Landmines planted about a decade ago in parts of Kabalo territory in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) southeastern Katanga Province are adversely affecting farming livelihoods, and an important World Food Programme (WFP) project.
“In our area, there are villages where we get much harvest but the road leading to those villages [has] landmines,” a food trader from Kabalo said.
Lorries often get blown up by the landmines, Birindwa Murhula, a leader of one of the local food traders’ associations, told IRIN.
Kabalo, formerly the breadbasket of mineral-rich Katanga Province, was affected by DRC’s 1998-2003 civil wars. The Mpaye area, for example, served as a demarcation zone separating belligerents when Zimbabwean-backed DRC army troops clashed with the rebel Rassemblement Congolais Pour la Democratie, which was backed by the Rwandan Army.
Mpaye is still affected by landmines, making the transportation of food from local villages to trading centres and beyond a challenge.
In the past, the NGO Danish Church Aid (DCA) helped to demine Kabalo but stopped work in the first half of 2012 due to a lack of funding.
Katanga Province is among those affected by landmines and other explosive remnants of war in the DRC, according to the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre. Other affected provinces include Eastern Kasai, Equateur, Maniema, North Kivu, Orientale, South Kivu and Western Kasai.
While “relative stability has resulted in a significant increase in the mobility of [the] population and a considerable increase in activities such as: preparation of land for agriculture, irrigation ditches, movement of livestock, timber cutting, village to village trade and large-scale movement of IDPs [internally displaced persons] and refugees returning to their homes, all of these activities are greatly increasing the risk and exposure of the local population to landmines and UXO [unexploded ordnance],” warned a 2011 Mine Action report.
WFP micro-credit project
The presence of the landmines could also erode gains the food traders are attributing to the WFP Purchase for Progress Programme (P4P) which is helping to link them with small farmers in the area.
“Traders who have resumed working thanks to P4P micro-credit cannot go to the villages that always harvest good maize,” explained Murhula.
Thanks to P4P, traders can access micro-credit loans of up to US$2,000 which they use to buy maize or rice from farmers, who are also P4P beneficiaries, to sell to towns such as Bukavu, Kalemie, Lubumbashi, Mbuji-Mayi and Uvira in neighbouring provinces. Some 12,000 farmers and 120 traders in Kabalo are P4P beneficiaries.
A market for farmers’ produce has meant that they now have access to improved incomes, though this has not led to improved nutrition among the P4P implementing villages, in a country where half the population has nutrient deficiency.
The poor transport system, price fixing and delays in buying produce from farmers are further challenges. “If I buy maize 90km [away], I cannot offer the same price like when I buy at Kabalo business centre,” said a trader.
P4P is helping to connect small rural farmers in developing countries to markets, leveraging WFP’s position as a major staple food buyer. WFP has an annual US$1.25 billion procurement budget and already has an institutional platform in some of the poorest countries.
In neighbouring Uganda, at least 25,000 farmers are participating in the P4P programme selling their produce to WFP and gaining access to credit. Based on the quality, quantity and location of the farmer’s produce in the warehouse, the farmers can obtain a warehouse receipt which serves as security for micro-credit access.
According to a WFP brief, the programme aims to buy some 500,000 tons of food in 21 developing countries where the scheme is being piloted between 2008 and 2013.