Fruit tree nurseries make a difference for post-conflict communities in the DRC

March 12, 2024
TCMR fruit trees
Distribution of seedlings to members of the Twa community in DRC's Lukwangulo village. Credit: Franck Kaseya/Pact

For decades, fruit tree nurseries have played an important role in rebuilding communities affected by conflict. Beyond the simple fact that they produce fruit, they represent renewed hope for the future, an opportunity for economic prosperity and an activity that fosters social cohesion. In this period of post-conflict reconstruction among communities in Tanganyika, Democratic Republic of Congo, fruit tree nurseries are emerging as powerful symbols of community resilience and regeneration.

As part of the USAID-funded Conflict Tanganyika Mitigation and Reconciliation project (TCMR), Pact and its implementing partners are supporting beneficiary communities in the development and installation of fruit tree nurseries. 

"The installation of the nurseries was preceded by a grassroots consultation with beneficiaries to assess their needs and preferences for species adapted to each environment," explains Jacques Mukinzi, a natural resource management specialist with the TCMR project.

Thirty-two nurseries in 13 groups in four territories of Tanganyika province, each managed by 15 members of the natural resource management committee, have produced 14,200 seedlings of various species, including avocado, lemon, mandarin, orange, papaya, grapefruit and mango – with an average of 1,090 seedlings per group for all species combined. More than 4,500 households benefited directly from this activity, and 7,000 indirectly from the schools and churches to which the seedlings were distributed.

The impact of fruit tree nurseries on post-conflict communities is profound and multidimensional. Not only do these nurseries contribute to social cohesion, soil cover and the reduction of greenhouse gases, they also play a role in the food security of affected communities and enable them to reduce the dependence of their respective villages on supplies of fruit from outside. 

"The generation of income from the sale of cultivated fruit will strengthen the financial autonomy of our communities, while stimulating our local economy," explains Kyulu Nyota Eugènie, vice-president of the natural resources management committee of the Kabanga group in Manono.

Through the TCMR project, Pact supports communities in the efficient management of natural resources. The 18 natural resource management committees set up by the project are already taking ownership of the initiatives that benefit them, and are contributing to the success of this activity, from preparing the land to sowing, watering and weeding, as well as ensuring daily monitoring of the nursery and distribution of mature seedlings. Community management of natural resources combines conservation and sustainable development to meet social challenges such as poverty, hunger and climate change, and beneficiaries believe in it. 

"Sharing the seedlings among our groups is going well, and everyone has already started sowing the seedlings received in their concession. These seedlings received from Pact are a source of wealth for us and our descendants," says Kaya Kiloko, Chairman of the Natural Resources Management Committee of the Balumbu group in Nyunzu.

The growing spaces are also places where people can meet and work together, fostering social cohesion and reconciliation within communities once divided by conflict. Activity in the nurseries strengthens interpersonal bonds, restoring trust and unity in communities once affected by inter-communal conflict.

In addition, fruit tree nurseries play a crucial role in preserving the environment. By planting and maintaining these trees, beneficiary communities actively contribute to restoring local ecosystems, combating deforestation and protecting biodiversity, thus ensuring a lasting legacy for future generations.

To encourage people to plant trees in private plots, schools and churches, CBNRM members are conducting a series of awareness-raising sessions for village residents and community leaders in particular. 

One of the aims of the TCMR project is to strengthen cohesion and peaceful cohabitation between the communities. After the adversity between the Twa and Bantu communities, the vision is of a future where fruit tree nurseries become vectors of renewal and prosperity for these two communities.

In addition to the small community nurseries in the territories, Pact, in partnership with the University of Kalemie, has set up another nursery in Kalemie, with 26 species of indigenous trees, covering an area of 1,092 square meters, and with a capacity of 100,000 seedlings. 

"Fruit tree nurseries are a beacon of hope in post-conflict communities, offering not only nutritious fruit, but also opportunities for economic rehabilitation, social reconciliation, ecosystem restoration and environmental preservation," says Rehani Jumaine, TCMR project manager.