Founded in 2005 by Alexander Petroff, Working Villages International (WVI) is an American nonprofit organization, operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The organization’s mission is to alleviate poverty in rural communities. They achieve this by investing in agricultural programs that significantly increase farmers’ incomes. Working Villages International tackles the challenges of a poverty-stricken area with methods based on Gandhian fundamentals of village development. A significant proportion of poverty in the developing world results from misappropriation of goods and misuse of resources. Working Villages International offers start-up funds for employment and training, and helps in community building, creating an environment that promotes independence from foreign aid, as well as economic sufficiency. Self-sufficiency and local production are indispensable to peace in underdeveloped nations. Working Villages International aims to establish several self-sustaining villages across Sub-Saharan Africa and other regions, greatly improving the quality of life of communities in the region without causing dependence on foreign aid in the future.
Working Villages International tackles unemployment and the root causes of hunger through a scalable development model based on ecologically sound and self-sustaining agricultural techniques. One of the most impactful projects by Working Villages International was the construction of large irrigation systems in the eastern part of Congo (DRC). Studies have shown that irrigation in the fertile lands of Eastern Congo can boost a family’s income by a factor of 10. Although World Villages International continues to experiment with different growing methods and seed varieties, the majority of the organization’s efforts target irrigation.
Ruzizi Valley Project
In April 2006, following years of studying, training, and imagining in every way he could of how to create a self-sustaining village, Alexander Petroff finally decided to put things into motion. By the time, Petroff had already set up Working Villages International and had raised some start-up capital.
Over the next couple of years, Working Villages International continued expanding the project, employing more land in agriculture and employing more villagers. Currently, Working Villages International employs more than six hundred employees, and has hundreds of acres under cultivation, producing a variety of over ninety crops. A key area of focus has been beans, corn, and rice, which are staple foods for the local community. They practice field rotation and are presently growing approximately 100,000 pounds of rice every month and a significant amount of beans and corn.
In recent years, Ruzizi valley has been experiencing increasingly longer dry seasons due to global warming, which limits agricultural activities in the region. Petroff decided to purchase a minimalistic GPS device from L.L. Bean to address the issue of longer dry seasons. World Villages International utilized the device in designing and building a 250-acre irrigation network to draw water from a river near the land. This was all carried out by the use of hand tools. All aspects involve simple hand techniques of channeling and trenching to control where the water should go. This offered a significant boost to their productivity.