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The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2013: Democratic Republic of the Congo

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2013: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Dec 2012

Decades of conflict and political instability have left the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in a precarious food and nutrition security situation. The ongoing violence has caused the displacement of 2.4 million people, which is expected to increase to 2.6 million in 2013. Public services have collapsed, leaving much of the country’s basic infrastructures in disrepair. Many areas are partially cut off from services, humanitarian assistance and trade, thereby contributing to poverty and morbidity. Today, 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

Food and nutrition security in DRC has deteriorated over the course of 2012 – today, 6.3 million people face a food security and livelihood crisis (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, 8th cycle, October 2012) and 2.4 million children suffer global acute malnutrition.

As one of the largest countries in the world, DRC’s fertile land has enormous agricultural potential, but its growth is inhibited by serious development obstacles. Agricultural production is hampered by local conflicts over natural resources, plant and pest diseases, displacement of people and climatic shocks. Basic production technologies, poor agricultural practices and the lack of investment also impact production negatively.

The agriculture sector represents a significant share of the country’s gross domestic product. Yet the current level of agricultural production has decreased by 30 to 40 percent compared to 1997. Shortages of and/or lack of access to quality agricultural inputs and tools, inadequate storage facilities and insufficient agroprocessing mechanisms deter farmers and herders from increasing their production. As a result, small farmers generate poor quality products at low yields, and they cannot earn enough income to buy food at local markets, as prices remain very high.

Infectious human, animal and plant diseases continue to threaten the lives, health and livelihoods of millions of Congolese. Peste des petits ruminants and Cassava and Banana Wilt diseases continue to devastate livestock and crops. They have a profound impact on the livelihoods and food security of pastoral communities in affected areas. Small ruminants, for example, provide a steady source of protein and income for subsistence and commercial farmers. The deteriorating livestock conditions mean that families, especially those headed by women, have fewer avenues to earn money and feed their families.

The lack of access to improved agricultural and livestock techniques puts pressure on the environment. The inefficient use of water and fertilizer not only depletes resources and creates pollution, but also impairs productivity and hinders trade. Local conflicts over natural resources (land, fishing, gaming and mining) can quickly intensify, resulting in the displacement of populations. In some return areas, the sustainable reintegration of refugees and displaced people is hampered by the restitution of land and houses. Many refugees and displaced families are now living with host families, adding to the burden of already vulnerable host communities.

Throughout the year, natural disasters – floods along the Congo River during the rainy season, lack of rain in other regions and landslides – cause serious damages in areas that are already relatively inaccessible. They lead to reduced crop yields, lowering food availability and raising prices. They also increase the risk of livestock disease outbreaks and mortality.

Agriculture is the main source of income for many Congolese families. At the same time, it is a high risk sector as far as displacement and conflict are concerned. Strengthening the agricultural capacities of Congolese could significantly help to alleviate poverty, improve the resilience of communities and contribute to peacebuilding.

Food Security Cluster response

FAO will continue to fulfill its role as co-lead of the Food Security Cluster with WFP. The Food Security Cluster’s general objective is to help break the cycle of food insecurity by providing emergency food and agricultural assistance to the most vulnerable families, in particular female-headed households, IDPs and returnees. Overall, the Cluster plans to support more than 4.5 million people, of whom 1.5 million will receive assistance through WFP’s emergency food aid programme.

The Cluster is aiming to strengthen people’s ability to produce food and earn a living through the distribution of agricultural kits consisting of good quality short-cycle cereal and vegetable seeds, tools and technical training. Several methods of distribution will be used, such as direct distribution and seed fairs, depending on the situation at local level, targeted beneficiaries and available market and trade opportunities.

In addition, providing support to income-generating activities, such as lowland agriculture, small-scale processing, livestock and fishing, can contribute to increasing and diversifying incomes, thereby stimulating the local economy while helping vulnerable families to access food. The Food Security Cluster is also seeking to assist communities to have better access to markets by rehabilitating agricultural access routes, thereby increasing opportunities to sell their produce.

Through training on good nutritional practices and diversified food production, the Cluster will help mothers of malnourished children being treated in therapeutic feeding centres to fight malnutrition. Demonstration gardens will be established, production training provided and gardening kits distributed.

The Cluster is focusing efforts on expanding opportunities for women in agriculture, supporting them in areas such as processing, marketing and improved access to land, while also helping them to access more productive resources, technical assistance and financing. Farmer field and life schools have been an important means to help women affected by violence to reintegrate into their communities while improving their livelihood skills.

The distribution of vaccines and pesticides, vaccination campaigns and training on the use of veterinary products will enable farmers to better protect their crops and livestock against diseases. Good sanitary and husbandry practices are fundamental to sustain efficient productivity.

Legend: FAO funding requests for Democratic Republic of the Congo from 2008 to 2013

Further, joint needs assessments will allow humanitarian actors to better evaluate the level of emergency needs of Congolese families while taking into account their vulnerability and resilience to shocks. It will also enable better monitoring of food security indicators and support advocacy efforts. The Food Security Cluster will also conduct food security surveys and assessments, as part of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, analyse data and share the information with partners and the Government.