Food Security Outlook

The northeast and central east in crisis at the peak of the lean season

October 2021 to May 2022

October 2021 - January 2022

February - May 2022

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Not mapped
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners. FEWS NET only maps the Eastern half of DRC.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Not mapped
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners. FEWS NET only maps the Eastern half of DRC.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
Not mapped
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • Growing season A has started in the northeastern and central-eastern areas of the country against the backdrop of a continuing security crisis. Based on the North American Multi-Model Ensemble and Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum forecast models, most regions are expected to experience below-average precipitation between October and December. These forecasts indicate a near-normal growing season, with harvests likely to be smaller than in previous growing seasons.

  • Population displacement in conflict areas in the northeast and central-east continues to affect people’s access to their livelihoods. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the country has recorded 59,033 people as newly displaced and 134,243 as returnees since October 2021. These households, which in most cases do not participate in ongoing agricultural activities, will experience a food consumption deficit.

  • Faced with an early lean season, household food security in the east of the country will remain a concern. Some conflict areas will experience a food consumption deficit and remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).  However, other areas in the central-east and south-east with minimally adequate consumption during the lean season will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

NATIONAL OVERVIEW

Current Situation

General political context: The Congolese political context remains fragile due to existing political divisions that continue to exacerbate community tensions and increase insecurity in crisis areas. Political disagreements following the appointment of members of the Independent National Electoral Commission have caused frustration within the political class, leading the opposition to organize protest marches. In addition, the almost permanent insecurity observed in these crisis areas leads to the mass displacement of populations, who abandon their lands and property.  This context of insecurity makes poor households even more vulnerable and unable to carry out agricultural activities. 

Agricultural production and seasonal progress: The start of major growing season A, which lasts from September 2021 to February 2022 in the northeast and central east, began on time with the usual return of seasonal rainfall, allowing people to begin sowing staple food crops such as maize, beans, and groundnuts. In October 2021, agricultural households are working hard to weed and maintain the crops they have planted. Green harvests are expected from mid-December 2021 to February 2022. As the south-eastern areas have a unimodal rainfall distribution, the single growing season runs from September to mid-April of the following year.

Macroeconomic situation: According to the report by the Ministry of Foreign Trade’s National Commission on Price Trends, published on September 3, 2021, the price of raw materials will continue to rise.  The price of copper will increase by 293.70 USD per ton for the period under analysis. Zinc and tin prices are also expected to increase. The price of zinc is expected to rise from 2,958.60 USD to 2,997.30 USD — an increase of 38.70 USD. Meanwhile, the price of tin is expected to rise to 33,697.60 USD to 34,268.20 USD per ton — an increase of 570.60 USD. In addition, according to the Central Bank of the Congo, the weekly inflation rate on the goods and services market stood at 0.09 percent at the end of August 2021. This results in a year-to-date rate of 2.9 percent, compared with 13.48 percent for the same period in 2020. On the foreign exchange market, the national currency (the Congolese franc) saw a slight depreciation of 0.01 percent in the indicative exchange rate against a depreciation of 0.20 percent in the parallel exchange rate based on developments between August 13 and 20, 2021. The Central Bank therefore stressed that the key macroeconomic indicators remain stable. This bodes well for the national economy as these raw materials make up the bulk of the country’s exports.  Stabilization of the macroeconomic framework could encourage the local currency to stabilize and therefore promote price stability for imported basic necessities and foods, which in turn would facilitate household access to food.

Conflicts and population movements: The security situation remains concerning, specifically in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Militia activism and the response of the DRC armed forces continue to cause recurrent population displacement in the country’s eastern provinces. OCHA estimates that 1.5 million people were displaced and 510,272 were returnees in 2021, accounting for 10 percent of the population of this part of the country. As a result of these population movements, households that had already started the growing season had to abandon crops in the fields, and income-generating activities were also abandoned. In addition, armed groups raided large and small livestock, and the crops in the fields. Since agricultural households reserve seeds from the current growing season’s harvest in preparation for the next, and since successive years’ harvests have been insufficient or vandalized by armed groups, households are facing a seed shortage. In addition, population displacement has reduced the areas sown and insecurity has disrupted the cycle of livestock transhumance. All of these negative factors combined create a bottleneck to ensuring agricultural production in these conflict-affected areas.

Agroclimatic conditions: Most of DRC has a bimodal rainfall distribution. This makes it the wettest country in the region, with an average annual rainfall of 2,361 millimeters recorded over the last 10 years, according to USGS data. Precipitation is close to average at the beginning of the current growing season A in the northeast and central-eastern parts of the country, except for some parts of the east, where it is below average. These favorable conditions allow the main food crops, such as maize, beans, and groundnuts, to be sown from the start of the season in September, with green harvests expected in mid-December. However, the moisture level encourages weed growth in the fields. The fields should be maintained regularly to ensure that the crops planted develop properly. According to the evaluation report for the 2019–2020 growing season, some agricultural households lost interest in maintaining crops as a result of irregular rains in the Mongala and Kwilu provinces. This could explain the decrease in agricultural production in these provinces.

Deportation of Congolese people living in Angola: On September 6, 2021, a wave of Congolese people deported from Angola arrived en masse in Kamako, a border town between Angola and DRC. The Angolan authorities had issued an ultimatum on September 4, 2021, asking all irregular immigrants to return to their countries of origin by September 15. These arrivals are just the first wave of Congolese returnees; others are en route, according to local civil society. By the end of September 2020, approximately 8,000 Congolese people had already returned from Angola through the Kamako entry point in Kasai. These arrivals have left behind their assets and are hosted by households consisting mainly of returnees from the Kamwena Nsapu crisis, with limited means. It should also be noted that there are no reception facilities for these people, who have not had access to land and humanitarian assistance. This situation is exacerbating the already precarious food security situation in the Kasai region, which is facing other crises, including river pollution which is affecting fishing activities.

COVID-19 and cross-border restrictions: Since the beginning of September, COVID-19 incidence has decreased significantly, by 39.2 percent. Imported cases have also decreased by 25.3 percent and case fatality by 0.1 percent. The city of Kinshasa, which was the epicenter of the pandemic, is seeing a downward trend.  Vaccination activities resumed on Tuesday August 17 with five different vaccines (Johnson and Johnson, Astra Zeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, and Sinovac). As at October 8, 2021, the cumulative figures for DRC since operations began (available data) show that 85,158 people have received their first vaccination and 33,384 are fully vaccinated. However, it should be noted that the pandemic has adversely affected cross-border traffic.  According to the European Union-funded project to facilitate small-scale cross-border trade, before the pandemic, more than 11,000 small-scale traders crossed the border between DRC and Rwanda every month, but since the pandemic, only about 600 cross monthly (i.e. barely 5.5 percent of pre-pandemic numbers). These small-scale traders are obliged to group together by trade sector to meet the conditions for a member of their group to cross. Therefore, only traders who meet the conditions put in place as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions can cross the border to conduct their business. This situation affects the income of poor households that depend on informal cross-border trade activities.

Agricultural labor: In this recovery period for agricultural activities in crisis areas, many displaced persons, especially poor households, are a source of labor for wealthy households.  Agricultural labor provides an income for displaced households, who do not have land in the places where they are displaced. 

Market operation and food prices: Overall, staple food prices have remained stable since November 2020, with small fluctuations during the lean season. Most of the markets monitored are supplied with staple foods — notably cassava flour, maize flour, and rice — at a normal rate. Market operation was characterized by a stable supply compared with last year and the two-year average. This is due to the stability of the exchange rate between the Congolese franc and the US dollar, as well as to imports. Nominal food prices have been stable for the past six months in line with the normal seasonal trend from April to September 2021, remaining at above-average levels due to impassable roads in some production areas, conflicts, and border restrictions.  According to price data collected by FEWS NET, nominal prices of livestock, including cows, pigs, and goats, have also been stable since March 2021 compared with the two-year average. This is due to importation from neighboring countries in the region, notably Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia, as well as the local breeding of large and small livestock. However, market operation in Bunia, Beni, and Uvira has been disrupted by the impact of COVID-19 and the armed conflicts in these regions. Food supply to these markets depends on local production and imports. Internal food flows run from production areas to consumption areas. These flows have been relatively low due to the limited agricultural production and the restrictions imposed to stop COVID-19 transmission.

Current food security outcomes

In October 2021, household food security in the east of the country remains a concern, as low household stocks from the previous season have almost run out and households depend on the market for their food supplies. Poor households without access to land have a food consumption deficit and access food through crisis strategies, particularly those related to food consumption and livelihoods. They replenish their income through agricultural and domestic work with middle-income and wealthy households in need of labor, specifically during the current crop maintenance period. Households in much of the eastern part of the country that have food consumption deficits and are experiencing acute malnutrition above normal levels are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). However, areas in the northeastern, central-eastern, and south-eastern parts of the country where households have stable livelihoods that allow for minimally adequate food consumption are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Ultimately, displaced people without access to land will not have access to harvests. They may use emergency strategies and find themselves in a bigger food consumption deficit. 

Assumptions

The most-likely food security scenario for October 2021 to May 2022 is based on the following key assumptions about how the national context will develop:

  • Conflict and population movement: The security situation over the next three months will remain the same (status quo) given the continued activism of armed groups, who attack agricultural households to obtain food — an activity which increases during the harvest period (December to February) in the eastern part of the country (Nord-Kivu, Ituri, Sud-Kivu, and Tanganyika) — despite the state of siege established in the provinces of Ituri and Nord-Kivu. It may worsen from the end of December, when the harvests begin. However, in Sud-Kivu and Tanganyika, where communities are in conflict, further population displacement is expected, which will limit households’ access to their fields and means of production and reduce their participation in agricultural activities. As a result, it is expected that agricultural production will be lower at the end of the growing season, as will food availability.
  • Projected macroeconomic situation: Given the improved macroeconomic situation in DRC, as seen in the price increases for the main raw materials (copper, zinc, tin, gold, etc.) over the past two months, the key macroeconomic indicators are expected to remain stable in the coming months.
  • Projected COVID-19 situation and cross-border restrictions:  Based on the information available from the Ministry of Health and leading local and international health experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO) — that the COVID-19 situation is improving in the countries of the region — and given the effective resumption of vaccinations since August 17, 2021, it is expected that restrictions will be eased both within the country and at land borders. This will improve cross-border trade, which is the livelihood for households living in border towns. 
  • Temporary paid work: Based on recent trends in the country’s macroeconomic indicators, which suggest better prospects through the increase in raw material prices on the international market, growth is expected to boost the economic sector and reduce the unemployment rate for households residing in urban and semi-urban areas. In this scenario, poor households in conflict areas are likely to find temporary paid labor made available by the economic boom. 
  • Temporary agricultural work: Based on recent trends in population movements in conflict areas, which indicate that many people are displaced during this period of agricultural recovery, poor households and displaced persons in host areas will provide agricultural labor to wealthier households, paid in kind or in cash. 
  • Humanitarian assistance: According to the food security cluster, only 41 percent of food assistance needs were met from January to September 2021. Of the 3.8 million people targeted, only 1.97 million (51 percent) received full food assistance. Given the limited resources allocated to humanitarian assistance due to the global economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in donor countries and the increasing number of crises in other countries around the world, it is estimated that humanitarian assistance coverage will remain below needs during the projection period.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Between October 2021 and January 2022, there will be both the peak of the lean season in November and the start of green harvests from mid-December. Populations in the northeast and central-east will experience the peak of the lean season, which will begin earlier than usual. The low household stocks from the previous season will be depleted and households will depend mainly on market purchasing as a source of food supply, with prices subject to seasonal variations. The first two months of this first scenario period (October and November) will therefore be the most difficult, with increasingly large food consumption deficits due to the depletion of stocks from the previous growing season B. Poor households will rely heavily on market purchasing for their food supply, opting for adaptation strategies to replenish their income through day labor and domestic work with middle-income and wealthy households.  Others, however, will resort to crisis strategies such as selling assets to find food, despite the advent of green harvests in December, which will be short-lived and unable to absorb the food deficit of households in the area. These households will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The provinces of Kasai and Kasai-Central could also be in crisis as they host a large proportion of returnees and those deported from Angola, who are returning without property or means of production to an area already affected by previous intercommunity conflicts.  The remaining households in the central-eastern and south-eastern zones which will have minimally adequate food consumption will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

Between February and May 2022, the second outlook period will continue with the harvests of growing season A in both the northeastern and central-eastern parts of the country until the end of February 2022. These harvests will improve food availability in the area and also bring a possible improvement in household food consumption between February and March 2022. Agricultural households that have cultivated crops will depend on their own production and will have reduced their food deficit and improved their income.  Some areas that were in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will have reduced their food consumption deficit and may be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). This will be the case for livelihood zone CD07, which includes Maniema, part of Tanganyika Province, and part of the Kasai region (Kasai Province and Kasai-Central).  A large part of the east of the country — which will continue to suffer the effects of the crisis with below-average agricultural production — will experience a short period of relief (February to mid-March) before falling back into a consumption deficit, and remain in a Crisis (IPC Phase 3), namely the territory of Nyunzu (Tanganyika) and the eastern provinces (Nord-Kivu, Sud-Kivu, and Ituri). Stable areas in the north (Haut-Uélé, Bas-Uélé, and Tshopo), which do not have consumption deficits, will be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity, with households able to cover their basic food and non-food needs without engaging in atypical or unsustainable strategies to access food and income.

 

Events that Might Change the Outlook

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

Area Event Impact on food security outcomes
Ituri, North_Kivu Total victory of the national army over the armed groups and mass surrender of several armed groups. The success of the current military operations could lead to a reduction in numbers of several armed groups and the mass return of populations to their places of origin. This would encourage these returned households to resume agricultural activities.
National 

Lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

The lifting of cross-border restrictions would improve imports of supplies and seeds and agricultural activities would resume as normal. Cross-border trade would also help improve food availability in the country, as well as the income of small traders who depend on cross-border trade. 
Area Event Impact on food secuirty outcomes
National

Irregular rainfall during the growing season.

 

Deterioration of the political situation.

Excessive or deficient rainfall during the growing season would have a negative impact on agricultural production and reduce food availability in the area. This could adversely affect price stability of locally produced food and access to food for agricultural households. 

 

This could lead to a general breakdown, resulting in public demonstrations and the proliferation of conflict areas, which could paralyze the economic circuit and therefore cause new population movements. This situation could be detrimental to poor households that rely on informal day-to-day activities, especially displaced populations who may be cut off from their livelihoods and usual sources of income and food.

 

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.
 

 

About Scenario Development

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.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
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