Amid ongoing conflict, tools and seeds offer a glimmer of hope in DR Congo20. 12. 2019
A People in Need intervention is helping farmers survive in one of the world’s most food-insecure countries.
In Kisola Hamori’s village of Matala, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s South Kivu province, food insecurity and malnutrition are chronic challenges. There are many reasons why: rising food prices, climate shocks, geographic isolation, a dearth of processing facilities, and human and plant diseases, to name a few. But arguably the biggest factor contributing to Matala’s nutritional deficiency is ongoing conflict and insecurity.
In 2017, the United Nations declared a "Level 3 Emergency" in parts of DR Congo, including South Kivu, putting it on par with humanitarian crises in war-ravaged countries like Yemen and Syria. Almost 13 million people in DR Congo are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, and many more struggle with food insecurity and other challenges resulting from displacement. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 1,200 schools are currently closed due to insecurity and a staggering 1.4 million children suffer from severe malnutrition.
These conflict-related challenges are also having a direct impact on food supplies. “The plundering of land and villages and the destruction of crops and livestock by various armed groups greatly impacts the availability of food and access to basic goods and services,” says PIN’s Field Coordinator Antoine Yekule.
It is an issue that Amori has experienced personally. “Armed groups are sometimes looting our seeds and cattle, and then I am not able to feed my children,” he says. “Agriculture is the only way to secure food for my family.”
Seeds and agricultural training for hundreds of families
Amid such hardship, humanitarian aid is essential. That’s why since November 2018, People in Need has sought to target the food crisis head on, by training beneficiaries on various agricultural techniques and with seed distribution to 689 households in six communities in South Kivu, including Matala. “We selected the beneficiaries based on defined criteria,” says Antoine Yekule. “For instance, households with one or more malnourished child, people with disabilities, seniors and pregnant or lactating women were given priority.”
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) confirms that the intensifying armed conflict is exacerbating food insecurity, particularly among vulnerable households. Women and children are especially prone to extreme poverty and malnutrition, and often suffer alarming hygiene conditions.
Amori’s family received heartier varieties of seed for rice, corn, beans and peanuts, which helped him grow crops that produced greater yields. “This new variety will allow me to produce a lot of food that I will consume with my family, and give me lots of seeds that I can use for next season,” he says.
The PIN intervention is funded by the DRC Humanitarian Fund administered by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in DR Congo and covers six health areas in South Kivu territory in Shabunda. The programme also addresses several health problems related to food security and malnutrition.
“Apart from the new techniques and seeds distribution, beneficiaries will be able to practice new methods on demonstration plots,” says Antoine Yekule. “They can also use these plots to show others proper farming techniques.”
People in Need started its activities in DR Congo ten years ago. Nowadays we combine malnutrition treatment programmes with prevention and focuses on interrelated issues like health, water and hygiene. Moreover, PIN supports agricultural and other activities contributing to quality and nutrient-dense food. PIN focuses on the most vulnerable population groups, particularly on internal refugees escaping local conflicts, as well as the host families that assist them.