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August 02, 2011

Urban farming takes root in DRCongo

Urban farming in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is providing a livelihood for thousands of city dwellers, with vegetables bringing in good money for small growers and helping to alleviate high levels of malnutrition nationally, agricultural officials say. The demand for vegetables and the high prices they command in DRC cities – up to US$4 per kilo – has pushed many jobless residents into becoming small-scale growers.

Most of the green spaces along the roadsides of the capital, Kinshasa, have been transformed into small farms. City farmers now grow 122 percent more produce than they did five years ago, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The FAO is supporting gardeners in five main DRC cities with a $10.4 million urban horticulture project to increase their productivity and improve their farming skills.

“The programme...now assists local urban growers to produce 330,000 tons of vegetables annually,” FAO said in a statement. “In addition to food, the programme has also helped provide employment and income for 16,000 small-scale market gardeners.”

The urban farmers sell 90 percent of what they produce in urban markets and supermarkets, according to FAO, helping to feed a swelling city population as Congolese leave the countryside in search of security.

Although the project has contributed to improving nutrition in urban areas, there was still a lot of work to be done. According to a Multiple Indicator Survey published by agencies in September 2010, 24 percent of children in the DRC under five are underweight; 43 percent are stunted; and 9 percent are wasted.

Farmers have seen their incomes increase dramatically. In Kinshasa and in the town of Lubumbashi, the average annual income of each farmer increased from around $500 in 2004 to $2,000 in 2010. In Likasi town, it rose from $700 to $3,500. There have been similar increases in other cities, according to the FAO statement.

...knew of vegetable growers who put themselves through college with the income they got farming. But after their studies, it was back to the land. “After ending university studies they tell you they cannot look for an office job just for the prestige of wearing a clean shirt and tie, when they could be making $600-800,” he said.

IRIN

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