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This time of year coincides with the end of the harvesting period and the commencement of land preparation work for ensuing crop planting activities for growing season B in the northeast and the pursuit of crop maintenance work in the southeast for the upcoming harvest expected to begin towards the end of March 2018. Based on agro-climatic forecasts by the NOAA, rainfall levels are expected to range from average to above-average and, could help produce an average growing season in the north and average harvests in the south.
The new outbreak of ethnic fighting in Djugu Territory in Ituri Province triggering new displacements (approximately 25,000 IDPs) and a flow of refugees into neighboring Uganda (29,000 according to UNOCHA) in February 2018 caused massive crop losses in this defecit maize area and, in the very short term, is expected to limit the access of local populations to their livelihoods and, jeopardize the upcoming “B” growing season for which preparations are already underway.
The erratic rainfall so far, high temperatures, and the continued fall armyworm infestation are lowering cereal production forecasts for southern Africa for 2018. These factors could have serious effects on food access and adequate nutrition and on the production capacity of farmers in southeastern DRC despite the good agro-climatic forecast for the 2018-2019 consumption year.
Socio-political situation: The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is slowly recovering from a series of conflicts creating an extended unprecedented economic and social crisis against the backdrop of a fragile socio-political environment. The eruption of these conflicts, which have been affecting mainly the country’s eastern provinces for close to two decades, has created widespread security problems and triggered population displacements in North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, Tanganyika, and Haut-Katanga provinces and the entire Kasaï region.
Population displacements: An estimated 70 or more armed groups are currently operating in the country’s Eastern region alone, mainly in Tanganyika and Haut Katanga provinces and the Kasaï region. These armed conflicts and the general lack of security in the DRC have created one of the most complex humanitarian crises, with large-scale population displacements.
According to the UNOCHA, as of February 2018, there were 4.49 million registered DPs in the DRC, an increase of close to 15 percent in a six-month span from the 3.9 million DPs reported in September 2017. Together, North and South Kivu provinces are flooded with approximately 1.6 million IDPs, followed by the Kasaï region with an estimated displaced population of 762,000 and Tanganyika province with 654,000 IDPs. Adding to the ranks of these DPs are 537,087 refugees fleeing the political instability in neighboring countries. Moreover, there are reportedly 623,059 refugees from the Congo in its nine neighboring countries, with close to half believed to have taken refuge in neighboring Uganda. In this climate of instability, households in the eastern DRC are finding themselves with increasingly limited access to their livelihoods.
The resumption of hostilities between the rival Hema and Lendu tribes in Djugu territory in Ituri province produced approximately 25,000 new DPs and triggered a new flow of refugees into neighboring Uganda (29,000 according to the UNOCHA) in February 2018. In addition, close to 65 percent of the DPs from Kazimia health district in Fizi territory in South Kivu have returned to the area, where they are finding themselves in an alarming humanitarian situation. The violence engendered by the military operations conducted against the Mayi Mayi militias in Kabambare territory in southern Maniema since January 21st is threatening 140,000 people with severe food insecurity.
Agro-climatic conditions: Notwithstanding the warning for the southern African region, there has been fairly regular rainfall activity across the country as a whole since October 2017 and most regions are currently getting near-average or above-average levels of rainfall, except for a few parts of the northeast.
Fall armyworm caterpillars: A number of awareness-raising programs have been mounted for actors in the DRC to better manage the fall armyworm situation at the country level. These programs are an offshoot of the regional workshop on the biological and chemical control and integrated management of fall armyworm caterpillars conducted by the FAO in July 2017 in Kinshasa. However, there is still a great deal of work ahead, since the proposed treatment methods are not yet accessible to farming households without the means with which to implement the control methods promoted by these programs. By now, virtually all parts of the country have reported the presence of fall armyworms, with varying levels of severity depending on the location and season in question. Crop losses to date are estimated at 20 percent or less in certain areas.
Status of harvests: In spite of the reportedly fairly high rates of return in certain conflict areas (Central Kasaï, Tanganyika, and South Kivu) at the start of the growing season, with the limited volume of farm input assistance prevented these areas from producing better harvests. Harvests across the entire region declared to be at emergency response level L3 were well below-average.
Cross-border trade: The protective measures taken against neighboring Tanzania banning imports of food products in general and maize and rice in particular from that country remain in place. Traders are organizing to informally pass small quantities of these products across the border into Uvira in South Kivu and Kalemie in Tanganyika. According to the last (FEWSNET/WFP) report on cross-border trade, the largest flow of maize meal into the DRC came from Zambia, with a stable volume of trade between December 2017 and January 2018. The DRC has imported a total of approximately 10,676 MT of maize meal from Zambia since June 2017, which averages out to 1,300 MT of imports per month.
Food prices: The rise in the cost of food (by 83.40 percent as of November 2017 compared with the same month of 2016) has outstripped the rate of inflation. Food inflation in the DRC averaged 10.71 percent between 2011 and 2017 and is expected to slow in the short term.
Macroeconomic conditions: The unstable political situation in the DRC is reflected in the country’s fragile economy. More precisely, the Congolese economy has been affected by the falling world prices for its main exports in 2016 and by an unstable political climate and security situation. The economic slowdown and slowdown in its exports have reduced the amount of maneuvering room in the country’s budget, in which there is no flexibility as far as expenditures are concerned. The drop in the level of its foreign exchange reserves triggered a devaluation of the Congolese franc (CDF) and a rise in the rate of inflation.
The exchange rate for the U.S. dollar vis-à-vis the Congolese franc (CDF) rose by 0.68 percent, to 1,596,810 CDF (on January 19, 2018) from 1,586,000 CDF at the previous trading session. It is expected to trade at 1633.62 CDF between now and the end of the quarter based on Trading Economics macroeconomic models and analysts’ projections. Looking ahead, the dollar is expected to trade at 1833.42 CDF in the next 12 months.
The inflation rate in the DRC was reportedly at 62.03 percent in November 2017, well above the average for the last twenty years. Note that the average rate of inflation between 1999 and 2017 was 25.78 percent.
Humanitarian assistance: The limited response compared with the needs of local populations during the ongoing extended crisis prompted the United Nations to declare the situation in certain areas of the country Level L3 emergencies, in particular, the crises in South Kivu and Tanganyika provinces and the Kasaï region, which includes Kasaï, Central Kasaï, East Kasaï, Lomami, and Sankuru provinces. This measure should facilitate the mobilization of resources and provide humanitarian assistance to these areas in order to save lives and preserve household livelihoods.
According to the UNOCHA, to date, fund-raising activities for these areas have covered only 25 percent of the request presented in the humanitarian response plan. Thus, additional efforts must be made to approach potential donors, who, unfortunately, do not have the same financing priorities in all parts of the world.
The most likely scenario for February through September 2018 is based on the following assumptions with respect to nationwide conditions:
- Rainfall: As a whole, the country has been getting average amounts of rain conducive to good growing seasons. An examination of the seasonal rainfall accumulation anomaly per pentad shows only the northeastern part of the country with negative rainfall anomalies. However, since this is generally a wet area, a 50 to 100 mm below-average level of rainfall should not affect the growing season and most parts of the country are expected to get average or above-average amounts of rain for the growing season.
- Growing seasons: The mass exodus of close to 10,000 farming households from Ituri province, including displaced households and refugees, is expected to have a major impact on production capacity in this food-short northeastern area which, in addition, has been hit by a large influx of 44,000 refugees from South Sudan.
The low rate of assistance for returnees and the limited access of local populations in crisis areas to their livelihoods in parts of other regions of the country, particularly the Kasaï region and Tanganyika, could jeopardize future growing seasons and keep harvests well below-average.
- Fall armyworm: The DRC is at the very center of the area affected by fall armyworm caterpillars (Spodoptera frigiperda). Virtually all regions of the country have reported infestations. The ongoing infestations, which first began in the 2016-2017 “A” growing season, are mainly affecting maize crops. So far, there have not been any really effective control efforts. Thus, without effective treatment efforts by farmers, these fall armyworm infestations will more than likely affect the “B” growing season in northeastern, central-eastern, and southeastern areas of the country.
- Duration of food stocks from growing season A: The poor, slow start of the last growing season in central-eastern areas of the country (Kasaï and Tanganyika) resulted in poor harvests producing short-lasting food stocks (1.5 months) compared with the duration of food stocks in previous average years (two to three months). Thus, households in these areas will have eaten their crops from growing season A and will quickly deplete their food stocks in the first half of the outlook period (February through May), even before the harvest for growing season B for which preparations are already underway for the planting of crops. As a result, these food stocks will more than likely be depleted by the end of March 2018, which could prompt poor households to resort to new survival strategies before the next round of harvests scheduled to begin three months later (in May-June 2018).
- Population movements: There will be no change in the current situation anytime in the near future or in the size of the displaced population. There are back-and-forth movements between villages, but people are still hesitant to settle back into their home areas, particularly where there has been ethnic fighting. There is still only limited access for humanitarian workers and insufficient assistance to turn the situation around.
In the medium term, efforts to stabilize the situation in the Kasaï region and promote a reconciliation between the different parties in Tanganyika province could bear fruit and provide access to more areas. There is a certain slowly growing level of trust, with displaced populations gradually returning to their home areas. The returnees will require long-term farm assistance to enable them to go back to their previous quiet lives, though certain DPs could choose to remain in urban areas, where they will establish new livelihoods. In general, farming activities and trade are picking up.
- Assistance for returnees: The failure to mount assistance programs for returnees back in their home areas could create a vicious cycle of continuous displacement and remobilization of youths finding safety in armed militia groups.
Most likely food security outcomes
According to the special warning issued for southern African countries on which a large part of the DRC (former Katanga province) is dependent for cereal supplies, farming conditions for the 2018-2019 crop year are expected to be atypical. More specifically, forecasts for the upcoming growing season predict erratic rainfall activity, high temperatures, and continued fall armyworm infestations. This could lower cereal production forecasts for 2018 for southern Africa, which would have disastrous effects on the food access of poor households in southeastern areas of the DRC, particularly in the greater former Katanga province, by reducing the production capacity of southern farmers in the 2018-2019 consumption year. Bear in mind that former Katanga province depends on imports from Zambia for close to 70 percent of its food supply. High-production countries could ban exports to preserve their own domestic food stocks. This area will be in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity for the entire outlook period from February through September.
Furthermore, the resumption of hostilities in Ituri province has displaced approximately 10,000 farming households who, without access to their land, will be unable to grow crops for the “B” growing season for which preparations are already underway. This would reduce food availability in this area already weakened by the influx of refugees from South Sudan, who have heightened demand for the area’s typically small supply of staple commodities. Thus, this area will be in a state of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) throughout the outlook period from February through September.
With the poor harvests for the last growing season after two previous seasons with virtually no harvests whatsoever, there will be no major improvement in the food security situation in conflict areas at response level L3 (the Kasaï region, Tanganyika, and South Kivu) during the outlook period from February through September 2018. The harvests for growing season B scheduled to begin in July will not suffice to allow for the building of any sizeable food stocks and the lean season could begin a month early, namely by the beginning of September 2018. Thus, these areas will be in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) phase of food insecurity for the entire outlook period from February through September.
Conditions in the country’s other provinces will be in line with the norm, with typical growing seasons, average harvests, and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels of food insecurity throughout the outlook period from February through September.
For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.
Figure 1. CHIRPS cumulative seasonal rainfall anomalies for the period from October 2017 through February 2018
Source: USGS/FEWS NET
Figure 2. Population displacement
Source: FEWS NET/OCHA/UNHCR
Figure 3. Projected rainfall anomalies for the period from March through May 2018
Figure 4. Projected rainfall anomalies for the period from June through August 2018
SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR
Source: FEWS NET
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.