The Ruzizi valley project may seem like an agribusiness to the average observer, but it’s not. There are significant differences. For starters, Working Villages International’s main goal is to grow food for the farmers and their families as opposed to the market. If anything remains after that, the organization sells it and uses the proceeds to pay the farmers. This creates a significant impact on the lives of thousands of people, who no longer need to eat snakes to survive.
One of the objectives at the start of the project was to introduce animal traction. Petroff had spent some time at the Ox Training Center and Namalu Ox hire in Uganda, and subsequently at Tillers International in Michigan. Petroff fully believed that animal traction, particularly ox power, was the key to sustainable economic development in Africa, Which is why Working Villages International’s emblem is an ox yoke.
To raise living standards, you must improve productivity. Ox power significantly raises productivity, as compared to the use of hands which is the fundamental technique used in most parts of Africa. Unlike tractors, Ox power does not put employees out of work. Thus, it creates the perfect balance. Also, the gas prices in Congo are astronomical, and the use of tractors is not a viable option for the local population, as it can also lead to credit issues for the locals.
Another Significant aspect of ox power is the economic linkages it generates. If one decided to use a tractor, they would have to continually import goods and expertise at virtually every step of the way–which is contrary to what you require to build village self-reliance. Ox power on the other hand creates a wide range of needs, generating several employment opportunities for locals.
Ideally, Working Villages International hopes to see villagers build harrows and plows for farming, wheels, and carts for transportation of goods and crops, tackle and block setups for building and quarrying, sweep-fueled ox power units for wood sawing, grain grinding, and other applications, and slip-scrapes for road construction. Ox power allows a village to develop a wide range of skills, leading to a more dynamic and stronger community.
Building a village with a self-sustaining economy was not simple. It was sometimes very challenging to tackle the surrounding issues of war and instability. What Working Villages International did in the Democratic Republic of Congo wasn’t similar to any trend in the region. Quite the contrary, the nation was in a state of anarchy and collapse. However, the Ruzizi valley initiative managed to blossom. Working Villages International is now the second-largest employer in the region, second only to the military. As the project continues to grow, it becomes a better refuge for numerous people seeking employment opportunities, as well as the opportunity to bring up their families in a productive, peaceful, and stable environment.
Following many years of hard work, the proceeds from surplus yields are now able to pay all agricultural labor costs. As a result, all finances raised by Working Villages International can be used to expand other features of the project. In addition to establishing a housing project, Working Villages International has also initiated a tree planting program to promote recovery from deforestation in the region.