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October 25, 2014
The monthly journal for independent thought, ethical standards and moral responsibility The international journal for independent thought, ethical standards, moral responsibility,
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Current Concerns  >  2008  >  No 8, 2008  >  The Democratic Republic of the Congo can feed all Africa and the countries of the European Union [printversion]

The Democratic Republic of the Congo can feed all Africa and the countries of the European Union

by Joseph M. Kyalangilwa, President of the Great Lakes Forum International (Switzerland)

In several articles published by our magazine, it was laid out that if the African countries really exploited their full agricultural potential they would certainly not have to import the food from other continents that is being consumed in large quantities in their own countries (rice, corn, sorghum, soy, bananas, manioc, sweet potatoes, palm oil etc.). The billions of African oil dollars would no longer go to the pockets of the multibillionaires beyond the Atlantic, but could be used for reconstruction and development all over Africa. The oil producing African countries, which have only little farmland, could guarantee their populations’ food supply by importing absolutely fresh and low-priced food from those African countries, which have rich agricultural resources at their disposal. This economic exchange would enable them to develop the one and the other country, without having to put up with inhuman conditions, as they are forced upon the African governments at the moment by the traditional western investors.

Agricultural production must be given priority

The raw material supplies and oil reserves will be exhausted one day; agriculture, however, will not. We say that good governance means to look ahead. Therefore, those African governments who proclaim to act in the highest interest of their countries must make a minimum of 25% of the national budget available for agriculture. The Chinese have a proverb saying: ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime’. It is much better to teach a people how to provide for their own needs than to lose time by procuring help from outside, here and there.
Therefore, when appointing Ministers for Agriculture, Fishery and Rural Development we should not only consider their entrepreneurial abilities but also their expert know-how and their experience in the field of agriculture. The 40 year period of sugar-sweet and entertaining speeches of African politicians merely accounting for the false promises of the western investors and international organizations is finally over. All those promises never showed any results, which could have satisfied the population of the African countries, and they will never do so. These peoples, however, also have the right to food safety and a peaceful development from inside.

Central Africa has a lot of farmland

The Democratic Republic of the Congo today has 80,000,000 ha and/or 800,000 square km of farmland at her disposal ranking directly after Brazil. It would be able to feed two billion people which is about  the number of people living in Africa (918,014,166 inhabitants) and America (902,157,549 inhabitants) or Africa and Europe (734,129,205 inhabitants) and Oceania (33,594,581 inhabitants).
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the Central African countries. According to the resolution CM/Res. 464 (XXXVI), which was ratified on 23 February and on 1 March 1976 by the African Union, the region of Central Africa consists of the following countries: 1) Cameroon, 2) Central African Republic, 3) Congo Brazzaville, 4) Democratic Republic of the Congo, 5) Gabon, 6) Equatorial Guinea, 7) Sao Tomé and Principe and 8) Chad. These countries have enormous forests at their disposal, which grow along the Congo basin and are under special world protection. The following table gives some information on the surface of the eight countries and the percentage of farmland under cultivation (see table 1). From table 1 we can clearly see that, with exception of Cameroon, the share of farmland under cultivation in all other countries of Central Africa, which is predominantly covered by tropical rain forest, is nominal in relation to their total area. Considering the population growth (the population of Central Africa doubles every twenty years and is made up mainly by under-18-year-olds (67%), it is urgently necessary that each country of this region turns 15% of its land into farmland for cultivation. The following table shows the surfaces of the farmland that is under cultivation at present and the amount of land that could be used for agriculture in the near future. With respect to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the farmland is 80,000,000 hectares or 800,000 square km, thus 34.115% of the total area of the country. (cf. table 2)
With the land prepared for cultivation until 2018, Central Africa would be able to guarantee food sovereignty for its population – by then about 150,000,000 inhabitants - and to nourish an additional 2 billion people. During this period, the Democratic Republic of the Congo will have used only 35.2 million of its 80 million ha of farmland.
Countries of the west, concerned about the gradual decrease of oil production, plan to intensify the production of bio fuels. The countries, envisaged for that purpose on the ground of their cultivation capacities, are Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo must immediately be watchful and by all means avoid being dazzled by the enticing offers of billions of US Dollars. This money will be promised by the investors in order to acquire licenses for the use of millions of hectares of farmland, so that they can produce palm oil there, which will then be converted into bio fuel. Such investments must not categorically be rejected, but it is out of the question that areas in the tropical rain forest will be deforested to that end. The country already possesses enormous areas of arable farmland, which lie fallow at present. Dictator Mobutu  made sure that politicians of his clan were able to seize it when some land was nationalized in 1974. However, due to a lack of experience, they neglected and finally abandoned it.
You may agree that the Democratic Republic of the Congo does not fail to feed its population. The farmers active in agricultural production continue to produce food, but in 1984, for example, their products rotted because connecting roads were missing, on which the food could have been transported to the consumer centers. This isolated location of cultivation areas increased the population’s  economic insecurity  and led to the migration of the rural population away from the country into the cities.
In 1980, more than 80% of the Congolese in rural areas were living on welfare. The federal state government must now particularly invest into the national infrastructure and do its utmost to make the agricultural routes of transportation, usually dirt roads which can be repaired within a sensible period of time, passable in all seasons. Then the people will certainly return from the cities and move back into the country.
The re-establishment of the transport axis Bukavu Kasongo via Mwenga Kamituga is mentioned as an example. Unfortunately, these roads are still waiting to be completed about 150 km before Bukavu. However, many inhabitants of Bukavu already acquire plots of farmland along this road. They build houses there, shops and soon also factories for the processing of agricultural products (oil, rice, grain); in addition, hotels and restaurants with rural cuisine etc.
The same is true for the recently opened traffic axis in the equator province. However, the inhabitants of Lubumbashi (Katanga) deplore a lack of corn, while thousands of tons of corn are rotting  in the district of Tanganyila. The reason is always the same: missing routes of transportation for the agricultural products.
The Ministers for Agriculture, Traffic and Infrastructure, Civil Engineering and Reconstruction must do something about it, so that the farmers will not be discouraged and give up. The Democratic Republic of the Congo must not be regarded as a country not capable of feeding its population.     •

Table 1
Countries                                   Capitals    Number of inhabitants    Surface in km2    Farmland under cultivation  in %

1. Cameroon                            Yaounde                    16 380 005            475 440                   12.806
2. Central African Republic       Bangui                        3 895 139            622 984                     3.098
3. Congo-Brazzaville               Brazzaville                   2 500 000             341 821                    1.436
4. DR of the Congo                  Kinshasa                    67 000 000         2 345 410                     2.955
5. Gabon                                  Libreville                      1 207 844             267 667                    1.261
6. Equatorial Guinea                Malabo                           486 060               28 051                    4.635
7. Sao Tomé and Principe        Sao Tomé                      162 000                 1 001    
8. Chad                                    N’Dajema                    9 826 419          1 284 000                     2.795

TOTAL                                                                     101 457 467          5 366 374    
Source: World Bank


Table 2
No    Countries              Total surface in km2    Farmland under cultivation in km2    farmland under cultivation in km2
                                                                          in 2008                                               in 2018

01    Cameroon                            475 440                          60 884                                               71 316
02    Central African Republic       622 984                         19 300                                               93 448
03    Congo-Brazzaville                341 821                            4 909                                              51 273
04    DR of the Congo               2 345 410                          70 362                                             351 812
05    Gabon                                   267 667                           3 375                                               40 150
06    Equatorial Guinea                   28 051                            1 300                                                4 208
07    Sao Tomé and Principe            1 001                                                                                        150
08    Chad                                 1 284 000                            35 888                                           192 600
   
TOTAL                                       5 366 374                          195 118                                           804 957