By Napoleon Kajunju, Rachel Kayange, Jean Claude Rubyogo, and Edited by Esther Nzuki

In the face of adversity—civil strife and volcanic eruptions —smallholder farmers show incredible perseverance in continuing to sow and harvest.  Such is the case of a group of women in the Nyiragongo territory of North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, whose unwavering determination epitomizes the very essence of resilience. 

It is an indomitable spirit, in the face of repeated shocks and uncertainty, that permeates a group of women supported by various development partners including the National Extension Service (SNV) in the Nyiragongo territory. This region bore witness to a volcanic eruption in May 2021, which left a trail of scorched fields and damaged infrastructure in its wake. Since May 2022, escalating conflict among multiple and varied armed groups has further exacerbated the situation, leading many women and families to seek refuge in displacement camps on the outskirts of the main regional city of Goma. 

How PABRA's Support is Empowering Women Amidst Adversity in North Kivu - Image 3

Amidst these dire circumstances, some might become paralyzed with their misfortune, but these women move forward and innovate: they are cultivating biofortified beans promoted by the Institut National pour l’Etude et la Recherche Agronomiques (INERA) and Alliance Bioversity and CIAT through the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) supported by Bean for Women Empowerment (B4WE) Project its scaling partners (Syndicat de Defense des Interets des Paysans SYDIP, Arbre de Paix, Association des Jeunes Cultivateurs et des Éleveurs pour le Développement du Kivu – AJEDECEKI, etc.) and governmental agencies e.g. Service National de Vulgarisation (SNV) and Service National des Semences (SENASEM) The scaling-up partners and government service providers have received tailored trainings on the beans value chain, seed system and multiplication, good agronomic practices, pests and diseases management, and agribusiness and nutrition. These trainings have been supported by PABRA through diverse initiatives including the B4WE, PICAGL project, the AID-I initiative. As a result, partners like SNV agents provide guidance and support to these female farmers, equipping them with the necessary knowledge to successfully cultivate

Recently, the women’s group encountered a new challenge—a pest infestation ravaging the leaves of their germinating beans, planted on March 16, 2024 (see photo 6). Through PABRAs digital Multi-Stakeholders Platform, Roger swiftly communicated the womens concerns, and a solution was promptly devised. A manual on pests and diseases management developed by INERA, another partner of the Alliance Bioversity & CIAT, with support from PABRA, was dispatched to Roger to assist these women in addressing the issue (photo 6 of manual).  Subsequent actions included integrated pest management including use of pesticides to control these pests were taken. 

This narrative isnt merely a single display of farmers resilience in North Kivu: meet AJECEDEKI, a flourishing seed multiplier association.   Despite ongoing skirmishes and insecurity, the group’s verdant gardens defy odds, boasting thriving bean crops. With expertise honed through multiple Alliance & PABRA -led trainings, theyre multiplying a diverse variety of beans and producing healthy seeds (see photo 7)Alongside INERA, they planted one hectare of Early Generation Seed of HM 21-7 variety, two hectares of 1st generation of HM21-7, and 2.5 hectares of Kabulangeti variety in Rutshuru. 

How PABRA's Support is Empowering Women Amidst Adversity in North Kivu - Image 8

Photo 7: Beans gardens for seed multiplication planted by AJECEDEKI in Lubero, North Kivu


Venturing into territories as formidable as Beni and Lubero in the North part of North-Kivu, where road access is especially arduous, and conflict looms large.  Another steadfast PABRA partner, SYDIP, stands firm. With an unwavering commitment to providing farmers access to quality bean seeds, they’re sowing the seeds of change set to be sold to farmers in September 2024. Since March 1st, they’ve meticulously planted 3.73 hectares of beans in Kasinga, anticipating a bountiful yield of 10 tonnes to respond to specific demand in Lubero and Beni zones (see photo 8). 

How PABRA's Support is Empowering Women Amidst Adversity in North Kivu - Image 9

Photo 8: Beans gardens for seed multiplication planted by SYDIP in Lubero, North Kivu

All in all, and together, the support of the Alliance/PABRA and the resilience of these North Kivu women can create a new narrative of production and nutrition progress—in the face of formidable odds.   Even in conflict zones, hope can spring anew, and concrete, collaborative actions can spur many steps towards a brighter future