Ex-fighters, refugees restart with fish and livestock
Kalemie Katanga – Half way across Lake Tanganyika, the world's seventh largest lake, in a canoe in the dead of night, Adelard Mambo's wife and children began to cry from fear.
"I had my wife, four children and six other members of my family including my little sisters in the canoe," says Mr Mambo, recalling their flight from the war convulsing the eastern part of the country. "It took 18 hours to reach Tanzania.
"We had no choice. After soldiers stole everything, my fishing equipment and everything in my home, we had no means to live."
His family spent three years in a refugee camp and only returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2003. FAO distributed a fishing kit to him and to 88 000 other fishers on lakes and rivers across the country. "It would have been very hard at the beginning without FAO's help."
In parts of Katanga without lakes or rivers, FAO is introducing aquaculture as a means for villagers to earn a modest living. In the town of Kipushi, a group of women who include widows and demobilized militia members had lost 500 pigs to African swine fever. They sought help from FAO, which suggested that in future they spread their risk among pigs, fish and vegetables; the Organization helped them in all three categories.
Digging a series of ponds, they were given tilapia and catfish fry to raise. The fish are thriving and fetch US$5 a kilo. "It is very profitable because there aren't any rivers or lakes around here," says group president Nene Ngama. "And since the pigs in the whole neighbourhood were wiped out, everyone is eating fish for protein."
In order to ensure aquaculture thrives after the emergency intervention finishes, FAO’s local office works with the University of Lubumbashi, which has four fish research centres around the province. "There is an immense potential for aquaculture," says Jules Lwamba, director of one of the centres. "We have to meet current demand by importing fish. Obviously, it would be better to produce our own."
Near Kalemie, there is a stockade with a small but handsome herd of goats, some of 2 300 animals given out in the district. Just to make sure beneficiaries, mostly ex-fighters and widows who receive four goats each, don't lose them to disease, the project pays for a vet to visit twice a month.
One of the new stock owners is Georgette Mwajuma, ex-fighter, widow and mother of five.
"My husband was killed by a militia and after that I went and joined a rival group," she says quietly. "I was with them for seven years in the bush, going into battle with them and preparing the fetishes for the men to protect them against bullets. Only a woman can do that."
She finally accepted an amnesty and collected her children from an older sister. "My life is unhappy," she says. "My children are in bad shape. If God wants, things will get better, but I do not know if He is going to bless me."
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