Adéline Nsimire Balika | May 25, 2015
Kabiona Buuma sensed an opportunity and grasped it with both hands. Like most famers in his area, he grew mainly cassava. But now the determined farmer grows and sells tomatoes, eggplants, onions, amaranth and cabbage—and he makes a good profit.
Mr. Buuma farms in Bunyakiri, a town 80 kilometres northwest of Bukavu in western Democratic Republic of Congo. The local staple food is fufu, which is made from cassava flour. But people don’t eat fufu by itself. Sauces made from meat, fish and vegetables—amaranth, cabbage and sweet potato leaves—typically accompany fufu.
Cassava is plentiful in Bunyakiri. But local farmers do not grow many vegetables. The vegetables in local markets are often expensive because they are trucked in from outside the area. People wanting vegetables often travel as far as Kabaré, near Bukavu on the shores of Lake Kivu.
In 2013, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, set up a farmers’ field school in Bunyakiri. The project focused on market gardening, which was something of a novelty for local farmers. Mr. Buuma was selected for training in vegetable production.
At first, he grew a few white cabbages and some amaranth for his family. But he quickly realized that he could grow the vegetables that his neighbours were travelling to Kabaré to buy. Encouraged by his first harvests, Mr. Buuma gradually increased his vegetable plantings. He introduced new crops, including tomatoes, eggplants and onions. Recently, he started growing squash because local women are very fond of using the leaves in cooking.
He named his new business Mutolore, after the Kitembo word for “I profit” or “I won.” Thanks to Mr. Buuma, the people of Bunyakiri are winning too. They no longer have to travel far to stock up on vegetables. Mr. Buuma sells the majority of what he harvests, and vegetables are now his main source of income.
His family has also benefited. Their food is nutritious and plentiful. His earnings pay for his children’s school fees. Neighbours visit every day to buy vegetables for their evening meals.
Mr. Buuma’s success has encouraged other local farmers to grow vegetables. Masumbuko Mitamba is the local agriculture, fisheries and livestock inspector. He says: “We would like to see all those who participated in the farmers field school follow in Mr. Buuma’s footsteps. He used his training to start his small market garden business which now feeds a large number of households.”
Mr. Buuma is proud that his work has helped change the eating habits of his community. He says: “At the start, I did not believe that I would get far with vegetable farming. All I really wanted was to produce enough for my children to eat. But the FAO training encouraged me to keep pushing forward.”
Now he has a dream—to expand his production to the point where he can supply enough vegetables so that locals no longer have to travel to faraway markets.