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The Golden Mama’s of Pain d’Or

This is the story and real-time account about two Mama’s in the Democratic Republic of Congo who re-sell bread for a living. It documents their daily schedules and describes the purpose and hardships of their jobs.

3:00 am: Martha (31) and her sister Hortense (35) leave their single room apartment that they share with two children and the husband of Hortense. They need to hurry because it’s a long walk in the jammed streets of Kinshasa to go and buy fresh bread from bakery. Re-selling bread on the streets is the only source of income for the two sisters, who frankly have to provide for the whole family. Customers come as early as 4 am in this largely congested city. No time to waste, they will take their bath at the bakery.

Hortense (Left)                        Martha (Right)

There is no better word to describe these women, who feed the majority of the Kinois with the daily care and effort than the “Golden Mama”. Mama is a title, and in this regard, Pain d’Or, with over one million pieces of bread per day, is empowering these women to be earners of the family.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Seaboard operates in the wheat and animal feed business under the brand name Midema.  The industrial bakery, Pain d’Or (Golden Bread) started operations in 2012. Today, we have 16,000 Golden Mama’s who represent the bakery in every street.

The bakery’s mission in threefold:

To Provide a steady source of income and a be reliable partner for the Mama’s.

To provide consistent, quality wheat flour based products at a very affordable price ($0.12 per baguette) in a country where cassava and bread is the staple food. Pain d’Or has established its footprint in the Kinshasa market with hundreds of sales points to reduce the walking distance for our Mama’s. These women are the motor of the retail market and provide a daily allowance in a country with high unemployment for males. Mama’s re-sell the bread with a margarine or peanut butter spread at the corner of every street to the common kinois. Meat, rice or potatoes is too expensive for most people.

To provide an honest and free “cash safe keeping” system for their earnings. Mama’s voluntarily deposit all or some of their daily proceeds at the depots or the bakery. This is crucial in a city that is riddled with crime, home thefts and plain extortion. At the end of the month the mama’s collect their deposits back from Pain d’Or. This system also helps them to save money and plan their expenses.

6 pm: Martha and Hortense come home before the streets become unsafe when darkness sets in. The children need to eat, the whole family helps out in the kitchen while they laugh their pain away.

9 pm: There is no electricity, clothes and dishes still need to be washed.

10 pm: Space is made to lay the beds. Marie and Christelle fall asleep after a long day, content knowing that their earnings are safe.

This is the story of Pain d’Or and the golden mama’s in the DRC.