North Kivu: Putting cows to the service of women farmers

A woman farmer is trained to animal-drawn in the training centre of Kisuma (North Kivu)
A woman farmer is trained to animal-drawn in the training centre of Kisuma (North Kivu). Credit: Benoît Almeras-Martino / UNPD, 2014.

Kisuma, the heart of the hills of Masisi, a training centre aims at the reintroduction of animal-drawn in North Kivu. Its goal? Putting cows at the service of women farmers of the province!

“Here, Women are considered as a working tool”

Key data

  • Founded in 1993, the NATS is in charge of promoting animal traction among farmers.
  • 30 persons are currently trained to animal traction at the training centre of Kisuma – they will be in charge of the awareness of other members of their associations from their training.
  • Nearly 4 000 beneficiaries of the farming associations from North Kivu will take advantage of the animal traction.

On the road which slopes gently and leads to Kisuma, Furaha (“Joy” in Kiswahili) takes a short break‑ she wipes the sweat on her forehead without taking off the African bag which is securely fixed on her back. “It is more tiring to put it on the ground and putting it back on when time comes to leave”. 

How much does it weight? “Fifteen kilos and the mill is still three kilometers away”. Without another word, she continues her route towards the heights. Fuhara is far from being an isolated case ‑ on all the roads of North Kivu, we see women wearing heavy loads (up to several dozens of kilos) to reach the markets.

In our regions, we consider women as working tools – it is women who cultivate the fields, it is women who do the harvest and it is women who have to carry the agricultural commodities all the way to the market” explains Christian Ndoole, from     the National Animal Traction Service (NATS).

Putting cows to the service of farmers  

Christian greets us at Kisuma, in the pen of the “training centre for cattle”, where he is one of the supervisors. Although the center is still in working progress, it started its activities at the beginning of the year 2014 while welcoming 30 farmers from 15 communities associations of the Masisi region.

With the help of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), these farmers are trained to use harnessed cows “to ease the working load of women from Masisi” according to Christian. Each association has been given two bulls; the trainers from the National Animal Traction Service teach them to take care of the animals, but also to guide them properly so the harness works.

Using bulls as draught animals, seems as a simple idea on paper, however, faces cultural resistance among the cattle breeder from Masisi.

According to Christian, “It took awareness among the cattle breeders on the use of animals in harnesses. We are just at the beginning, so we had to purchase 30 bulls – which will be used”.

Therefore, according to an anthropologic study led in the region in 2013 by Alexis Bouvy (thanks to the finance of UNDP), “the breeding of cattle is uniquely oriented towards the production of dairy and meat (...) A strong  social and symbolic value is furthermore associated to herds of cows that make the pride of the breeders”. In fact, we notice therefore that the cattle are used as draught animal.

If the implication of the breeders will require more time, it does not stop, however, the enthusiasm of 30 apprentices that feed the cows tied to boxes provided for this purpose.

The corn leaves that serve as food are taken apart from the hands of the apprentices and swallowed by the beasts in no time.

While she is about to start at offering a bale of hay to “her” cow, Furaha Kahindo, a 37 year old widow and mother of five children, confines that the beast “will solve the problems of the merchandise transport”.

“Usually, each Tuesday and each Friday, I carry between 15 and 20 kilos of merchandise between Boabo and Masisi centre. For me, using cows will allow to ease our pain”

Improving the women's life conditions in North Kivu  

For Christian Ndoole, “alleviate the women will also allow to create more opportunity to improve their resources ‑ the associations will be able to rent cows for other activities and improve the lives of the communities”.

After 40 days of training, the 30 apprentices will return among their associations to teach what they have learned to other members.

Approximately 4000 farming members of the beneficiaries associations, which more than 50% of women, must take advantage of the animal-drawn and the use of cows in harnesses in the Masisi region.

This initiative fits in the “Community Recovery and Consolidation of Peace in North Kivu”. In addition to the promotion of the animal traction, the project foresees the construction of two markets in the communities of Lushebere and Walikale, from two training professional centres in Masisi Centre and Walikale, as well as the activities of agriculture product transformation in the Walikale region.

The project benefits notably from a finance of USD 2 943 647 from the special affected funds of UNDP and the Republic of Korea for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal.

His implementation is assured by the UNPD, with the cooperation of the FAO, in support to the Provincial Inspection of Agriculture, Fisheries and Animals, to the National Service Animal Traction and the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

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