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Early start to the lean season in the northeastern and central-eastern regions of the country

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • August 2019
Early start to the lean season in the northeastern and central-eastern regions of the country

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through January 2020
  • Key Messages
    • Due to estimated below-average harvests at the end of the final growing season of 2018–2019, August 2019 sees an early start to the lean season in the northeast and central east. It will start in September in the southeast. This critical period also marks the start of growing season A, during which food availability will be increasingly reduced in local markets. The situation is expected to be even more difficult at the peak of the lean season in October and November 2019.

    • The escalation of violence perpetrated by armed groups in the provinces of South Kivu (Uvira, Mwenga, Kabambare), North Kivu (Beni, Rutshuru, Masisi) and Ituri (Djugu and Mahagi) from March to June 2019 caused further displacement of populations. In Ituri, more than 360,000 people were displaced in May and June 2019, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This recurring situation in the area is not conducive to the resumption of normal agricultural activity in these locations, which are mainly dependent on agriculture.

    • The spread of Ebola virus disease (EVD) beyond the initial households in Beni and Butembo has already caused concern for neighboring provinces and countries. Confirmed cases of EVD have been reported in Goma (four) and South Kivu (one, in the Mwenga area). This situation is resulting in tighter immigration procedures for neighboring countries (Rwanda and Burundi), which are detrimental to the thousands of people who cross the borders daily for cross-border trade.

    Current Situation


    Agriculture: Due to the low harvests from the last growing seasons A and B, the lean season is starting earlier than usual. The stocks resulting from these two seasons each covered on average two months of consumption throughout the eastern part of the country. This could affect the level of food availability in the markets from September 2019. Poor agricultural households may therefore resort to survival strategies involving changing eating habits.

    There is also recorded presence of cassava mealybug (Phenacoccus manihoti), commonly known as Mombolenge (“white fly”), which has decimated more than 3,500 hectares of rice fields in Kailo, Kibombo and Pangi territories in Maniema Province. More than 7,000 households affected by this disease are thus exposed to food insecurity and will not have access to seeds for the next growing season. It should be noted that the Natural Science Research Center in Lwiro (CRSN) confirmed the presence of this plant disease on cassava crops in May 2019 in Kalehe Territory, South Kivu.

    Livestock: Ovine rinderpest (peste des petits ruminants, or “PPR”), reported in the Pangi and Kibombo territories of Maniema Province since June 2019, has destroyed over 10,081 head of livestock and affected 4,800 households in these territories where livestock farming is an important source of income. It is estimated that the livestock lost could have generated over $500,000 for these households. This livestock epidemic has also been reported in Masisi and Rutshuru territories in North Kivu since the second half of 2018.

    Markets: In July, prices of the main food crops remained stable throughout the country compared with June 2019. However, on the Goma market, there was an increase of 23 percent for maize flour and 15 percent for palm oil, due to a reduction of around 30 percent in supply flows. The increase for the same products in Kananga over this period was 17 percent and 6 percent, respectively. The same upward trend is observed in the price of imported rice in Uvira (11 percent) and Kananga (17 percent). The main food products are available at urban markets. The exchange rate remained the same in July 2019 as in the previous month, averaging US$1 to 1,600 Congolese francs.

    According to the latest report from the Development Indicators Analysis Unit in July 2019, out of ten products monitored, the national average price fell for five (goat meat – 25 percent, imported rice – 21 percent, cassava flour – 18 percent, beans – 18 percent, local rice – 9 percent), remained stable for four (maize flour, vegetable oil, salt, sugar) and increased for one (palm oil – 7 percent), compared with prices recorded in June 2019.

    Security situation and population movements: The current security situation in the country is still a cause for concern. Some areas are experiencing increased violence as a result of the Congolese armed forces’ military operations against armed groups, which are resulting in significant atypical population movements. Given the poor humanitarian response in areas of displacement, displaced persons are taking advantage of the solidarity shown by host households, who shelter and share scarce local resources with them.

    The clashes reported in Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu territories since September 2018 are developing against a background of intense and prolonged violence. To date, OCHA estimates displaced persons fleeing the atrocities in May and June 2019 at over 360,000. In addition, a report published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in August 2019 indicates the presence of around 276,193 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Beni territory (the total for 2016–2019); 85,895 newly displaced persons between April and May 2019; and around 401,510 returnees, including 140,324 between April and June 2019.

    In South Kivu Province, the Uvira Regional Inter-Organization Committee (CRIO) estimates that around 262,000 people have been displaced in the Hauts Plateaux regions of Fizi and Itombwe and in the Moyens Plateaux region of Mutambala since the outbreak of the intercommunity crisis in May 2019. Clashes between a Mai Mai group and the Congolese armed forces in the town of Bunyakiri in June 2019 led to the displacement of 5,264 households.

    In Maniema Province, OCHA estimates that there are currently more than 53,946 displaced persons distributed within the Kabambare, Pangi and Kibombo territories. This situation of cyclical population movements is destroying momentum for the normal resumption of agricultural activities in this region.

    Ebola situation: Since the beginning of July 2019, we have witnessed an expansion of EVD, with two confirmed deaths in the city of Goma since the second half of August 2019. Strong engagement by the response team in Goma was able to stabilize the situation, with two cases treated and cured in early August. However, in the northern part of North Kivu and in Ituri Province, the security situation is preventing the response teams from controlling the epidemic. Repeated attacks on EVD treatment centers and resistance from some of those infected looks likely to encourage the spread of the disease in the community. Overall, there had been a total of 2,974 cases as at 26 August 2019 – 2,869 confirmed cases and 105 probable cases – with a 66 percent fatality rate.

    Humanitarian assistance: This continues to be provided to IDPs, returnees, refugees and crisis victims by United Nations agencies (United Nations World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, United Nations Children's Fund, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, etc.) and national and international NGOs, in partnership with the Government. Coverage remains low but it is continuing in affected areas, particularly in the Kasai region and in the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu and Tanganyika. The poor state of roads and the security conditions are the main barriers to humanitarian access.

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not affected the assumptions used for the projected FEWS NET scenario for June 2019 through January 2020. A full review of the scenario is available in the June 2019 to January 2020 outlook report posted on the FEWS NET website.

    Projected Outlook Through January 2020

    The second half of this first scenario period (June to September 2019) coincides with the beginning of the early lean season, which may continue until December with a peak in October to November. A significant proportion of returning households, especially in the Kasai region, are expected to be able to participate in this first growing season, which will run from September 2019 to January 2020. Thus, the areas planted by agricultural producers could possibly increase as a result of the increase in the number of farmers in the region, with a possible improvement in the harvest at the end of the season. This could restore food supplies to poor households who are currently relying on their own production.

    Given the low level of assistance received by returning households, the output of this season A is expected to be below average. The food security situation will only be able to improve substantially over the full agricultural year.

    As a result, several areas will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), including part of the Kasai region, Tanganyika, North Kivu and part of Ituri Province. Therefore, humanitarian assistance during this period will be critical for saving lives and protecting livelihoods. Regions such as Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu – which are currently experiencing conflicts and violence in addition to the EVD epidemic – are continuing to see significant population movements. The situation in these areas will continue to be of concern during the projection period.

    Figures Title: DRC seasonal calendar Description: In the northeast part of DRC: cassava harvest if year-round. Rainy season is from m

    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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