The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the most desperate countries on the planet. Many people go daily without the basic necessities of life in a nation ravaged by war, corruption, and poverty that have killed millions and constantly leave millions more destitute.
World Hope Canada, in partnership with the Congolese national church, is helping to reverse this trend through projects and programs that equip health systems, advance food security, and enable entrepreneurship. Among these initiatives is FISH for HOPE.Aquaculture, the farming of fish, has contributed to sustainable livelihoods in the past, providing much needed food and income for general household needs. But civil war in the 1990s cast these development initiatives into disarray and forced people deeper into poverty and hardship. Even though aid organizations have returned, aquaculture has not been a development priority, leaving it unsupported by government and non-government programs.
For the past two years, FISH for HOPE has been working to fill this gap. We have begun to reinvigorate the aquaculture sector, bringing improved food security and household income to literally thousands of people in Equateur Province.
We visited the project in February of this year. Because we are in regular contact with our management team in Congo, we knew the figures on how many seminars had been conducted, how many people had been trained, but the real impacts that we saw first-hand were more than I had even hoped for.
Aside from Mama Marie, who you can read about in World Hope’s most recent Annual Report (as well as on this blog - click here), Tandala was the first fish farming village we visited during that February tour. World Hope Board member Ralph Sikkema and I were led to the community fish ponds, descending a steep sloop that emerged onto numerous ponds surrounded by dozens of fish farmers eagerly anticipating our arrival. A hundred farmers had attended the aquaculture training seminar at the start of the project. With updated skills and roughly $200 worth of tools, they built and refurbished 130 ponds, by hand.
Mama Dobolo lives in the community of Karawa. She also attended one of our aquaculture training seminars and received the tool subsidy. With these tools, she constructed a small fish farm. From the revenue of her first harvest of fish, a single pond, she was able to invest in a goat. Even though the goat was promptly stolen, she had enough capacity in the harvest of another pond to purchase another goat. This goat she later sold and purchased a pig, strategically building on her investment. Mama Dobolo has a new measure of hope for her family’s well-being. She had only gratitude for the efforts of World Hope in addressing the needs of Congolese families.
From here, I wanted to know what portion of household income is represented by a rural fish farm. For a family with at least three ponds, aquaculture contributes as much as 75% of that family’s livelihood. They use a portion of the harvest for their own consumption and sell the rest locally for cash that can be used to purchase health care, other food items, and pay school fees. In a report from our project manager just last week, I learned of a fish farmer who is literally putting his two daughters through college with the revenue from his ponds!This is no small deal! It’s not just an oversized backyard mud puddle. For those who are farming fish, it’s their livelihood, it’s survival. With our assistance, they are experiencing greater prosperity and renewed hope for the well-being of their families.
FISH for HOPE will continue to contribute to families and communities through aquaculture development and support. Your help in promoting the work of World Hope Canada financially will advance the impact that we are having on poverty alleviation in the Congo.
Here’s one of the parts I love most about this project: It wasn’t all about Canadian experts who arrived on the ground and told the people what they needed in order to succeed in aquaculture. It hasn’t been the leadership of Canadian experts on the ground that has ensured the success of this project. FISH for HOPE was designed after the obvious needs of the people and is driven by nationals. Of course it may not have happened without the God-given direction on the hearts of World Hope staff and volunteers and the financial support of donors, but our Congolese partners themselves will ensure the progression of this sector and the on-going contribution that it makes to the livelihoods of their families. It’s worth investing in.
If the work of World Hope resonates with you, track us down. We’d love to tell you more about our work to save lives and bring hope, in compassion.