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Burundi • DR Congo • Rwanda

Catalyze Agricultural Intensification for Social and Environmental Stability

a project for the great lakes region of central africa

Case Study: LOFEPACO North Kivu women join forces with CATALIST to gain respect “

Honorary President Julienne Malikidogo Rivano and Kavugho Dyphrose, a member of LOFEPACO’s quality control group, at the Animal Husbandry Demonstration Station. Raising chickens is a primary activity at the Station.


he concerns of women were not considered in most farmers’ organizations,” recalls Victorine Vadianirya, executive director of the League of Women Farmers’ Organizations of North Kivu (LOFEPACO). “In our culture, women are not respected even if they have a good idea; they are ignored because they do not contribute to the family’s earnings,” she explains. Vadianirya believes that since the CATALIST project introduced members of LOFEPACO to agricultural intensification, men have changed their attitudes toward its members and are now affording them due respect for the unprecedented revenues they are generating. LOFEPACO was established in 2000 with the idea of creating opportunities for women farmers in the war-torn North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). During the war, women were notoriously mistreated; they were often the victims of rape and violence by rebel groups and left to fend for their children and themselves. In spite of the challenges, LOFEPACO wanted to develop the capacity of women – not only in terms of organizational development but

also by enhancing their knowledge of agriculture. To encourage the cooperation of members, they shared field and other experiences. For example, LOFEPACO sought to include women in the discussion of agricultural policy in rural development. The League’s rapid growth – becoming a federation of 12 farmers’ organizations with almost 20,000 members – illustrates its relevance. More than any other organization, LOFEPACO represents, defends and promotes the interests of women farmers in North Kivu. One way the organization builds members’ capacity is through a sevenmonth leadership training course. Women leaders meet in the “reflection and action circles” (Cercles de Réflexion et d’Action), where they are free to discuss their experiences and exchange information.

Increased production reveals need for micro-credit In the Eastern Congo, women have traditionally grown crops for their family’s consumption, and not with

the aim of selling surplus crops in the marketplace. However, by working with CATALIST, LOFEPACO members have learned about agricultural intensification, using Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM). “The production on the same 0.2 hectares of land that a woman may have used previously only to feed her family can produce the equivalent of what an entire hectare of land could produce without fertilizers,” says Vadianirya. ISFM was applied during season 2008A and rice production quickly increased from two tons per hectare (t/ha) to six t/ha. By season 2009A, crop yield improved to eight t/ha. “Locals who had never shown interest in agriculture, such as demobilized soldiers and young men and women, quickly got involved as they saw the benefit of investing in intensification,” explains Madeleine Masika, head of CATALIST/LOFEPACO’s Farm Group in Kyatenga.

Another constraint faced by women farmers is that they have traditionally been unable to access credit independent of their husbands. “Everything considered as collateral – land, machinery, a vehicle – belonged to the husband because only his name is on the title,” said Vadianirya. Most micro-finance institutions required husbands to co-sign loan applications. In recognition of women farmers’ need for credit, LOFEPACO formed the Caisse d’Epargne et de Crédit Agricole pour les Femmes Paysannes (CECAFEP), also known as the Women Farmers’ Agricultural Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO) in 2006. Likewise, LOFEPACO wanted to develop a culture of saving among its members. Previously, women saved informally, hiding their money until they had enough to make a

Victorine Vadianirya, Kavugho Dyphrose and Julienne Malikidogo Rivano looking at rabbits raised at one of the activities at Mandimba, supported by two Belgian NGOs - VECO and Vétérinaires Sans Frontières.

purchase or holding on to it for harder times. This insecure method left them vulnerable to thieves or sometimes even husbands with other ideas of how to spend the money. LOFEPACO’s first experience with microfinance institutions occurred when a donor provided funds for a rotation credit scheme. Knowing the funding source originated with a donor led many borrowers to default on their loans. Despite this negative experience, the need for credit remained and the organization was determined to learn from its past mistakes. Before CECAFEP began disbursing loans, the organization’s leaders explained to LOFEPACO members how micro-finance institutions functioned. During preparatory meetings, LOFEPACO administrative staff emphasized the message that loans were not gifts, but needed to be repaid or else there would not be any additional funds to lend. Also, members knew that CECAFEP was not created

Members of LOFEPACO’s Executive Committee and a few staff members share their happiness and satisfaction at the success of their group effort.

using donor funds; rather funds were acquired through their own hardearned contributions. Each member was required to pay an initiation fee of one dollar. With nearly 4,000 participants, CECAFEP acquired enough capital to begin carefully disbursing loans to its members.

Women learn to take access to credit seriously Six-month loans of $50 allowed women in North Kivu to trade, buy seeds and fertilizer. Decisions to lend or not are made on the basis of membership and status of members’ savings accounts. Women are free to reimburse in installments or pay at the end of the loan period. In special cases, the loan repayment can be extended by six months. “Today, members are happy because CECAFEP has helped to resolve their

problems,” says LOFEPACO’s accountant Florence Kavira Tamuwite. Despite the daily challenges facing these women, 86 percent of loans have been fully reimbursed. “They understand it is their money and they want to keep it,” explained Julienne M. Rivhano, Honorary President of LOFEPACO. With the accumulated funds, LOFEPACO is trying to facilitate its members’ ability to move up the value chain and earn more income. The organization has slowly acquired land in order to conduct farmer field days for its members. On these demonstration plots LOFEPACO members practice agricultural intensification, growing maize and potatoes. Members also learn how to earn money and add needed protein to their diets by raising goats, poultry, rabbits and guinea pigs. Today, guided by a veterinarian, over 400 women are learning animal husbandry.

One step further in the partnership “Many LOFEPACO members are convinced that fertilizers actually saved their marriages,” says Dr. Henk Breman, Chief of Party of the CATALIST project and developer of the ISFM technology. “Increased crop yields following the application of ISFM have helped many of the women earn their husbands’ respect.” Adds Vadianirya, ”And we want to see more and more women taking the lead in the process of agricultural intensification in the country.” To empower more women, CATALIST agreed to take over a training program after the funding from a Dutch NGO ended in 2009. A module on crop intensification will be added to the existing training modules at the Mandimba School for further outscaling of CATALIST’s technology

and information transfer. LOFEPACO members will play an active role in spreading improved farming practices in the area. Therefore, the Mandimba Training Centre will be one of the greatest achievements of the CATALIST-LOFEPACO partnership – “a real win-win situation,” concludes Samson Chirhuza, IFDC National Coordinator in DRC.

Credit inventory system introduced for higher rice yields The CATALIST-LOFEPACO demonstration plots also taught women how to produce more rice. Their incomes, though, remained at the mercy of local market prices, which are always lowest at harvest time. However, LOFEPACO members involved in rice production learned about the inventory credit system used in West Africa. By storing their rice in a warehouse and using the crop as collateral, they could obtain credit

and sell their rice months later when market prices had risen, providing them with a handsome profit. With no donor support, the rice farmers had to rely on their own resources to benefit from the system. Nearly 40 rice farmers demonstrated self-reliance when they volunteered to invest $10 each to rent a warehouse and develop an inventory credit system. Many women obtained the initial investment amount by borrowing from CECAFEP. In 2008, the LOFEPACO members again pooled their resources in the town of Kasindi in Beni, where they acquired a seven hectare plot of land. In 2009, 83 women participated in developing rice fields on the plot. At harvest time in February 2010, their harvest of 72 tons was carefully weighed and stored in a rented warehouse. At that time, the market price for the rice placed in storage was $45 per 100 kilos. Only three months after the season, the price for rice had almost doubled to $80 for the same 100 kilos.

Despite these successes, the challenges remain great. Many more women in Kasindi would have participated in the inventory credit system; however, CECAFEP did not have sufficient capital to offer loans to everyone. This situation should improve during the upcoming harvest when CODEFI, a larger micro-finance institution, plans to provide credit for the next harvest.

CATALIST at a glance The five-year CATALIST project was launched in October 2006 by IFDC with funding from the Netherlands Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS). Project oversight is provided by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Rwanda. CATALIST is increasing food security, reducing poverty and improving regional collaboration to foster peace and security in the Great Lakes Region of central Africa.

Locally sold banana wine is one of the products of LOFEPACO’s Fruit Transformation Unit. LOFEPACO members also produce pineapple and passion fruit juice.

CATALIST This brochure is a publication of the IFDC-implemented CATALIST Project. | | Funding is generously provided by the Netherlands Directorate-General for Development Cooperation (DGIS).





IFDC Rwanda 730, Kimihurura II – Gasabo District P. O. Box 6758, Kigali Office: +250 255 10 42 11

IFDC Burundi 3 - Bweru Street Rohero II P. O. Box 1995, Bujumbura Telephone: +257 22 25 78 75 +257 22 27 35 66

IFDC Congo Q. Himbi, Goma Telephone: +243 813 134 697

Rue Mgr KATALIKO n°295 Ville de Butembo, North Kivu Telephone: +243 99 75 85 105 +243 81 47 40 446

LOFEPACO Success Story  

LOFEPACO Success Story

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