By Mugisho Ndabuli Theophile, COFAPRI Founder/Executive Director. November 2012.
Guinea-Pigs, Rabbits and Pigs For Land Enrichment
One of the objectives of COFAPRI is to change the livelihood of Congolese women who live in the villages. We hope to do so by helping them to carry out small activities that can generate income and also by rearing small animals such as pigs, rabbits, and guinea pigs, just to name a few among others.
There are many things we are planning to deal with in order to improve COFAPRI members’ livelihood. But we cannot try them all at the same time; this is the reason why we started with animals. With these animals we hope to set up a big farm, with big and small animals mixed, that will be under COFAPRI women’s management in the future. We are not at this level for the moment due to our reduced financial means.
But we are sure that the more these animals are producing, the more assistance we will bring to more members of COFAPRI – and finally start our farm.
When an animal produces, the team gives a piglet to other members who do not have any so far; the process will continue until every member will have one pig.
The same process is done with rabbits and guinea pigs. COFAPRI believes this can help the members to get cash that can help them buy some items they need for survival. Besides, the dung of these rabbits, pigs, and guinea pigs is much needed for land fertilizing. COFAPRI members have discovered that this dung is very helpful as it helps them to increase their production.
Most of the COFAPRI members (95%) live on rudimentary cultivation, and most of them do not possess land for cultivation.
COFAPRI has a small piece of land on which some of its members cultivate for their survival. The land is being exploited in a satisfactory way, thanks to the dung of the animals they are rearing. Some other members own some land on which they grow banana plants, which help them produce local beer called ‘kasigsi’ that they sell after brewing and they get some cash as well.
These members are truly committed to doing everything possible to increase their production so that they can get means for survival and help their children attend classes.
This is encouraging, since some members ascertain COFAPRI has helped them a lot with good advice and encouragement.
'This Has Changed My Life and That of My Six Children'
COFAPRI members talked to co-founder, Bahati, of the advancement they are making, during her recent visit.
“I have been lucky to be member of COFAPRI; I have learned a lot of things and have also gained a lot. I have been transformed since I started participating to COFAPRI meetings.
“It is here I learned that pigs and rabbits and guinea pigs can give dung to use to increase the production on our land. They are small animals, but they are changing our livelihoods in these mountains where we live. I have been using the dung of the rabbits COFAPRI gave me and now the production is not bad.
This has changed my life and that of my six children.
The same pigs also have helped me to pay fees for my two daughters. The four other children, all boys, have stopped, as I do not have enough means. But our coordinator has promised me that in the near future, if we get a pig and the rabbits we have, it can be easy to send all the children to school again. This is something we thank God for in our prayers. We want COFAPRI to progress because if it grows, we will also feel and live great change.”
Musimwa Furaha, 42, mother of six, and cultivator, from Mushego village.
Land Erosion Serious Problem in the Mountains
The advancement is not fast due to rudimentary tools they use in cultivation.
Moreover, there is a serious problem of land erosion in this area as people build their huts on mountains and hills. So when it rains, the land is often swept down by furious waters that run on those mountains because they are naked. This is due to the fact that when comes the dry season, all mountains are set on fire.
People who own cows often do this to allow new grass to grow for their cattle. This shows that they still need sensitization about nature conservation.
‘”I don’t know what to tell about COFAPRI; it is like God who sent this woman [Bahati] who often comes here to discuss [issues] with us. She has strong courage: she comes from afar and she does not fear the insecurity in these mountains where we live.
“Yes, she is a woman who is more important to us than some men here. When she is with us, she always gives us advice on how we can develop and fight poverty and send our children to school. She has introduced to us ways to exploit the small land COFAPRI gave to us. She is our eyes opener.
“Last time she told us that we have to terrace our fields, protect them against erosion, cultivate the use of dung so that we shall have interesting harvest. She said that protecting our plots of land will reduce the power of land erosion. We are trying it and it seems very successful. We see now water is not washing away the soil. but it infiltrates the soil instead.”
Small Animal Dung Boosts Harvests
This dung is boosting the harvest in the villages where COFAPRI is based for the moment.
The members of COFAPRI are growing beans, maize, sorghum, sweet and Irish potaotoes, manioc, yams and coco yams, vegetable marrows, carrots, cabbages, onions, banana, etc.; they are saying they have learnt good lessons from Bahati when she recently was with them.
Challenging Patriarchal Attitudes
The dung is playing a huge role in increasing COFAPRI members’ agricultural harvest, which has changed families' livelihoods. However, some of these women are being discouraged by their husbands who fear that once they develop, these husbands will no longer have a say over them.
These husbands feel that COFAPRI should be abolished. This is understandable since the DRC is a country that is strongly paternalistic, where women have no word either in households or in society.
COFAPRI is strongly confronting such men – although we know it is very risky, since this is a belief that is instilled into men’s minds.
Rabbits and Pigs Help Essential Banana Crops
COFAPRI is sure that erosion-fighting and provision of dung will promote and protect DRC villages’ food security crops.
Bananas are one of the most important food and income crops that help women in this area survive. They are of great cultural value to DRC women in remote villages. The productivity of bananas has been very low due to the lack of high yield banana varieties and they are not well protected due to lack of techniques, which leads to poor plantation management and very few farmers know about improved husbandry techniques.
COFAPRI is still thinking of how it can help the people in this way.
“Banana plantation is what makes our lives here. If it disappears, all of us are dead.
We are pleased you have an idea on this and we hope that when you return here – you or your husband, you will bring us some interesting suggestions.
When we want to buy clothes, food, pay fees for children, have a visitor, buy a soap, etc., it is the banana field. Now the fields are drying and we cannot know the problem; where they don’t dry, their yield is poor.
But since you gave us rabbits and pigs, the dung is helping. Maybe in the near future, we will see a change.”
COFAPRI member, Zahinda Honoré, father of three, aged 29, from Cibimbi.