As a DRC community recovers from conflict, improved rice farming fosters prosperity

April 17, 2023
A rice field in Nyemba. Credit: Franck Kaseya/Pact

Tanganyika, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a province plagued by inter-community conflict, and the city of Nyemba has not been spared. The Nyemba-Kinsunkulu axis in particular has seen violent clashes between the Twa and Bantu communities, prompted by the March 2022 assassination of a Bantu community leader named Mumbwili.

The hostilities have brought many consequences, including the burning of homes, interruptions of basic social services, the destruction of fields and infrastructure, systematic looting and the displacement of thousands of people. The situation is causing many households to live in extreme vulnerability. The people of Nyemba rely heavily on agriculture, and with their livelihoods upended, families have little income to afford food, health care and education.

To support the community in its recovery, Pact is providing vital assistance to Nyemba’s rice farmers. The effort is part of the USAID-funded Tanganyika Conflict Mitigation and Reconciliation (TCMR) project. Since December 2022, TCMR has been distributing Rukaramu seeds to individual farmers and farmers’ associations and offering them agricultural training. Rukaramu is a particular rice variety best adapted to local agro-ecological conditions. The trainings have covered seed management and rice production, processing and marketing – all with the goal of helping farmers to improve the quality and quantity of their yields.

A rice farmer in Nyemba. Credit: Franck Kaseya/Pact

The project is using a skills-transfer approach. After farmers learn from TCMR, they pass their knowledge on to other farmers to reach as many as possible.

As part of TCMR, Pact is also supporting local communities to build peace and reconciliation through targeted and mass sensitization activities, community savings and credit groups, sustainable livelihoods support, and gender-based violence response and prevention.

Better yields, more profit

This is the first time the rice farmers of Nyemba have participated in a USAID-funded development project, and the benefits have been immense, says farmer Muluta Fariala Jacques.

“The skills received from Pact on rice cultivation techniques are very profitable and beneficial for us,” he says. “Since our forefathers, and since we started working the fields here, there are places that we have never worked. But thanks to the support of Pact, in order to improve food security in the area, we have started to cultivate these places this year.”

Muzinga Erick, president of a local rice farmers association called "Union fait la Force" (Union is Strength), says their group, which includes more than a dozen women, has dramatically changed its techniques based on new knowledge.

Rice farmers at work in Nyemba. Credit: Franck Kaseya/Pact

"Previously, we farmed in the traditional way and in a messy way. We had no outside help, and with our own means we were only able to plant rice (a local variety) on one hectare per year,” he says. “With the arrival of Pact, we learned innovative and modern techniques. Now we know how to make dikes in line, prepare rice pits and channel water to each agricultural pit. This has allowed us to channel water from the Kamutabuka River.”

As part of its support, TCMR has also provided local farmers with a new hulling machine. Before, farmers had to haul their rice long distances to have it hulled, severely cutting into their profits.

A vehicle for peace

Members of both the Twa and Bantu communities are benefiting from the project's activities, which have become a vehicle for peace, reconciliation and strengthened bonds. Former Twa and Bantu militiamen have managed to forgive each other and are now working together.

“We used to live separately from our Twa brothers, but since Pact has given us its support, the Twa come every morning and we cultivate together,” says Muluta Fariala Jacques.

“What we are learning now is beneficial and will be for our future generations. I have already started to teach my family to do what I do thanks to Pact. I know that Pact will one day leave, and it is a wealth that they leave us.”