Left hungry after volcanic eruption destroys land

Elisabeth Ruduri  standing by her straw shelter. DRC
Elisabeth Ruduri standing by her straw shelter.
Photo: ActionAid

Land lost to natural disasters is irreplaceable due to traditional customs and authorities’ negligence, leaving women to go hungry despite their agricultural skills.

Elisabeth Ruduri, 54, from Goma Town, Eastern DRC, lost her land during the volcanic eruption of the nearby Nyiragongo volcano in 2002 and engages in petty trading as she has no other way of making a living.

I had a small piece of land that measured 10 square metres but I am no longer able to cultivate it as it is covered with solid rock.

Elisabeth now lives in a temporary shelter made from straw, cannot find employment and lives alone in her house as her four children are all married and live in Goma town.

Even if Elisabeth was somehow able to make enough money for a piece of land, she would not be able to buy any due to traditional customs and practices, which are in fact not supported by law. 

This problem arises due to the limited power of the Customary Chief who is responsible for the distribution of land.

As a result, Elisabeth’s life has dramatically changed. She is very frustrated and angry because in the past she was able to lead a comfortable life and afford school fees for her children, but now she has nothing, struggles to find food and has no power to change the situation. 

The government promised to provide us with small plots of land but to date we have not seen anything. Only the government can help us get land on freehold so that we can farm.

Elisabeth has the agricultural skills to farm and support herself, but these are wasted and she must go hungry because of the government's inaction. Small holder women farmers like Elisabeth therefore really need our support to help influence adaption of land distribution customs so that they can own land again and grow their own food - a vital step toward ending hunger.