News / Africa

Study: Farm Aid, Not Food Aid Best Way to Help DR Congo

Nick Long

A recent study suggests that at least half of the people in the Democratic Republic of Congo are malnourished, and that sending food aid is not the best way to help.

The study's main author, John Ulimwengu, looked at data from more than 13,000 households across Congo and found that in nearly every province, many families are not getting enough essential nutrients like vitamins E and B12, iron, zinc and folate, making them more vulnerable to disease.

Because the problem is so widespread, he says, food aid is not the right answer.

Instead, he thinks Congo's farmers should be helped to grow more rice and maize, which would supply the missing nutrients, and for which the country has plenty of suitable land and water.

"It doesn't make sense for anyone, including the World Food Program, to distribute food to cover even half the nutrient deficiency across the country.  I mean, this is a country with 60 or so million population, the size of western Europe.  It makes more sense to help local farmer," said Ulimwengu. a Congolese economist who works for the International Food Policy Research Institute.

The report says more food aid could even make the situation in Congo worse, as it deprives farmers from being able to grow a sustainable amount of crops to feed the country.

"Pouring a lot of food aid into the country had a bad effect of limiting, and competing against local food production.  I do think that as of now the balance is too much towards food aid," Ulimwengu said.

Last year, the World Food Program spent $323 million on its main project in Congo, delivering food to some four and a half million people.  The amount the donors spent on aid to farming came to much less.

The World Food Program's spokesperson in Congo, Fabienne Pompey, said Ulimwengu's report is partly right, but many people in eastern Congo cannot farm.

"We have a situation in the east of the country where 1.6 million people are displaced by conflict.  So we cannot expect them to produce food - I mean, they have got no land available.  But where the report is totally right is the situation in the west of the country, where you have provinces that could feed almost the population, but we still have pockets of very, very severe malnutrition and a lot of deficiency in vitamins, and everything," Pompay said.

Pompey said the World Food Program tries to buy food locally, and has a $15 million project over four years to help Congolese farmers in two provinces to grow maize.  But, she said the program needs to focus on price and quality, when buying food.

Analysts agree that Congo's farmers need help to become competitive.  They need better roads, or river transport, to get their produce to markets.  They also need improved seeds, fertilizer and farming advice.

All this will require private sector investment, according to Ulimwengu.  He says he is disappointed with the Congo's new agricultural law, because it will not help to attract funds.  The new law requires all new investments in Congo's farmland to be majority owned by Congolese.

"That's problematic, first because you don't have a very strong private sector involved in agriculture.  Two, no one will feel safe to invest in agriculture while having only 50 percent of power, so to speak, so at the end we think this law will reduce the amount of private investment in agriculture, especially coming from foreigners," Ulimwengu said.

Ulimwengu admits that agricultural projects have often failed in Congo.  He says this was often because the decisions were taken by government and donors, and local communities had little say.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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 Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid