News / Africa

DRC Farmers, Facing Theft, Switch to Less Edible Crops

Kwabo Batembo and her four sisters, unseen, clean Casava, a staple food, on the outskirts of the small village of Walikale, Congo, Sept. 18, 2010.
Kwabo Batembo and her four sisters, unseen, clean Casava, a staple food, on the outskirts of the small village of Walikale, Congo, Sept. 18, 2010.
Nick Long
Aid workers are predicting another year of insecurity and forced displacement for rural people in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  They say that to cope with marauding armed groups, farmers are switching to crops that are less likely to be stolen.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization conducts regular surveys in eastern DRC and has found in the past year that many farmers have been switching to crops they did not grow previously.

The FAO attributes this change to increased insecurity. Guillaume Kahomboshi is a food security expert with the FAO in Goma.

He says the peasants are struck by the way that wars here always seem to break out at harvest time.  They are thinking the wars may just be an excuse to steal their crops, he adds.

To try to reduce the risk of their harvest being stolen many peasants are switching to other crops, according to Kahomboshi.

For example, he says, in Rutshuru, a territory near Uganda that is mostly controlled by armed groups, most of the peasants are starting to grow soya.

Kahomboshi suggests this is because soya is unpalatable until it has been dried and milled, and the armed groups prefer food that is ready to eat.  

In addition, there is good demand for soya in Uganda, where it is milled and then used as an ingredient in biscuits and other processed foods.

Kahomboshi tells VOA that farmers in Masisi, another war-stricken territory west of Rutshuru, are switching to growing cassava, another crop which he says is less vulnerable to theft by armed groups.

Agronomist Franck Muke at Goma University agrees with Kahomboshi that soya is less likely to be stolen but he’s not so sure about cassava, known as manioc in Congo.

He says cassava is more of a risk because it is a staple food, and he has noticed that although cassava is not easy to pilfer, because it has to be uprooted and then dried and milled, it is often quickly pillaged.

However, the non-governmental organization Concern, which did a survey of villages affected by ethnic conflict in Masisi, reported less theft of cassava than of other crops.

Among the hundreds of thousands facing the problem of crop theft in eastern Congo are the inhabitants of a camp for displaced people at the town of Kitchanga.

Several camp residents who spoke to VOA had recently come from the nearby village of Kahemba.  They had left, they said, because of a tax imposed by an armed group of one and a half dollars a month.  Several people said they were unable to pay this tax, and if they did not pay it, they risked being killed.

Some people in the displaced camp said they go back to Kahemba from time to time to try to look after their crops.

One farmer, Germain Ngowa, suggested they could guard their crops better if they organized their own patrols.

We could share the task of guarding the crops, he says, by forming a union, and for example women could do this during the day and the men could do it at night.  He acknowledged that they would have no defense against armed marauders, but seemed to think this could still help prevent theft.

Kahemba is not deserted, but the people who have stayed there have to support the militias, either through the monthly tax and often by enrolling their young men.

The sad reality is that years of war and ethnic conflict in parts of eastern Congo have divided communities against themselves, so that villagers’ crops are as likely to be stolen by their neighbors as by the armed groups.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs