UW–Platteville Professor of Agribusiness Dr. Annie Kinwa-Muzinga owns a farm in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa named Kivuvu, meaning “hope” in Kikongo, one of the four national languages of the DRC.
The farm was opened in attempt to improve the lives of 30 Congolese widows and their children.
“Right now I don’t have much. I can’t help everyone I want to,” said Kinwa-Muzinga. “I want to make a difference in the lives of these women and their kids, but I need to start small. As it grows I plan to incorporate other women.”
Kinwa-Muzinga moved to the U.S. from the DRC in 1990. In 2012 she co-authored a study on “Gender Assessment of the Agricultural Sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” She found that more than 75 percent of women represent the labor force in the Agriculture sector of the DRC.
Despite vast resources such as farmland the country possesses, Kinwa-Muzinga was alarmed by the rampant hunger, malnutrition and poverty. When she met a group of widows, she knew she had to do something to help them. Her answer was Kivuvu, which she opened alongside her friend, the late Kevin Dickinsen, who managed Liberty Milk Co-op.
“I can enjoy life in the United States but every day when I read the news I think about those ladies who didn’t have a voice, didn’t have education, but are working hard to have a living. I feel like I can be that voice and help,” said Kinwa-Muzinga. “I want to give them hope that even though I’m here I don’t forget about where I came from.”
Kinwa-Muzinga pays the women out of pocket to maintain a 10-acre farm on the 200 acres of land she owns. Nine months a year they farm cassava, a food staple in the DRC, as well as corn, peanuts and okra. Recently, the farm acquired five fishponds; the families who work on the farm are able to take home fish and crops as needed.
Kinwa-Muzinga’s long-term goals for the farm are to build homes for each family to live in, as well as to build an elementary school on the land. The children currently walk four to five miles each day in order to get an education.
The short-term goal is to buy cattle for the farm. When Kinwa-Muzinga discussed Kivuvu with Dr. Tera Montgomery, associate professor in the School of Agriculture, Montgomery said the Pioneer Dairy Club could help achieve this goal. This year, the Pioneer Dairy Club held their 33rd annual consignment sale and donated 15 percent of their sales to Kivuvu.
“The women want a cow and crop storage, so we had the goal to raise $2,000 for them. We raised $1,600 through the sale and the club made up the difference,” said Montgomery. “It’s good for the students to already be thinking about how to give back. Agriculture has always been good at helping to support their own community, so we try to continue to do that and then show students the global impact that something we are doing here, just in Platteville and Lancaster, can make.”