“Hopelessly stumbling towards rebel territory, I was not even aware of what I was doing, I never was. Alcohol made me numb to the reality that my beloved wife was dead.”
Joseph sat on a small hill of reddish coloured dirt, recounting his story to us. Our partner in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had told us that Joseph Kakule Kayenga had a beautiful story to tell, and immediately we wanted to hear it.
He looks down and begins drawing a circle in the sand with his finger as he continues, “many nights my children would be left alone without food because I was too drunk to acknowledge their existence.” With a smile he looks up from his drawing, “It is a miracle that they have forgiven me and accept me still today.”
So far Joseph’s story replicates many others we have heard from men in the DRC. Turning to unhealthy addictions is a common coping mechanism for dealing with tragedy. His eldest daughter did not want this cycle of poverty to overtake her father or her family, so she introduced him to a pastor in one of Tearfund’s local churches. The church was offering free training in conservation agriculture and growing healthy tree seedlings.
“Even though I was still very depressed and drank often, moments of sobriety reminded me of the horrendous cycle I was pushing my children into. So I signed up for the training, not driven by hope or expectation of change, but duty for my family.” Joseph shifted his position and straightened up ever so slightly as he talked about fulfilling his duty.
Earlier Joseph had shown us his land. It was full of rocks, and hills that made it difficult to produce much yield. Joseph explained how Tearfund’s local church partner had focused on planting trees in specific areas to prevent soil erosion, thus making the soil more conducive to production. The healthy banana trees are disease resistant and Joseph’s most prized crop, “my neighbours are amazed how long my banana trees produce fruit, 6 of them have become spontaneous adopters of the agricultural practices taught to me by Tearfund.”
As Joseph explains the spread of the knowledge through his community his entire demeanour changes to sitting straight, and talking animatedly with hand gestures and expressive facial expressions.
Before leaving we asked Joseph what his goals are for the next phase of his life. With a smile he replied, “Well… first I’m going to marry this lady”, gesturing towards Kahambu Mutahindwa who is also smiling beside him. “We will have a proper brick house, and a better animal shed, people will come to buy crops, pigs, goats, and eggs. One day our kids may even study in Canada!”
It is thanks to supporters like you that Joseph and Kahamubu have hope for the future.