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.
x
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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs