Enhancing agricultural self-sufficiency in eastern DRCSep 13, 2021
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), some 27.3 million people – every third person – are affected by high acute food insecurity. This, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, makes the DRC home to the highest number of people in the world in urgent need of food security assistance.
The situation is especially dire in the eastern provinces, where millions of people are going to bed hungry every day. In South Kivu province, where the World Food Programme estimates 64% of rural households were already food insecure before Covid-19, the pandemic has further disrupted food supply chains. Incomes have been reduced, food prices have increased, and today, a well-balanced diet is simply unaffordable for many people.
An unhealthy harvest
One of the hardest-hit regions in South Kivu is the Kalole health zone, which has been inundated with people fleeing conflict in neighbouring areas. This population surge has strained farmland and food supplies. "When the clashes broke out in the city of Salamabila, my mother and my brothers fled and came to live with me,” says Thereza, who is among the many in Kalole trying to make ends meet.
For people like Thereza, agriculture is often the only source of income and survival. But as PIN Programme Manager Richard Maisha notes, farming in the Kalole health zone is increasingly difficult. "Due to the poor knowledge of appropriate farming techniques and lack of necessary tools and seeds, agricultural production is very limited,” he says. “The population depends on a narrow type of food which is not sufficiently nutritious."
Tools, seeds, and agricultural trainings
To improve crop yields and strengthen Kalole’s food security, People in Need (PIN), together with the DRC Humanitarian Fund, is providing food-production resources to the most vulnerable groups, including pregnant or breastfeeding women, malnourished children under the age of 5, the disabled, the elderly, and households headed by women or children.
The aim of the program is to ensure agricultural self-sufficiency, so that communities have enough food for their own use, and to sell at market. “We distribute agricultural tools and seeds, followed by training to improve agricultural production and proper preparation of nutritionally balanced meals," Maisha says. To date, the project has supported 1,400 people in the health zone.
Judith Yowali is one of them. When clashes between armed groups broke out, she fled her village in Shabunda with her five children, taking refuge with a host family. "I worked in the fields, which allowed me to feed and educate my children, but the conflict reduced all my efforts to nothing. I lost all my savings, and we were forced to flee because of the insecurity,” Yowali says. “Then I was selected in the project executed by PIN, and received the tillage tools and seeds to resume my field activities and meet the needs of my family."
Thereza has also benefited from the assistance. "Thanks to this support with fields, I managed to feed my children as well as the members of my family who came to live with me," she says.
The Covid connection
In addition to agricultural inputs and trainings, the project is also working to prevent the spread of the pandemic through information campaigns. For instance, information about hygiene best practices and quality nutrition are shared through the community relays (RECO) in the health zone by regular community visits and cooking demonstration sessions. While violence and economic challenges are key causes of hunger in the DRC, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the food-security problem.