Thirteen-year old Musangani Laula successfully cultivates groundnuts (peanuts) in his small plot of land in Kamina, DR Congo.
Photo by John Nday/UMCOR Kamina
By David Tereshchuk*
May 28, 2013—Even as armed conflict continues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and its partners in development there press forward with bold efforts to combat appalling levels of poverty and poor health, not least in the rural area of Kamina.
UMCOR, which has maintained a Kamina field office for more than 10 years now, is supporting an integrated development program in partnership with the Foods Resource Bank. The program’s purpose is to strengthen local capacity and increase nutritious food production and income for local communities.
UMCOR staff train local farmers in the cultivation of nutrient-rich foods, particularly groundnut (known as peanut in the United States), field beans, and moringa. Emphasis is placed on successful seeding and the careful weeding of unwanted plants that might compete with the desired crops. Farmers also learn about the natural properties of plants that can act as insect repellants.
In addition, with the aid of a qualified veterinarian, the program helps farmers to develop the skills required to employ bullocks as part of that cultivation work. The instruction involves proper feeding and care for the animals, which villagers learn to use effectively as the “engines” for a plow made of moldboard.
The overall aim is, of course, to increase the yield from the land, and in doing so, both improve families’ supply of nutritious food and provide them with much-needed income as well.
The program’s usefulness for all has registered firmly throughout the communities where it is being carried out in the districts of Kambuyi, Kamweyi, and Lupandilo.
Few assessments of the program’s effectiveness have been so clearly expressed as by Maman Ilunga, who said: “I once thought that such a good, healthy life—and earning income—was only for rich people. Being poor, I had lost hope for a better life. But the FRB/UMCOR program fights malnourishment with moringa produced at low cost, as I have seen among my neighbors.”
Perhaps most remarkably, a young teenager also has taken full advantage of the program. Elementary school student Muzangeni Laula has thrown himself wholeheartedly into growing groundnuts, despite his relative youth at age 13.
Through careful cultivation as taught by the program, and by harvesting his crop early and selling early, Muzangeni has been able to achieve an impressive return from the very small plot given over to him by his father from the family’s apportionment of land.
His family had struggled to afford schools fees, but with Muzangeni’s crop providing nutritious meals for all and, on top of that, a cash profit of $17—they have been able to pay in full three months’ worth of education bills.
Muzangeni’s father proudly told the Kamina UMCOR office: “This young man couldn’t believe he could earn such money. He is so happy—and he will continue to cultivate his plot during his free time from school."
Your gift to Congo (DRC) Emergency, UMCOR Advance #198400, will support UMCOR programs like this one alongside the Congolese people.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who regularly contributes to www.umcor.org.