of land. They feed on the sweat of their faces from day to day, until they pass away.

They don’t know any other activity, except cultivation and child-rearing.

Some of them also rear small animals, which they depend on financially.

African women need to be more involved in other activities than these endeavors.

For instance, farming training and decision-making can encourage a different outlook and attitude towards daily life. This can then help to increase the economy of their families, their respective countries, and reduce hunger.

In the DRC, the role of most village women is to feed their families and raise many children – sometimes 12 or more. Hence the other talents of women of this big country are neglected.

In other words, they are not given the opportunity, respect, and value they are worthy of, but instead, they are considered as hens that produce eggs endlessly.

Rudimentary Tools, Little Financial Reward

Women do a lot of the jobs in farming with rudimentary tools, with a focus on products that have little interest commercially. When women are farming, they spend most of the day in their fields and only come back home very late –  and often, very tired.

Though the women are very much involved in some areas of agriculture, when there are opportunities for agricultural training in their villages, oftentimes only men attend because they are the only ones who are invited.

The role of village women in the DRC is fundamentally as guardians of the diversity of the crops of the world - or the protectors of the planet’s farming biodiversity.

Since the time that agricultural activities first started, women have always been involved in domesticating animals for the very precious link in the food chain.

As a matter of fact, women were always interested in selecting the seeds to sow, and those which are good for conservation.

Western Countries: Modern Tools, Higher Quality Crops

In the western countries, 'development' carries a different meaning; it is considered in a very different way to the African view.

There, they use modern tools, which helps them to produce crops of higher quality that are very competitive in the world market. Men are more involved in agriculture there, which is quite different from what Africans do  –  and particularly, here in the DRC.

In the context of the DRC, development is considered in a totally narrow way, since it is defined in purely economic terms –  excluding the real sense of sustainable development.

Special attention should be put on the concept of sustainable development because this refers to the maintenance of indispensable environmental development, the safeguarding of species, and sustainable consumption, and exploitation of natural resources.

In the villages of the DRC, if women could be equipped with modern tools, training in updated notions in agriculture, and if both men and women participated actively in farming, agriculture would have taken a different form and all the people would be satisfied with the harvest of the crop.

Men Need to Commit to Cultivation, Too

Rudimentary agriculture can never adequately develop a country because it does not even satisfy the food needs of the grassroots in the village.

So long as only the women are more actively involved in agriculture, while the majority of men roam up and down the village seeking alcohol, the situation will always remain catastrophic.

However, if both men and women can commit to cultivation, even though rudimentary, it can reduce poverty, and the women can feel assisted  –  and not abandoned.

These men who spend days and days drinking alcohol, once back home (often too late), they abuse their wives, beat, insult, harass them sexually, etc., in addition to the fatigue the women get from cultivation.

After leaving the swamp where they cultivate, women must go to fetch water, sometimes traveling long distances.

When back from the field, along their way, they collect wood, which they carry on the head together with a basket on the back that may contain potatoes, beans, manioc, or other items.

They are also the ones who let loose the goats, sheep, and calves if they have them, if they were tight or attached for browsing in the meadow.

Such an amount of work on a woman cannot make her feel at ease.

This will inevitably reduce her economic production as she is alone and tired every day.

But, once the harvest is sold, the woman is asked for all the money and it is the man who keeps it – and then the wife will ask the man for money whenever she needs to buy something, but the man will use it without the permission of the wife.

DRC village women are familiar with such a life, though it is heavy and stressful for them.