When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

food / travel

Idjwi, A Quiet Island Sheltered From Congo's Woes. For Now

Idjwi is a rare example of a preserved ecosystem in the troubled eastern Congolese region. But poverty and crop disease are now putting this tranquil island at risk too.

Sunset on Idjwi Island
Sunset on Idjwi Island
Jean Chrysostome Kijana

IDJWI - Leaving from the city of Bukavu, on the shore of Lake Kivu, a two-hour ride on a small boat lands us on the island of Idjwi.

Near the Congolese border with Rwanda, this feels like a whole new world. Young women accompanied by children offer fruits to the newcomers. “Pineapples, bananas, avocados!"

Besides the fruits, most other things are imported by boat from Bukavu. But around those green mountains, whose biodiversity is endangered by the exploitation of both major companies and small farmers. Still, motorcycle or walking remain the only two means of transport on Idjwi, unless you want to risk a ride by wooden canoe, which are known to frequently capsize.

“There are almost no roads here,” says Karongo Kalaja Kabito, the administrator of territory.

Karongo, however, says this cloistered status is holding back the island’s development: “The schools are made of sticks, and there are no desks," he notes. "There are inadequate sanitary facilities…no electricity…that’s how sad life is around here.”

The island still has many advantages -- and delights. Its range of specialties extends from delicious fruits to the local drink Kasiksi, as well as free-range turkeys. Just a few years ago, Idjwi was considered the bread basket of Bukavu, turning out beans, bananas, tomatoes, soy, manioc flour.

“Unfortunately, entire crops were decimated by the mosaic virus and the bacterial wilt,” says a local agriculture official. Because of these viruses, the manioc and banana plantations have been wiped out.

Coping with hunger

“We are dying of hunger and poverty. Please inform the president, make the state help us,” implores an elderly lady, almost in tears as she sits in front of her tiny cabin surrounded by her three grandchildren with their puffy cheeks and yellowish skin.

“Malnutrition rates are on the rise,” confirms Jean Pierre Mastaki from Tumaini foundation. His organization published a poll in April showing that half of the 250 examined children showed symptoms of severe malnutrition.

Many families that had been living solely off diseased crops are now in dire need. “I no longer have the money to send my kids to school,” says a father of a family who saw his banana plantation succumb to the virus.

Karongo notes that more and more school-age kids have now been forced to turn to fishing. “My dad couldn’t pay for my classes anymore, that’s why I had to quit, back in primary school,” recalls Hamuli, before setting out with two others in a wooden canoe.

The one potentially lucrative source of work and income is the endless amount of sand that once helped build the cities of Bukavu and Goma. Some talk about building a factory for sand transformation (glass industry, windows), others see potential in agricultural production to maximize the return on all the pineapples, coffee, avocados and bananas.

The Idjwi inhabitants have another chance. While the surrounding Kivu region is war-torn, Idjwi remains peaceful. “I’ve never seen war since I was born,” says Egide on his motorcycle.

Karongo is proud of this fact: “One of the biggest perks of my island is the peace and security that reigns.” Paradoxically, neither the investors nor the NGOs -- legion in Bukavu -- seem to show any interest. Only the Catholic and Protestant churches are trying to help the islanders.

But Karongo says ultimately it's up to the local sons and daughters to help their island get back on track. “There is potential in this place," he says. "All we need is initiative and we won't be so secluded any more.”

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ