We deserve mainstream development: Idjwi Island women

Ombeni Mwaseba, 35 from Idjwi
Photo: ActionAid
Zimbabwe team
Communications Focal Person

I am the Communications Focal Person for ActionAid Zimbabwe.

One of the remote and deprived areas in east Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is Idjwi, an island and a two-hour travel by boat from Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu Province. It has a population of about 280 000 people. With the Island’s own challengs of not  being  easily accessible, it has been left out of mainstream development intitaives taking place in other areas in DRC over the years resulting in limited access to education, land and social services.

The indigenous people from the Island (mostly Pigmies) do not own and control the land. A quarter of the land is owned by one individual from another area. The Island is mountainous and part of the land is taken away by Lake Kivu which surrounds the island making most of the area not arable. For the locals to access the limited land they pay $50 per year for small pieces, which is not affordable for most of community members.

To ensure long term development interventions to address the structural causes of injustice and inequality, ActioAid has been supporting the people of Idjwi in the last couple of years in collaboration with a local partner, Ruheke Kuguma Association. ActionAid has trained women groups on climate resilient sustainable agriculture techniques including use of animal waste as fertilisers to improve the yields of their crops.

Ombeni Mwaseba (35) from Kabuye Village, Mpene Sector, Idjwi Territory, Kivu South Province, a married woman of eight children is one of the women supported by ActionAid and is working with a group of 60 members (50 women including herself and 10 men).  The group has received seed money of US$300 to start an income generating project. They are currently doing a basket weaving scheme which has seen many members of the group contributing to household income. Some of them are paying school fees for their children, who had dropped out of school from the income from the small businesses.

I am also contributing to the household income, such as buying food, soap and clothes for my children, said Ombeni.

ActionAid has provided the women groups with goats to engage in goat pass on schemes to improve household income.  In 2015, Ombeni’s group received 30 goats and each member will receive a goat through a goat pass on scheme. The goats will be passed on if one receives a female goat and when the goat gives birth to a female goat they pass it to the next person who has not received a goat. If the goat gives birth to a he-goat they wait until it gives birth to a she-goat. The goats are also meant to increase the household income and manure for their agricultural produce.

I have received a got once and expecting it to give birth to another goat soon. I have used the goat manure to put in my vegetable garden and there has been an improvement on the quality and quantity of the vegetables. Other than just eating them I am selling some and have been contributing to paying school fees for my five children. However, I am looking forward to having another goat which will increase my vegetable yields because of the increased manure. I want to be able to pay school fees for my eight and six-year-old children who are not going to school now and should be in school, said the hopeful Ombeni.

Over and above improving household income, Ombeni’s group acts as a social safety net for its members. They have some money they keep in case of emergencies such as illnesses or accidents affecting members, which has been a relief for some of the members who face family bereavements or catastrophes such as fires. Each group member contributes about 1000 Congo Francs (US$0.60) which goes in the emergency coffers, have termed red money. They also have yellow money which they obtain from selling their IGAs which they lend to members at an interest rate of 10% for expanding their income generating activities (IGAs).