In December 2011, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) enacted a new agricultural law that would make it extremely difficult for peasant farmers to become owners of the land they cultivate. According to Roger Pholo of Congo Federation of Smallholder Farmer Organizations, “This law offers no security to poor farmers.”
The government would only grant plots of lands to those that are “able to carry the cost of developing the land.” Article 41 of the law goes so far as to state that if the land isn’t cultivated within 18 months of the lease, the government can repossess the land. This is all bad news for the people because a reported 80% of the population makes a living off of the agriculture.
This new law could repeat the country’s history of “zairianisation” when land was redistributed to the Congolese in the 1970s even though the people didn’t know how to use their newly acquired land effectively. For now, the Minister of Agriculture is confident that different unions and representatives will be able protect the small farmers from government seizure of the land. The Agriculture Minister hopes to educate farmers in rural areas who are not aware of their rights and modify the law in an “upcoming legislative session.”
Though half of the DRC’s population suffers from malnutrition, farm aid, not food donation, is the best response, according to a recent study by the International Food Policy Research Institute. According to John Ulimwengu, the study’s lead author, “Pouring a lot of food aid into the country had a bad effect of limiting, and competing against local food production… As of now the balance is too much towards food aid.”
An additional stressor, also unaddressed by food donations, is poor transportation infrastructure.
By contrast, in January 2012 The New York Times reported on the DRC’s food scarcity, emphasizing the pathos for the children, and “power cuts” to their food availability (“For Congo Children, Food Today Means None Tomorrow, 2 January 2012). While the truth of the matter is that malnourished Congolese are suffering, the Times‘ report does not address how the new agriculture law threatens to aggravate these problems.
Title: Farmers’ Organisations Slam New Agriculture Law
Author: Emmanuel Chaco
Date of Publication: 29 February 2012
Title: Study: Farm Aid, Not Food Aid Best Way to Help DR Congo
Author: Nick Long
Publication: Voice of America
Date of Publication: 27 February 2012
Student Researcher: Sydney Silver, College of Marin
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman, College of Marin