13 April 2011
It's the rainy season in the parts of DRC south of the equator and thankfully the temperatures are lower when it rains. Wednesday started off cool with light showers as we toured the fish farm and agricultural project operated by Texas A&M. The project was designed to feed a nearby Congolese military base of approximately 800 to 1000 Soldiers and allow them to be self sufficient. 43 fish ponds are located on and around the base and many are linked together through a gravity fed system that contain about 40,000 tilapia and African catfish. The fish ponds provide 800 fish (400 kg) per week and the surrounding hills are project fields of rice, cassava, and a variety of legumes. Unfortunately the contract for the project is set to expire in September and the project managers haven't heard if the contract will be renewed. The project manager chose fish as his protein source in designing the project as it it easier to sustain and harder to steal when the project is terminated. He said cattle are easy to steal and relocate, but fish ponds will continue to reproduce as it's hard to catch all the fish and they should be productive for the next ten years (restocking and adding nutrients and vitamins would help maintain the genetic pool).
In the afternoon we visited the market in Kisangani and got hassled by people yelling "Muzungo!" and "Mondele!" (roughly translated as "white guys") and others calling after us "tiki tiki tiki" (no translation but they would say it after we walked by without buying anything). The market had everything- there was a car part section, bicycle section, food, clothing, furniture, luggage and so on, sold from little wooden stalls roughly two meters wide and with a broken one meter wide path between booths.
Later we ended up hanging out at the Texas A&M house with their crew, a couple UN officials, and some locals for a good old Texas barbecue. Power kept dropping though out the night and eventually we found some candles (a general lack of fuel in the region negated running the generator) to eat by candlelight. One old Congo hand asked "What did they use for light in the Congo before candles?" The answer: "electricity."