DR Congo: Using cows for transport to help women farmers

woman feeding cow
A woman at the training centre feeds a cow that will be used for transportation. (Photo: Benoît Almeras-Martino/UNDP DRC)

On the road leading to Kisuma, in the region of North Kivu, Furaha pauses briefly and wipes the sweat from her brow without removing the cloth sack she carries securely on her back.

Highlights

  • This pilot experience aims to use animal traction as a means of rural transportation in order to encourage farmers’ mobility and reduce women’s workload in North Kivu.
  • To date, nearly 4,000 farmers from the region, the majority of whom are women, are benefiting from animal traction.
  • The Government of South Korea has funded the project, contributing close to US $3 million for 3 years.

“It’s even more tiring to put it on the ground and then pick it back up again,” she says. The sack weighs 15 kilograms. “And the mill is still three kilometers away.”

Furaha is far from the exception—women carrying heavy loads, sometimes 30 or 40 kilos, are found heading to markets on all of North Kivu’s roads.
“Where we come from, women are seen as tools for work. They’re the ones who farm the fields, take care of the harvest and transport the food to the markets,” explains Christian Ndoole, head of the training center for cattle in Kisuma. The center recently launched its activities by welcoming 30 male and female farmers from 15 community associations.

With support from UNDP and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as well as funding from the Government of South Korea, this pilot project aims to use animal traction as a means of rural transportation to encourage farmers’ mobility and reduce women’s workload in North Kivu.

“Providing relief for women will also help create more opportunities to increase their resources, and associations will thus be able to rent out cows for other activities and improve life in communities,” Ndoole says.

After 40 days of training, the 30 trainees will return to their respective associations to share what they have learned and transfer their knowledge to other members.

Approximately 4,000 farmers who are members of beneficiary associations, of whom the majority are women, are expected to benefit from animal traction and the use of harnessed teams of cows.

However, the idea of using cattle as draft animals is fraught with cultural resistance among the region’s farmers. According to a UNDP-funded anthropological study conducted in 2013, raising cattle is solely geared toward milk and meat production. Moreover, enormous symbolic and social values are associated with herds of cattle, the pride of livestock farmers.

Despite these cultural barriers, enthusiasm is real among the trainee-herders, including Furaha.

“Usually, every Tuesday and Friday, I carry between 15 and 20 kilos of goods between Boabo and Masisi Center,” she says. “Using the cows will help relieve my suffering.”

This initiative is part of the “Community Recovery and Peacebuilding in North Kivu” project. In addition to promoting animal traction, the project plans to renovate and build rural markets in order to boost economic activities in North Kivu but also to create professional training centers for youth, former combatants and people living with HIV to provide job opportunities for them.

Close to US $3 million dollars of funding has been provided through a trust fund from UNDP and the Republic of Korea to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Implementation is carried out by UNDP, in partnership with FAO and the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.