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Stable levels of food insecurity due to a normal growing season, except for in conflict areas

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • October 2016 - May 2017
Stable levels of food insecurity due to a normal growing season, except for in conflict areas

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • Poor access to typical livelihoods due to ongoing conflict and the effects of climatic disturbances (ex. floods, late start of the rains, and crop diseases) have translated into lower than usual levels of crop production during the 2016 year in eastern parts of the country. As a result, the 2016 consumption year has been marked by limited local food availability and rising food prices, making it difficult for poor households to maintain their usual food access. Accordingly, eastern part of the country will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity between October 2016 and January 2017.

    • With seasonal forecasts predicting adequate levels of rainfall during the coming months, upcoming harvests in most areas will likely be normal. However, due to the reportedly late start of the rains, there will be a slight delay in season A harvests in the southeastern part of the country to March of 2017, a month behind schedule. This will prolonging the ongoing lean season in affected areas. 

    • The drought produced by El Niño conditions severely affected 2015 crop production in general and maize production in particular across Southern Africa. This has limited the usual exports by countries in the region (Zambia, South Africa, and Tanzania) to Haut Katanga, Lualaba, and Tanganyika provinces, where exports typically meet close to 75 percent of their needs. The expected low availability of maize and rise in prices between October and December 2016 will limit the access of poor households to this commodity, which is considered a dietary staple. Prices in other parts of the country will also stay above average due to the effects of the devaluation of the Congolese franc. 

    • Current political tensions set against the backdrop of prolonged domestic civil insecurity and instability in neighboring countries are triggering continual large-scale population movements by IDPs and refugees across the country. The resulting situation in the eastern part of the country (North Kivu, Tanganyika, South Kivu, Haut-Katanga, Maniema, and Ituri) and northern areas of the country bordering CAR and South Sudan (Bondo, Ango, Dungu, Faradje, Aru, Bosobolo, Zongo, Libenge, and Yakoma territories) will limit local populations’ access to their livelihoods and further aggravate food insecurity for the most vulnerable population groups.

    National Overview
    Current situation
    Security situation and population movements 
    • Security conditions in the DRC remain precarious, particularly in conflict areas in the eastern part of the country in the midst of an extended crisis. Clashes between armed groups and tribal fighting have triggered large-scale internal population movements. The latest such movements were in October 2016 in Nyunzu and Kabalo territories in Tanganyika province in the southeastern part of the country, triggered by tribal and ethnic conflicts between the Pygmies and Bantus. According to the UN OCHA office in the DRC, as of the third quarter of 2016, there were an estimated 1.9 million displaced persons, including 180,000 newly registered IDPs. In addition, the political instability in neighboring countries has produced a flow of refugees into the country from South Sudan, Burundi, and the Central African Republic. UNHCR puts the number of refugees in the DRC, as of August 2016, at 402,905 people.
    • The occupation of forests, villages, and other sources of natural resources (lakes, mines, rivers, etc.) by armed groups in certain parts of the country’s eastern provinces is disrupting the livelihoods of poor households, curtailing their access to wild game, wild plant products, and fish and seafood serving as sources of household income. Several thousand internally displaced persons in conflict areas, particularly in North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, Tanganyika, Haut-Katanga, and Maniema, no longer have access to their land or to farm inputs and, thus, are primarily used by host households as farm labor. Many IDPs in urban areas are employed as day laborers on construction sites and to transport goods.
    Agricultural situation
    • The variegated grasshopper infestation during the last two growing seasons in the northeastern reaches of the country destroyed close to 21,000 hectares of crops in Aru territory alone in Ituri province. In addition, crop diseases such as banana bacterial wilt, mosaic disease, and cassava brown streak disease continue to wreak havoc on crops in the country’s eastern provinces (Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu) despite limited control efforts mounted by certain nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). While there is no statistical data on the actual numbers of crops damaged by these diseases, according to certain key informants, there is more severe damage to crops this year than last, particularly from cassava brown streak disease and banana bacterial wilt.
    • The heavy flooding in the last quarter of 2015 and early 2016 triggered by climatic disturbances associated with El Niño affected the fields of close to 100,000 rural households in the southeastern part of the country. These floods were responsible for the partial loss of major crops for the second growing season scheduled to be harvested in May and June. The standing water in fields in certain areas led to the premature harvesting of tuber crops (cassava and sweet potatoes) and resulted in the loss of seeds stored above-ground in open fields (cassava cuttings) or in the house. This has affected household food stocks in flood-stricken areas where, as a result, stocks are currently smaller than usual.
    • The 2016-2017 growing season is already underway across the country, and for the most part, there is good reason to expect a normal growing season despite generally below-average levels of cumulative rainfall at the beginning of the season. The first rains have already fallen in certain parts of the country, allowing for the start-up of planting activities for short-cycle food crops. However, the reportedly late start of the rains in the southeastern part of the country, particularly in livelihood zones CD01 and CD08, is responsible for the delay in crop planting activities in these areas. The late planting of these crops will have a negative effect on season A (typically running from September to January) by extending harvests into the month of March. This could also delay the planting of crops for season B between March and June, exposing them to a much shorter than usual period of rainfall, which would have a negative effect on crop growth and ensuing yields.
    • As part of the management of the new administrative units created by the recent partition of certain former provinces, a number of provincial governments are implementing agricultural recovery plans designed to boost crop production and ensure food self-sufficiency. Haut-Katanga province, for example, has mounted a « farming villages » program for a target group of 15,000 households farming 30,000 hectares of land planted in maize at a cost of close to US$26,000,000. The Lualaba and Tanganyika provincial governments have followed suit, mounting agricultural recovery programs for small and large-scale farmers alike within their respective jurisdictions. The assistance package from these provincial governments include grants of farm inputs and, to some extent, measures facilitating access to farmland for recipient households. However, the expected deliveries of farm inputs from the provincial government to farming households in certain territories such as Nyunzu, Manono, and Kabalo have been delayed, though the planting period has been underway since October 2016.
    Market functioning
    • According to the September 2016 “mKengela” (mobile price monitoring) bulletin published by the CAID (Center for the Analysis of Development Indicators) with funding and technical assistance from WFP, the month of September 2016 was generally marked by high staple food prices (for maize, beans, cassava, palm oil, rice, etc.) across the country compared with July and August 2016 prices. The sharpest rises in prices were in territories in the southeastern part of the country due to their heavy reliance on imports and the devaluation of the Congolese franc against the U.S. dollar. Households living mainly on a diet of maize and cassava and highly dependent on local markets for their food supplies will have limited access to staple foods purchased on the market between September and January, which happens to coincide with the Southeast’s lean season.
    • The price of maize, which is a dietary staple for households in what was formerly Katanga province, has been on the rise since March 2016, fueled by the decline in maize production in source countries such as South Africa and the restrictions on exports by Zambia. For example, data compiled by the National Statistics Bureau in Haut Katanga puts August 2016 prices for maize in Katanga 26 percent above the five-year average and up by 29 percent from August of last year. WFP data for October 2016 also puts prices for cassava meal on markets in Lubumbashi above the five-year average. This rise in the price of cassava meal is attributable to its use as a substitute for maize meal, which is especially scarce at this time of year and whose price is unusually high due to its limited availability. As a result, many more households are turning to cassava, heightening demand for this commodity.
    Humanitarian assistance
    • U.N. agencies such as the WFP, FAO, UNICEF, and UNHCR and national and international nongovernmental organizations are partnering with the government to provide humanitarian assistance. There is a larger concentration of assistance in the eastern part of the country where there is a visible presence of IDPs and refugees. 

    The most likely scenario for the period from October 2016 through May 2017 is based on the following assumptions with respect to nationwide conditions:

    Crop production
    • Rainfall: The current rainy season in bimodal areas will extend through the end of November or into early December 2016, producing average levels of cumulative rainfall. The season B in eastern areas of the country should also begin on time and is also expected to be average. The rainy season in the Katanga region will extend through April 2017, with rainfall activity peaking between December and January. In this region, there will be average to below-average levels of rainfall through December and average rainfall levels for the rest of the season.
    • Crop diseases: With the limited coverage of treatment programs for crop diseases perpetuated by households’ continued use of seeds from infected plants, bacterial wilt disease and cassava brown streak disease will likely gain a little more ground and have more of an impact on crops than it did last season. Likewise, the extent of localized damage to crops from variegated grasshoppers in Aru territory will be similar to current levels.
    • Crop production: Based on seasonal rainfall forecasts, the harvests for growing seasons A and B, generally taking place in January-February and May-June, respectively, should be similar to the five-year average in all parts of the country with the exception of conflict areas and areas affected by the late start of the rains and crop diseases. In these regions, there will be localized areas of below-average crop production.
    • Market functioning: Markets in all parts of the country will continue to function normally throughout the outlook period, except in conflict areas expecting temporary market disruptions from continuing population movements.
    • Value of the national currency: There will likely be a slight decline in the value of the Congolese franc against the U.S. dollar during the outlook period, but there should not be any major devaluation.
    • Cross-border trade: The ban imposed by Zambia on maize exports and the slight devaluation of the Congolese franc against the U.S. dollar will likely translate into a smaller than average volume of imports of staple foods, such as maize and rice, from both Zambia and Tanzania. However, there will be a steady, if not increasingly large, flow of informal imports into the DRC from Zambia in the continued absence of an official import agreement between the two countries.
    • Market supplies: The expected below-average volume of maize imports during the first half of the outlook period will most likely create shortages on local markets, particularly in Katanga. Seasonal fluctuations in different areas will also affect supplies, particularly during the lean season.
    • Trade flows: With the poor condition of road infrastructure in crop-producing areas, normal rainfall activity beginning in December 2016 in the central-eastern and southeastern reaches of the country could make travel on certain road segments difficult. This would limit the presence of trucking companies in these areas, fueling speculation and raising shipping costs for staple foodstuffs during the rainy season.
    • Markets and prices: There will be small but steady rise in the prices of staple foods, such as maize, cassava, and beans, between October 2016 and May 2017. Seasonal price trends will generally be observed, marked by a steady rise in prices through the end of the lean season, followed by a decline in prices during the harvesting period.
    Other key issues
    • Wage rates: The shutdown of certain mining companies and artisanal ore mining operations, caused by falling world prices for ore, is expected to steadily drive down wage rates for mine labor during the second half of the outlook period compared to current levels.
    • Demand for work: There is likely to be more people than usual seeking work across the country with the shutdown of certain mining companies and the failure of a number of financial institutions and private businesses that resulted in mass lay-offs.
    • Political climate and security situation: The presence of armed groups in certain territories in the eastern part of the country and political tensions between different actors sparked by the election process could prevent any change in the security situation between October and December 2016. Conditions could potentially deteriorate between January and May 2017 in the event of disputes between the various actors over the ongoing election process. This could lead to public protests and demonstrations, fueling civil unrest, triggering market disruptions, and limiting the access of households across the country to their livelihoods.
    • Population movements: The political instability in certain neighboring countries (Burundi, the CAR, and South Sudan) and future uncertainty engendered by the presence of armed groups and military operations by the official army in the country’s eastern provinces (North Kivu, Tanganyika, South Kivu, Haut-Katanga, Maniema, Ituri, Haut-Uele, and Bas-Uele) will likely trigger “back-and-forth” population movements throughout the outlook period.
    • Humanitarian assistance: In the absence of adequate accurate data on planned, funded, and likely humanitarian assistance, we are assuming there will be no humanitarian assistance during the outlook period.  
    Most likely food security outcomes
    December 2016 to January 2017

    Between November and December 2016, prices for foodstuffs, such as maize, cassava, and beans, will be higher than last year in the eastern part of the country where local crop production is not expected to meet the needs of the local population (Haut-Katanga, Tanganyika, and certain territories in Maniema, South Kivu, North Kivu, and Ituri such as Punia, Kabambare, Pangi, Kasongo, Mambasa, Irumu, Aru, Bondo, Ango, Dungu, Faraje Fizi, Uvira, Shabunda, Kalehe,  Beni Rutshuru, and Walikale). In addition, with most household food supplies purchased on the market at this time of year and with the months of November and December coinciding with the annual lean season, there will be a reduction in food consumption by poor households currently dependent on income from wage labor and vegetable-related petty trade. To cope, certain households will eat fewer meals and will turn to less expensive foods. Consequently, food security outcomes in this area will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during this part of the outlook period.

    However, based on current seasonal forecasts that suggest conditions favorable for a normal volume of crop production, there could be a slight improvement in food consumption between the end of December 2016 and the beginning of January 2017 with the harvest of green crops for season A. An exception, however, is southeastern areas, such as Haut-Katanga, where harvests from the single growing season will not begin until March or April. In this area, the lean season, when household food consumption is seasonally reduced, will continue until the start of harvests.

    Meanwhile, households in certain eastern territories, such as Kamina, Sandoa, Kapanga, Kabongo, Kongolo, Kasongo, Kabare, Idjwi, Nyiragongo, and Rungu, where there were no major shocks during the last growing season are enjoying relatively stable access to a diversified diet, in terms of both dietary quality and quantity. Residents of these territories, which rarely experience acute events and whose vulnerability to food insecurity is rated as low to moderate, will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. In contrast, other territories in the eastern part of the country, such as Beni, Rutshuru, Walikale, Shabunda, Pangi, Kibombo, Mweka, Tshikapa, Bafwasende, Mambasa, Irumu, Punia , Pweto, Nyunzu, Manono, and Mitwaba will have pockets of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity with the continued displacements of local populations who have limited access to their livelihoods.

    February to May 2017

    With crop production forecasts for season A close to the five-year average in all parts of the country, the harvest for this growing season should provide households with a few months’ worth of food supplies between February and April 2017. The presence of cash crops, as well as cassava and bananas, should ensure adequate food consumption by poor households. In general, the eastern part of the country will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity, with a few pockets of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of food insecurity in parts of the east still affected by previous shocks (floods, late start of the rains and poor distribution of rainfall, variegated grasshopper infestations, and crop diseases), market disruptions caused by the devaluation of the local currency against the U.S. dollar, and population movements (Walikale, Lubero, Nyunzu, Manono, Kalemie, Kabalo, Pweto, Fizi, Uvira, Shabunda, Punia, Kabambare, Pangi, Kasongo, Mambasa, Irumu, Aru, Bondo, Ango, Dungu, and Faraje territories).

    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.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, December 2016

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, December 2016

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Population movements in the DRC as of September 2016

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Population movements in the DRC as of September 2016

    Source: OCHA DRC

    Figure 2. NDVI anomalies as of November 20, 2016

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. NDVI anomalies as of November 20, 2016

    Source: USGS

    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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