The Borlaug Institute posted a new documentary short (3:27) highlighting the impact of the US Department of State funded partnership between the US Government and the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to provide sustainable agriculture training to Compagnie Agri located at a base outside of Kisangani. I had the pleasure of working for the Borlaug Institute in Kisangani as a graduate student intern from May to August 2010 and as an assistant project coordinator from May 2011 to July 2012.
The goal of the project is to train and equip Compagnie Agri with the skills necessary to produce substantive quantities of food for the base. Food shortages are common on FARDC bases throughout the DRC due to poor infrastructure and graft. Soldiers sometimes pillage nearby communities in an effort to survive.
The video shows how the training program has not only affected the solders’ lives on base, but also at home where they have applied the skills they learned to augment their meager salaries ($30-50/ month) and to assist their neighbors in sustainable farming through training and inputs.
Personally, it is wonderful to see familiar faces on the film and to know that the project has been successful on and off base. More importantly, stories like this emphasize the humanity of the FARDC and the struggles they face on an everyday basis. This is something that the media often overlooks in their rush to pass judgment and brand the Congolese military as unprofessional war criminals. Stories like this remind us to take a step back and practice some empathy.