Submitted by: CDI-Bwamanda
Implemented country: Congo, The Democratic Republic of the
Title: Sustainable Agriculture Gives a New Perspective to Farmers in Congo
Especially for the rural areas of Congo, abject poverty is the normal status quo. Agriculture is the most important source of income and it is carried out very extensively and without any thought to the environment. Agriculture is a question of day-by-day survival, and a long-term perspective in favor of nature has no place in the thinking of the local population. The consequences are fatal: Exhausted soil and increasing crop failure, which equals less income and ever more poverty. It has been a steady downward spiral but this is about to change. In November 2010, CDI-Bwamanda together with the University of Liège, designed a 4-year agricultural program in Congo with their focus on the districts of Kwilu and Bandundu. The project director is agronomy specialist Jean-Mark Ackermans. He only believes in one single solution: A sustainable design of the entire production chain and creating more awareness in people. He is also convinced that we must live in harmony with others and nature.
The most important products of the region are palm oil, kale, cassava, corn, and peanuts. CDI-Bwamanda is mainly offering training in new cultivation techniques where agriculture is combined with reforestation (agroforestry). 500 hectares of savannah are reforested with acacias that will help enrich the barren soil. The wood will later be used for brown coal production in future years. In addition, 500 hectares of palm oil plantations between the newly planted forest corridors are being cultivated. Larger storage areas are created, and the farmers’ co—ops are provided with oil presses and tools for more efficient processing of their products. Last but not least, the 465-km road network is being improved which will make it easier to transport the products to Kinshasa and other larger cities.
This 4-year program will cost 1.9 million euros. 90 per cent of the costs will be shouldered by the EU Commission. The rest is through contributions and government funds. Approximately 145 farming organizations (200,000 members) will directly profit through better crop yield, higher income and the creation of more jobs in a region where 85 per cent of the people are living below poverty level. CDI-Bwamanda is a program offering hope and a more optimistic outlook on the future. The daily struggle for survival is being turned into a predictable, sustainable and rewarding agricultural system. Jean-Marc Ackermans has more plans up his sleeve, one of them being apiculture, for which the acacias are an ideal precondition. Honey is a much sought-after product in Congo. The farmers will then support the conservation of forests even more. Jean-Marc Ackermans is convinced that creating a better awareness of the environment is a task that never ends.
“Environment and demography are related. We cannot solve environmental problems without taking the rapid population growth into account.”