USAID Activity Uses Agriculture to Restore Peace and Build Resilience
This post is written by Katherine Moore, Diane Russell and Hari Swaminathan.
The conflict between Batwa (Indigenous peoples) and Bantu communities in the Tanganyika Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) devastated agricultural production. In addition to impacting agriculture, the violence led to large-scale displacement, the massacre of families and infrastructure destruction.
To effectively address these issues, the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID's) Tanganyika Conflict Mitigation and Reconciliation Activity brought Batwa and Bantu communities together to improve their lives by helping them increase their agricultural production and access greater market opportunities.
Mungela Elise, who recounted her story in "Resilience in Tanganyika: A Mother In Lukwangulo Rebuilds Her Life," demonstrates that the success of the USAID activity rests in championing and empowering families most affected by conflict. Despite innumerable tragedies due to the conflict, Mungela — a member of one such family — volunteered to work with the activity to build peace in her community. She also participated in trainings on conflict prevention, mitigation and resolution; trauma healing; and improved agricultural techniques.
Mungela now participates in the interethnic Women Organizing Resources Together (WORTH) group, which is composed of both Batwa and Bantu members. Key to the activity’s success, these WORTH groups integrate community-based savings and lending with literacy, business skills, collective action and asset-building activities.
The WORTH group helped Mungela build comradery through group farming, which helps to rebuild local livelihoods and reduce frustration between ethnicities. The group is also helping Mungela and other members to save money; access internal low-interest loans; and build skills in literacy, numeracy and entrepreneurship.
Given how much the conflict has taken from her, Mungela’s testimony is astonishing. She feels that her commitment to agriculture will allow her to recover and rebuild.
"I am satisfied with USAID’s Tanganyika Conflict Mitigation and Reconciliation Activity, which give me the courage to work hard and believe in a better future," she said.
The Tanganyika activity serves as a shining example of USAID’s vision that every person, regardless of identity, can be instrumental in positively transforming society. Thus far, the activity has supported and strengthened 30 interethnic peace building, livelihood and conflict mitigation groups, including women’s groups, youth associations and peace committees. These groups actively engage in 32 food security and income-generating activities focused on market gardening, animal husbandry and fisheries.
USAID’s Tanganyika Conflict Mitigation and Reconciliation Activity has embraced and operationalized a do no harm approach. This key principle, which considers and addresses unintended consequences of interventions to safeguard beneficiaries, is also a guiding approach for the Inclusive Development Division of USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security. The activity works with local partners, communities and government institutions to better manage conflict, build peace and increase economic resilience. Within the framework of do no harm, the activity is mindful of gender dynamics. It builds the capacity of women, men and youth to act as motivators of reconciliation and conflict reduction via its people-to-people peacebuilding approach.
With an established network of 980 volunteers (400 WORTH group members, 400 youth association members, and 180 peace committee members), the activity has also set up 10 hubs to detect early signs of conflict and enable early intervention. Peace champions manage 10 listening centers to address intercommunity issues and conflicts, such as crop theft, killing of animals, rising tensions in villages, multiple claims on chiefdom of areas, hostage taking and interethnic attacks. These are reported to peace committees and other relevant actors so that the conflicts may be mediated before they escalate into widespread conflict.
Ultimately, USAID’s Tanganyika Conflict Mitigation and Reconciliation Activity empowers women, youth and men of both Batwa and Bantu ethnicities to improve their livelihoods through village savings and loan associations. The activity integrates conflict sensitivity, social cohesion and livelihoods to form the basis for durable peace in a remote area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that was once rife with conflict.