Jacques Kikuni Kokonyange | September 29, 2014
Tears well up in Micheline Kavuo’s eyes as she remembers everything she lost.
Ms. Kavuo is a farmer from Mamoundioma, a village 50 kilometres from the city of Beni, in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Like many other farmers in the region, she had to abandon her five-hectare plot when a Ugandan-backed rebel army invaded.
For three long years, she could not set foot on her farm. Forced to take refuge in the city, Ms. Kavuo found a job in a bakery which paid $50 U.S. per month. She had a hard time making ends meet.
She says, “I lost my cocoa plantation because those terrorists ravaged my farm. But today I am happy … to have recovered my land.”
She finally returned to her fields in June of this year, after the Congolese army pushed the rebels back across the border. She found nothing but withered cocoa plants. She says, “It looked like a hurricane had ripped through [the field].”
It is early in the morning but Ms. Kavuo is already at work, weeding her field. Her younger brother is beside her, pruning the few remaining cocoa trees with a machete. Little by little, things are returning to normal on the farm.
Like Ms. Kavuo, more and more farmers are returning to the countryside. The provincial government has begun to rebuild roads in rural areas to help farmers resume their lives. Police sweep the area for unexploded mines.
The government distributed improved seeds to help farmers who had lost almost everything. Ms. Kavuo planted cassava and plantains. Both are in high demand in surrounding towns.
She sold her first harvest only three months after returning to the farm. The proceeds allowed her to pay off some debts. She also rebuilt her dilapidated house. She says: “I profited from taking my harvests to the market in the city of Oicha. Buyers came to me … I felt like a princess because I am one of the few women who has been able to get back into farming after the end of the conflict.”
She is hoping to get a loan from a local farmers’ co-operative to diversify her crops. She says, “I also need the help of an agronomist so that I can prevent my banana trees and cassava plants from being attacked by parasites.”
Encouraged by her first harvest, Ms. Kavuo is daring to dream of bigger things.