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Season A harvests in the northeast and southeast have improved food availability and access

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • February - September 2019
Season A harvests in the northeast and southeast have improved food availability and access

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Growing season A harvests have been underway since mid-December 2018 in northeastern and central-eastern parts of the country. Compared with the previous growing season, average production is estimated, due to the good agroclimatic conditions in key production areas during the season. This situation could lead to an improvement in household food stocks.

    • Since late January 2019, following clashes in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has received an estimated 5,000 refugees in several villages in the Aru territory in Ituri. These follow the first waves of refugees still residing in the area and will place increasing pressure on local resources, which already face multiple agropastoral challenges.

    • The rainy season from October 2018 to March 2019 started almost a month late in all southern African countries, including Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, with precipitation well below average. It is expected that the resulting projected below-average harvests will affect southeastern DRC, which largely depends on imports from these countries.


    Current situation

    Elections: Despite the relatively peaceful post-election period in the DRC, the humanitarian situation continues to be precarious and highly volatile. This is mainly because of the ongoing conflicts between communities, non-state armed groups and Congolese security forces, in addition to the current socioeconomic challenges affecting the most vulnerable Congolese people.

    Security situation and population movements: According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 4.5 million Congolese people are currently internally displaced, while nearly 814,975 refugees have fled to neighboring countries. Several eastern DRC provinces, including North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri and Tanganyika, have been hit by increased intercommunal violence and attacks by armed groups. Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and other militia attacks near Beni in North Kivu have even hampered efforts to address an outbreak of Ebola since early August 2018. According to UNHCR, there are 546,123 refugees in the DRC from neighboring countries.

    Since 31 January 2019, following clashes in South Sudan, thousands of asylum seekers have arrived in villages throughout Ituri province in the DRC. According to information received from community leaders, 5,000 people have sought refuge in villages in Aru territory.

    In 2018, ADF and other militia attacks killed almost 235 civilians around Beni, while more than 165 people were abducted by armed groups. In the same year, clashes over access to land and water between the Banyamulenge and Bafuliro ethnic groups and affiliated militias near Uvira in South Kivu also displaced more than 76,000 people.

    Despite the military offensive carried out by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) with the support of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and its intervention brigade, attacks by armed groups and intercommunal violence continue. On January 16, 2019, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) announced that more than 890 people had been killed as a result of intercommunity violence in Mai-Ndombe Province between 16 and 18 December 2018. Attacks and killings during clashes between the Banunu and Batende communities in several villages in Yumbi territory reportedly intensified following a dispute over the burial of a local chief. Thousands of people have been internally displaced by the clashes and around 16,000 people have taken refuge in the neighboring Republic of the Congo.

    In this chaotic climate of constant displacements, it will be difficult for affected communities to recover normally and engage in traditional agricultural work.

    According to an assessment by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on population movements in the last three years (2016, 2017 and 2018), conducted in seven central-eastern provinces, including Kasai, Kasai-Central, Kasai-Oriental, Lomami, Sankuru, South Kivu and Tanganyika, from 22 February to 28 November 2018 in 137 areas, there are currently 2,964,264 displaced persons in these provinces, compared with 4,526,559 returnees. Most households were displaced in 2017 (58 percent). Approximately 55 percent of returnees were identified in Kasai-Central and Kasai. In both provinces, an estimated 2,500,000 individuals have returned to their villages following their displacement since 2016.

    In South Kivu and Kasai-Oriental, 37 and 30 percent of displacements, respectively, took place in 2018. Populations moved largely as a result of armed attacks (64 percent). Intercommunity conflicts have displaced almost 29 percent of the population. In addition, displacement resulting from the food crisis rose from 5 to 9 percent between 2016 and 2018. Affected populations mostly live in rural areas and depend on subsistence farming. A significant proportion of these households have missed one or two agricultural seasons and may start farming next season.

    Agroclimatology: The rainy season from October 2018 to March 2019 began almost a month late in all southern African countries, particularly Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, with rainfall well below average. This situation suggests that these countries’ harvests will be poor, which is likely to affect exports to neighboring countries. This will have a particularly negative impact on the province of Haut-Katanga in the DRC, which is a poor area that imports almost 70 percent of its food, especially maize, from Zambia and South Africa.

    Ebola epidemic: The Ebola epidemic continues to affect people in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri. As of 23 February 2019, there were 864 registered cases, of which 540 resulted in death. However, the low level of security in affected areas, particularly in Beni, North Kivu, as a result of attacks by armed groups in the city center, has reduced efforts to combat the disease and continue agricultural activities. This may lead to a significant deterioration in food security in the medium term.


    The most likely scenario for February to September 2019 is based on the following assumptions at the national level:

    Agricultural production:

    • Rainfall: Good rain is forecast for growing season B from March to June 2019, allowing agricultural households to start the season as usual with planting from the beginning of the season in March 2019. The next major growing season (season A) will also start without delay in September 2019, with average precipitation levels estimated for the beginning of the season.
    • Crop diseases and pests: Although there has been no comprehensive and effective response to the various plant diseases known in the DRC in recent years, their impact on agricultural production has slowed or stagnated. This is because local farmers have been able to use basic methods to mitigate the threats posed by some of these plant pathologies.
    • Access to seeds and farming tools: Household access to quality seeds could be a major challenge. Seeds are degenerating, resulting in increasingly reduced yields. The gradual return of thousands of households could exacerbate issue of accessing seeds, especially since many of these households missed more than two agricultural seasons during their displacement.

    Political and security situation:

    • Although the country’s political situation remains unstable, current political changes appear to be reassuring. In most cases, there are trends and promises of surrender by armed groups, notably in Maniema, Kasai, Ituri and South Kivu. New authorities emerging from the elections will contribute to gradual social stabilization and will encourage the progressive return of presently displaced persons and, as a result, access to their livelihoods.

    The return of displaced persons to their places of origin could continue, particularly in the provinces of Tanganyika, Kasai, Kasai-Central, South Kivu and Maniema. However, people may be reluctant to return to the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri due to the current conflicts.

    Markets and prices:

    • Value of the national currency: According to the national bank, foreign exchange reserves are rising and projected growth is 5.6 percent. This could affect the stability of the local currency.
    • Market supply and functioning: Food prices will be fairly stable thanks to average harvests in growing season A, which provided food for markets in the northeast of the country. From February to April 2019, prices will decrease, except in areas affected by population movements. However, markets are likely to experience supply disruptions, especially in the former Katanga region.
    • Food transportation: Despite damage to road infrastructure caused by heavy rain in growing season A, which increased transport costs of food from rural production areas, it is highly likely that use of this infrastructure will resume as normal from June 2019. This coincides with the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the dry season and will continue through the second period of the scenario, resulting in more frequent visits by transport operators to production areas, thus reducing food transportation prices.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    February to May 2019 

    The effects of population movements will continue to be felt within households, particularly in Ituri, North and South Kivu, Tanganyika and Kasai provinces. It should be noted, however, that while there were significant return movements in these provinces from January to December 2018, the resumption of agricultural and other livelihood activities remains limited. As a result, the below-average production levels during growing season A in 2018–2019 and limited availability of basic food, including maize, rice, beans and cassava, could disrupt the functioning of the market. Households may resort to negative coping strategies until June 2019, when growing season B begins. Such strategies may include the sale of productive assets, removal of children from school, less meals per day, theft, economic migration, and debt, among others. Several households will take on seasonal employment, which could lead to lower costs and consequently lower incomes for poor households. Access to food will be limited during this period, when more than 50 percent of food consumed by poor households comes from markets. This will have a significant impact on food consumption and nutrition levels. As a result, these areas could remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    June to September 2019 

    The second scenario period will coincide with the harvests of crops, such as maize, beans and peanuts, in growing season B (March–June). A large proportion of returnee households will be able to participate in this second agricultural season, which may increase the amount of land cultivated by agricultural producers and possibly lead to greater production. This could once again provide food for poor households that would normally depend on their own production.

    Given the low level of assistance received by agricultural households in the area, especially returnees, production in growing season B will be below average and the lean season will start earlier than usual at the beginning of August instead of September. The food security situation cannot improve, since food security results will not change with a less productive season and the low level of assistance to date, the absence of which will not change the current phase. This is particularly the case in Kasai-Oriental Province, which received an influx of Congolese deportees from Angola. This area therefore remains in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and humanitarian assistance could be crucial. In addition, areas such as Ituri and North Kivu that are currently experiencing conflict and violence, as well as an Ebola epidemic, continue to face significant population movements. The situation in these areas will not improve and will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Figures Map of Current food security outcomes, February 2019 : Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in north-central, Stress (IPC Phase 2) in southe

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, February 2019

    Source: FEWS NET

    DRC seasonal calendar  In the northeast part of DRC: cassava harvest if year-round. Rainy season is from mid-February until J

    Figure 2


    Source: FEWS NET

    Map of the DRC - Population movements, refugee flows and internally displaced persons especially in the east and north of the

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. DRC population movements

    Source: FEWS NET with data from UN OCHA and UNHCR

    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.

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