71% of the population in the Democratic Republic of the Congo lives on less than 1 dollar (USD) per day. Continuous armed conflicts have caused an equally continuous rise in the price of basic food stuffs such as potatoes, flour, milk and even cassava, an essential product in local diets, making it very difficult to have a healthy diet.
To this is added a shortage of infrastructure and access to basic services that have made R.D. of the Congo one of the most difficult countries in the world to live in. The situation is exacerbated in rural villages like Maluku, on the Plateau de Bateke 140km from Kinshasa, the capital of D.R. Congo. There the situation of women in particular stands out: only 20% of the people who enter school are girls and opportunities to access primary education or vocational training are already very scarce for the general population as only 30% of children can go to school. Women and girls have less opportunities to study and, therefore, to develop personally and socially. The majority of them cannot read or write. Their situation does not improve when they grow up and in many cases women’s rights remain subject to her husband’s desires. In fact, in spite of the fact that women work in the fields, sell collected products and carry out a variety of tasks, such as collecting and distributing water, in few cases are they allowed to have a say in the management of the economic resources of their own families.
We invest in women to fight poverty and inequality in D.R. Congo. Traditionally, the principal economic activity in the area has been the cultivation of cassava. However, on many occasions, families are forced to grow cassava simply to eat since they cannot access other basic products because of high prices. In this context, we want 100 women to become honey producers. They will be able to take advantage of honey as more than a simple subsistence food product as they can sell it for good prices in the capital of Kinshasa and obtain an income, contributing independently to their family economic resources. We have helped these women to create 4 cooperatives, engaging in mutual financial solidarity between members with small economic contributions that serve as micro-loans internal to the group. We are training them so that they learn to manage these microloans responsibly and to use them as investments in the production of honey. In addition, as hives from outside the village were too expensive, we are training 40 young people from the same community in masonry so they can make and maintain hives at locally affordable prices – as well as to meet other local construction demands that families have (doors, windows, etc.). The women have started to produce honey, with bees that feed on the acacia forests that lie all around their communities. Thanks to a relationship established with the GI-Agro organization, women can filter honey and bottle it for sale.
Lastly, we are now working to ensure that, in the near future, they can market and sell this honey on their own. We have built warehouses where trucks from the capital can buy honey and other products so that, little by little, their harvests will meet a continuous demand. Right now, only one truck comes periodically, but with extra branding and marketing capacity in the city, many more will come to know these honey craftswomen and their quality product. It is early, but they are already starting to make and see big changes both in their incomes and in their families. Now their families listen to them and their social role is changing with the respect that they have gained through their work. They can help make decisions and they can begin to earn an income to invests in their future, that of their families and their communities.