Working Villages International is a US nonprofit organization founded in 2005, working in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Our mission is to get rural people out of poverty. We do this by investing in agricultural interventions that substantially raise farmers’ incomes. By far the most impactful intervention we have done is the building of large irrigation systems. Irrigation in the fertile Eastern Congo can increase a family’s earnings by a factor of 10. While we continue to experiment with hundreds of seed varieties and growing techniques, most of our efforts are focused on irrigation.
While Eastern Congo is an area of great instability, the fighting is only able to continue because of the desperate poverty of the population. Thus, substantially raising rural incomes is not only a good thing for families, it is the best hope the area has for peace. Since we started working in the Ruzizi Valley our projects have transformed the lives of thousands of people, and we have seen the stabilizing effects of this change. Our efforts have given us confidence that as we scale our interventions throughout the Ruzizi Valley, peace will follow, and we have big plans for the future.
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.
Much of the infrastructure destroyed was irrigation systems, most of which were built by the Belgians during colonial times. We plan to rebuild and improve the old irrigation structure of Ruzizi. Doing this will provide a 10x increase in the incomes for tens of thousands of families.
Irrigation in Eastern Congo in places like the Ruzizi Valley represents some of the best low hanging fruit in rural development today. Fertile soil, combined with equatorial sunshine and numerous rivers, makes the impact of irrigation tremendous and the engineering challenges minimal. Furthermore, the 50 year history of local management of the irrigation systems makes our efforts not only achievable but also sustainable long past our exit.
The great problem of development in Ruzizi is the instability of the area, which makes it difficult for organizations to operate effectively. Having worked in Ruzizi since 2006, our experienced staff understands the local environment in a way that only comes with time. Our track record of success gives us confidence that we can completely transform life in the Ruzizi Valley.
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 help farmers 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 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.