Congo-Brazzaville: Vegetable gardeners introduce their children to farming

| August 8, 2016

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David Manzandi stands in a field, his slim figure emerging between rows of vegetables. With his watering can, he pours water on a row of leafy red sorrels and then turns to water his Eastern black nightshades. David is a 14-year-old secondary school student who lives with his family in the area of ​​Kombé, on the southern outskirts of Brazzaville.

David is all smiles, and sings while he works. Hervé Manzandi is David’s 49-year-old father. Just a few metres away, Mr. Manzandi sows onions while giving his son some advice: “David, be careful when you do the watering. Water is good for plants, but do not pour too much in one place. You know, too much water can kill plants. They need just the right amount of water to grow well.”

Hervé Junior is David’s younger brother. Before Hervé Junior can join his friends to play football, he must fetch droppings from a small goat pen and deliver them in a wheelbarrow to a pile between two rows of vegetables. His dad will use the droppings to fertilize the rows of vegetables that are meant for him and his brother.

Guilaine Toumba is the boys’ mother. During the July to September school break, both parents have been teaching their children to garden, making sure they transfer their farming knowledge to the next generation.

David says: “All our friends know that in the morning and before sunset, we help our parents. Sometimes our friends come to help us, and they too are starting to like [farming]. For us, it is like a game. And it allows us to learn to work the land. I’ve been helping my parents since I was little. I think [that] in the future, even if I have degrees or other work, I will also be farming. It’s part of my life now.”

During every school break, David and Hervé Junior’s parents help them grow two rows of vegetables each. The parents take on the difficult tasks like plowing, tracing rows, and taking care of the nursery. The boys plant, water, and weed.

Not many young people in Congo-Brazzaville find farming interesting. Youth are leaving rural areas for cities in large numbers. Many of those who leave to study in the city don’t even consider returning. But the Manzandi family is hoping that, in addition to studying, their children will want to work the land.

Mrs. Toumba says: “We do not impose it on our children. We show them the importance of knowing how to work the land. When they grow up, they will be free to pursue our business or to do something else. The children are motivated to farm because they know that at the end of the season, through the sale of their products, they can satisfy their own needs by buying everything they want.”

With the profits they make from selling their vegetables, David and Hervé Junior spend their money on games, clothes, and shoes. And for two young boys, that is happiness.