After planting, weeding and praying for rain, local farmer Kakuji Lukodi usually faced another challenge in earning a living from the land: a two-day journey aboard a rickety wooden canoe to take his crops to market, or lugging his bags of dried maize six hours by bicycle to the nearest mid-size town. Not this year.
"That's why we appreciate P4P, because it will help us transport and sell our crops," said the 45-year-old farmer and father of seven. In Mwenge village, 35 kilometres from the marketing town of Kabalo, farmers like Lukodi now store their crops in WFP warehouses. This year, their maize will reach merchants by truck rather than bicycle.
Launched in 2009 with Belgian funding in the forests and scrublands of Kabalo territory in DRC's southern Katanga province, P4P aims to relaunch agriculture and trade in a place once considered the region's breadbasket. With 4,000 initial participants, the programme currently targets maize cultivation with plans to expand to other crops in the future.
"Farmers had to flee the territory and some lost everything during the war," said Ali Abdoul Salami, WFP field project manager in Kabalo, referring to years of conflict that have ravaged the central African nation.
"P4P has brought them the know-how, the seeds, the tools and the technical training that they didn't have before," Salami said.
In Mwenge village, 35 kilometers from the marketing town of Kabalo farmers like Lukodi now store their crops in WFP warehouses. This year, their maize will reach merchants by truck rather than bicycle.
"The profits will allow me to buy new clothes and things for the house," said another Mwenge farmer, 51-year-old Xavier Banza Kilolo, as he spun dreams for the future. "I will be able to pay my children's school tuition."
Local government is another key player. "The provincial government has decided to buy whatever crops remain unsold to encourage the farmers", provincial Minister of Agriculture Barthelemy Mumba said in a recent interview.
WFP and FAO plan to expand P4P to reach 9,000 Kabalo-area farmers in 2011 - and to introduce a second initiative in northwestern Equateur province in 2011.
But the ultimate goal is making P4P's objectives sustainable, said Melanie Jacq, WFP's P4P coordinator in DRC.
"It will be a success if farmers earn more in the long term, if commerce starts functioning again," Jacq said. "Essentially, when this area returns to being the region's breadbasket."