Friday, June 28, 2013

Lua's Story: A Global Ecovillage in the Democratic Republic of Congo

It isn’t everyday you get to meet and make friends with someone who has travelled to the UK from Congo.  Lua Secretary General of GEN (Global Ecovillage Network) Central and Southern Africa has travelled to Findhorn with her partner Lucky to share stories from her work in setting up GEN Congo.  I met Lua when I attended the workshop where she shared her story... 

I find myself connecting with Lua immediately.   She was born in Kinshasha to a wealthy family and grew up feeling disconnected to her culture.  The Congo was colonised by Belgium and just like in Sri Lanka the divide and rule culture of our colonial masters created parts of society who had special privileges and were removed from the masses.

Like myself, Lua has studied and lived abroad in far off places like California, South Africa and Canada.  Around 21 she started reading many topics that ranged from psychology to spirituality, which led her to start asking questions about the plight of her country.  She found herself depressed and distressed at what she found.  

Congo is at the heart of Africa and is the second largest African country and the 11th largest country in the world.  The population is more than 75 million.  The war, which began in the late 90’s, devastated the country and killed approximately 6 million people.  The prevalence of rape and other sexual crime during this time was terrific and some of the worst of its kind in the world.  Congo is also extremely rich in biodiversity (second only to the Amazon) and minerals.  We hear that all the elements of the periodic table can be found here and learn about the mining of coltan a mineral used in many of the electronic devices we use today – laptops, phones, camera equipment etc.  Coltan mining helped finance and fuel the conflict in the Congo.   Someone is getting very rich from this mineral but it isn’t the villagers in the Congo.

The Congolese today are searching for a new reality…for healing from the horror they have been subject to and to rebuild their nation.  GEN Congo was formed as a result of the work done by Lua with much support from her partner, and her colleagues in the global GEN movement.   Today they are looking to connect with other eco village networks and permaculture projects to promote a more sustainable way of living in the Congo. 

They have set up the Mama Na Bana Ecovillage and Permaculture Living and Learning Center with donor support and are looking to facilitate and run the Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) courses.  Street kids and adults from the local village attended the first course and they are also broadening their reach to the Indigenous Pygmees, a group marginalised in Africa.  Obviously the course will have to fit the special circumstances of this country.

I listen in amazement as Lua shares her stories, her sadness at the state of her country but also her joy to be involved in the work that she is now engaged in.  Having visited the gorillas in Uganda as well as the pygmies, I can imagine the countryside that she describes.  She is looking for volunteers but she also cautions anyone interested about the conditions they will find themselves in.  Malaria, typhoid, mosquitoes, snakebites are all part and parcel of living and working here.

Our time together has been all too brief but I have been truly inspired by the work that Lua and Lucky are doing in the Congo and wish them the best in their quest to transform a war ravaged country.   In a conference dominated by white Europeans and stories from the west it was so refreshing to hear Lua’s story. 

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