Bénédicte Banzobafeza Sebutoza and Ndawiguma Mutayomba lived through terrible conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They lost their incomes and spent days with nothing to eat. Now, thanks to ActionAid and EU Humanitarian Aid they have received seeds and tools, and joined a group of inspiring mothers growing crops to support their families and build resilience.
Fleeing from conflict
Bénédicte lives with her husband Alain in Rutshuru, North Kivu. They rely on crops from their garden to survive, but like many in the DRC, struggle due to conflict between rebels and government.
In 2012 they fled their home when fighting intensified. They returned six months later to find their garden was empty and they had to start from scratch. For a time they went hungry as they did not have the seeds, equipment or farming skills to expand their garden.
Despite her meagre resources, Bénédicte extended a hand to others fleeing the fighting in different areas.
“On two occasions, I have hosted the displaced in my house. We spent nights without something to eat. It was very painful to see these innocent children weakened by hunger watching us grown-ups,” she says.
Mothers join forces
In 2013 Bénédicte decided things had to change. She joined a group of mothers as part of a vulnerability reduction project set up by ActionAid to help over 34,000 people affected by conflict in North Kivu. She received a hoe, a rake, a watering can and seeds. ActionAid’s project has been funded by EU Humanitarian Aid.
Bénédicte now grows cabbages in her garden and has received training on agricultural practices from ActionAid community facilitators. The seeds of change have been firmly planted and she is getting back on her feet.
“A change in my kitchen”
“I have received new species of seeds that we had never experienced in our territory: onion, leek, and cabbage. Before the project we used to purchase cabbages in Kibumba, a town about 20 km from our village. Now, we plant them ourselves. These new cultures received through ActionAid brought a change especially in my kitchen,” she explains.
Ndawiguma Mutayomba, a single mother of six children, is also from North Kivu and had to permanently relocate with her family due to war. Like Bénédicte she joined the same mothers’ group and received equipment and seeds funded by EU Humanitarian Aid.
She has received agricultural training from ActionAid and now plays a pivotal role in her new community in the town of Biruma.
“I’m now a member of the management committee looking after the nurseries and demonstration fields for the village on behalf of the project. We the members are called to share with others these agricultural techniques to enable the community to take ownership,” she says.
The ingenuity and resilience shown by Bénédicte and Ndawiguma in such a difficult environment is impressive and is leading to long-term change.
EU Humanitarian Aid funds relief operations for victims of natural disasters and conflicts outside the EU. Aid is provided impartially, directly to people in need, without discrimination of their race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, nationality or political affiliation.