DR Congo UN seeks to revive vital agricultural sector disrupted by war

With nearly 80 per cent of the population of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) trapped in extreme poverty and more than 70 per cent undernourished, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is appealing for $50 million to support the agricultural rehabilitation of the vast war-torn country.“Instability in rural areas has led to an almost total breakdown of the food security situation,” the Director of FAO’s Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division, Anne M. Bauer said, noting that years of conflict have left over 4 million dead, with 1,200 continuing to die every day from violence, disease and malnutrition.“Access to fields remains unsafe, especially for women. Rural feeder roads are almost non-existent, which hinders commercialization and distribution of local products, and the inferior quality of seed stocks and lack of basic tools make agricultural work difficult,” she added, voicing hope that forthcoming elections will cement DRC’s return to peace and stability.“After years of war, mismanagement and widespread chronic poverty, these elections are an unprecedented opportunity for the Congolese to establish a legitimate authority committed to poverty reduction and food security,” Ms. Bauer said.“The support of the humanitarian community is crucial, and FAO, with the continued generosity of donors, will play an important role in helping the country move forward by restoring rural livelihoods and helping vulnerable people meet their nutritional needs,” she added. Agriculture, which supports two-thirds of DRC’s 60 million people, will play a key role in future economic growth and poverty reduction in a country where more than 1.7 million people remain displaced, and an additional 1.7 million have recently returned and are trying to re-establish their homes and livelihoods. This year’s FAO Action plan addresses malnutrition and includes support for families affected by HIV/AIDS, aid in reintegrating returnees as well as ex-combatants and coordinating emergency agriculture operations such as distributing seeds and tools.Other activities seek to rehabilitate infrastructure, including rural roads, support a rapid response capacity through pre-positioning of strategic stocks of agricultural inputs, and promote marketing of agricultural products.As part of its longer-term development initiatives, FAO is working to eradicate cassava mosaic, a disease that has contributed to the 20 per cent decline in cassava production in the country over the past 10 years.

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