Monday 4 July 2011

Urban and peri-urban agriculture, credit, fuel, food and hunger

Peri-urban farm plot - Maluku

Congo Masquerade is a critique of how reform initiatives and development projects have done little to help ordinary Congolese improve their well-being. Despite the book’s harsh assessment, I agree of course that there are numerous counter examples – in other words, real Congolese sucess stories. Agriculture is a good example of how positive change is emerging thanks to peoples' committment, adaptability and creativity. Agriculture is also the sector par excellence that highlights the interconnectivity of wide ranging development priorities.

The Congolese are amonst the hungriest people in the world. The urban poor are particularly hard hit. A $10.4 million FAO programme was consequently set up in five large cities to fight against malnutrition. It has increased daily intake of greens, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and other vegetables.

Farmers have seen their incomes increase dramatically. In Kinshasa and Lubumbashi for example, annual income of each farmer has increased from around $500 in 2004 to $2,000 in 2010. In Likasi it rose from $700 to $3,500. There have been similar increases in other cities.

The programme has also created jobs, providing work and income for 16,000 small-scale market gardeners and more than 60,000 people that form the links in the horticulture chain from field to table.

The first thing FAO did was to put in place institutional structures to link FAO, government and local authorities with horticulturists and farmers’ groups. It supplied seeds for new food varieties and invested in repairing irrigation infrastructure which had a side benefit of providing safe and clean water for the communities. The programme also introduced Integrated Production and Protection Management to help reduce reliance on synthetic pesticides.

Improved food security initiatives have also been supported by the Alliance Agricongo. The NGO platform has documented grassroots efforts in a beautifully illustrated book, highlighting the realities of what can be accomplished despite overwhelming challenges. The book provides powerful testimony to the ability of people – mainly women - to get things accomplished at their own micro-levels.

Intiatives to transform the urban unemployed into productive urban and peri-urban farmers have benefited significantly from greater farmer accessibility to micro-finace schemes. The FAO programme has been supported by FINCA which provides group loans to over 11,000 poor clients in urban and rural DRC.

Cell phone availability and food production is an important but understudied phenonemon. In a country with practically no landlines, cell phones contribute to improving the efficacy of food trade networks. Urban buyers can place orders directly with rural or peri-urban cooperatives, transporters share information about road conditions (and security/administrative hassles) and credit based on social capital and trust can be arranged thanks to direct communication without going through intermediaries. This also has an impact on establishing prices.

Peri-urban charcoal traders
Peri-urban farming is a concern that needs to be analysed in close conjunction with peri-urban charcoal production.  Food production and consumption and access to makala in and around Congo's big cities are also interconnected priorities.

1 comment:

  1. Since late 2009, the Ibi Bateke Carbon Sink (located on the Plateau des Bateke 130km form center town of Kinshasa) is producing 2t/day of fufu (dry cassava and flour). Actually (Feb.2012) Ibi Bateke Carbon Sink has 450ha of cassava plantations ready to be harvested in 2012. This project is the very first private initiative in DRC to be registred at the UNFCCC as a projet of the Clean Development Mechanism (Kyoto Protocol).