Carrying on the Cheese Legacy

52 year old Andre Ndekezi carries on cheese production legacy in a bathtub .The Democratic of Congo seems an unlikely place for this diary venture.

It is here that in a hillside village, Started by Belgian Priests in the small hillside village of Masisi in 1975, cheese is made with Ndekezi's bare hands.

The workshop is a small, wooden cabin, where curd spends a month on a shelf in a dark room, eventually becoming a refined cheese known to locals as 'Goma cheese'. Named after the largest town in the area, it has a mild taste and can be compared to French gruyere.

With 30 years in the trade, Ndekezi was taught to make cheese by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Masisi. Although conditions are basic, there are hundreds of small dairy farms lined up on the hills of Masisi, where the cool climate and abundant cattle offer ideal conditions for dairy production.

At the time he was training, all sorts of cheeses were produced in eastern Congo. "I know how to make camembert and mozzarella, but we no longer have the necessary equipment or products to make those cheeses. During the war, everything was looted or destroyed."

Today, cheese from Masisi is the only local dairy product to be sold across the Democratic Republic. Perhaps with devoted workers like Ndekezi, the cheese economy will grow. Cheese is not usually a part of traditional food in Africa, as much of the cheese on the continent is imported from Europe.