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Democratic Republic of the Congo
Rural communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo face steep hurdles, such as armed violence, civil insecurity, poverty, acute and chronic malnutrition, limited access to natural resources and lack of basic social services. As a result of ongoing violence, mainly in the eastern part of the country, over 1.7 million people are currently internally displaced and about 450 400 Congolese refugees have fled to neighbouring countries. In the effort to contribute to peace-building and reconciliation, FAO is working to strengthen people’s ability to produce food and earn a living by improving access to resources and training programmes, as well as capacities to produce more diversified foods. The Organization is also helping displaced people, returnees and former soldiers to find gainful employment in the agriculture, fisheries and livestock sectors.
Protecting household food security
Despite good potential and abundant natural resources, agricultural and fish production in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is stagnating or declining. Due to fighting, insecurity, and unable to afford seeds and small tools, farmers were uprooted from their homes, causing them to miss vital planting seasons. In addition, their herds are shrinking due to displacement, looting, plant pests (Cassava Brown Streak Virus, Banana Xanthomonas Wilt, etc.) and animal disease (Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome, pest of small ruminants, etc.). Other challenges include high staple food prices and low purchasing power given increased food imports to meet the growing demand in the main cities. Regarding small-scale fisheries, in addition to limited production, producers and fish traders experienced between 15 and 37 percent of post-harvest losses. While abundant rainfall was experienced in most cropping areas in 2016 thus benefiting vegetation conditions, heavy rainfall as a result of the El Niño phenomenon caused significant floods in the north of the country damaging at least 5 500 ha of crop land. By providing quality seed, tools, technical and operational training, and promoting the introduction of value-added technologies to reduce post-harvest losses, FAO is helping to restore the country’s rural economy. This will help displaced people, returnees, refugees and host families, especially the most vulnerable - women and youth - to produce and sell more food, as well as former soldiers to build new, productive lives.
Identifying food needs
The size of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the complexity and diversity of its humanitarian crises, require coordinated, strategic and needs-based responses. FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) continue to co-lead the Food Security Cluster to improve coordination and ensure timely and accurate information on food and nutrition needs. Likewise, FAO uses the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) to classify the nature and scale of food insecurity throughout the country. The 14th cycle of the IPC analysis (October 2015-May 2016) indicated that 5.9 million people are facing acute food insecurity and are in urgent need of food and livelihood assistance (IPC Phases 3 and 4). This figure represents a 9 percent decrease compared with previous IPC analyses, which according to the Food Security Cluster is attributed to the fact that humanitarian assistance was able to be provided in certain areas formerly in conflict.
Restoring market linkages
The poor state of the country’s roads, waterways and railways, represents a great challenge for many farmers to reach markets in order to sell their products. FAO is helping to build storage facilities (i.e. community granaries and small warehouses) and improve access to transportation of raw and processed food. In addition to providing high-yielding seeds and assisting people to produce quality seeds, FAO is supporting farmers' groups to process and market their products. One way is through WFP’s Purchase for Progress project, by buying staple grains from low-income farmers, which provides them with a reliable market at competitive prices. Another way is by improving the feeder roads that link food-producing areas to these markets.
Creating income opportunities for women
There are twice as many poor women as poor men in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Limited access to inputs, land and services make it difficult for women to earn a viable living. Many are victims of sexual violence, often shunned by their families and communities. FAO is working with partners to create new opportunities for women in agriculture, including in processing and marketing, and helping them to access land, productive resources, as well as technical and financing assistance (e.g. microcredit activities). Farmer field and life schools, which provide farmers with training on agricultural techniques, nutrition and HIV, have been an excellent resource for helping women affected by violence reintegrate into their communities.