Working Villages International is founded on the principle that all people deserve access to meaningful employment and a high quality of life. We believe that people don’t want to be eternally dependent on others, but instead want a means of supporting themselves and their families with dignity. We provide that opportunity in the form of startup capital, seeds and raw materials, and job training. The results have been truly miraculous, showing that people want only the tools to lift themselves out of poverty and chaos.
Since our formation in 2005, WVI has grown in size and scope far beyond what we could have hoped for. When we arrived in the Ruzizi Valley, thousands of people were suffering from malnutrition and treatable illness. Now, our workers are the largest producers of food in South Kivu province, and our Ruzizi Project is becoming a model that can lead the way in sustainable development throughout Africa. We look forward to many years of planting the seeds of a better world.
The Ruzizi Project (view larger map) is located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the northern tip of Lake Tanganyika, and across the border from Rwanda and Burundi. Home to some of the most fertile land in the world, the Ruzizi Valley was known as “the rice bowl of Congo” before eight years of war from 1996 to 2004 destroyed its farms and infrastructure.
In 2006, when Working Villages began agricultural production in Ruzizi, thousands of people were starving simply because they didn’t have the money to buy seeds. Now, using cutting-edge organic farming techniques, the people working on the Ruzizi Project grow over 200 different varieties of crops, and regularly tip the scales with 10-pound cabbages and 14-foot high corn.
The Ruzizi Project’s aim is to construct twenty 1000-person farms by 2016, which will act as vocational training centers, and to build an economic engine to fund the resettlement of WVI’s farmers on their own private 10-acre farms. In the spring of 2011, WVI finished its first 1000-person farm, and in fall 2011 WVI began its second 1000-person farm. The 2011 spring harvest from the first farm weighed in at roughly 2.2 million pounds of corn alone, and substantial volumes of other crops.
In addition to farming, the Ruzizi Project also manages processing and sales of crops, including hulling, milling, drying, storing and transportation. This enables any farmers working for WVI to plug into the substantial processing and distribution networks already established, allowing them to focus on being good farmers rather than good businessmen.
Who We Are
Alexander graduated from Hampshire College in 2006 with a BA in Development Economics, shortly after founding Working Villages International in 2005. Having traveled throughout sub-Saharan Africa, he decided to begin building villages in the Ruzizi Valley region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has been working on development in that region ever since. He has been selected as a TED Senior Fellow (view his TEDxEast talk here) and a Rainer Arnhold Fellow for his vision and work in economic development.
Marc “Fiston” Malago
Fiston joined Working Villages in 2007 as Project Manager, overseeing the Ruzizi Project. A native of the Ruzizi Valley, he earned his degree in Agronomy before working with the UN in the capital of Congo, Kinshasa. WVI began work in the Ruzizi Valley in 2006, and Fiston left the UN to join WVI, eager to do development work in his native region. His expertise and familiarity with cutting-edge organic farming techniques has proved invaluable, as has his local knowledge of the people and the area.