Creating long-term solutions to food and income insecurity in DR CongoPublished: Dec 16, 2021 Reading time: 6 minutes
The situation is especially dire in the eastern provinces of the DRC, where a well-balanced diet is unaffordable for many people. In the Kalole health zone, agriculture is often the only source of income. But with many people fleeing conflict from neighbouring areas, the pressure on local resources has become extreme and food insecurity has increased dramatically.
In response to this growing food crisis, last year People in Need (PIN), with financial support from the DRC Humanitarian Fund, launched a project to improve food security and resilience of 8,400 people. “Beneficiaries included families with a head of household under 18 or where children under five are suffering from malnutrition; where female victims of sexual violence reside; or that care for the elderly,” says PIN Programme Manager Richard Maisha.
As part of the initiative, the PIN team provided the most vulnerable people with agricultural tools and seeds followed by training to improve agricultural production. In addition to agricultural inputs and trainings, the team also provided advice on preparing nutritionally balanced meals. Prevention of COVID-19 was another part of the initiative, with information delivered through poster campaigns, audible messages, or shared by community health workers (RECO - Rélai communautaire) in villages. In total, the programme reached nearly 15,000 people.
30 new Village Savings and Loan Associations created
In addition to direct aid, PIN has also been working in the region to develop long-term solutions to food and income insecurity. One of these initiatives was the creation of 30 village savings and loan associations, known as AVEC (Associations Villageoises d'épargne et de Crédit). These new associations helped 600 people with limited or no income to access credit for the support of income-generating activities.
An Average AVEC group has no more than 20 members, and most of them are women. Members are usually from the same background – the same village or social class. “But most important is that the members are motivated to make the most of the opportunity,” says Maisha.
Members of AVECs meet regularly. At each meeting they are asked to deposit 2,000 Congolese francs (1 USD) – known as a share – to a common fund (for pooled resource allocations) and to a solidarity fund (used to pay for expenses related to unexpected events like illness or death). Members can later withdraw their savings with 10% interest or apply for a business loan. The interest is made from the credits and fines fixed in the internal rules of the AVEC.
As part of our work, PIN is raising awareness about the AVECs and helping to facilitate the selection of members. Maisha explains: “Our team helps with formation and formalisation of the group and describes the importance and advantages of saving. We also provide each group with accounting registers and tools for monitoring contributions and loans.”
The system is based on solidarity in savings – the idea that new income generating activities will improve the economic condition of the entire community. The members usually use the credit to start a small business to support their family’s basic needs.
Marchiori Mateo, from Kalole, heard about his local AVEC from PIN’s Agricultural Extension Agent; he joined it in May 2021. Eventually he would like to take out a loan to open a small store. “I would like to sell fish and plates,” he says proudly. He also wants to motivate others to join the programme.
Basuga Kabango Makarios and his AVEC members were trained by PIN staff on how to make and save money. “I save an average of two shares (4,000 Congolese francs) per meeting,” he says. During the meetings, his group counts the money previously collected, conducts an inventory of outstanding business, and checks fines used to maintain discipline in the AVEC. Money from fines are shared between AVEC members at the end of cycle. His AVEC group includes 15 women and five men, and the group has a total of 24 shares (48,000 Congolese francs).
“I consider membership a good [source of] extra income,” Basuga explains. “If a member puts 30,000 Congolese francs into the fund, he will earn 3,000 Congolese francs with an interest rate of 10%.” His AVEC hasn’t decided how to spend the money yet, but they plan to continue operating even after the end of the PIN-supported project.
For Mwanga Masudi, joining her local AVEC was an obvious choice. “I decided to join the AVEC to support my life,” she says. “We were trained how to earn money and how to make credit grow.” Today she has saved 150,000 Congolese francs. She plans to use the money to open a small business with salted fish, which she will buy in Kiziba city and bring to her village to sell. Mwanga doesn´t know how the rest of the group plans to spend their investment but she believes the programme has benefited all its members.
Bitangalo Kanga Lavie is in an AVEC group with 11 women and 9 men. At each meeting they save three shares (6,000 Congolese francs) per person. So far, she’s saved 66,000 Congolese francs. Her group discusses how to earn, receive credit, and repay loans at the meetings. They also plan for the future. “I would like to establish a small business, like a restaurant or a sugar stand in Kiziba,” she says. “And the money from AVEC helps others, too. For example, if I buy fuel for the rice mill, this helps to hull the rice for the community.”
Ndoloko Musongela has been aware of the AVEC programme for years, but it wasn’t until he trained with PIN in production and savings that he joined a group. Since doing so, in June 2021, he has saved 18 shares for 36,000 Congolese francs. He hopes his deposited savings will help him soon. “From my small business that comes from AVEC credits, the entire community benefits,” he says.
Finally, Kabuka Jeanne first heard about the AVEC programme from her children, in November 2020, and now she belongs to a group with 15 women and five men. At their meetings that “talk about credit – granting and repayment – and how to continue the AVEC’s activities,” she says. She believes the AVEC in her village with play a key role in community building for many years to come.
For more information please contact:
Lucie Chlubnová, PIN Desk Officer for the DRC, Lucie.Chlubnova@peopleinneed.cz
Gilbert Bouic, PIN DRC Country Director, Gilbert.Bouic@peopleinneed.cz