Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mumosho - Part I

The groupment of Mumosho lies 10 km south of Bukavu on the road to Nyangezi, an area which incorporates 8 villages with a population of roughly 31,000. Located on the Ruzizi River, it lies on the border of Rwanda. Before the wars began in 1994, the people of the two countries shared their lives peacefully, passing back and forth across the river to trade, attend school, and marry.

 Children too poor to attend outside the school fence looking in

The area suffered greatly from wars waged on its soil from 1996-2003. Due to Mumosho’s strategic location, multiple armed groups passed through, all to the detriment of the people who live there. The fabric of society was severely damaged, with the health, education, economic and sanitation systems almost destroyed. Human rights violations, such as massacres, use of children as soldiers, rape, and sexual slavery rose to alarming levels.

The district Chief of Mumosho in his office

To make matters worse, the Mwami, or Big Chief, who has sovereignty over the area, sold over 400 acres (190 hectares) of good farm land to private interests-- to the World Bank to build a dam, and to Pharmaquina, a German company that grows chichona for quinine, neither of which benefit the population of Mumosho in any way.

The road to the dam showing land that can no longer be used for farming

To date, no large humanitarian organization has come forward to help; however, two small community-based agencies are doing their best to help the people of Mumosho rebuild their lives.

One is run by Amani Matabaro, a local boy who works in Bukavu for MONUQ (UN forces in DRC) but has come back to help his community. I was introduced to Amani and his wife Amina last November by Hortense Barholere, the Administrator at Ushindi Center, who is Amani's cousin. It was through them that I learned about Mumosho and decided to visit the area.

Amani founded and runs the Welfare of Women and Children in Kivu (ABFEK), a non-profit that supports the Kivu Sewing Workshop, where vulnerable women and girls learn to be dressmakers. It also pays school fees for as many disadvantaged children as their small budget allows.

The Kivu Sewing Workshop

The other local agency is the Union fait la Force (UFF), which focuses on teaching local farmers sustainable agriculture practices and modern animal husbandry on a demonstration farm. When I first met Pacifique Kagizi, Director of UFF, he was showing farmers how to use compost to improve the yield of banana trees.

Pacifique explains how compost helps plants grow

Later he showed off the new goat pen, which is raised off the moist ground to keep the animals healthy.

Partially constructed goat pens

The day I toured Mumosho, we visited a primary school that desperately needs help. The walls are made of splintering wood, the tin roof so old and leaky that when it rains (which is often in Congo), the children must huddle in one corner to avoid the deluge that pours through the roof like a sieve into their classroom.

The leaky primary school roof

I also met the school doctor, who I learned has little medicine to treat sick students, not to mention the local people who bring their children to the school infirmary to be treated. There is no hospital in the area, only two small clinics which are poorly supplied and several hours walk away.

Discussing school needs with Amani, the School Doctor, and the School Principal

I left Mumosho feeling I wanted to do something to help. When I returned to the USA, I spoke about Mumosho to various groups. Two Rotary Clubs came forward to help the school with the leaky roof: Wakefield Rotary (RI) and Santa Maria Rotary (CA), whose donations I carried with me when I returned to Congo earlier this month.

To be continued . . .

With love and gratitude,

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