KASIKA, Democratic Republic of the Congo — Hoes, rakes, forks and machetes are more than gardening tools for 635 families in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
They are keys to rebuilding the lives of refugees who were forced from their Kasika homes in eastern Congo last spring because of conflict between military groups. As the refugees started returning home last fall, many found their homes destroyed and their belongings gone.
To help the families get re-established, the Church of Christ of Congo planned and implemented a distribution of farming tools on May 17, supplied by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). The Church of Christ of Congo, a Protestant ecumenical organization, is a long-time MCC partner.
A second stage of the program will include providing seeds and a limited supply of food to help people cope until harvest.
Eastern Congo has been plagued with war and the displacement of more than two million people over the past 16 years. The 1994 Rwandan genocide brought hundreds of thousands of refugees to the area, including fleeing combatants.
Kasika was the site of a major massacre in 1998, when more than 1,000 civilians were reportedly killed by invading armies. Many families have had to abandon their homes on multiple occasions.
Kasika is located near the town of Mwenga, about 100 kilometers to the southwest of Bukavu, the provincial capital of South Kivu. MCC and the Church of Christ of Congo provided food assistance to displaced persons in the Mwenga area in 2008 and 2009.
At the moment, this part of the province is relatively secure, allowing the tool recipients, who are mostly women, to begin planting. Niminenge Bondo, one woman who received implements, was asked how soon she would start to prepare her fields.
“Tomorrow,” Bondo said, without hesitation.