NewsCentral AfricaDRC: Producing more to import less

Wed,22Nov2017

Posted on Thursday, 17 October 2013 11:43

DRC: Producing more to import less

Tenke Fungurume Mining has started training local farmers to improve their yields. Photo©LászLó Bencze/TFMCultivated agricultural areas are growing, herds are getting larger and harvests are rising, but this is far from enough to satisfy local markets in Democratic Republic of Congo.

 

Despite a renewed dynamism at large ranches and the multiplication of farms in the mining hinterland – led by private individuals, large retailers such as Hyper Psaro, mining companies and brewers – herding and agriculture, in addition to fishing and aquaculture, do not create enough for local markets. Katanga Province imports close to 60% of its food requirements.

The government in Kinshasa provided Katanga with $20m for the 2013-2014 agricultural season in late June. It predicted that the funds would help farmers produce an additional 80,000tn of maize.

However, the activities of militia groups have led to population displacement, which threatens to reduce this year's harvest.

This deficit is a headache for the provincial government, which has taken measures such as clearing agricultural inputs through customs, requiring mining companies to grow at least 500ha of maize – a staple food for the residents of Katanga – and improving rural roads to encourage production.

Agribusiness can be part of the solution, by increasing land under cultivation and creating higher yields, but it may not necessarily resolve the problems of smallholder agriculture, where yields are low, agricultural techniques are basic and production is mainly for subsistence.

"Our goal is to ensure that each smallholder family exploits at least 1ha of maize, as compared to an aver- age of 0.6ha now," explains Marc Maki Mutombo, the chief of staff of the provincial mines and agriculture ministry.

To sow 1ha, a farmer needs 25kg of seed. For each farmer in Katanga to meet that goal, some three million farmers would need 75,000tn of seed at a cost of $112.5m, something that the government cannot afford.

Farmers train farmers

Small-holders face difficulties getting loans from local banks.

Actors in the sector envision several solutions for smallholders, including linking them to industrial farms. This is a model that Tenke Fungurume Mining has put in place.

Its agricultural policy has two poles: it operates the Mbeko Shamba farm, which is close to Likasi and is run by Walter Couttenier, and provides technical and financial support to local farmers.

This option presents some problems given the high number of smaller producers.

"It is easier and less expensive for a miner to sow 500ha of its own plantation than it is to train 500 families working on 1ha per family," explains Maki Mutombo.

According to him, faced with the dispersion of farmers, "the ideal would be to bring these three million farmers down to 5,000 groups and to encourage them to drop subsistence agriculture in favour of commercial agriculture, which calls for managerial capacity."

To achieve this, the governor's office is counting on hundreds of Congolese and expatriate farmers, who represent one-third of the industrial-scale agricultural projects in the province and 37,000ha of land cultivated.

In the manner of Tenke Fungurume, they could participate in a training programme for smallholder cooperatives.

It could start to raise production, notably of maize, whose annual demand is estimated at 1.5m tn, with supplies at only 500,000tn.

That would provide raw materials to local flour mills – like Mukalay & Frères in Lubumbashi, which has to import maize from Zambia, or African Milling Company Congo, which will launch its activities at the end of 2013 – and reduce imports. ●

Originally published in Jeune Afrique



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