Change should come from the community itself

In the province of South Kivu, the town of Uvira is built on the shore of Lake Tanganyka. For several years, the people have suffered greatly because of the war and the actions of various armed groups. Several adults, driven by the same concern, formed the Uvira Group of Farmers and Breeders (GGEU). They grow rice, wheat, sweet potatoes, manioc, onions and vegetables, as well as breeding pigs, goats and chickens and keeping bees.

One of the members explained: “Beforehand, I didn’t know how to talk to other people. I learnt to do this thanks to this group, to work together to fight against poverty and to live in solidarity with our neighbours.”

The members of the group were concerned at the state of a lot of the children. After corresponding with Tapori (the children’s branch of ATD Fourth World) with which they were all involved, they started to bring the children together three times a month. Another member explained: “We played games with them which showed, for example, that hanging around doing nothing or begging weren’t good ways to spend their lives. Some children changed how they behaved. It’s also important to help children develop their imagination. I taught them to make cars out of wire, as well as little statues and houses. That could help them in the future.”

 At the same time, a female member of the group stressed, “The children often help us. For example, when there are bereavements here, people make contributions to support the family who are struggling; often it’s the children who remind their parents to contribute. The children don’t just learn from us, we also learn from them. “

 Receiving publications like the ‘Tapori Newsletter’ or the ‘Letter to Friends around the World’ is very important for the group members. “It encourages us and helps us learn about other countries. “ They added, “We would also like ourselves to be known around the world.”

 The activities of the GCEU – growing crops, breeding animals and working alongside Tapori children – has led the group to think about development. “Here we tend to think about international organisations in terms of money and the aid that they bring. Many non-governmental organisations do not take a bottom-up approach, working from the reality and point of view of communities; rather their approach is top down and destabilises communities rather than uniting them. We have a big responsibility to understand and help others understand that the distribution of food supplies and other provisions – which become like money here – is not going to help us develop but instead keeps us downtrodden. Change should come from the community itself and not from the outside.”

Uvira Group of Farmers and Breeders (GCEU), Democratic Republic of the Congo