On paper, the Democratic Republic of Congo is extremely rich in natural resources, but unfortunately it is the world’s second poorest country. It has been devastated by ruthless colonial exploitation, almost continuous, vicious civil wars both within and in neighbouring countries, huge refugee influxes, corruption, disease and malnutrition.
Ensemble is based in Bukavu, in the south-eastern DRC. The city has a population of one million people and is located by the beautiful Lake Kivu, surrounded by lush forests that are home to the majestic mountain gorilla, on the border of Rwanda.
The volcanic nature of the area, in the heart of Africa’s Rift Valley, means that the geology includes rich mineral seams and exceptionally fertile land. Along with a host of commodities, the area’s main exports are tungsten mining and coffee. Volcanic gases provide power to neighboring Rwanda, and external agencies are moving in to reap huge rewards. Much of the trade is far from fair.
On a local level, many feel desperately taken advantage of. Families have many children here, and can be living on an income of as little as $1 a day. Ensemble wants the people of the eastern DRC to rebuild the nation themselves, to take advantage of its possibilities through ground-up initiatives. In this way people can share in the ownership of progress, making opportunities sustainable by them not being subject to perceptions of exploitation.
At present, the DRC is relatively peaceful by it’s recent historical standards. The UN have been playing a more active role to protect people, and many relief organisations, sensing the relative stability are moving on to more contemporary upheavals elsewhere.
More than ever, investment is required. We believe that supporting communities to create industries for themselves will provide the right scaffold to maintain peace. Being exploitative or not engaging enough with people on the ground will only encourage corruption and inequality, endangering another wasteful step backwards.
There are currently two focus areas we are working on with Ensemble: