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Democratic Republic of the Congo
Rural communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) face steep hurdles, such as armed violence, civil insecurity, poverty, acute malnutrition, limited access to natural resources and lack of basic social services. As a result of ongoing violence, 2.6 million people are internally displaced and over 440 500 Congolese refugees have fled to neighbouring countries. Furthermore, given the escalation of the armed violence in the Central African Republic, the number of incoming refugees has recently increased. In the effort to contribute to peace-building and reconciliation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (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 helping returnees and former soldiers find gainful employment in the fisheries and agricultural sectors.
Protecting household food security
Despite good potential and abundant natural resources, agricultural production in DRC has been in steady decline. Due to fighting and unable to afford seeds, farmers were uprooted from their homes, causing them to miss vital planting seasons; in addition, their herds are shrinking due to displacement, looting and disease. Other challenges include high staple food prices and low purchasing power given increased food imports to meet the growing demand in the main cities. By providing quality seed, tools and technical training, FAO is working to restore the country’s rural economy by helping returnees, refugees and host families to produce and sell more food, as well as former soldiers build new, productive lives.
Identifying food needs
The size of DRC, 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 10th cycle of the IPC analysis (December 2013-June 2014) indicated that 6.7 million people are facing acute food insecurity and are in uegent need of food and livelihood assistance (IPC phases 3 and 4); this figure is likely to rise as violence continues to displace more peoople from their homes and farms.
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 improve access to transportation. In addition to providing high-yielding seeds and assisting people to produce quality seeds, FAO is supporting farmer organizations to process and market their products. One way is through WFP’s Purchase for Progress project, by buying staple grains from low-income farmers, it 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 DRC. 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. 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