Food Security Outlook

Growing season disrupted by climatic shocks and armyworm infestations in the southeast

February 2017 to September 2017

February - May 2017

Democratic Republic of Congo February 2017 Food Security Projections for February to May

June - September 2017

Democratic Republic of Congo February 2017 Food Security Projections for June to September

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Not mapped
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners. FEWS NET only maps the Eastern half of DRC.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Not mapped
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners. FEWS NET only maps the Eastern half of DRC.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
Not mapped
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • The expected average harvests for growing season A in eastern areas of the country, with the exception of Haut-Katanga and Tanganyika provinces affected by climatic anomalies, will allow poor households to build up several months’ worth of food stocks and improve their current food consumption. Consequently, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity is expected in most of these areas.

  • The infestations of maize crops by fall armyworms (Spodoptera frugiperda), affecting an estimated 62.5 percent of cropped areas with crop losses in Haut-Katanga province estimated at approximately 40 percent, and by white flies in the Kibombo area of Maniema province will continue to spread, resulting in below-average crop production levels for growing season A in these areas.

  • The ongoing fighting and clashes between armed groups in the eastern part of the country are triggering continued internal population displacements. Between the third and fourth quarters of 2016, the size of the internally displaced population grew by nearly 16 percent. The loss of their assets and extremely limited access to their livelihoods will keep these IDPs food insecure and, thus, in continued need of humanitarian assistance.

  • The escalating conflicts between traditional local tribal leaders in Dibaya territory in Kasaï in the second half of 2016 have spread to other parts of Kasaï. The attacks and atrocities perpetrated by local militia groups against local populations will exacerbate the humanitarian situation, limiting their livelihood access during growing season B currently in progress. Thus, there will more than likely be below-normal levels of crop production for season B, food price increases, and more limited food access for poor households.

National overview

Current situation

Farming conditions
  • Harvests of short-cycle food crops, mainly maize, rice, beans, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, have already taken place in the Northeast and are still underway in the Southeast, where the rains began approximately two months behind schedule. Current estimates show average harvests in the former area, while harvests in the latter area will be below-average due to climatic factors, crop diseases, and the population displacements preventing a normal growing season A for the 2016-2017 crop year.
  • Land preparation work for growing season B for the 2017 cropping year is already underway in the Northeast and certain parts of the Southeast and crop planting activities should start up sometime between the middle of February and the middle of March of this year. There will be atypical shortages of seeds in livelihood zones CD08 (North Tanganyika midland agriculture) and CD03 (Savanna surplus maize) and certain territories in Maniema province affected by rainfall deficits.
  • Cassava crops, which are a dietary staple for the Congolese population, have been plagued by mosaic disease for more than ten years. The mosaic virus-resistant cuttings (Sawa, Mayombe, and Liyayi) introduced in the country’s southeastern region to enable farming households to continue growing this staple food crop are currently showing their limitations in the face of severe outbreaks of mosaic disease, which they are no longer able to resist. In addition to mosaic disease, the resurgence of cassava brown streak disease in the last five or so years has driven production down from previous years. The symptoms of this disease include necrotic rotting of the roots of the cassava plant and, in some cases, the withering of its leaves, making them unfit for consumption. Farming households in areas plagued by cassava brown streak disease are gradually abandoning this crop, replacing it with maize and/or rice according to the specific farming and soil conditions in each area. 
  • Maize crops were invaded by fall armyworms (Spodoptera frugiperda) in growing season A (September 2016 through January 2017), which gnaw on the leaves of maize plants and halt their growth (Figure 1). Their presence in southern Africa, particularly in certain neighboring countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe, has now spread to adjacent provinces of the DRC, namely Haut-Katanga, Haut-Lomami, Lualaba, Tanganyika, and South Kivu. The joint report by the FAO assessment mission, the Haut-Katanga Provincial Bureau of Agriculture, and the University of Lubumbashi estimates the infestation rate at 62.5 percent, with crop losses at over 40 percent in Haut-Katanga province alone. At this stage, there are no recommendations for any control measures by the government and, even less so, by farming households. In addition to these fall armyworm infestations, rice crops are infested with white flies causing severe damage translating into the loss of an estimated 19,000 hectares of crops in four territories in Maniema province (Kibombo, Kailo, Pangi, and Kasongo territories)
Pastoral conditions
  • The climatic anomalies and resulting rainfall deficit in the Southeastern part of the country also affected cattle-raising activities in one way or another. The transhumant migration period, which oftentimes coincides with the dry season (between June and October), extended into February 2017. At some point, livestock were left to graze in the fields of farming households, reviving traditional and latent disputes between farmers and pastoralists. The rainfall deficit was responsible for the shortage of pasture affecting milk production and the weight of livestock. For example, average daily milk production in Bwegera in South Kivu province is down from the norm of four liters to a mere two liters per cow, which is a 50 percent drop.
  • Small animals and, more specifically, hog-raising activities have been affected by an outbreak of hog cholera. There is also a pseudo bird flu outbreak in Ubundu territory in Tshopo province, which is affecting poultry flocks. According to the rapid assessments by the CAID (the Development Indicators Analysis Unit) and local Territorial Bureau of Agriculture, Fishing, and Livestock-Raising, these outbreaks have affected somewhere between 25 and 50 percent of the animal population. The large losses of hogs and poultry serving as productive assets and sources of income for poor households are reducing their incomes and causing them to limit certain types of nonfood spending on items such as school tuition and health care and resort to ineffective coping strategies.
Market situation
  • Food prices on many markets are currently above-average. For example, according to SNSA (National Agricultural Statistics Service) data for North Kivu, January 2017 prices for maize meal on the Uvira market were 59 percent above the five-year average and 55 percent higher than at the same time last year. January 2017 prices for cassava meal on the same market were 61 percent above the five-year average and up by 51 percent from the same time last year. January 2017 prices for maize and cassava meal on the Goma market, though close to the five-year average, were up from the same time last year by 12 and 26 percent, respectively
  • These unusually high market prices for basic foods are attributable to a number of different factors, including the steady depreciation in the value of the Congolese franc against the U.S. dollars, crop diseases, crop damage from predators and insects, climatic anomalies, and population movements resulting in below-average crop production levels in certain areas (southeastern and central-eastern areas). In addition, restrictions on exports of food crops to the DRC by neighboring countries such as Burundi, Tanzania, and Zambia are contributing to the poor staple food availability on area markets (Uvira, Baraka, Mboko, Runingu, Luberizi, Luvungi, and Kamanyola) dependent on these exports for more than 50 percent of their supplies. 
Security situation and population movements 
  • The security situation in the DRC is still precarious and volatile, particularly in conflict areas in the country’s eastern region plagued by a protracted crisis. Clashes between armed groups and tribal conflicts have triggered large internal population movements. Additionally, the central part of the country, particularly Kasaï, in which security conditions had been somewhat stable and improving, is now plagued by conflicts which, over time, have escalated and are constantly triggering new population movements.
  • Practically all provinces in the eastern part of the country reported new population movements in the last quarter of 2016. According to the statistical data provided by the Commission on Population Movements for Tanganyika Province, as of January 2017, the number of new internally displaced persons in 2016 was estimated at close to 267,300, with approximately 50 percent of this population displaced in the last three months of the year. The new outbreak of fighting in this province in July 2016 beginning in Nyunzu territory has already spread to all six territories in Tanganyika province. The latest population movements in January 2017 involving more than 33,600 people in Moba territory in the southeastern part of Tanganyika province were triggered by the tribal and ethnic fighting in that area. According to the OCHA office in the DRC, the number of internally displaced persons jumped from 1.9 million to 2.2 million between the third and fourth quarters of 2016, or by approximately 16 percent.
  • In addition, the political instability in neighboring countries is producing a continuing influx of new refugees into the DRC from South Sudan, Burundi, and the Central African Republic. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, the number of refugees in the DRC jumped from 402,905 in August 2016 to 451,956 by December 31, 2016, or by 12 percent.
  • Armed groups continue to occupy forests and villages and control other natural resources (lakes, mining sites, rivers, etc.) in certain parts of the country’s eastern provinces, disrupting the livelihoods of poor households, limiting their access to game, wild plant products, and fish and seafood serving as sources of household income. Several thousand internally displaced persons in conflict areas, particularly in North and South Kivu, Ituri, Tanganyika, Haut-Katanga, and Maniema provinces in the eastern part of the country, no longer have access to their land and farm inputs. As a result, these IDPs are used mainly as farm labor by their host families. Many IDPs in urban areas are dependent on day labor in construction work and shipping services.
Humanitarian assistance
  • U.N. agencies such as the WFP, the FAO, UNICEF, and the UNHCR and national and international NGOs are partnering with the government to provide humanitarian assistance. Most assistance programs are concentrated in the eastern part of the country with a large IDP and refugee presence. 

Assumptions

The most likely scenario for the period from February through September 2017 is based on the following assumptions with respect to nationwide conditions:

Crop production
  • Rainfall: The expected above-average levels of rainfall for the rest of season B (through May 2017) will help farming households in the bimodal zone grow season B crops. The main rainy season (season A) will get off to a timely start in September with average levels of rainfall.
  • Crop diseases: Based on the limited coverage of control efforts compared with the magnitude of problems with crop diseases with farming households continuing to use the seeds of infected plants for the planting of new crops, current white fly infestations of rice crops and outbreaks of banana bacteria wilt and cassava brown streak disease will more than likely spread and have slightly more of an impact on crops than they did in the last crop year. 
  • Crop predators: With territories in Haut-Katanga, Haut-Lomami, Lualaba, and Tanganyika provinces bordering on Zambia and Zimbabwe and South Kivu already infested with fall armyworms (Spodoptera frugiperda) and based on the speed at which they propagate, it is highly likely that other neighboring provinces such as North Kivu, Ituri, Maniema, and Kassaï will also become affected, which would have a major impact on local maize production.
  • Growing season B: Based on agro-climatic forecasts, season B harvests between June and July will be generally average. However, there will more than likely be below-average levels of crop production in certain localized areas due to crop losses from the predators and diseases discussed above. The limited on-farm employment opportunities afforded by this growing season will not suffice to meet needs, given the higher than usual numbers of people seeking temporary farm work this year.
  • Growing season C: There should be normal maize and rice-farming activities in marsh areas and irrigation schemes between June and July, with average harvests of these crops between October and November 2017. This growing season could create some temporary on-farm employment opportunities for poor households during this period.
  • Bird flu: With the outbreak of bird flu in Uganda which shares a border with the DRC and the regular cross-border flow of poultry products such as eggs, spring chickens, and broilers and based on its rapid rates of contamination and transmission, the bird flu will more than likely spread to the DRC. The hardest hit provinces would be South Kivu, North Kivu, and Ituri, where massive losses of chicken flocks would further reduce the incomes of poor households in these areas.
  • Hog cholera: The presence of hog cholera in Ubundu territory in Tshopo province and the limited ability of local households to control the outbreak raise the possibility of it spreading to neighboring territories, reducing the incomes of poor households dependent on hog-raising activities.
Markets
  • Value of the national currency: The value of the Congolese franc against the U.S. dollar will more than likely continue to steadily depreciate throughout the first half of the outlook period.
  • Market functioning: The restriction on maize exports by Zambia to Katanga and the adoption of this same measure by Burundi and Tanzania on which both South Kivu and Tanganyika provinces are dependent for more than 30 percent of their rice and maize supplies, together with the steady depreciation in the value of the Congolese franc against the U.S. dollar, will likely disrupt trade networks with major border markets in these countries. As a result, buyers and sellers on both sides of the border in these areas will most likely resort to informal trade channels.
  • Market supplies: The expected below-average volume of maize and rice imports in the first half of the outlook period will likely disrupt market supplies, particularly in the former Katanga province. Additionally, local seasonal factors (ex. the timing of local harvests) in different areas of the country will have varying effects on market supplies depending on the location.  
  • The transportation of food: Despite the damage caused to road infrastructure by normal seasonal A rainfall driving up the cost of food shipments from rural crop-producing areas, these roadways will reopen to normal traffic by June 2017, which coincides with the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the dry season, and will remain open throughout the second half of the outlook period. This would increase the number of transporters serving crop-producing areas, thereby reducing shipping costs for food supplies.
  • Markets and prices: The average season A harvest and resulting good food availability on markets in the East and Northeast will stabilize and bring down food prices to some extent between February and April 2017. The exceptions, however, are areas affected by population movements and major climatic anomalies during season A, where food shortages will drive up staple food prices and, thus, limit household food access on local markets.
Other key issues
  • Political and security situation: There will likely be continuing violence throughout the outlook period with the capture of former « M23 » rebel fighters in North Kivu, the presence and determination of armed groups in forest areas of North and South Kivu, Ituri, Tanganyika, Haut-Katanga, and Maniema provinces, the continued mounting of military operations against these armed groups, and the ongoing ethnic fighting.
  • Population movements: There will more than likely be continuing population movements throughout the entire outlook period. This assumption is based on 1) UNHCR statistics for the last quarter of 2016 showing a jump of over 11 percent in the number of refugees in the DRC as a result of the political instability in neighboring countries such as Burundi, the CAR, and South Sudan, 2) the future uncertainty created by the presence of armed groups in various areas, 3)  the persistence of various tribal conflicts, and 4) military operations by the official army in the country’s eastern provinces (North Kivu, Tanganyika, South Kivu, Haut-Katanga, Maniema, Ituri, Haut-Uélé, and Bas-Uélé).
  • Wage levels: The combined effects of the shutdown of certain mining companies and artisanal ore mining operations with the falling world market price of ore, the shortfall in crop production in areas affected by climatic anomalies during the last growing season, and the abandonment of their farming activities by many displaced households in conflict areas will likely heighten demand for temporary employment. The ensuing shortage of temporary employment opportunities for these workers would drive down wage rates.
  • Humanitarian assistance: In the absence of sufficient data on planned, funded, and likely humanitarian assistance, FEWS NET is assuming there will be no humanitarian assistance during the outlook period. 

Most likely food security outcomes

February through May 2017

Households in livelihood zones CD08 and CD03 and certain territories in Maniema province will be affected by the residual effects of climatic shocks and population movements in these areas. Low market supplies due to the shortages of staple food crops such as maize, rice, beans, and cassava created by the below-average levels of crop production from growing season A will drive prices up from last year. Current household coping strategies such as selling livelihood assets, taking children out of school, eating fewer meals, selling productive assets, and resorting to theft, economic migration, borrowing, etc. will be extended through the month of June, which marks the beginning of the harvest for growing season B. There will be fewer and fewer temporary local employment opportunities, while many households will be looking for temporary work, which could bring down wage rates and, thus, reduce the incomes of poor households. As a result, there will be limited food access during this period, when over 50 percent of the foods consumed by poor households are purchased on the market. This will have a major effect on their food consumption and weaken their nutritional situation. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity is expected in this area.

On the other hand, there will be fairly good food availability in the northeastern part of the country (Ituri, Tshopo, Bas-Uélé, and Haut-Uélé), as well as in the East and Southeast (North and South Kivu, Maniema, Haut-Katanga, Haut-Lomami, and Lualaba), where the average harvests from growing season A in certain territories will allow households to build up three to four months’ worth of food stocks and, thus, maintain an acceptable level of food consumption. Thus, households in these areas will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity throughout the first half of the outlook period. 

However, conditions in certain eastern, southeastern, and northeastern parts of the country such as Shabunda, Kalehe, Masisi, Rutshuru, Walikale, Beni, Lubero, Moba, Kongolo, Pweto, Mitwaba, Dibaya, Kabinda, Tshikapa, Tshilenge, Irumu, Aru, Ango, Dungu, and Faradje will continue to be affected by armed conflicts and fighting displacing local populations and limiting their access to their livelihoods. There will be continuing disruptions in food availability and local livelihoods in these areas, leading to food price speculation on local markets and reducing food consumption. Food security outcomes in these areas will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), though IDPs with virtually no harvests will be facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

June through September 2017

The expected average harvests for growing season B between the end of June and the beginning of July 2017 will help promote food availability in eastern and northeastern areas of the country (Ituri, Tshopo, Bas-Uélé, Haut-Uélé, and North and South Kivu). Households in these areas will be able to quit resorting to irreversible coping strategies and their food consumption could improve. As a result, there will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity in these parts of the country. However, despite average levels of crop production for growing season B, parts of some territories like Shabunda, Kalehe, Masisi, Rutshuru, Walikale, Beni, Lubero, Moba, Kongolo, Pweto, Mitwaba, Dibaya, Tshilenge, Irumu, Aru, Ango, Dungu, and Faradje with displaced populations will continue to feel the effects of poor food availability which, in turn, could help drive up food prices. Poor households and IDPs will be unable to engage in certain types of nonfood spending without resorting to unsustainable strategies during this period. Consequently, limited food consumption by poor households will drive Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes in these areas.

On the other hand, in the wake of the harsh strategies  implemented by households in livelihood zone CD08 and certain territories in Maniema province (Kibombo, Punia, Kailo, and Kasongo) affected by climatic anomalies during the 2016-2017 “A” season (ex. borrowing and the  selling of assets at the risk of their depletion), harvests for growing season B should help improve their food consumption for a brief one-month period and enable them to pay off their outstanding debts, after which they will quickly go back to facing food consumption gaps for the remainder of the second half of the outlook period. Many displaced households in livelihood zone CD03 and certain parts of territories such as Moba, Kongolo, Mitwaba, and Pweto in the Southeast accounting for an estimated 23 percent of the rural population of these areas will not have access to their fields with close to 50 percent of crop-producing areas affected by conflicts and emptied of their populations. In addition, household food stocks from crop production for growing season B will be shorter-lived than usual on account of crop diseases such as cassava brown streak disease and fall armyworm (Sprodoptera frugiperda) and white fly infestations of maize and rice crops, respectively, which could hasten the start of the lean season to as early as September 2017. As a result, there will continue to be limited food availability in all these areas. Households will continue to resort to certain unsound coping strategies such as eating fewer meals, neglecting certain types of nonfood spending in favor of food spending, eating less expensive and less desirable types of food, selling livelihood assets, migrating to urban areas in search of temporary domestic employment, and engaging in more atypical types of temporary work. With their below-average incomes, expected price increases will limit their food access. Thus, households in these areas will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity.

Finally, despite farming activities in coastal irrigation schemes and marsh areas generally extending over a period of three months, there will still be limited food availability in the southern reaches of the country (Haut-Katanga and parts of Lualaba) with a single growing season running from September through February due to the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) infestations of maize crops and residual effects of the restrictions on maize imports from Zambia on which this area is dependent for over 70 percent of its maize supplies. Poor households will also have below-average incomes with the decline in mining activities on account of the shutdown of certain mining companies and the ban on artisanal ore mining operations. Poor households, who purchase more than half their food supplies on local markets, will face rising food prices which will limit their food access. To cope, area households may ramp up their sales of market garden crops (tomatoes, onions, and vegetables) and charcoal, as well as resort to coping strategies such as eating less expensive and less desirable types of foods and fewer meals, enabling them to maintain only borderline levels of food consumption. As a result, food security outcomes in this area will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 

About Scenario Development

To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 28 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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