Working together to promote peace

Working together to promote peace

19/06/2018

A few months ago, it would have been impossible to imagine a woman from the Twa community visiting predominantly Bantu villages to talk about peace. According to a long-held belief in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Twa women were not allowed to engage in public speaking. But in Monde village, in Kabalo territory, some women have proved that they could actively participate in strengthening social cohesion within their villages.

One of these women is Edwina Mukalay, a Twa married mother of four. She is one of the uwezo (capacity) Village Peace Committee councilors. Prior to joining the committee, she had never cultivated a field before and was illiterate. In 2017, FAO and WFP launched a joint programme called ‘Purchase for Progress (P4P)’ to boost agricultural production, strengthen livelihoods, promote access to basic markets and consolidate peace.

Thanks to the contribution of USD 10 million from the Government of Sweden, FAO and WFP are working together to support a total of 18 000 households (108 000 people). FAO is implementing a two-year project to assist beneficiaries through various activities, including the provision of different agricultural kits (quality seeds and tools) according to the agro-ecological zone, inputs for nutrient-rich vegetable production, the installation of processing units and training through farmer field schools Dimitra listeners’ clubs to strengthen technical capacities and enhance social cohesion.

A diverse committee to strengthen social cohesion

Kabalo region has experienced significant population movement related to conflicts between the Twa and Bantu communities. Since then, a return to calm has occurred. The social context has long been unfavorable to Twa women, with most of them illiterate and working in poor conditions. In this context, Edwina is a pioneer of change in her community thanks to FAO’s support through the Swedish funding.

“Months of conflict between our two communities have really weakened our villages”, says Edwina. “After participating in the sessions on peaceful cohabitation, I had a great desire to commit myself to work on peace and development in my village.”

Edwina, together with other members of the Peace Committee, has travelled to four villages in the region to raise awareness about peace and community development among Twa and Bantu families. Progressively, the two communities formerly in conflict have initiated dialogue to relive the joys and smiles once vanished by the misdeeds of intercommunal conflicts. Thanks to the peacebuilding sessions, Twa and Bantu farmers work together on their fields. These are the indications of peace between them.

“Before, it was hard to leave my village to go to a Bantu village”, Edwina continues. “Now I am happy to belong to a mixed Peace Committee where Twa and Bantu work together for common goals.”

Produce your own food

After receiving training on good agricultural practices, Edwina decided to produce cassava and sweet potato crops on her one-hectare field. This activity has allowed her to support her family. She now produces her own food and sells the excess to support her household.

“Thanks to the income earned from my first harvest, I am happy to be able to pay for my children’s education and health care”, says Edwina. “I can now support my husband in purchasing household goods. Progressively, I’ll be able to improve our home”, rejoices Edwina.

In addition to the peaceful cohabitation training that Edwina and other members of the community have attended, they have also received a women’s literacy training. Soon, Edwina will be able to fulfill her wish, that of communicating with her brothers living in distant villages.

“Thanks to the literacy activities, I recognize the importance of getting my children to school. I am determined to complete my learning to have the necessary skills to take better care of my husband and my children and to support my community’s progress”, Edwina explains.

Learning to live together

The implementation of the project activities, such as the Peace Committee, literacy sessions and agricultural support and recovery, have enabled beneficiary households to work better and live together. Edwina realizes that households resolve conflicts around field boundaries more easily, all thanks to lessons learned during the harmonious cohabitation trainings. According to Edwina, without peace, the development of her village will not  be possible. She is pleased to see newfound peace take hold in her village.