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Harvests of green crops and lower maize prices in the South help improve food access

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • December 2017
Harvests of green crops and lower maize prices in the South help improve food access

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Spurred by normal rainfall activity, growing season A is going smoothly all across the country’s Northeastern and Central-Eastern regions, where there are already reports of the consumption of green maize, peanut, and bean crops in certain parts of the Kasaï region and South Kivu and Ituri provinces. This could improve current food consumption by poor households, who will begin to be more reliant on household crop production. 

    • In Tanganyika, the recent torrential rains in the first ten days of December in the Northeastern lakeshore area of Kalemie in the villages of Kaengele and Massamba caused flooding problems and major damage to homes and crops. According to estimates, approximately a hundred irrigation bunds have collapsed, 300 hectares of food crops have suffered damage, and 500,000 meters of cassava cuttings were lost. This prompted farmers to harvest their cassava crops prematurely. Thus, there will likely be limited food availability as the harvesting period gets underway, with a threat of even more severe damage during the remainder of the season.  

    • With the fragile politico-economic situation in the DRC, the failure to hold elections by the originally scheduled date could trigger demonstrations liable to result in new population movements adding to the country’s 4.1 million existing IDPs. These possible displacements could limit the access of this displaced population to their crops at harvest time or cause them to lose them altogether, making them market-dependent for their food supplies.

    • The growing demand for food crops with the reportedly massive presence of approximately 87,000 refugees from South Sudan in Aru territory could outstrip normal supplies. This would disrupt food availability and distort food prices on markets in this part of the country.




    Farming conditions: This time of year coincides with the first harvests (of green crops) in the country‘s Northeastern and Central Eastern regions. In contrast, certain farmers in the Southeastern region are still in the midst of planting major food crops such as maize, while others having planted their crops rather earlier than usual are busy maintaining their fields.  This is the lean season in the Southeast during which food is in short supply. In spite of agroclimatic forecasts for normal and below-normal rainfall in certain parts of the country, the limited access of residents of certain provinces to their livelihoods is affecting the rebound in farming activities and, thus, in crop production in these areas destabilized by an unprecedented evolutionary crisis (Tanganyika, South Kivu, and the Kasaï region).

    Markets and prices: Population displacements and ongoing conflicts have negatively affected the general pattern of market behavior in certain parts of the Northeastern and Central-Eastern regions, where prices are considerably higher than they were at the same time last year.  October 2017 prices for maize meal and cassava flour in Kalemie were up from October 2016 by 70 percent and 140 percent, respectively. On the other hand, prices for these same cereals on major markets in the Southeastern region stayed relatively stable or inched downwards during this same period with the growing volume of maize imports from Zambia.

    Population movements: The approximate 54.4 percent reduction in the number of displaced persons in Central Kasaï from 1.4 million to 762,000 IDPs in the last three months according to the UNOCHA and the quasi-stable security situation promoted by the beefed-up presence of government troops suggest a gradual normalization of conditions for the upcoming growing seasons. In most cases, their return at the height of the growing season precluded the timely planting of crops by these returnees.

    The total number of displaced persons in the DRC is currently at approximately 4.1 million (according to the Situation Report dated October 30, 2017). North Kivu has large numbers of IDPs (24 percent), followed by the Kasaïs (19 percent), Tanganyika (16 percent), and South Kivu (15 percent), with the remainder scattered across the country’s other Northern and Western provinces (26 percent).

    In addition, there is a massive presence of close to 526,543 refugees from neighboring countries (primarily Rwanda (43 percent), the Central African Republic (32 percent), South Sudan (17 percent), Burundi (8.8 percent), and other nearby countries (0.2 percent)).

    Natural disasters: The recent rains in the first ten days of December in the Northeastern lakeshore area of Kalemie in Tanganyika province caused severe damage to both homes and crops in the villages of Kaengele and Massamba. Certain crops such as cassava, maize, and sweet potatoes were harvested prematurely and there is a threat of even more severe damage to this area in the days ahead.

    Nutritional situation: The findings by the nutritional survey conducted in health districts affected by the ongoing crisis in Kasaï province in March 2017 put GAM and SAM rates at 11 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively. These rates, both of which exceed emergency thresholds, require emergency interventions to save lives and preserve the livelihoods of populations in crisis.

    The precarious state of farming activities and continuing conflicts in the above-mentioned three areas (the Kasai region, Tanganyika, and South Kivu) triggered a Level 3 emergency response by the United Nations in October 2017. 


    The current situation has not affected the assumptions used by FEWS NET in establishing the most likely scenario for the period from October 2017 through May 2018.


    The first harvests of green crops in the country’s Northeastern and Central-Eastern regions should help improve food consumption by poor households until the main harvest expected in late January 2018, at which point these households will rely on dwindling stocks of home-grown crops from small cultivated areas. With the atypically low production levels in the Kasaï region for the last two growing seasons and the limited numbers of IDPs returning to this area, crops from current harvests will need to be used to pay off outstanding debts and, thus, will provide only very short-lasting food stocks (1.5 months’ worth). This will keep residents of these areas in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) stages of food insecurity.

    There should be an improvement in food availability in the second half of the outlook period (February through May 2018) with the main harvest for growing season A, particularly in the Northeast, through the middle of the second half of the outlook period. This should improve food consumption by households in this area. We may begin to see an across-the-board rise in prices in the Southeast with the onset of the lean season early in 2018.  The price of maize in particular could start to come down by around March or April with the harvests in Haut Katanga.

    The return of close to 700,000 IDPs to Central Kasaï in the last three months has only exacerbated the already precarious situation of residents of that province. Thus, with their poor harvests, households all across the region could remain in the Crisis (IPC Phase 3) stage of food insecurity.

    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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