Mavuno is a social enterprise working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We empower local leaders to create their own solutions to extreme poverty, partnering with them to bring stability and prosperity to eastern Congo.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the site of the deadliest conflict since World War II. Over 5.4 million people have died.
DRC is one of the least developed places on earth. Rebel groups continue to terrorize communities. Extreme poverty, malnutrition, infant mortality, and lack of education are common. Extreme poverty fuels the cycle of violence. Fractured, impoverished communities are more vulnerable to attack, child abduction, and rebel recruitment.
Many Congolese say they feel hopeless. They see a bleak future with no opportunity.
When people create prosperity in their own villages, it breaks this cycle of violence. Local solutions to poverty can defuse conflict in the whole region.
Mavuno’s solutions are designed by Congolese villagers, so our work looks different in each village. Our role is to equip local leaders to end extreme poverty in their own communities. That’s why we start by listening, and we plan our exit from the beginning.
The Congolese already have the ideas and resources they need to thrive. Mavuno trains them to unleash that power and create their own vibrant future. We see abundance and opportunity in one of the most difficult places on earth.
Our five-step process is designed to place local interests and ingenuity at the center of a community’s development.
We believe in the capacity of the poor to guide and implement their own development. So what’s the first thing we do? We listen. We ask questions, build relationships, conduct baseline surveys, and let people tell us what they need.
They’re the foremost experts on their own communities, after all. We respect and follow their leadership. This affirms their dignity and value, and it’s the reason Mavuno works.
Sustainable human development must be built upon local leadership, so we place great emphasis on finding the right leaders during the listening phase. We are focused on people first, not projects.
Leaders are elected by their community, and we help them form a legally registered cooperative. They create an organizational structure suitable for their context, often including other appointed leadership positions, a board of directors, and bylaws.
Once these structures are in place, we pour everything we have into these leaders until they no longer need Mavuno. We advise them, train them, and equip them with resources. They go through Mavuno’s leadership development curriculum, which covers transformational leadership theory, financial literacy, agribusiness, economics, ethics, and more.
Any true solution to poverty must be holistic, addressing multiple root causes. We don’t think poverty can be defined by income alone, so we don’t try to solve it that way. All aspects of a community need to be developed in an integrated way.
With Mavuno, local leaders guide their community through a multidimensional program that focuses on agriculture, education, and health.
- AGRICULTURE - Most rural Congolese are subsistence farmers. We train communities to diversify crops, increase yields, and improve storage methods. This creates food security and reduces malnutrition. We also help them innovate in the marketplace to command higher prices for their goods, increasing income. To manage this new wealth, we conduct financial literacy training, facilitate access to credit, and establish group savings accounts.
Agriculture affects all of village life, so we often start here.
- EDUCATION - Education is one of the primary gateways to opportunity, but very few children in the communities we work with attend school.
We forge partnerships with local schools to reduce the cost of tuition, and help families increase incomes so they can pay their own school fees. Program participants are often able to put all their children back in school within 1-2 years.And for the parents, we facilitate adult literacy classes so no one gets left out!
- HEALTH & SANITATION - We partner with local leaders to solve a community’s most immediate health problems. Some villages don’t have any basic sanitation facilities, so we teach them how to construct public latrines. We also look at issues like clean water, malnutrition, and access to health care.
Health care is often the most significant expense for a Congolese family, and it remains out of reach for many. One trip to the health center can cost an entire month’s earnings. Our communities establish health care mutualities, ensuring that all participants have access to affordable health care.
Eastern Congo continues to experience armed conflict from dozens of rebel groups. One of our foremost goals is to create regional stability by ending extreme poverty at scale. Prosperous and cohesive communities are less susceptible to attack, displacement and rebel recruitment and abduction.
Mavuno will also work in strategic hubs that represent a cross-section of the region’s most prominent ethnic groups. We’ll encourage grassroots peacebuilding through inter-ethnic dialogue, village-to-village collaboration, and workshops.
We intend to complete our objectives and work ourselves out of a job by 2035.
For every partner community, quantitative exit goals are established across six impact areas: income generation, food security, education, health and sanitation, living conditions, and stability. Once those metrics are achieved, we formally and fully exit the community.
At that point, the community will retain ownership of thriving local enterprises, land, equipment, and appreciating assets. This works because we also leave behind talented leaders with the skills they need for long-term success.
Learn more at mavunocongo.org.