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Promoting lasting resolutions to land conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

A people-centred approach promoted by the United Nations Rome-based Agencies Resilience Initiative

From 2017 to 2023, the United Nations Rome-based agencies (RBAs) – the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP) – implemented a joint initiative funded by Canada aiming at strengthening resilience for food security and nutrition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Niger and Somalia. This joint programme aimed to bridge humanitarian and development objectives and meet immediate food needs while sustainably increasing food security in regions affected by protracted and recurrent crises, with a specific focus on vulnerable women and children. This five-year resilience initiative involved structuring farmers into Farmers’ Groups to enable dialogue with landowner associations.

This good practice fact sheet highlights the impacts of and lessons learned from FAO’s activities in the context of the RBA initiative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where communities benefited from an innovative combination of: Food Assistance for Assets, smallholder value chain development and financial inclusion. FAO has been facilitating dialogue between landowners and smallholder farmers who do not own land and need to lease plots of land to cultivate and ultimately feed their families. This was done in collaboration with landowner associations in the Rutshuru territory of North Kivu, thereby promoting land access for smallholder farmers. The methodology was built upon previous FAO interventions implemented between 2013 to 2015, which initiated the development of an integrated approach to address the multidimensional and multistakeholder problem of land conflicts: the Green Negotiated Territorial Development (GreeNTD) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


  • On access to land: The project methodology included an assessment of the territory, an examination of land access constraints and community dialogue. A permanent discussion forum between landowners and farmers was established and negotiations which enabled the participation of women led to the signing of a collective convention known as the Social Territorial Pact within Rutshuru territory, North Kivu. As a result, the cost of renting land was reduced by 30 percent, allowing farmers, who previously either had nowhere to cultivate crops or were faced with exorbitant rental fees, to access arable land. This also led to the establishment of clear passageways between plots of land and flexible lease conditions. For farmers, the guarantee to have access to land for the entire duration of the contract over several planting seasons was an incentive to develop their capacities and implement good agricultural practices. Whereas previously farmers were reluctant to use fertilizer in fields that they might be forced to vacate on short notice, renewable one-year rental agreements encouraged them to invest in the quality of their soil and produce. For landowners, this meant an increase of value and productivity of their fields and increased revenue from the leasing.
  • On social cohesion: Throughout the project, farmers and landowners formed a partnership that has helped promote social cohesion and reconciliation on longstanding disputes regarding land access. FAO supported the creation of a framework for consultation between tenant farmers and landowners who previously did not communicate. The dialogue mechanism promoted reconciliation and intercommunal social cohesion, thus improving the sustainability of the stabilization process.
  • On community-based rural finance: Involving farmers in in Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), allowed them to boost their financial resources, accessing emergency funds or seed money for side projects like beekeeping, thus enabling them to increase production or carry out additional income generating activities and then pay off the loan once the crops are harvested.
  • On gender: Women make up between 60 and 70 percent of farmers in South Kivu and thus represent a great share of farmers who must rent their land from landowners every season. The negotiations facilitated throughout the project enabled three quarters of the women to sign the contracts whereas, traditionally, they were not allowed to sign contracts in front of men. The intervention shows that fostering women’s participation in workshops and discussion forums can promote a change that enables women to sign contracts protecting their equal rights to land.


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