Though severely jetlagged and after a short episode of food poisoning in-country, I am home following a very successful visit to our fish farming project in DR Congo. The impact of our support for aquaculture in Equateur Province was clear from our first interactions with leaders in the area. The enthusiasm for aquaculture, increased productivity, and thus greater contribution it makes to lives is admittedly not just more than I expected from our work, but even more than I had hoped for. Many new ponds have sprung up, some owned by people who have not farmed fish before now. Other ponds that have laid idle for fifteen years have been refurbished and are now growing fish for household use and sale. Over coming weeks, I will relay stories of individuals and groups who have benefitted from the training, tools, and encouragement offered through our work.
The fish farming group in Tandala was the first area we visited on our arrival in Equateur Province. Anticipating our (myself and Emmanuel Dole) arrival, people had come from as far as 40 km to hear from us. I spent part of one evening, hovered over a stainless steel bowl of fish they had brought as a gift, and some example predators (insects, frog), surrounded by fish farmers, discussing their challenges and learning from them. They have made great advancements and are enthusiastic, but still face several obstacles in increasing pond output–the most notable being theft, unfortunately.
The next day, we walked just down the hill to visit a set of ponds owned by 100 people. All of these individuals had received the seminar training, but only two received the $25 tool subsidy. With $50 in tools (a mixture of 8-10 shovels, machetes, or hoes) and whatever other tools they already had among them, they constructed or refurbished 133 ponds! I had to clarify several times to be sure something wasn’t getting screwed up in translation–133 ponds! with $50 in tools! That’s crazy.
We had a meeting with this fish farming group that day to hear their challenges and bring encouragement. It was the first time it hit me that, sure, I am part of the reason that this has happened, but it has been the leadership of Emmanuel Dole and the motivation of the fish farmers themselves that has brought this success. I’m thrilled to be a part of a solution, but glad that I’m not the driving force. …They are.