Hope on the horizon for Democratic Republic of Congo
But needs still enormous – over $50 million required for agricultural assistance activities
5 April 2006, Rome -- With nearly 80 percent of its population trapped in extreme poverty and more than 70 percent undernourished, the Democratic Republic of Congo faces enormous challenges. Agriculture, which supports two-thirds of the population, will play a key role in the country’s future economic growth and poverty reduction efforts, according to FAO.
As part of the 2006 Action Plan for the DR Congo recently launched by the UN and its humanitarian partners, FAO is appealing for over $50 million in funding to support its emergency-related agricultural activities in the country.
Agriculture another casualty of conflict
Years of conflict have left over four million dead in the DR Congo, with 1 200 continuing to die every day from violence, disease and malnutrition. More than 1.7 million people remain displaced, and an additional 1.7 million have recently returned to their communities and are trying to re-establish their homes and livelihoods.
Agriculture has suffered tremendously, according to Anne M. Bauer, Director, FAO Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division.
“Instability in rural areas has led to an almost total breakdown of the food security situation,” Bauer said. “Access to fields remains unsafe, especially for women. Rural feeder roads are almost non-existent, which hinders commercialization and distribution of local products, and the inferior quality of seed stocks and lack of basic tools make agricultural work difficult.”
But, as the country prepares for its first elections in 45 years, hope may be on the horizon.
“After years of war, mismanagement and widespread chronic poverty, these elections are an unprecedented opportunity for the Congolese to establish a legitimate authority committed to poverty reduction and food security,” said Bauer. “The support of the humanitarian community is crucial, and FAO, with the continued generosity of donors, will play an important role in helping the country move forward by restoring rural livelihoods and helping vulnerable people meet their nutritional needs.”
This year’s Action Plan stems from a comprehensive multi-sector needs assessment carried out across DR Congo, the first of its kind.
FAO’s proposed activities address malnutrition, support families affected by HIV/AIDS, assist in the reintegration of returnees as well as ex-combatants and promote the coordination of emergency agriculture operations, including distribution of seeds and tools and seed multiplication, and the strengthening of food security information. Other projected activities seek to rehabilitate infrastructure, including rural roads, support a rapid response capacity through pre-positioning of strategic stocks of agricultural inputs, and promote marketing of agricultural products.
In 2005, FAO emergency projects benefited 450 000 vulnerable Congolese households through input distribution, promotion of backyard animal rearing and fish farming, and feeder road rehabilitation.
As part of its longer-term development initiatives, FAO is working to eradicate cassava mosaic, a disease that has contributed to the 20 percent decline in cassava production in the country over the past 10 years. The organization has also provided assistance in preparing a new forestry code for the country and is working to rehabilitate agricultural research centres and strengthen the Ministry of Agriculture’s policy-making capacities.
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 56146
(+39) 348 14 16 671
e-mail this article