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DR CONGO: New Salesian Agricultural Service Center in Development

(MissionNewswire) Salesian-led International Voluntary Service for Development (VIS) volunteers recently hosted a special workshop for farmers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The goal of the workshop was to empower farmers to envision a viable and stable agricultural framework and boost their confidence to bring it to fruition. The farmers’ ideas will provide the foundation for a new agricultural service center in the country.

The new center will provide resources and expertise to help improve crop yields, profitability and the overall quality of life for farmers and their families. The input of local farmers will help direct the center’s resources and training curriculum. Salesian missionaries have a long history providing agricultural education through the operation of more than 90 agriculture schools around the world.

“There is a clear willingness to believe in a future of their own making” said Alfredo Sinatora, VIS volunteer. “Participants have outlined a plan for a service center that goes far beyond the simple distribution of equipment and agricultural supplies and creates something the whole community can celebrate as their own.”

Salesian-run agricultural programs in the country are customized to meet local farming needs in education, equipment and supplies. Salesian agricultural technical training programs encompass one to six years of study and teach modern methods of farming together with business management classes. Programs often include courses in community service, vegetable gardening, cooking, maintenance, annual crops, cultivation of tea, fruit farming, zootechnics, bee-keeping, cattle-raising, leadership training and social work, among others.

“Investing in agriculture education in developing countries is vital to a community’s livelihood and essential not only to overcome hunger and poverty, but also to ensure overall economic growth for the surrounding villages and cities,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian-run agricultural schools offer more than just agricultural training – they are often part of a larger program that also offers literacy education and other vocational training, in addition to feeding programs for hungry children.”

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been plagued by intense civil war and internal conflict since the outbreak of fighting in 1998. As a result, there have been close to 5.4 million deaths, according to the International Rescue Committee. Most deaths resulted from non-violent causes such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition, all typically preventable under normal circumstances but often fatal in times of conflict. Close to 1.5 million people have been internally displaced or have become refugees in neighboring countries after having fled the country to escape the continued violence.

Young people make up about 19 percent of the country’s population but account for 47 percent of deaths during this conflict. Poverty is rampant, according to UNICEF, and 72 percent of rural households and 59 percent of urban households are poor. Nearly 40 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition and most of the population lives with moderate to serious food insecurity. The 2013 Human Development Index ranked the Democratic Republic of the Congo 186th out of 187 countries and territories listed.

Salesian missionaries have been working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for more than 100 years, ensuring that the most vulnerable children are not forgotten. Primary and secondary education schools and programs lay the foundation for early learning while Salesian trade, vocational and agricultural programs provide youth with an opportunity for a stable and productive future.

Sources

UNICEF – DR Congo