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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More