News / Africa

Insecure Land Tenures Hobble DRC Farmers

Muneman Rugema, 22, works on a field near in Masisi, 88 km (55 miles) northwest of Goma, DRC, Dec. 19, 2008.Muneman Rugema, 22, works on a field near in Masisi, 88 km (55 miles) northwest of Goma, DRC, Dec. 19, 2008.
Muneman Rugema, 22, works on a field near in Masisi, 88 km (55 miles) northwest of Goma, DRC, Dec. 19, 2008.
Muneman Rugema, 22, works on a field near in Masisi, 88 km (55 miles) northwest of Goma, DRC, Dec. 19, 2008.
Nick Long
KINSHASA — In the village of Mbankana, an agrarian community high on the Bateke Plateau, a volcanic area some 80 miles from the capital, a tractor hired out to small farmers rumbles out to the fields.
While local farmers would like to see more tractors available for hire, disputes over regional land access have left them uncertain about where they can legally use the rented equipment.
The National Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) recently banned farming within a reserve that includes areas surrounding the villages. 
According to the National Confederation of Agricultural Producers (CONAPAC), a non-governmental organization, small farmers have been encroaching on the reserve because tracts once available for local agrarian purposes have been sold off to rich outsiders.
Even two former national parliamentary presidents are among those who recently acquired large holdings near Mbankana, says CONAPAC vice president Rosalie Biuma.
Both CONAPAC and the ICCN say most concessions aren't being farmed. And according to CONAPAC adviser, Etienne Bisimwa, it reflects a nationwide problem.
"Big people in government, people who have a lot of money, they will buy a big part of land and just keep it like that and not use it," says Bisimwa, who describes the situation as emblematic of a nationwide pattern. "There is an issue of more than 2,000 big farms which are not being used."
By Bisimwa's estimates, while a typical concession might comprise only 500 hectares of land, other parcels are so large that it takes half a day to drive through them.
The blame game
At a recent meeting on land rights, small farmers complained that local chiefs are selling off the land.
"Local people have to be able to farm or they won't survive," said Ephraime Mbo, a local farmer. Another farmer, Ambroise Ngai Ngai, corroborated the charge, explaining that 40 hectares for which he paid the customary rent in 2003 — a 25-year lease — had been resold by his chief.
But Jacques Moba, a Mbankana village elder, said in some circumstances land can be reallocated ahead of lease expiration.
"That can happen if land is not being used or if the tenant was paying the rent in installments and has not kept up with the payments," he said.
Further complicating matters, customary rents can be vaguely defined and expressed in terms of products such as whiskey or clothing rather than cash. But regardless of the type of transaction, it is generally agreed that rents are now worth ten-to-fifteen times what they were worth five or six years ago. It also is clear that locals have been outbid for large swaths of land that are now lying idle.
Laby Mokosu, the chief of Mbankana, said he was within his rights to cede land, just as his ancestor, the King of the Bateke, had ceded the land where Kinshasa stands today. He said he had discussed a plan with the government to build a second city of Kinshasa on the Bateke Plateau, as the existing city had become polluted.
As for the peasants, he called them lazy, explaining that they had not put the land to good use.
National development at stake
CONAPAC’s Bisimwa, however, argues that government must think more about local farmers if it wants the country to develop.
"The government is not thinking in terms of promoting farmers," he said. "For them the local farmer is a peasant, he is not educated, he does not smell good and he lives in the rural area. But we are saying that those are the farmers we have to promote if we really want to promote agriculture in this country."
Land grabbing in Congo is speculative, Bisimwa says, often based on the anticipated demand for jatropha, a crop used to make biofuel. The profits, he says, are unlikely to be invested in rural areas.
"People who are grabbing the land, they are taking it just to wait for the international situation," he said. "They are saying, 'When [outsiders] need jatropha in their country, what will they do? They will come here, they will produce jatropha, and they will just export it'." 
But so far, Bisimwa says Congolese are doing most of the land grabbing in the DRC, and he advises prospective foreign investors to refrain from buying Congolese farmland until land-tenure laws are clarified. 
The government is currently working on a new land law, and CONAPAC says existing laws need to be harmonized, land titles need to be mapped, and that new titles for small farmers should be legally defined and secure.
Following Mbankana's recent land rights meeting, ICCN officials agreed to allow agricultural encroachment on the land reserve so long as people do not build there.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

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

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs