Congo: Young Brazzaville man breaks free from unemployment by growing vegetables

| August 10, 2015

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Tod Moussoungou smiles as he inspects his bed of spring onions. He grows vegetables on the banks of the Djoue River in the southern part of Brazzaville, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He grows spinach and carrots as well as the onions, which are his main crop. But he hasn’t always been a vegetable grower.

Mr. Moussoungou is a 30-year-old father of one child. Until recently, he was unemployed and scraping by with the help of family and friends. He wondered how to break free from the cycle of dependency and unemployment.

He recalls: “Since I didn’t study or learn any profession, I thought my life was ruined … Every day I struggled to find something to eat, wear, and a place to live.”

One day, life led him to a childhood friend, Maixent Moungombé, who took him under his wing and taught him market gardening. Mr. Moungombé recalls: “When he came to see me, I didn’t know he could apply himself this much. In a few months, he learnt many things about beds, nurseries, seeds and space management.” Mr. Moungombé is proud to have been a lifeline for his friend.

Mr. Moussoungou noticed that his friend was making a good living by growing and selling vegetables. He says, “This encouraged me and now I agree with the person who said it’s never too late to learn.”

After two years of training and working with Mr. Moungombé, Mr. Moussoungou was hired as a day labourer on a farm by the Djoue River. Eventually, he rented a plot and started his own farm.

After about three months, Mr. Moussoungou’s spring onions are mature and ready for sale. The onions earn him about 400,000 CFA francs ($665 US). He makes money from his other crops as well, earning a profit of 300,000 to 400,000 CFA francs a month.

Merveille Loukebo is Mr. Moussoungou’s wife. She explains how market gardening has transformed their lives: “My husband’s job helps us save so we can one day buy our own land. I’m learning to cut and sew clothes in a training centre, thanks to my husband who paid for the training. [When I start working as a seamstress], I will be able to contribute to our household expenses.”

Kounkou Florentin also grows vegetables in a field next to Mr. Moussoungou’s. He speaks of his neighbour with pride: “Tod really likes this work. I think he is starting to inspire other young people in this part of Mantsimou.”

Mr. Moussoungou dreams of owning land one day. He opened a bank account with a micro-finance institution and is saving money so he can one day fulfill his dream.

Photo: Tod Moussoungou Credit: Privat Tiburce Massanga