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Lives changed with marketing of non-timber forest products and village savings and loans associations

Some impacts of WWF activities in the Lac Tumba/Lac Mai Ndombe landscape

Mama Mputu Georgine, 58 years old, widow and mother of 4 children, member of the indigenous peoples' community, has lived in Samba, a village in the Bosanga Ntomba group in the Lac Tumba sector, Bikoro Territory, since her birth. She used to live from her work in the fields and did various paid jobs for others. Five years ago, she started trading in non-timber forest products (NTFPs), in this case gnetum, or mfumbwa in Lingala, a wild vegetable growing in the forest, which is very popular in many parts of DRC and elsewhere in Central Africa.
Before the arrival of the Integrated REDD Program (PIREDD), Mama Georgine used to sell her gnetum at a low price to customers from Bobanda, a village located 7 km from her village of Samba. The small amount of money from this activity, barely sufficient for daily needs, did not allow her to save. When WWF launched PIREDD, it identified the NTFPs and their associated market chain. Communities were then supported in establishing community-based NTFP micro-enterprises. Mama Georgine is the chairperson of the steering committee of one of these enterprises. She has now increased her income, saved 50,000 Congolese Francs ($265) in six months. Now she travels to villages to purchase NTFPs from other gatherers and she is able to sell larger quantities than before. Her new business meets her household’s primary needs, and allows her to save for the future.
 
Mama Nsele Wichita, 63 years old, widow and mother of 8 children, including 3 minors, lives in Mooto a community in Ntomba a Nkole group, Lake Tumba sector, Bikoro Territory. Besides her occupation as a housewife, she wove and sold mats, but limited by lack of means of transport she could not these to markets for sale. Maman Wichita joined the Village Savings and Loan Association(VSLA) established with material and technical support from WWF, and was able to save 18,000 FC  ($ 90 USD). She was also able to borrow 150,000 FC ($ 75 USD) which she invested in pig breeding, assisted by technical advice from WWF staff. Now, she has the means to educate her children, with enough income to meet the family’s basic needs and more.
 
Mrs. BOMBULA Charlie, married and mother of 5 children, all minors, lives in the village of Ekele, Bofidji West, Elanga sector, Bikoro Territory. The family survived through Madame Bombula’s small trade in agricultural products: chikwangue (processed cassava) and corn, but could not earn enough to support her household.
Mama Bombula says: “In May 2020, WWF trained 30 mothers in the village in the manufacturing and marketing of improved chikwangue (better quality chikwangue than those usually produced) and two months later, still with the support of WWF, we set up a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA)”. Mama Bombula confides with joy that thanks to the savings facilitated by the presence of the association, she was able to put aside 450,000 francs ($225), which helped her pay for her daughter's school fees in the sixth year of secondary school and to pass her state exams. 
She adds: "The other mothers in our association also have edifying testimonies on the positive impact of savings on their social life. 
Members of a Village Savings and Loans Association
Manufacturing of mats near Mbandaka

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