Despite an abundance of natural resources, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the poorest countries in the world and decades of civil unrest have had a heavy toll. More than 75 percent of its population lives on just one dollar a day.
Fuelled by conflict, the number of hungry people in the DRC rose from 11 million in 1990-92 to 43 million people in 2003-05. The security situation has improved in recent years, but outbreaks of violence have occurred, especially in north-eastern parts of the country.
Continued insecurity and severe droughts in eastern DRC have curtailed farming activities, leading to loss of produce and further population displacements. Central and southern regions also experienced relatively dry periods in 2008, which negatively affected staple crops such as sorghum and millet.
The World Food Programme estimates that up to 1.6 million internally-displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable groups require food assistance. Pressure on scarce food resources in areas with high numbers of IDPs is severe and livelihoods have been exhausted. To make matters worse, from January to June 2008, cassava flour prices in the Kinshasa Central Market doubled and the price of imported rice soared by about 75 percent.
European Union Food Facility
Inadequate infrastructure and breakdowns in the agricultural production chain have stymied economic growth in the DRC, with local food production falling well below the demands of the country’s growing population.
In line with the Congolese government’s poverty reduction strategies, FAO began a two-year project in May 2009 through the EU Food Facility to ramp up agricultural production and help ease farmers’ access to markets.
With funds worth just over € 9 million, around 36 000 vulnerable households (approximately 180 000 people) will benefit from a range of activities, including increased access to quality inputs and improved transport and storage facilities.
The goal is to boost the availability of food in the main urban markets in Kisangani, Kindu, Kananga, Mbuji-Mayi and Tanganyika, while also increasing small farmers’ earnings.
To this end, FAO will focus on strengthening technical expertise in the production, storage, transformation and marketing of agricultural products, while improving the network of access roads to enable farmers to get their goods to the market. FAO will also support capacity building activities among farmers’ associations.
Another important component of the project is ensuring key actors – the government, donors, humanitarian organisations and the media - have access to regular, updated information on the state of food insecurity in the DRC, including food prices, food reserves, household consumption and other key data. FAO will also support analysis at national and provincial level through the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC), a standardized tool for classifying food security and identifying areas for action.
Other FAO Activities
FAO has rolled out a programme of emergency interventions worth almost US$50 million in DRC, making it one of the Organization’s largest portfolios.
To mitigate the effects of soaring food prices, FAO is working both through the existing emergency programme and implementing Technical Cooperation Programme (TCPs) projects specifically targeting the crisis of high food prices.
Through one TCP project valued at US$500 000, seeds and tools were procured locally (130 tonnes of rice; 20 000 hoes; 20 000 machetes; 20 000 files) and distributed in time for the September 2008 planting season, with remaining inputs distributed before the January 2009 planting season.
DRC is also benefiting through another two TCP projects focussing on capacity building and coordination activities in the Central Africa region.
Through its Emergency Coordination and Rehabilitation Unit, FAO has also set up a programme of strategic stocks with the aim of making basic agricultural inputs available at the start of the planting season to vulnerable populations living in conflict zones.