Wednesday, July 4, 2012

This week we took a Senior Couple field trip to TIFIE farms. This is Robert Workman's humanitarian project here in the DRC. (Google Robert Workman, TIFIE) TIFIE stands for Teaching Individuals and Families Independence Through Enterprise. This facility is about two and a half hours outside of Kinshasa.
It is definitely out in the bush. We passed rolling African hills and rivers. This facility is a farm. The goal of this farm seems to be two-fold. 1) to develop a better strain of Kasava plants and 2) teaching individuals, families, and villages how to become self-reliant and self-supporting. Kasava is the main stay of the Congolese diet.
The Kasava plant is a hearty leafy plant with tuberous roots. People pick the leaves, crush them in a mortar and pestle type affair. They then boil the leaves into a spinach-like dish. They put spices, onions, tomatoes, etc. into it and cook it.
The root of the Kasava plant is peeled, diced, soaked for a couple of days to leach out the arsenic resident in the plant, dried for several days in the sun, and then ground into a flour similar to corn meal. A dish called Foo-Foo is made of the flour and is eaten with the spinach type stuff. If you made play dough out of a coarse white flour and ate it - it would be foo-foo. (most African countries have a dish similar to foo-foo made from flour or corn meal that goes by different names.) Kasava grows without much water, and seems to be very hearty. Once a plant is pulled out of the ground, to harvest the roots, a branch may be cut into several 6 inch lengths, then laid in the ground and will produce a new plant. At TIFIE, in cooperation with USAID, they have developed a more hearty, quicker producing, and more nourishing plant - called Obama Kasava. The Kasava is harvested at TIFIE by several nearby villages. The villages rotate turns harvesting the product. A daily quota is set and each member of the work team is paid for his/her days work. There is a daily quota of harvest that must be met before they are paid. Also, as a bonus, the smaller Kasava roots are given to the workers. So the daily operation of harvest is 1) pull the plant from the ground, 2) cut off the tuber/roots, 3) haul the tubers to the collection point, 4) sort the tubers into sizes, 5) peel the outside tough skin off of the tuber, 6) load them in containers for processing. The teams are working at full speed to make the daily production goal.
The Kasava is then dried in the open, the bagged and sent to be ground into flour. Then, after the villages are taught how to care for and harvest the crop, they are given plant cuttings, then TIFIE brings in their tractors, creates a "farm" area in the village, helps them get started and then the village can grow, harvest, and sell the Kasava in the market place. Thus gaining self-reliance and independence from multi-generational poverty. They also raise rabbits for food. They are implementing a project now that teaches villages how to raise, slaughterer, and market the rabbits. They will provide each family with a pair of rabbits and let nature do the rest. This one more effort by good people to break the chain of poverty in Africa.

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