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Food assistance needs concentrated in conflict zones in the east

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • June 2023 - January 2024
Food assistance needs concentrated in conflict zones in the east

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Areas of Concern: Northeastern highlands agricultural livelihood zone (CD14) in Djugu territory, Ituri province
  • Areas of Concern: Volcanic agricultural soils livelihood zone (CD11) in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province
  • Key Messages
    • The persistent insecurity in the eastern region of the country continues to impose significant humanitarian, economic, social, and environmental impacts on the local population. Despite the seasonal increase in supplies at the conclusion of the harvest, consumption shortfalls are expected to continue for displaced households in Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu, where they will continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Within certain health zones in the Djugu and Rutshuru territories, which have been most affected by conflict, an increase of the population in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is expected among households unable to cultivate crops. 

    • According to OCHA, there are currently almost 6.29 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the DRC, around 60 percent of whom live in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu alone. Due to security, logistical, and financial constraints, humanitarian aid only covers around 10-15 percent of the population in the provinces most affected by the conflict. 

    • The current agricultural season B harvests in the northeast and central-east zones of the country are improving food consumption for most poor households. Key informants indicate that some of the population in the conflict zones were able to travel back and forth to take part in the agricultural campaign. However, harvests are decreased overall due to conflict and natural disasters. In the unimodal southeast region during the post-harvest period, production is projected to fall below typical levels due to significant flooding in the Kasenga food basins. Despite the below-normal production estimates, the June harvest, especially intended for domestic consumption, is anticipated to adequately meet household food requirements. In addition, revenues from mining activities and small-scale trade will be sufficient to guarantee the food needs of households that remain dependent on markets, particularly in urban areas. Most of the country will the remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 

    • Prices of essential food items are exhibiting an unusual upward trajectory, persisting even after the harvest in the unimodal zone of the southeast and season B in the northeast and central-east regions. This can be attributed to the devaluation of the local currency and elevated transportation expenses. These prices could increase further in the coming months, affecting poor households' access to food, particularly in conflict zones, where households rely mainly on the market.


    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Conflicts and population movements: The security situation in the DRC remains precarious (Figure 1). Despite a lull in the fighting between the 23 March Movement (M23) and the Congolese army (FARDC), sporadic fighting continues in the Masisi territories. According to the latest communiqué issued by the national army on May 30, 2023, the M23 is preparing to launch attacks on the Sake-Goma axis in order to force negotiations with the government. In the northern part of Ituri province, the FARDC and the Ugandan army (UPDF) have begun the second phase of joint operations against Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) terrorists, who have been dispersed in the territories of Oicha, Irumu, and Mambasa. However, sporadic rebel attacks on the local population are continuing, and militiamen from Coopérative pour le Développement du Congo (CODECO) and ZAIRE are continuing their atrocities in the Djugu and Mahagi territories. 

    Figure 1

    Conflicts and fatalities observed in the DRC between May 2020 and May 2023
    Conflits et fatalités observé en RDC entre mai 2020 et mai 2023.

    Source: FEWS NET, with ACLED data

    Since the beginning of 2023, almost 202,000 people have been newly displaced in Ituri, bringing the total to more than 1.6 million IDPs. In North Kivu province, since the beginning of 2023, almost 410,000 people have been newly displaced, bringing the total to more than 2.38 million IDPs.

    In the province of South Kivu, there has been a resurgence of security incidents committed by various local armed groups since January 2023, particularly in the Hauts-Plateaux and Moyens-Plateaux of Fizi, Mwenga, Uvira, and in the territory of Kalehe. The province includes more than 1.7 million IDPs who are cut off from their typical means of subsistence.

    On the other hand, inter-ethnic conflicts continue to claim victims, particularly in the provinces of Tshopo and Bandundu. These sporadic conflicts could increase the level of violence and encourage further population movements. According to OCHA, these conflicts have already resulted in more than 50,000 IDPs in these provinces.

    Agricultural situation: In the northeast and central-east zones, households that cultivate are in the middle of the season B harvest (March-June) for the main food crops such as maize, groundnuts, and beans, despite the low participation following the displacement of populations at the start of the agricultural season. However, harvests are below average in most areas of the east, due to persistent insecurity which is limiting access to fields, disrupting seed and fertilizer distribution, and causing population displacements. In Ituri, for example, key informants note that 30-40 percent of farming households have been unable to cultivate in certain areas of Djugu territory, and areas sown have been small. In the unimodal southeast zone, the harvest began in April 2023 and is nearing completion. In all three zones, crops have been lost as a result of flooding and landslides, particularly in South Kivu, Tanganyika, and Haut-Katanga. Overall, according to FAO data, only 3 percent of households surveyed reported difficulties in accessing their plots as a factor limiting production.

    Economic conditions: Since their sharp fall in July 2022, the prices of the main precious materials have continued to decrease on the international markets. According to forecasts by the Commission Nationale des Mercuriales, the prices of the main mining products exported by the DRC, such as copper, cobalt, tin, gold, silver, and tantalum, will fall by 2-3 percent over the next two months, compared with May 2023. In addition, the national currency has depreciated monthly since the end of May 2023 by around 9 percent compared with January 2023 and 13 percent between May 2022 and May 2023. According to the Central Bank of the Congo, this devaluation is the result of the contraction in the supply of foreign currency on the foreign exchange market following the drop in the flow of exports of natural resources, leading to a fall in the repatriation of foreign currency, mainly from the sale of mining products. The volatility of the local currency coupled with the decline in the prices of exported commodities is leading to price fluctuations, impacting not only imported products like vegetable oil and rice but also domestically produced commodities. 

    Natural disasters: Since January 2023, a series of natural disasters characterized by floods and landslides have occurred in several territories. In several provinces (Haut-Lomami, Maniema, Kwilu, North Kivu, Kasai Central, Kinshasa, and South Kivu), roads have been cut off, houses washed away, mining quarries sunk, and hectares of land washed away. In the territory of Kalehe in South Kivu, almost 500 people died as a result of flooding and landslides caused by heavy rain during the night of May 4-5, 2023. The hardest-hit villages are Bushushu and Nyamukubi, where more than 1,200 houses have been destroyed and more than 600 fields ruined. According to the IOM, almost 1,500 people have been displaced to neighboring towns, representing less than 1 percent of the territory's total population. Although these floods have impacted households who have lost their productive assets and disrupted the functioning of the main market in the short term, key informants indicate that the flow of goods has resumed to this area and typical livelihood activities are underway for most of the population in this area. 

    Sources of income: In all the eastern zones analyzed, the sale of agricultural and livestock products remains the main source of income for almost 70 percent of households. These revenues are currently falling in some areas affected by conflict. In Rutshuru territory, for example, the local administration run by the current occupiers (M23) has demanded that farming households take only 30 percent of their production and leave the remaining 70 percent in the field to constitute a war ration in anticipation of possible FARDC attacks expected shortly (according to the M23). Some poor households, particularly those who have not been able to grow crops, take on temporary agricultural work in a context of low demand in the face of growing supply. Some payments are made in kind, an opportunity for workers to have food. In the IDP camps, those who have animals sell them at an early stage to meet immediate household needs. Household income sources have been severely disrupted throughout the eastern zone.

    Operation of markets and price trends for the main commodities: Overall, the markets remain sufficiently supplied but below normal. In addition to the drop in production and the insecurity in the east of the country, poor road conditions in most of the country are disrupting transport of supplies to the markets, particularly in the east. Periodic shortages of essential commodities, such as vegetable oil, are observed. However, these shortages of staple foodstuffs do not last long, given the volatile nature of the conflict. During this post-harvest period, households mainly consume their own crops and seasonally reduce their dependence on markets. However, market demand remains atypically high in the conflict-affected regions of eastern DRC, where households have few or no harvests and remain dependent on the market for the majority of their food needs. Despite the stability seen in the previous three months, the prices of staple foodstuffs continue an atypical upward trend following the seasonal harvests, mainly due to poor harvests in the face of constant demand and the devaluation of the local currency against the USD (Figure 2). For example, on the markets followed in the east, the maize flour price is 68 percent higher than the five-year average, and 17 percent higher than the same period last year. These above-average prices are preventing access to sufficient food, particularly for displaced people in the east of the DRC, who have lost access to their usual sources of income.

    Figure 2

    Change in nominal maize flour prices on the main markets in eastern DRC, January 2021-May 2023 (CDF)
    Évolution des prix nominaux de la farine de maïs sur les principaux marchés de l'est de la RDC, janvier 2021-mai 2023 (CDF).

    Source: FEWS NET

    Pre- and post-election violence: During this election year, the political situation continues to deteriorate. Some political parties are attempting to boycott the electoral process, claiming technical shortcomings and lack of transparency. Some observers note that this situation may result in protests before or after the elections, which could disrupt the livelihoods of people, particularly those in the east of the country, who have been ravaged by years of conflict.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    In June 2023, the agricultural season B harvests in the northeast and central-east, although below normal, have improved the food consumption of poor households. However, some displaced households, and those who have not had access to land for various reasons, have to rely on the market for their food supplies. They use coping strategies that will enable them to generate income and access food on local markets. Some will be dependent on farm labor at harvest time, while others will take advantage of other economic opportunities available in both areas (petty trade and early livestock sales, among others). However, many households are forced to use negative coping strategies, such as eating less expensive and less preferred foods, reducing the number of meals or the portions eaten, or cutting back on other essential expenditures such as health or education. Households in conflict and natural disaster zones (Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, parts of Kasai, Maniema, and Tanganyika) that are unable to reduce their food consumption deficit remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In certain conflict hotspots in Ituri and North Kivu, there has been an increase in the number of people experiencing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Despite the anticipation of below-average production across much of the nation, the June harvest, specifically designated for domestic consumption, is projected to sufficiently meet the food needs of households in the majority of the central and northern regions of the country. In addition, revenues from mining activities and small-scale trade will be sufficient to guarantee the food needs of households that remain dependent on markets, particularly in urban areas. Most of the country will then remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). On the other hand, households in the northern zone (Haut-Uélé, Bas-Uélé, Tshopo, and Nord-Ubangi) are in a Minimal (IPC Phase 1) situation; they have security stability and are able to meet their food and non-food needs without engaging in negative coping strategies.


    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Calendrier saisonnier pour une année typique.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario for food security from June 2023 to January 2024 is based on the following fundamental assumptions, in relation to changes in the national context:

    Conflicts and population movements: Despite a relative lull in fighting between the M23 and the FARDC, a sporadic return to hostilities is expected as the M23 aims to strengthen and consolidate its positions. Throughout the projection period, the M23 will continue to launch attacks on the Saké-Goma axis in order to force negotiations with the government. Violence and abuses by rebels and militias in North Kivu and Ituri are likely to reach high levels during this projection period. This situation could continue to displace people who could be cut off from their livelihoods. In South Kivu, the security situation is likely to remain highly unstable, with continued clashes, violence, and attacks by armed groups against the local population, causing further displacement. In the run-up to the election period scheduled for December 2023, the level of violence is likely to be higher than in the previous quarter.

    In Bandundu, levels of inter-communal Yakar and Teke violence are likely to persist over the coming months against a backdrop of repeated attacks, disrupting the expected resumption of agricultural activities in season A. Livelihoods in surrounding areas will continue to be affected due to the imposition of province-wide curfews and movement restrictions, particularly along the national road (RN1).

    In Tshopo, the limited presence of the security forces in the province has helped to stabilize the conflict between the Mbole and Lengola communities, but there is a risk of a re-escalation during the December election period.

    Economic situation: Prices of the main mining products exported by the DRC, namely copper, cobalt, tin, gold, silver, and tantalum, will fall by 2-3 percent over the next few months. In addition, the national currency is expected to continue to depreciate until January 2024.

    Figure 3

    Observed and projected price of yellow maize flour in Kinshasa, DRC
    Prix observé et projeté de la farine de maïs jaune à Kinshasa, RDC.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Natural disasters: As a result of the lack of territorial planning and the government's inability to rehouse households in at-risk sites, natural disasters could continue during the rainy period (from September 2023 to January 2024), impacting the livelihoods of thousands of households.

    Temporary and salaried workers: Non-agricultural workers, particularly in the mines, may experience a drop in income in the mining areas, mainly in the southeast of the country (Lualaba and Haut Katanga provinces) due to the deterioration in world prices for raw materials, particularly copper and cobalt. Given the decrease in agricultural production, income from farm labor will remain below average. In addition, in the eastern part of the country, the non-agricultural workforce could shrink significantly as a result of the activities of armed groups and their occupation of mining areas. This situation could significantly reduce the availability of farm labor, particularly for poor households.

    Temporary agricultural work: Based on recent trends in population movements in conflict zones, which are displacing a number of people at this time of the seasonal harvest, the supply of labor from poor displaced households in the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu will be higher than normal against a backdrop of falling demand. This trend should continue at the start of the next agricultural season A. 

    Most Likely Acute Food Insecurity Outcomes

    From June to September 2023, the season B harvests in the northeast and central-east will take place, while the unimodal southeast zone will be in the post-harvest period. In areas not affected by conflict, these harvests will improve food availability and thus boost food consumption by farming households in these areas. In conflict zones, displaced households and those who have not had access to land will find it difficult to obtain food supplies and will be dependent on market purchases. Provinces experiencing high levels of insecurity and various natural disasters (Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika, Kasaï, Kasaï Central, Maniema, and Haut-Katanga) will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) following the impact of these shocks on household livelihoods. In certain hotspots in the Djugu and Rutshuru territories, there will be an increase in the number of people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). The rest of the provinces in the east of the country will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and the northern provinces will remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1). 

    The period from October 2023 to January 2024 includes the resumption of agricultural work in season A and the peak of the lean season in November. At this stage, many households will already have used up their food stocks from the previous season of below-normal production. These households will be highly dependent on the market as a source of food supply. This situation will continue until mid-December and may be alleviated by the green harvests of season A in January. As a result, displaced households and those who did not take part in the agricultural campaign, who are already vulnerable to food insecurity, will have to continue using negative coping strategies such as reducing the number of meals and consuming cheaper and less preferred foods. In the absence of sufficient humanitarian aid, conflict areas and those experiencing population displacement (South Kivu, North Kivu, Tanganyika, Ituri, Kasaï, Kasaï Central, Maniema, and Haut-Katanga) will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In certain conflict hotspots in Ituri and North Kivu, an increase in the number of people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is expected. 

    Households in the north zone (Haut- Uélé, Bas- Uélé, Tshopo, and Nord-Ubangi) who have grown crops regularly over the course of the agricultural seasons are able to build up food stocks that will enable them to pass through a normal lean season while waiting for the next season's harvests. These households are sheltered from food consumption deficits, live in an environment of security and stability, have income sources that will not have changed much, and are able to meet their food and non-food needs without engaging in coping strategies. These areas are in a Minimal (IPC Phase 1) situation. However, households in the central-east, a large area of which is in a post-conflict context, continue to cultivate and depend on their own production over a large part of the lean period, enabling them to have a minimally adequate food intake, with the occasional use of negative coping strategies. These households are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 

    Table 1
    Table 1. Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most likely scenario
    ZoneEventImpact on food security conditions
    NationalDeterioration of the overall political and security situation following the electionsShould the circumstances leading up to or following the election witness a widespread decline, a general upheaval characterized by public protests is anticipated. This could immobilize economic activities in urban centers, particularly sources of income linked to transport and small businesses, among others, and lead to a probable increase in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) populations in urban centers.
    Increase in natural disasters due to rain disturbances in the Eastern and western zonesThis would limit normal agricultural production and reduce the flow of local products into the country. An increase in areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will be likely in areas of rainfall deficits.
    Ituri, Nord Kivu, Sud Kivu, Tanganyika, Espace Bandundu, KasaïThe decline in the intensity of armed conflicts and the significant surrender of armed groups in response to current peace initiativesThe success of the peace processes underway in the region would lead to a reduction in new displacements and encourage people to gradually return to their villages of origin. This could increase household participation in agricultural activities and other livelihoods, thereby improving food access and income sources for poor households.
    Increase in conflicts in the east of the countryAn increase in the intensity of violence in the east of the country will continue to cause massive population displacements. If conflicts increase during the agricultural period of season A, this will further reduce the participation of the population in agricultural activities and lead to an increase in populations in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Djugu and Rutshuru, which already have an increase in populations facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4), will deteriorate to Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

     

     


    Areas of Concern: Northeastern highlands agricultural livelihood zone (CD14) in Djugu territory, Ituri province

    Current Situation

    Security situation and population movements: The security situation in Djugu territory has deteriorated significantly and remains concerning. Despite a lull at the beginning of 2023, there have been a number of atrocities and attacks against civilians by the CODECO and ZAIRE armed groups, including at sites for displaced persons. Last month, dozens of displaced people were massacred in the camps by CODECO militiamen in reprisal for their adversaries from the ZAIRE militia. This situation continues to lead to major population movements. According to OCHA, the Djugu territory had a total of 687,869 IDPs and 240,000 returnees in May 2023. According to population movement alerts, Djugu territory has recorded 273,137 newly displaced people and 47,699 returnees since the beginning of 2023. The Population Movement Commission counted 160,953 IDPs in camps in this territory on May 12. These displaced populations are abandoning their livelihoods and are threatened by food insecurity. According to data from the agriculture inspectorate, over the past three years, the number of agricultural households has decreased by 27 percent. Many IDPs live with host families, whose members are mainly returnees, who do not have sufficient resources to care for these displaced people.

    Figure 4

    Reference map of the Djugu territory
    Carte de référence du territoire de Djugu.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Agricultural season: According to the provincial agriculture inspectorate, the territory's administrative entities have made different estimates of the level of production lost for the 2023 agricultural season B. In some areas, notably the Banyali Kilo community, the Ndoo Okebo chiefdom, and the Malendi chiefdom, farming households had not been able to access their fields at all. However, in the sector of Walendu Pitsi, community of Bahema Bajere, community of Bahema Baguru, and community of Walendu Tatsi, between 60 and 70 percent of farming households cultivated this season as a result of the relative lull in conflict in the area.

    In areas where households had been able to grow crops, the fields are sometimes harvested by militiamen and sometimes by regular army personnel, who do not receive their survival rations on a regular basis. Compared with 2018 before the start of the crisis, the quantities harvested have almost halved over the last four years. For this season B, climatic disturbances characterized by delayed rainfall at the start of the season and abundant rainfall during the flowering period were observed, which had a serious impact on agricultural production during the season.

    Household income: Agriculture is the main activity in the Djugu territory, practiced by around 80 percent of the population. However, the fields were abandoned when the population moved. Compounding this issue is the insecurity faced by those who attempt to cultivate the fields; people avoid going to the fields out of fear of kidnapping and other abuses. The looting of harvests by the assailants has prevented the population from recovering the income levels they enjoyed before the escalation of conflict in the area.According to the agriculture inspectorate, the number of farming households that took part in the last three agricultural seasons has fallen as a result of massive population displacements.

    Mining activities: The militiamen control many of the mining areas and atrocities are often concentrated around the mining sites. Last month, dozens of miners were massacred in the mining areas on the outskirts of the mining town of Mungwalu by CODECO militiamen in reprisal for their adversaries from the ZAIRE militia. Key informants on the ground in Djugu territory estimate that more than 18 percent of households rely on mining as a livelihood, up from eight percent before the current crisis, according to the 2018 Emergency Food Security Assessment (EFSA); as access to the fields has become difficult as a result of the insecurity, many people have become involved in mining activities controlled by armed groups.

    The mining company Kilo Moto, which has been bankrupt for several years, no longer offers a labor guarantee to local people. In order to serve the population of Bunia and the surrounding area, it operates on the basis of taxes levied on the areas exploited and on income from its own hydroelectric power generation.

    Livestock farming: Although the sale of agricultural produce remains the main source of income for all households in zone CD11, small-scale livestock rearing provides an additional source of income for the zone's poor households. However, livestock farming has been seriously affected by the conflict and the multiple abuses by armed groups in this territory. As a result of the conflict, many heads of cattle were looted, and most of the herders of large livestock migrated to the more stable territory of Aru and the neighboring province of Haut-Uélé. 

    According to the provincial livestock inspectorate, from the start of the conflict in January 2019 to the present day, more than 80 percent of goats have been killed and poultry farming has been systematically looted. Only pigs remain in the territory, as the militiamen deliberately avoid them due to mystico-religious beliefs. However, the region has been affected by swine fever for almost five years. The provincial inspectorate estimates that more than 12 percent of livestock have been lost over the last two years as a result of epizootics. 

    Development of fishing activities on Lake Edouard: The whole of the eastern part of Djugu is bordered by a coastal area along Lake Albert. According to statistics from the provincial fisheries inspectorate, fishing activity has increased by 57 percent since 2010. Insecurity and the activism of armed groups promoting illegal fishing on Lake Edouard are increasing, as is the Ugandan navy's failure to respect the maritime border by repeatedly tracking down and arresting Congolese fishermen. In response to this situation, the Ituri provincial authorities had set up a body to monitor the lake, but this body is struggling to function. This situation is at the root of the scarcity of fish products on local markets.

    Functioning of markets and trade flows: Trade flows have been completely disrupted because people can no longer move more than 2 km from their respective villages as a result of insecurity and atrocities by armed groups. The Kpandroma, Bule, and Linga markets still operate on a weekly basis, but they are poorly frequented and to access them each person is required to pay a tax of 2,000 CDF to the militiamen. Supply routes are also insecure because of militia activity. Prices of the main food products and fuel have risen, while household incomes have fallen sharply as a result of the conflicts. Access to food is therefore becoming increasingly difficult, particularly for poor households.

    Humanitarian aid: According to statistics from the food security cluster, in the first quarter of 2023 in Ituri, the humanitarian food security response reached 276,273 people, or 10 percent of the province's population, with a ration meeting almost 30 percent of their needs. However, in Djugu territory during the same period, only 8.7 percent of these people were reached by the various food assistance interventions. This represents 15.1 percent of the entire Djugu territory. Huge gaps are still observed in meeting the needs of targeted people. The responses focused on new travel arrangements, but sometimes problems of physical access and security were also noted.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    The prolonged crisis and its many consequences in the Djugu territory have altered the various sources of food, with a heavy reliance on market purchases, which limits access to food for households that have generally lost their sources of income, thereby maintaining their consumption deficit. Population movements and poor performance in recent agricultural seasons have exacerbated the food consumption situation, which has deteriorated over the years as a result of ongoing conflicts and population displacements.

    Farming is the main source of income, with agricultural produce sold to Bunia and other consumer centers. However, violence and atrocities caused by armed groups have had a strong negative impact on all livelihoods. Some households use crisis strategies that lead to the depletion of non-productive assets, while others resort to emergency strategies that are often irreversible and damaging. Key informants report that some unusual activities such as stealing from fields, begging, and supporting armed groups (survival sex with militiamen, informers and illicit traffickers, among others) have increased and are used as a survival strategy.

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario for food security from June 2023 to January 2024 is based on the following fundamental assumptions, in relation to changes in the national context:

    Climatological conditions: According to the forecasting models, average rainfall is the most likely outcome for this area. The bimodal rainy season in the DRC is expected to start on time in September, with below-average levels of rainfall at the start of the season.

    Agricultural production: Given the presence of armed groups and the atrocities committed by them, a number of households were displaced during the past agricultural season. The number of households engaged in farming will continue to fall in Djugu territory, and agricultural production, which is already below average, will continue to decline, particularly during agricultural season A in September. 

    Small cross-border trade: The activities of the armed groups will continue to restrict the movement of people and goods on the roads and on the lake. This situation could continue to have a negative impact on the livelihoods of poor households that rely on informal trade. 

    Agricultural and non-agricultural labor: With large numbers of displaced people scattered around urban and rural areas, particularly Bunia, temporary work in the fields is likely to be one of their main sources of income. However, access to the fields remains very limited as a result of atrocities by armed groups.

    Population movements: Given the violence perpetrated by militias against the population, which is likely to continue throughout the projection period due to the limits of military operations and the state of siege decreed in Ituri, population movements will also continue. The atrocities committed by the armed groups against the civilian population may continue, especially as the CODECO and ZAIRE militiamen are resistant to the Nairobi peace process. Furthermore, these armed groups are made up of several small groups that cannot be reconciled for lasting peace. In addition, the demobilization and reintegration mechanism planned by the government has stalled due to lack of adequate funding and strategy. No viable route has been mapped out to encourage people to return to their places of origin.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Between June and September 2023, household food consumption could improve with the poor harvests of agricultural season B. However, given that household stocks will be very low, the new access to food will only last a month and a half. During this period the area will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), as many of the displaced households have not been able to cultivate their fields and food assistance is inadequate.

    Between September 2023 and January 2024, food consumption could deteriorate as the lean season sets in. As insecurity increases in the area, displaced households will not have access to their livelihoods and will be dependent on food assistance, which unfortunately will not be able to meet all their needs; most households will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In health zones with large population movements, notably Mangala, Drodro, Damas, Mungwalu, Fataki, Bambo, Lita, and Nizi, a minority of households that have lost all their productive assets and have not been able to participate in agricultural activities will be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).


    Areas of Concern: Volcanic agricultural soils livelihood zone (CD11) in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province

    Current Situation

    Security situation and population movement: The territory of Rutshuru has been affected by a prolonged crisis linked to armed conflict between the FARDC and the M23, which has had a considerable impact on the population. Despite a relative lull since the arrival of Eastern African Commmunity regional forces (EAC) and the withdrawal of the M23 group from certain areas formerly under its control, clashes and sporadic attacks by self-defense groups (Wazalendo, Nyatura, and APCLS, among others) continue. The Rwanguba, Rutshuru, and Binza health zones are the worst affected, but the Birambizo health zone and part of the Kibirizi health zone were spared. The locality of Kanyabayonga in Lubero territory and the chiefdom of Bwito are the areas receiving the displaced. However, according to OCHA, in the health zones of Rwanguba and Rutshuru, 45 percent of the population, or around 145,000 people who had been displaced, have returned to their villages. In addition, at least 26,500 other people who fled their villages in the Birambizo health zone between November and December 2022 have returned to their places 

    Figure 5

    Reference map of the Rutshuru territory
    Carte de référence du territoire de Rutshuru.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Agro-climatological conditions: In certain regions of the area, like the Bwito chiefdom, heavy rainfall has caused significant damage to crops that were thriving. In the eastern part of the territory, the dry season lasted until mid-March 2023, coinciding with the sowing season, which delayed planting activities in the area.

    Seasonal progress: The Rutshuru territory is in the harvesting phase of agricultural season B. However, this agricultural season, which began with the deployment of EAC regional forces and the tentative return of displaced persons, has seen a low level of participation by households in the farming campaign, who have cultivated around 33 percent of the land usually sown. Some households who stayed in the region and managed to engage in cultivation should anticipate meager yields due to planting on this reduced scale, stemming from the inaccessibility of fields due to concerns about retaliation or violence from those involved in the conflict. In occupied areas, people harvest early for fear of being completely looted by the rebels.

    This area was a surplus zone for maize and beans, supplying the towns of Goma, Bukavu, and sometimes towns in western and central DRC. Surpluses for sorghum, soybeans, and bananas were exported to Rwanda and Uganda. Currently, due to the prolonged conflict and its repercussions, the level of agricultural production cannot generate sufficient supplies for the region’s population or for export to its neighbors. 

    Livelihoods and access to land: Households in the Rutshuru territories, mainly farmers (75 percent), are experiencing limited access or even loss of their sources of income due to difficulties in accessing their fields and increasingly high rental costs ($400 per Ha per agricultural season); the latter remains a major agricultural concern. The sale of livestock products has been occurring at an early stage due to the difficult cohabitation with animals on the displaced persons' sites. 

    Functioning of markets and food prices: The local market is disrupted by high demand from displaced persons in Rutshuru territory and also in Nyiragongo, in a context of low food availability in the face of growing demand. Prices for commodities such as white beans, white corn flour, palm oil, and vegetable oil are 28 percent higher than the same period last year, and 82 percent higher than the five-year average. This is due to the lack of connectivity between the production basins, notably Beni, Walikale, and the city of Goma. This disruption of local markets is due to the instability caused by the insecurity in the area since the resurgence of the M23 in March 2022, the poor state of agricultural feeder roads, the looting of crops in occupied areas, and the abandonment of fields due to conflict. 

    Availability of agricultural labor: With an estimated population of 1,746,000 and a surface area of around 5,289 km², or an average density of around 330 inhabitants/km², the Rutshuru territory has several constraints that limit the surface area of cultivated land and create a labor surplus, particularly in its eastern and western parts. Labor demand is highest during the period of soil preparation, planting, weeding, and harvesting. With the current conflicts and the multiple displacements of the population, the workforce is higher in the host areas, while in the areas of origin, the workforce is lower than normal.

    Livestock farming: Rutshuru is an agricultural area, but also includes livestock farming. In the past, some households made a living from rearing large livestock (cattle), small livestock (goats, sheep, and pigs) and poultry (chickens and ducks), which were mainly owned by poor households. According to the provincial fisheries and livestock division, before the conflict, the area had around 20,160 heads of cattle, 12,381 heads of goats, and 9,009 heads of pigs, with 54 operational pastures. However, with this conflict, the atrocities of armed militias are leading to the theft and unorganized slaughter of livestock by warring parties. The occurrence of zoonotic diseases like foot-and-mouth disease and peste des petits ruminants, coupled with the scarcity of veterinary supplies and the degradation of pastures and water sources, create unfavorable conditions for viable livestock production in the region, thus posing a significant threat to household food security. The practice of destroying cattle by the fighting forces, the most recent case of which occurred in April 2023 on the Tongo-Kalengera axis, is part of the strategy of destroying the enemy by reducing its means of existence (its wealth).

    Nutritional situation: Updated data on the nutritional situation in Rutshuru territory are not available. However, a nutritional survey carried out in April 2023 among displaced persons in the Nyiragongo sites revealed a prevalence of 10.2 percent of global acute malnutrition (with 1.9 percent of severe acute malnutrition). There are inadequate, unvaried, and unfortified dietary intakes and, for children under two, insufficient complementary food in terms of quality and quantity. A number of humanitarian partners are currently involved in caring for people with measles in IDP sites in the city of Goma and Nyiragongo territory. According to OCHA, most of these partners risk having to end their operations by the end of June 2023 due to a lack of funding. This situation is critical and requires the urgent mobilization of resources to eradicate the disease, which is likely to lead to an increase in cases of malnutrition among children, particularly in IDP sites.

    Humanitarian aid: Humanitarian aid remains generally below the needs on the ground. Of the expected 77 million dollars, only 27 million dollars (or 35 percent) has been mobilized for the humanitarian response to people displaced by the M23 crisis. From May 1-15, the WFP and it’s partners World Vision and CARITAS provided food to more than 70,400 displaced people living in the Bulengo and Rusayo sites in Rutshuru territory.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    In the current complex humanitarian context, characterized by the presence of IDPs and returnees with little assistance, the season B harvests in the territories of Rutshuru and Nyiragongo have improved household food consumption and food availability in the area. This improvement will be short-lived, as seasonal stocks may run out in the next two months after the start of the harvest. Indeed, the ongoing agricultural season B production will fall short of meeting the food requirements of households because of the limited involvement in the farming effort caused by population displacement, preventing households from depending on their own agricultural output. Increasing prices due to inaccessibility as a result of poor road conditions, bans on traffic, roadblocks, and the growing number of people in need, are increasing demand in the face of insufficient supply. In short, the lack of production for certain households who had no access to land made the situation even more difficult. The latter are forced to resort to a number of coping strategies to gain access to food, including accepting daily work for insufficient wages. 

    Change in livelihoods: Households in the territories of Rutshuru and Nyiragongo, 75 percent of whom are farmers, are experiencing limited access or even loss of their sources of income as a result of the shocks. Difficulties in accessing their fields have considerably reduced farmers' incomes. 

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario for food security from June 2023 to January 2024 is based on the following fundamental assumptions, in relation to changes in the national context:

    Agricultural production: Rainfall is forecast to be favorable in this region for the 2023-2024 agricultural season A, despite a less successful previous agricultural season (season B) overall. As it began against a backdrop of widespread hostilities between the M23 rebellion and the FARDC government army, below-normal production followed, making household access to seeds for the next agricultural season a major challenge. This scenario predicts challenges in obtaining food within the projected timeframe in a region that was formerly considered the primary food source for the eastern area. 

    Market functioning and commodity prices: Given the below-average agricultural production expected for the current season B in this area in June 2023, supplies will be low. Staple food prices will increase across the country and throughout the projection period, remaining above the five-year average with atypical fluctuations compared to the same period last year.

    Small-scale trade: The reduction in trade flows linked to small-scale cross-border and informal trade, as well as the closure of the main roads, have profoundly disrupted the livelihoods and incomes of thousands of households that used to make a living from these commercial activities.

    Humanitarian aid: The humanitarian situation in Rutshuru territory remains worrying with significantly limited access for humanitarian stakeholders. In addition, OCHA's humanitarian response plan for the crisis affecting Rutshuru, Nyiragongo, Lubero, and Goma had received only 37 percent of the funds required (i.e., 27 million out of the expected 77 million USD) to assist people in need as the conflict and population movements continue. In this context of lack of funds, humanitarian stakeholders will not be able to provide sufficient assistance to displaced households and host families.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From June to September 2023: During this first scenario period, characterized by the start of the harvest of agricultural season B, households that have cultivated will depend on their own production over a very short period (approximately one month, compared to the normal three months) to meet their food and non-food needs through the sale of their produce. The other households, mainly made up of displaced persons and returnees, will do daily work (cash payment) for others to earn an income and access food, in addition to their dependence on food assistance (return package). As a result, the food security situation in the region will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), with a proportion of people (less than 20 percent) in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    From October 2023 to January 2024: This second scenario period will be more difficult in terms of food consumption, with the lean season expected to peak in November. Access to food will be more difficult against a backdrop of lower production compared to previous seasons and the five-year average. Most households will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Some health zones, such as Rwanguba, Rutshuru, and Jomba, which were affected at the start of the fighting and have not been able to pursue agriculture, could have a proportion of the population (but less than 20 percent) in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. DRC Food Security Outlook June 2023: food assistance needs concentrated in conflict zones in the east, 2023.

    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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