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"We'd like to give young people a new image of farming."

Interview with Roger Mushagasha, Head of Programmes at FH DRC, who gives us an overview of the strengths and challenges of the agricultural projects carried out in partnership with FH Switzerland in South Kivu.
raining Session

What is the strong point of the agricultural projects you are following in South Kivu?
The work we do in partnership with schools. We would like to give young people a new perception of agriculture and pass on the message that work on the land is as valuable as any other profession. This is an innovation, because with colonisation, bureaucracy grew and work in the public administration was highly valued to the detriment of agro-pastoral activities, which were seen as the work of the "uneducated". This poor image of agriculture persists to this day.

We have also found that the school enables agroecological practices to be disseminated rapidly. In fact, each pupil represents a family of around 7 people whom they will be able to educate. In practical terms, we train teachers in agro-ecology and set up demonstration fields in school gardens. Pupils learn to put agroecological techniques into practice by working in the vegetable gardens. We have also set up agroforestry nurseries and all the children have been able to take 5 seedlings to plant at home. In this way, the new practices are naturally passed on to the family gardens and fields.

What are the challenges?
Access to land. The Bukavu region is very densely populated, with an average of 400 inhabitants per square kilometre. This means that cultivable land is very small. Land is inherited. The high birth rate means that a family property of 1-2 hectares 50 years ago is now shared between more than 20 people. To extend their cultivable area, these families have to rent land from large landowners. But this represents a constraint for the programme, because anyone who does not own the land is not necessarily prepared to invest a great deal in restoring it. There is a risk that once the land has been restored and fertilised, the owner will want to take over the plot and cultivate it himself. There is no long-term commitment. Another option is to look for other land, which is what we do, for example, by carrying out drainage work in marshy areas.

What were the most important things you learned?
We find that the demonstrations and exchange visits have a highly motivating effect on farmers. In practical terms, we identify the farmers with the best results and then organise visits with other farmers who are finding it harder to apply the new techniques.

Going to the home of someone who lives in the same conditions as you is very stimulating. It's much easier to get the message across than when someone from the outside comes in to give training, because it can be perceived as good advice, but it's not as convincing as being able to talk to peers in similar situations.

What role have the churches played in implementing the programme?
We can't know the deep-rooted reasons that lead people to adopt sustainable farming practices. But we can say that the churches have been an important communication channel for the programme.

In our country, churches are very popular and there are many social activities linked to them. So it's an important place to raise awareness of certain issues, because you can quickly reach a large number of people.

For example, during teaching sessions organised by the church, such as youth or women's meetings. These meetings provide an opportunity to discuss issues such as climate change and to raise awareness of working the land and agro-ecology as a means of building resilience.

More about our agricultural projects in the DRC: Agroecology, beekeeping and rice-growing in South Kivu and Support in the fight against food insecurity in the DRC


The project

Congo DRC

DRC: Agroecology, beekeeping and rice growing in South Kivu

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