Agriculture in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Due to in mineral strength, many has been thinking that, the prosperity of Congo is based on mineral, but the reality has been that mineral, is only bringing war, division and inequality so that the country is not really enjoying the prestige of being a geological scandal. Agriculture though insignificant, remains the heart for the survival of Congo so that to develop the country has to ensure there is food for each and every citizen. Data has shown that the country is spending a lot in importing food, Maize being the leading commodity. In this paper we are going to do a quick survey of the agriculture in Congo, by bringing out the achievement as well as the challenges, which would help us in our way forward.
2. DEFINITION AGRICULTURE
Agriculture: According to Encarta Encyclopedia (2004), agriculture is an art and a science of managing the growth of plants and animals for human use; it includes cultivation of the soil, growing and harvesting of crops, breeding and raising livestock, dairying and forestry.
So that talking about agriculture in D.R. of Congo, we will be talking about the growing of crops, rising of livestock, forestry and all the factors related to the agricultural industry.
3. FACTORS INFLUENCING AGRICULTURE
Agriculture around the world is affected by many factors such as: environmental factors, location factors, cultural, political and economic factors; lastly technology. These would determine the types of crops to be grown in an area, animals to be kept, and also the scale of production.
Environmental factors which can influence the type of Agriculture to be practiced in a particular place are: slope of land; soils; climate; pests and diseases.
Location factors are also important in a situation where irrigation has to be done, to be located near a river is important; near a major transport route, would also enable the goods to reach the market. For livestock a location with a large grazing land is important.
Cultural, political and economic factors are also important. Starting a dairy farming would be expensive to run as buyers would not be able to buy the fresh milk as most people are used to powder and fresh milk is expensive.
Technology is an important factor, because using technology, farmers have been able to extend plantation as the work was easy due to the use of machinery and production has been improved due to the use of high yield varieties. Extensive farming using modern technology is practiced in Congo in plantation of coffee, tea, maize.
4.Systems of farming
the following types or systems of farming are more used in Congo; Shifting cultivation, mixed crop farming, rotational bush fallow in cassava plantation, ranching existed but not exploited to the fullest; reasons will be discussed in the next point.
5. Climatic condition in Congo
To understand the distribution of crops in Congo, we have to look a bit at the climatic condition in Congo; however cassava is a crop which is found across all the country and most importantly the country has the capacity to produce several crops in almost every province so that there is diversification in food production. For example for subsistence, small farmers are able to mix more than five crops in a particular land.
Except in the high elevations, the country’s climate is very hot and humid. The average annual temperature in the low central area is about 27°C (about 80°F). Temperatures are considerably higher in February, the hottest month. At altitudes above about 1,500 m (about 5,000 ft) the average annual temperature is about 19°C (about 66°F). Average annual rainfall is about 1,500 mm (about 60 in) in the north and about 1,300 mm (about 50 in) in the south. Frequent heavy rains occur from April to November north of the equator and from October through May south of the equator. In the center of the country, rainfall is relatively evenly distributed throughout the year. These extreme conditions have limited settlement and development to areas along rivers and at higher altitudes, (Encarta Encyclopedia (2004).
6.AGRICULTURE IN CONGO
According to ANAPI (2009), the country has over 120 million ha of land suitable for farming and breeding but only an estimated 10 percent is currently used; 3 percent agriculture and 7 percent breeding.
Climate has made the crops cultivation to vary by region however has we say earlier, maize and cassava which are staple commodities are grown in every part and more importantly most area can support livestock.
Crops such as wheat, beans, potatoes, coffee, tea and quinine, are grown in the eastern regions; Ituri and Nord Kivu.
Rice, cereals, cotton, vegetables, are grown in Maniema and in other central provinces
The mountainous areas in the East and North east part of the country, which are blessed with a temperate climate, they are growing sugarcane, potatoes, tea, coffee and most importantly livestock are kept in that area.
In the North central, forest and savannah ( Tshopo, Bas Uele and Haut Uele), farmers are growing bananas, rice and groundnuts.
In the South-Western provinces of Kinshasa, Congo central and Kwango each serving the capital market Kinshasa, they are producing fruits, vegetables and beefs for the urban consumption in Kinshasa.
We have to notice that each and every province in Congo has the capacity to produce at least 80 percent of the above crops, but this was based on the level of production has given by the ANAPI (2009).
7.MAJOR EXPORTS COMMODITIES
The Republic Democratic of Congo exports to the international market the following commodities: coffee, tobacco, sugar, wood, rubber, cocoa, palm oil.
The major import of the country is maize and wheat for food, so that the import is higher than the capacity of export.
For example in 2008 the country exported 7053 tonnes of wheat but imported 115 297 tonnes of wheat flour. FAO (2009)
If we look at the statistics given by FAO (2009), concerning import and export in 2008 which can be: the country export of wheat, tobacco and coffee was 29 794 tonnes while the import of maize and wheat was 814 613, from this we can conclude by saying while exporting 4 percent the country is importing 96 percent of the good to be used and in which 70 percent is food.
LIVESTOCK IN CONGO
Livestock in the country is largely under-developed, due to several factors including the political crisis which in 1970s declared all land to be the state property so that farmers lost the ownership over the land as this discourage them in investing more and more in animal rearing. There is also a problem of diseases which is killing the animals and the worst one is the Tsetse fly.
In the south livestock is practiced in Ranching; Ranching Grelka ( Grand Elevage de Katongola), which is the most important cattle ranch with 35000 cattle.
The most kept animal in Congo is Chicken which were numbered in 2008 by 19 800 000 heads compared to cattle which were numbered 752 630 heads, because chicken is easy due to the use of the modern technology of breeding and keeping. The most consumed meat in Congo is game meat .FAO (2009)
The Monks in Kivu at the little Switzerland has been able to produce Cheese which is sold in Europe and this has been an achievement of the place where people are living between war and fragile peace. Little Switzerland is because of the breed cattle which originated from Switzerland during the colonial era.
TEA: It is produced by small scale farmers and also by large plantation, for example the Mbayo and Madaga tea estates in Bukavu which is under 1500 ha of land is one of the large tea estate in Congo. The production of tea is still very low and the company is own by a multi-national Indian company.
COFFEE: The growing of coffee is practiced in cooperative such as the Muungano coffee co-operative in South Kivu in the kalihi territory which has 4000 farmers. This was to share the expenses of production, and ensure that the market is available for all the farmers.
Robusta coffee is produced in Isiro, Ubangi, Uele, Kivu, Kasai and Bas Congo while Arabica coffee is produced in Kivu and Ituri. However the selling of Congolese coffee in the international market in owned by the Twin Trading, an UK trading company.
SUGAR: sugar is produced locally by the Kuilu Ngongo compagnie sucriere, created in 1925; however the production is low compared to the demand in sugar in the local market so that the import of sugar is high.
GREEN REVOLUTION IN CONGO
On the 15th July 2014, the President Joseph Kabila inaugurated the Parc agro-industriel de Bukanga Lonzo, in the Bandundu Province, which is going to use the high level of technology and high Yield seed of maize in a 5000 ha land. On the first of March 2015, the first maize was harvested and it was a good product, so that the next target is to be able to feed 10 million people.
8.IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURE TO THE COUNTRY
Agriculture, including forestry and fishing, employs 70 percent of the working population and according to FAO (2009), agriculture in 2011 contributed with a high percentage to the GDP of the country; 37.5 percent in comparison to industry with 27.6 percent and other services 35 percent.
Comparing to 2008 data, in 2012 the country increased in agricultural product, so that by 2013 the agricultural sector contributed with 40 percent to the GDP of the country.
9.GOVERNMENT POLICY ON AGRICULTURE
In May 2013, the government adopted the 2020 plan, in which they provide to finance the agricultural sector, so as to facilitate the growth of the sector this with the objective of being able to feed the growing population in the country. This will be achieved by investing in agricultural research, adoption of technology and new farming methods provide education and finance to farmers.
According to the MINAGRI (2015), this would be visible in production, construction of infrastructure, storage facilities, transformation and market availability of the product.
10.PROBLEMS FACING AGRICULTURAL SECTOR
Regarding to the GNP of the last Year, we can be tempted to say that the country is doing ok, but by looking at the amount spent each Year on important of food, there is a question by looking at the land available and a climate which is still friendly to agriculture and the soil which is responding to the labor of farmers; however the following challenges are faced by farmers in Congo.
Lack of infrastructure: road to transport product to the market is a challenge in Congo, if available it is expensive. So that farmers are producing but cannot reach the market as this discourages them from producing more.
Lack of fund: to do extensive farming, fund is needed so as to buy machineries, and pesticides, chemical manure, herbicides and other expenses, however it is not available. If it there conditions are not allowing small scale farmers to access it.
Lack of peace: perpetual war and insecurity has been a problem to farmers who have been producing what they can consume or being displaced during the season of cultivation.
Lack of technical advisory for producers: this has to be at the disposal of farmers to work with them due to climatic change so that they can be able to have good harvest, lack of information at many times make farmers to all produce one similar type of crop as consequence the price drop and they cannot benefit as expected.
There is no a policy to support farmers such as not taxing local product, so as to allow farmers to have market in the competition of imported goods.
Industrialization of the agricultural sectors is needed and more importantly the transformation sector to be created so as those roasted mangoes can be transformed in jus as this would give another market to farmers.
The agricultural sector in Congo is an important element due to the availability of land and more importantly to be able to feed the growing population. Effort has been made and are continue being implemented to sustain the sector, however this seem to me to be little regarding to the energy which is given the mining sector, is it because they have personal interests in mining, or it is an easy way of becoming rich, however since independence mining has never been able to advance the value of agriculture in Congo.
So that there is need for the country to concentrate 70 percent of its energy in agriculture, this was also seen by the late former president of Congo Mzee Kabila, when He started the Kanyama Kasese plantation of maize because for sure Congo would never prosper without concentrating more in agriculture.
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