Combating malnutrition at Orange Villages in the DRC

We are continuing our efforts in the DRC with the support of SOS Enfants as part of the Orange Villages programme. A school opened its doors in Kabweke in 2016, followed by a health centre. When the hospital opened its doors in May 2017, it was found that children with anaemia occupied half of the beds. In response to this infant health and malnutrition problem, different solutions were implemented in the field.
 

What are the causes of malnutrition?

What are the causes of malnutrition?
Malnutrition in the Beni and Lubero territories in Nord-Kivo is due to two main factors:
• Vulnerable populations in the highlands are unable to access land, as these highlands are too dense to support farming. This factor leads to low incomes and famine.
• The development of industrial crops (palm, cocoa) at the expense of subsistence crops at low altitudes, where arable land is freely available.
The Kabweke Orange Village is in the lowlands. Our program to combat malnutrition tackles these two essential factors.

Specific measures in the field

Kabweke is located in the heart of the forest. It aims to be a home for people and families fleeing conflict, particularly land conflicts experienced in the highlands. These forest areas suffer from a critical lack of infrastructure: no paths, no schools, no health centre to allow parents to plan and settle down and offer their children the hope of a better life.
The opening of a school in January 2016, and then a hospital in 2017 were positive signs: mothers came to join their husband accompanied by their children, children who had been left with a host family to be able to go to school could come back and join their parents. New families also chose to start a new life in this zone.
Amaternity centre also opened its doors in May 2018 to look after mothers and their children. The maternity clinic has made it possible for mothers to enjoy better quality care and treatment with the permanent presence of 9 doctors, nurses and maternity staff. As the majority of the mothers come from conflict zones, they had never received prenatal care and are now much better looked after, as are their children, many of whom suffer from malnutrition.

Planting crops and raising awareness of nutrition

Antenna France is an association working to combat malnutrition and extreme poverty. In August 2017 it donated 70 kg of spirulina to be added to the food of children suffering from malnutrition. Kabweke received some of this donation for just over 200 young children.
Following this experience, we wanted to find a local solution to help families with this problem.

We found that families tend to opt for so-called industrial crops (palm, cocoa) rather than subsistence crops.
Families from the highlands who are attempting to survive in very small spaces eat cassava on a daily basis. They then keep this habit going forward, which leads to malnutrition. They see the industrial crops as a way to make some money.


There is plenty of space in the lowlands of Kabweke! We need to raise awareness amongst these parents and encourage them to grow amaranth, squash, corn and soya.
The 1st step of the programme was to develop a 6 hectare pilot field near to the hospital to grow corn and soya, whilst a 25 x 25 m plot was planted with squash and amaranth. Amaranth can be harvested every 3 to 4 weeks, and they can harvest up to $27 a month. From the income received, $80 was used to pay the worker who created the garden, and the remainder was used for centre operations.

 

 
In the 6 hectare pilot field, 3 ha were planted with soya (200 kg) and the other 3 ha with corn (100 kg). This allowed us to obtain 1894 kg of corn and 600 kg of soya.
50 local people received 10 kg of soybean seeds each, and 30 received 10 kg of corn seed.
An agriculturist who is always in the village helped them to grow the crops.
In terms of production, out of the 500 kg of soya distributed to local people, a total of 1000 kg was harvested, and out of 300 kg of corn, 3606 kg was collected.

 

Some local people added rice to their corn plantation.
 

The 2nd stage of the programme was to purchase and install a mill to produce wheat flour and soya flour.
As part of this programme, we planned to purchase the produce from 50 local people to create a local economy and demonstrate the monetary value of these subsistence crops. If local people prioritise cocoa or palm, it is due to the money they receive by selling these crops.
A little more than $2,000 was put into the Kabweke economy by purchasing these crops.
After a period of distributing food enriched with spirulina for free, the newly opened Nutrition Centre receives pregnant women and mothers with their newborns and sells them the wheat flour and soya flour used to make up the food at a low price. We have already seen a fall in the number of children hospitalised due to anaemia.

And then?

The produced flour will continue to be distributed at the Kabweke hospital Nutrition Centre.
These flours will also be offered to hospitals in two other villages where SOS Enfants operates: Visiki and Njiapanda Bella in the neighbouring province of Ituri, whilst we wait to establish an identical programme in these villages.
Satisfied by the results of the 1st experience, the first 50 families have already planted more crops, and other families also want to purchase seeds. The process is under way to gradually change their food habits.
Squash and amaranth will be grown throughout the year. The population is supplied with seeds by our agriculturist and we have noticed that local people have started to grow squash and amaranth gardens.
The population will continue to observe techniques at the pilot field and regularly collect seeds from the centre or this pilot field, where a seed bank is in operation.
Another activity is attached to this programme: a banana plant incubator.
Bananas are an important foodstuff. However, for the past five years, banana plants have been decimated by a virus known as wiltbacteria.
The association La Lide wanted to supplement this programme by providing incubators to grow banana plants which are resistant to this bacteria. These plants have already been subject to an experiment at the Catholic University of Graben in Butembo.
An incubator has been created with a capacity for 6,000 plants. The population can collect supplies and start growing this crop again in the area. A pilot 3-hectare banana plant plot will be created next to the hospital as a demonstration.

 

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