The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports.
It could be the lush green fields of an English farm, but this is Masisi in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Kishusha dairy farm in the eastern part of the country has been making cheese since the 1970s The farm is a success story in a region that's been plagued by conflict and insecurity. Cheese is not a traditional part of Congolese cuisine, but demand for the farm's Goma cheese is growing. Louis Rubonesha is the farm manager. (SOUNDBITE) (French) LOUIS RUBONESHA, FARM MANAGER SAYING: "Our cheese is popular with people in Goma. Out of the 300 blocks of cheese we produce, we sell at least 200 in Goma and some of it also goes to Kinshasa, so our cheese is well-liked across the country, too." Known for the large quantity of cattle that roam the hillsides and its cool climate, this area offers ideal conditions for dairy production. The farm currently produces only one type of cheese which is similar to the Dutch version of gouda. And despite a thriving business, there's a constant threat of conflict. (SOUNDBITE) (French) LOUIS RUBONESHA, FARM MANAGER SAYING: "The biggest challenge we face is lack of security because when there's a lack of security, we don't work well and sometimes we even have to flee. Whenever we come back, we have to deal with the after-effects of conflict and restart production." Years of fighting in eastern Congo has displaced millions of people and left many struggling to survive. Rubonesha and the farm workers have had to flee on numerous occasions, abandoning production. The return of relative peace two years ago and his love for cheese brought Rubonesha back. Although Kishusha's goma cheese is well-liked in the region, the farm is hoping to expand its production to also include other types of cheese such as Camembert.