The Next Granier of Africa Will be Harvested in the Congo Valleys and Plains

The Democratic Republic of Congo is orienting its economy out of the minerals and mining cursing specialization inherited from a brutal and uncivilized colonial past that has ravaged the population, and the environment and halted even the drive of Congo toward its own development home-made policies diverting all the natural resources and human to the exigent and unmodernized exploitation, extraction and extraverted spoliation of the lands, the wealth and the trade of human by the European complaisance, indifference and silence of the plague and suffering of the entire tribal communities in Congo and surrounding regions.

Instead of that, the Democratic Republic of Congo with its neighboring of the Apartheid Era of South Africa and other surrounding countries still governed by colonial-era politicians such as Rhodesia was bordered by South Africa to the south, Bechuanaland (later Botswana) to the southwest, Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) governed by a white minority of European descent and culture in addition to Mozambique another fief of the backward colonial dislocated economy.

The lack of infrastructure given the former colonial power opted for the portage to increase its profit from the mining extraction and export have left Congo completely formed of isolated enclaves unchartered that have no communication means and road network capable to sustain the regional development and its integration in national policies. The subsequent depletion of many Congo regions of its male population and the absence of a complete educational system for the majority of the population contributed to a shortage of technical and managerial skills. Similar cases were also present in other African Sub-Saharan countries that even those rich in natural resources, experienced difficulty in achieving high rates of development. All these conditions had created and resulted in the scarcity of manpower to handle, reverse, and limit the losses in the productive sectors, including the food-related sectors which increased the dependency of Congo on external aids and substitutes that aggravated the lack of agricultural productivity able to feed the population of Congo. This deterioration has also been exacerbated by the continual infighting between the tribal factions, the military forces inherited similarly from the colonial legacy.

The Democratic Republic of Congo was then advancing in the path of independence by carrying the heavy burden of the past and its atrocities to the point that many tribes relied on the cueillette as a means to survive despite the vast lands favorable to transform Congo as the Ukraine of Africa for the production of food staples and crops.

Congo is then dominated by subsistence farming which is the method of farming that concentrate on the traditional products and cannot be expansive in terms of productivity, diversity and value-added for investment for more lucrative and reproductive agricole agriculture. The most commonly cultivated crops are cassava, sweet potatoes, taro, yam, plantains, okra, tomatoes, beans, and groundnuts.  Cassava is the most important staple food in the DRC, maize is the second most important, and beans are among the main staple food crops in the country.

This subsistence farming remained limited in its production and operational conditions, limited in terms of new forms in the usage of land, limited in terms of research and development, limited in terms of diversification and modernisation, limited in the creation of peripherique, differentiated and complementary agricultural activities. This kind of agriculture remains the response to survival strategy without any sort of reduction of costs, preservation of the environment and multiplication of the demand or the market size. Cost control and waste control making the agricultural sector to be vulnerable to the changing climate, the variations of the demand, the availability of financial return, the scarcity of capital and the volatility of the market local and international in addition to the continual rising costs of production including the external surge of inflation.

Food Sovereignty is projected through support the sustainable transformation of family farming

At the event, the Democratic Republic of Congo presented its National Food and Agriculture Pact, made at the Food Sovereignty and Resilience Summit held in January 2023 in Dakar. The Pact is a product of the PTA.

Serge N’Guessan, African Development Bank Director-General for Central Africa, said at the request of Democratic Republic of Congo, the African Development Bank will devote all of the country’s available allocations during the 2023-2025 Afrian Development Fund (ADF)-16 cycle to operations in support of the Agriculture Transformation Programme, which is the backbone of the Bank’s Country Strategy Paper for DRC over the next five years.

The Bank’s delegation, led by Mr N’Guessan, included senior officials and several executives from the various areas of operations. The experts enriched discussions on the involvement of the private sector and of technical and financial partners for giving agribusiness a new impetus in DRC.

Other topics discussed included approaches for sustainable and resilient agriculture, operational challenges to improve the resilience of the agriculture industry, the financing of agricultural value chains, the potential of the cassava sector, strengthening agribusiness, and the role of public-private partnerships and of energy and transport infrastructure for agribusiness development.

Five main recommendations were made for developing agricultural value chains:

  1. Adopt a sectoral and project-based approach, with real support from government (tax and administrative facilities, availability of basic socio-economic and energy infrastructure, etc.) for the revival of the agricultural sector.
  2. Limit all charges, fees and taxes to a maximum of 25% of value for production and export activities.
  3. Set up a sovereign wealth fund to support agriculture and agriculture hubs to support and advise small agricultural investors.
  4. Strengthen the capacities and roles of decentralized territorial entities in the governance of the agricultural sector, ownership and effective application of the value-chains approach and sustainable agriculture, risk guarantee and mitigation mechanisms and access to finance.
  5. Harmonize the regulatory framework for Special Economic Areas (ZES), Law on Basic Principles for Agriculture, Law on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs).

The DR Congo Government reaffirmed its commitment to making agricultural transformation a key driver of development in the country, particularly through the necessary reforms and the establishment of a taskforce bringing together a number of ministerial departments and stakeholders to monitor implementation of the Forum’s recommendations. More details in the following lines