Bringing goods to the market

Oxfam, a partner of Salonga National Park, works with farmers, farmers’ associations and local development committees around the city of Dekese in the South of the park. One of the goals is to increase farmers’ income by helping them access more profitable markets. After two harvest seasons, Oxfam chartered a boat that transported 126 tons of cassava, rice, peanuts and other crops to the Kinshasa market. 18 farmers were chosen by their communities to be part of this trip. Here is what they have to tell us when they arrive in Kinshasa.

Laurence Basa Nkoy, farmer and nurse

I am a mother of two children. This is the second time I arrive in Kinshasa. In addition to farming I am also a nurse. In our field I sow mostly maize, squash, cowpea and rice.

It’s an opportunity for us to be here. From the revenue I would like to buy medicine for my children. Here at the port of Kinshasa we help each other, we protect each other and we watch the goods to avoid the risk of being robbed.

We spent two weeks together in a medium-sized boat carrying 126 tons of our goods. The trip went well but we hope to have a bigger boat next time.

With the support of Oxfam, we farmers are now producing higher yields, which allows us increase our income. I already see changes in our household.

The boat from Dekese arrives at the port of Kinshasa.

Banssango, Chairman of the sales committee, 45 years old

We rode the boat for 15 days to reach Kinshasa. Before leaving some of us were afraid of the long journey. In the end everything went well. The most difficult moments were the heavy rains during the trip. I must say that since we arrived in Kinshasa, we made a significant profit from our sales. For example, here we sell a big bag of maize for 65,000 Congolese francs whereas in Dekese the same bag would sell for 25,000 francs maximum.

Previously we did not know good planting techniques but we learned a lot from Oxfam. Now we know that yields are better if seeds are sowed by line and by spreading seeds. We learned how to study the fields well before planting, and we now know how to better recognize fertile soil. We also learned about planning. We are used to working in groups now and in a week we do a job that would have taken us more than a month if done alone.

Before, to feed our families we hunted animals such as antelopes, gazelles, pangolins or elephants. Now we have abandoned the hunt. With the profits from the sale of our agricultural products, we intend to pay our children’s school fees and invest in small businesses.

A farmer from Dekese lands his agricultural products at the port of Kinshasa.

By boat, taking the meandering rivers of the Lukenie and other tributaries of the Congo River, the journey from Dekese to Kinshasa takes 15 long days.

Cathérine Mbunga; President of women's association

I live in Kole and I am the president of IDFKO association, the women’s initiative for the development of Kole that I founded in 2009. Our group is composed of 20 women and 5 men and our objective is to drive progress in the region where we live.
We are encouraging more and more men to practice farming and to give up hunting. Before many of them did not know how to farm a field.
Since learning more about nutrition, we have been educating our communities about the value of producing crops that favor a balanced, nutritious and rich diet that promote good health. We produce more eggs, fruits and vegetables.
Oxfam helps us with marketing our products so they do not just hang in stock. We are very happy today to be able to send all these products by this boat.
We would have liked to bring our products by truck to other cities of Kasai but the roads are impassable.
Little by little the bird makes its nest. We are learning a lot and we think we will find even more solutions in the future. With the profits from the sales we want to build a reserve which will serve all the associations in the region. We also hope to build meeting rooms, training rooms and schools to continue our literacy project.
We are mobilizing the entire community to abandon the hunt completely. We go door-to-door to inform them about the law that prohibits the hunting of protected species and to raise awareness about  nature conservation issues.

With the support of Oxfam, 126 tons of agricultural products were transported from Dekese to Kinshasa.

Lydie, farmer

I am 40 years old and I am a mother of 7 children. I come from Yassa, which is 35 km from downtown Dekese, to the south. My husband is a teacher and I have always been a peasant. I harvest rice, maize, cassava, and cowpea. In the village where I come from I can sell a sack of rice at 20,000 francs and a sack of corn at 25,000 francs. Here we sell them for triple this price. Before leaving for Kinshasa I was a little worried. First of all, it’s the first time that I have traveled by boat and the first time I have come to Kinshasa. Here everything is very different from what we are used to. All these boats, the roads in tar, the big buildings! Every morning here at the port we get up at 7am (Note: the sale of products that takes place at the port takes a few days and farmers from the interior of the country spend the night on the scene). We divide the tasks; I’m in charge of monitoring stocks. Before we farmed in disorder. Thanks to the training we received from Oxfam we learned about new farming methods, e.g. we are spreading seeds. We also got used to working in teams. All alone one gets tired a lot. We are saving money to invest it in households and the entire community. I intend to keep what it takes to invest in schooling my children. Hunting carries a lot of risks. We have lost too many lives, especially young people. Sometimes they end up in settling scores and fighting. At least with agriculture we operate a profitable business without risking our lives. We would like to invest in a community drilling project to access drinking water and fight against waterborne diseases. In this region we often have cases of cholera. People are also used to self-medication. We would like to have a community radio with which we can send messages of awareness.

The port of Kinshasa is a busy place. Thanks to the income obtained from the sale of the crops, farmers can buy goods difficult to obtain in Salonga, such as everyday objects like mattresses or medicines.