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Normal start to growing season A in eastern DRC supported by near average rainfall

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • October 2019 - May 2020
Normal start to growing season A in eastern DRC supported by near average rainfall

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • The new clashes between armed militias in the Minembwe and Itombwe highlands in South Kivu have exacerbated the deteriorating humanitarian situation and caused new waves of displacement, amounting to approximately 3,300 people between September 27 and 29, 2019. This fresh outbreak of violence in the highlands will affect both households, which will have limited access to their income sources, and humanitarian workers, who will face difficulties in channeling their assistance to vulnerable groups.

    • Normal precipitation at the start of growing season A throughout the eastern part of the country enabled an effective start to the season, and the main subsistence crops, such as maize, groundnuts and beans, were sowed. In addition, above-normal precipitation in Maniema caused extensive material damage and destruction of household food stocks, with approximately 2,000 homes destroyed. This suggests that there will be a decline in harvests at the end of the growing season.

    • While Ebola virus disease (EVD) appears to be controlled by response teams in affected areas (Beni and Lubero), with community involvement, there are also negative projections for cholera in 21 out of the 26 provinces that make up the DRC. This raises concerns about an upsurge of the epidemic in the coming months. Since January 2019, there have been 21,600 registered cholera cases, with an overall mortality rate of 2 percent. This situation requires effective epidemiological monitoring.

    • During this scenario period, which will alternate between lean season peaks and harvest periods, and taking into account the poor performance of previous seasons, which have reduced stockpiles by about two months, the food security situation throughout the eastern part of the country will be marked by areas of Crisis (IPC Phase 3), including in Kasai, Tanganyika, North Kivu and Ituri, until January 2020. By the end of the season A and B harvests at the beginning of March 2020, the food situation in these areas could improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    National Overview


    Current Situation

    Macroeconomic situation: Annual GDP growth in the DRC is expected to reach 4.3 percent by the end of the last quarter of 2019, according to global macroeconomic models and forecasts by Trading Economics analysts. In the long term, annual GDP growth in the DRC is expected to be around 4.1 percent in 2020, according to our econometric models. Although declining and vulnerable to international commodity price volatility, global demand for copper and cobalt is expected to remain steady – mining products are the main source of income for many households in provinces such as Upper Katanga and Lualaba.

    Security situation and population movements: The security situation in the DRC remains precarious, especially in conflict zones in the eastern region of the country. Since June 2019, there has been an explosion of violence between communities in the Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu areas of Ituri. A humanitarian crisis has erupted, with some 300,000 displaced persons in Djugu, and massacres of civilians continuing in Djugu and Mahagi along Lake Albert, affecting the Alur and Gegere communities (formerly spared by those conflicts) living in the area despite the intervention of both provincial and national authorities. Households in these zones, which are primarily dependent on agriculture, are suffering: in some cases, from disruption to the resumption of agricultural activities and, in others, from difficulties in maintaining planted areas. 

    In North Kivu, the violence in Beni took a new turn in July, with an increase in attacks on civilians and state armed forces (FARDC) attributed to the Alliance of Democratic Forces – National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) rebels. Local civil society organizations have run several protests. The territories of Masisi and Rutshuru have experienced an increase in criminality, especially kidnapping for ransom and murder, as well as fighting between different armed groups, including the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS), Nduma Defense of Congo-Renové (NDC-R), Nyatura-FPC, Nyatura Biriko, National Council for Renewal and Democracy (CNRD), Coalition of Movements for Change (CMC) and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), all of which are active in both territories. It should be stressed that this violence is occurring just as fields are being prepared for growing season A sowing. This situation once again restricts access to land for agriculture.

    In South Kivu Province, the presence of the FDLR and Mayi-Mayi groups continues to create clashes, resulting in regular displacements into Kalehe Territory, while in the Fizi and Uvira territories, clashes between the Ngumino and a coalition of Mayi-Mayi groups in the Minembwe and Itombwe highlands continued in late August. The risk of a second outbreak of violence, leading to further displacements, remains high in this large production area, which is still the agricultural breadbasket for the province. Poor food availability could be expected in these conflict areas, which have low levels of humanitarian assistance.

    In addition, despite the improved political situation in the Kasai area, former refugees in Angola have been returning, adding to the most recent deportees. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), official sources indicate that more than 3,730,737 returnees came back from Angola to five provinces in the DRC between October and December. The numbers have dropped significantly since November, however the risk of a renewed increase remains. A humanitarian assessment mission to the area estimated that more than 77,731 people have returned to Luiza Territory.

    Political instability in neighboring countries has also resulted in refugees coming to the DRC from South Sudan, Burundi and the Central African Republic. All of this instability causes regular population movements that prevent households from accessing their livelihoods and thus creates food insecurity.

    Price and market operations: Since 2016, maize price speculation has occurred in the former Katanga Province on a regular basis, with each export ban implemented by neighboring countries. This situation worsened during the second half of August 2019, when prices for maize flour in the former Katanga Province rose sharply (experiencing a 120 percent change between July and September 2019). Significant price increases are now widespread in Central East DRC, which is partly dependent on maize from the same source. 

    There are two primary causes of this situation. First, the restriction on imports of maize from Zambia, which is self-sufficient in maize, and which experienced a maize production deficit of around 16 percent compared with the average for the 2018/19 growing season. In addition, in Southeast DRC, local production has experienced a deficit in several production areas due to rainfall disturbances characterized by irregular and poorly distributed precipitation during the growing cycle, as well as the proliferation of plant pathologies that continue to affect crops.

    Despite this surge in prices, households prefer not to substitute maize with other, less expensive foods such as cassava, and continue to buy maize, but in smaller quantities.

    Natural disasters: The resumption of rains in several areas of the country since September 2019 has been accompanied by flooding that has destroyed homes in Kinshasa and Maniema Province. In the latter, approximately 2,881 households (14,405 people) were affected, according to OCHA. Tens of thousands of houses were reported burned in Bukavu and Goma. The floods also destroyed cultivated areas, the scale of which has not been estimated. Below-normal harvests could be expected as a result of these cyclical natural disasters.

    2019–2020 growing season: The growing season started well throughout the country, with the hope that it would be mainly normal, largely supported by normal rainfall at the start of season A.

    Nutritional situation: In some conflict areas in Eastern DRC (Ituri, North Kivu and Tanganyika), the nutritional situation is already worrying, with global acute malnutrition (GAM) rates sometimes above the emergency humanitarian threshold of 10 percent.

    Epidemics: Measles has claimed more deaths in the DRC (more than 2,700 since January 2019) in seven months than Ebola has in a year, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). At the same time, cholera has become endemic in some parts of the country, particularly in South Kivu and Tanganyika, due to lack of access to safe drinking water and poor sanitary conditions. It should be noted that this epidemic caused more than 900 deaths in 2018. A year earlier, cholera killed 1,190 people in the DRC out of the 55,000 suspected cases that were recorded, representing a mortality rate of 2 percent.

    Plant pathologies and crop predators: The fall armyworm is reported in more than 22 provinces in the country, while in the far north-east of the DRC (Aru and Buta territories), there is an increase in variegated grasshoppers. In addition, cassava brown streak virus disease and banana bacterial wilt continue to affect the production of these two crops in the eastern provinces, and this will have an impact on next season’s production.


    The most likely scenario from October 2019 to May 2020 is based on the following assumptions at the national level:

    • Agroclimatology: According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts, the rainy season in the eastern DRC will extend from September to December 2019 and is expected to be average, with some localized areas receiving above-normal levels of precipitation.
    • Seasonal crops: With this favorable situation for agriculture, normal harvests might be expected from December 2019.
    • Conflicts and population movements: Despite the efforts of the authorities and the surrender of some armed groups, the persistence of ethnic tensions and political conflicts could cause new crises and displacements in the coming months. It should also be noted that in some provinces which have surplus production areas, such as Ituri, South Kivu and North Kivu, populations on the move have missed several growing seasons and would require several seasons to catch up.
    • Livelihoods: In most conflict zones in both Northeast and Central East DRC, lacking access to their natural resources, populations that are dependent on agriculture will find alternatives in terms of economic opportunities by substituting agriculture with other activities, such as small-scale trade and motorcycle transport, commonly called moto-taxi. These activities are more common among young people working in conflict areas.However, the presence of more than 9,000 refugee households in Aru Territory involved in agriculture with the support of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its partners will, in the short and medium term, be a major asset for the region's supply of basic foodstuffs, including rice, beans, cassava and maize cultivated in sufficient quantities on the land granted. Atypical availability in this deficit area would therefore be expected because of the unusual presence of refugees.
    • Markets and prices: The effects of the cereals shortfall, in particular that affecting maize flour, in southern African countries (Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa) will continue to affect the availability of maize flour in southern regions, such as Katanga and Kasai. The DRC’s import capacity is likely to be affected by low production in neighboring countries and the export ban in Zambia. In the medium term, maize prices are expected to remain above average throughout most of Katanga and Kasai until December 2019. In December, which coincides with the end of the lean season, a significant proportion of agricultural households could be dependent on their own production for the first two months after the harvest. As a result, prices for the main food items could see a downward trend.
    • Seasonal price fluctuations: Usually, the period from early September to late November is the peak of the lean season in the northeastern and central eastern parts of the country. This period was earlier than usual due to low levels of food stocks associated with below-average production in previous growing seasons.
    • EVD: A positive trend in the response to EVD has been observed over the past two months in the affected areas. Since then, the number of confirmed cases has gradually decreased, particularly in North and South Kivu. The establishment and use of a new vaccine, combined with the involvement of local communities in the response, has mitigated the epidemic. The city of Goma has not seen any new cases for more than two months and Bukavu has not yet been affected. This situation reassures neighboring countries, which have reduced their threat of border closures. This could have enormous consequences for trade flows of imported staple foods and for the livelihoods of households near the borders.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    October 2019 to January 2020: This first scenario period will experience the peak lean season between October 2019 and January 2020 in East DRC, and at the same time the start of the first harvests of the growing season. Conditions for households throughout the area will be increasingly difficult, with limited access to food due to depletion of stocks, but it is believed that the green harvests in December will provide some relief for people who have begun to develop often damaging and irreversible coping strategies. Some areas may remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), including the provinces of Kasai, ex-Katanga, Ituri, South Kivu and Tanganyika, while the provinces of Lomami, Sankuru, Kasai Oriental, Maniema, South Kivu and ex-Katanga will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). By contrast, the provinces of Haut-Uele, Bas-Uele, Tshopo and part of Maniema will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1).

    February to May 2020: During the second scenario period, the situation in the first two months could be alleviated by the availability of stocks from the latest harvests. The remaining two months, however, will see the peak of the lean season in season B. As a result, some areas may remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), including Kasai, Ituri, South Kivu and Tanganyika, while the provinces of Lomami, Sankuru and Kasai Oriental will remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Conversely, the provinces of Haut-Uele, Bas-Uele, Tshopo and part of Maniema, which are generally stable, will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1). The Aru area could possibly move to Minimal (IPC Phase 1), as a result of the massive presence of refugees, who constitute a critical source of production for the area according to UNHCR, and partners have provided significant agricultural support to these refugees to revitalize agricultural activities in the asylum area.


    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next six months that could change the most likely scenario at the national level.



    Impact on food security outcomes



    The mass arrival of Mbororo livestock farmers

    The farmers’ herds could destroy field products and could create tension between indigenous peoples and refugees from South Sudan living in the region, whose main activity is agriculture. 



    Conflicts and population movements

    As a result, the continued escalation of violence in the neighboring Djugu and Mahagi territories could potentially lead to the displacement of thousands of people to Aru Territory, causing them to abandon their livelihoods.



    Continuous deterioration of agricultural feeder roads during the next rainy season 

    This could also have an adverse effect in the area and weaken trade between territories. 



    Climate disruption in the area

    Excess and/or a lack of rain could affect agricultural production and exacerbate the damage caused by flooding and huge agricultural losses.



    The spread of plant pathologies

    The resurgence of plant pathologies could jeopardize the proper development of agricultural production in the absence of effective control measures.

    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 Carte des Mouvements des populations (Situation de Septembre 2019): beaucoup dans l'est avec la plupart des mouvements de PDI

    Figure 1

    Figure 1.

    Source: FEWS NET, Chiffres de OCHA, UNHCR

    Map of the NMME forecast of normalized seasonal precipitation anomalies for October through December 2019: Average to above a

    Figure 2

    Figure 2.

    Source: NOAA CPC

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

    Figure 3


    Source: FEWS NET

    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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