The women, who range in age from older teens to grandmothers, sit in a group, fanning themselves. They make jokes and smile often, taking a much-needed break. One returns from a walk with a black plastic grocery bag filled with water from some unseen source, and they take turns balancing the bag for a refreshing drink. A rare dry day in rainy season in Congo, the sun is relentless on the floor of this valley, stalks and flowers grow taller than our heads, and no wind blows. Everything seems brighter than usual, the blue of the sky against the surrounding mountains, the colorful prints of the women’s dresses with the bright yellow flowers and the greens of growth, the reds and greens of the eggplants, are piled before us. The women have gathered specifically for this, so we could witness the harvest of vegetables growing on the shared farm Action Kivu supports.
We meet the women and the agronomist who teaches them about sustainable agriculture. The women chose this project, Amani tells us. “[The ideas] come from them. What I am doing is just to facilitate. I am a bridge. I am a bridge between these community members and the other people who are willing, generous to help these women. The projects come from them, they say, we need this. If it is possible, we do it. … For example, there is a serious problem of malnutrition. Acute malnutrition. The women expressed a need for agriculture, and to combine it with animal husbandry. The waste from the goats, helps provide compost [for the farm], and [the women] produce vegetables, they take them to market to sell, and they eat part [of the harvest].” They grow cabbages, onions, carrots and eggplants.
Amani bites into one of the eggplants, proclaims it tasty. They are a local species of eggplant (they look like bell peppers) that people like very much. “The red ones are overripe,” he explains, “and they are not useful for food anymore, but they are used to make new seeds, and to make sure the women we are working with can get new seeds without buying them. The seeds are very expensive, a kilo of eggplants (seed) is about 40, 50 dollars. Very expensive. The idea behind [the farm] is not only to eat [what is grown], but also, and mainly, to produce seeds and distribute to the community, to fight malnutrition.”
The women talk to Amani about their needs, for more farm tools to use both at the teaching farm and at home. He promises to bring a few hoes the next time he comes, and to look into finding funds for the other tools they need. They want to expand the small space they rent, to grow more food. “They need rubber boots, too,” Amani translates, “for the rainy season.”
As we offer thanks for their time and say our goodbyes, Amani translates once again. “They are saying that they are very happy to have you here. They are always sad to hear that people have visited the sewing center, the microloan group, but do not come to see them.”
Because of your partnership with these women and children in Mumosho and Bukavu, they feel seen. That their lives, their need for nutritious food to feed their families, for education to give them hope for a better future, are full of meaning. Because of your support, they feel seen, heard, which is what we all want, isn’t it? To connect at a deeper level, to know we’re not alone.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” -Leo Buscaalia