There isn’t much that can surprise the people living in the eastern DR Congo. After decades of weak government, foreign invasions and rebel activity they have seen it all. But what eventually did surprise them wasn’t something external. It was themselves.
Years of instability had left the North Kivu region in the DR Congo is a state of despair. Severely lacking infrastructure and basic social services, many people living in the villages had lost hope. Crop diseases had left farmers struggling to makes ends meet. The most common type of banana crop had virtually disappeared, as well as their staple crop of cassava. Growing enough to eat, let alone sell, was onerous.
No food. No roads. No electricity. No water. No security. People living in North Kivu had come to accept this as life. Despite this, we know that God never abandons His people.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6
Through the local church, God restores what is broken. In partnership with Tearfund Canada, the Baptist Community of Central Africa (CBCA), started working with eight rural towns near Butembo City to help lift people out of economic, social and spiritual poverty.
A three-year agricultural training program was started and new Village and Saving Loan groups formed. Local churches encouraged villagers to join to save money and taught them some basic business skills. One group has named themselves “Ushindi” the Swahili word for victory. They started to save small amounts of money which helped members buy seeds, cover health care costs, school fees and even start small businesses.
Today, farmers have reversed years of agricultural despair through conservation agriculture. The Ushindi group has planted nurseries and new plants resistant to disease. Despite this great success, the most surprising for them is the $1,200 they have been able to save! This is often the most money many of them have ever seen. With it they have established a community Social Fund, which is used to help members in times of need such as a death in the family, serious health issues or a new birth.
“Most of us only had a goat or a few guinea pigs – no one was rich enough to own cows- but with the improved agriculture, we were able to sell some of our products, and start a savings program. We now have access to better food, better income, and even money to buy some livestock.”
What was once a place of despair is now a place of boundless optimism.