Research on Congo’s basic crops
A first step towards producing more and better
"What is there that I don't need to do?" Dr. Stefan Hauser of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) asks. Hauser, the scientific supervisor of the agricultural component of an EU-funded FAO operation in support of agricultural and forestry research in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, draws a picture of a land of plenty but - paradoxically - one where most people do not have enough to eat.
With 80 million hectares of arable land, DR Congo's agricultural potential is enormous. But only ten percent of it is being used, and the total is declining. The surface cultivated for a staple crop like cassava has declined from 2.4 million hectares in 1991 to 1.9 million in 2001. An estimated 75 percent of the Congolese population is underfed.
Agricultural research, Hauser's own field of experience, does not fare much better. Of the 32 research stations the country had at the time of its independence in 1960, only 9 remain operational. They are, moreover, poorly equipped, Hauser says, and more importantly, understaffed. The National Institute for Agronomic Study and Research (INERA) has 63 researchers, of whom only a handful at PhD level.