Monday, May 28, 2012

Home from DR Congo

I (we) have returned from Congo.  Our travel was virtually free of incident and illness on our part, which always makes it easier to bear the unfamiliar foods, climate, and living conditions.  Speaking of unusual foods, here are a few of the more interesting: 
  • durion - a fruit originally from Malaysia; I found it absolutely digusting, but some really like it. 
  • simbliki - a type of medium-sized rodent, a.k.a. cane rat; it wasn't too bad.
  • lungfish - had this a couple of times; I like it. 
  • ant - I ate a single ant that was living on a citrus tree; it was like a shot of citric-flavoured acid on my tongue.
Durion fruit (gross, as far as I'm concerned!)

I feel that the trip was very successful, having provided a small amount of financial support to local fish farm associations and also constructed a plan for a two-year aquaculture support project.  Over the next couple of entries, I will report on these activities and proposal.

I spent several days with Paul Noren, a missionary who was responsible for aquaculture development in this same area of Congo in the 1980s.  He is extremely knowledgeable of aquaculture, agronomy, local culture, and speaks several local languages fluently.  He escorted me to several fish farms where we were able to hear from farmers the challenges they face and the support they need to expand their activities.  With cash that I had lugged with me from home, I was able to contribute US$200-300 to each of four fish farm associations with 2 to 200 members.  Much of the money was promptly put to use in purchase of tools for expansion of their farms. 

 Fish farming association with new tools

This first step in helping was especially meaningful since they have had no support since before the war (1998-2002), whereas other sectors of development (health care, education, agriculture, clean water) have received project support.  I entered this trip with the understanding that aquaculture is currently unsupported in the north of Congo, a region where it is proven to be an effective development tool.  Both the absence of support and the importance of this sector were confirmed.  And I intend to help.

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