“I will not return to Pangoy. I have seen death there.”
Amineta often thinks back to the night she fled her village with her husband and their six children as rebel fighters attacked. “My life, and my family’s, are now in Mambasa.”
After four days of walking, they arrived in the town of Mambasa, exhausted and destitute. With help from UNDP, they managed buy a hand press to extract palm oil. This work gave them financial independence and neighbours’ attitude towards them began to change.
Business boomed and the couple soon didn’t have enough palm nuts to respond to the growing demand for oil, so when the project to establish a mini oil mill in the area, Amineta and her husband were among the first to get involved.
Today the couple works full-time at the oil mill. Their income covers all of their household expenses. Amineta’s husband is in charge of the machinery. She is the accountant, registering sales, the quantity of palm nuts to process, the oil as well as the press cakes produced as a by-product and used in animal feed.
“After two months of work, the list of orders keeps growing every day,” Amineta says. “Our challenge is to meet these orders in order to be successful in the local market.”
Investing in Ituri
In 2017 two modern oil mills were built in Mambasa and Komanda with UNDP support and Japanese funding.
The oil mill in Mambasa can process 15 tonnes of palm nuts on average per day for the production of 500 litres of quality food oil.
Two cooperatives were created to manage these production units. The one in Mambasa has 90 members, while he one in Komanda has 60, who are mostly displaced and vulnerable people.
The oil mill facilitates interaction and most of all, socialization between the residents of Mambasa and the neighbouring Pygmy tribes who come to sell their palm nuts and almonds to the oil mill, or pig farmers who buy palm cakes to feed their animals.
Production is profitable, as palm oil is one of the most sought-after products in the country. On a daily basis, the oil mill sells close to 80 litres; each 5 litre barrel is valued at US$4. Nut fibres and hulls are used as fuel so that all waste is recycled.
Servicing the community
The cooperative generates additional income by servicing owners of palm groves and others smallholders.
Mam Alphonsine runs a palm grove 6 km outside of Mambasa. She comes to extract her oil at the cooperative, and says she gets better quality than the oil extracted from traditional presses. With one day’s load, she can extract more than 90 litres of oil in less than an hour. “The mechanical processing saves time,” she says.
The oil mill in Mambasa has already created 15 permanent jobs, eight of these are held by women. The unit runs six days a week.
However, the co-op members are still facing a major obstacle: there is no adequate transportation in the region that would allow them to harvest and collect more palm nuts for processing.
“Besides the means of transportation, we have requested the local administration and traditional leaders to provide us with 20 hectares of land, where we could plant an improved palm tree called Yangambi to double our production, perhaps even triple it. We are also looking into a temporary tax exemption,” says Joseph Kashangabuye, the cooperative’s manager.
Text and photos by Marc Ngwanza/UNDP DRC
These activities have been made possible thanks to the “Rapid Response for Social Cohesion and Economic Recovery in South Kiva and Ituri” project, funded by Japan.
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