A year after the start of the Purchase for Progress (P4P) pilot in DRC’s Equateur province, thousands of participating farmers say they have experienced real change in the way they work and also in their daily lives.
“My four children are now healthy and fit, and we’ve been able to pay the school fees for all of them”, says Mama Mbango Amba, her chubby last-born on her back. Mama Mbango proudly shows the ground maize she will cook for the family dinner. She produced this maize and has been able to mill it thanks to the community mill bought through P4P.
P4P is implemented by both WFP and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation in two regions in DRC, Katanga and Equateur. In Equateur, P4P started just a year ago thanks to a contribution from France. The pilot in Katanga region has been underway since 2010 and is funded by Belgium.
After some initial delays in finding the right partners, the project is now also fully up and running in Equateur. More than 2,000 smallholders, grouped in 88 farmers’ organisations, are involved.
Mama Mbango’s village is located on the edge of a long dirt road running across the deep equatorial forest. The whole province remains poor despite its natural assets, like its hardwood and fertile soil.
Bringing farmers, traders and partners together
In this western part of the country, farmers had very little experience of community based projects. P4P, however, has already brought some real changes to the thinking and practice of smallholder famers, and now contributes to the development of this landlocked zone.
“We used to farm only for our own consumption which was based mainly on cassava and peanuts,” says Mama Mbango. “Now we are also producing rice and maize”.
“This year we had several training sessions on forming and running farmers’ unions and learning better agricultural techniques,” explained Alexis Bolokoto, Mama Mbango’s husband, and president of the Kalamba Farmers’ Union.
With FAO sending out tools and seeds, WFP built warehouses and rehabilitated roads and also distributed 100 bicycles to the farmers organisations to help them moving their produce. OXFAM and the Dutch national development organisation SNV were in charge of training and linking local farmers with traders. Traders were also given support so they could organize themselves in associations of their own.
In the first year of implementation and despite some challenges during the first months, the participating farmers in Equateur produced 158 tons of maize, 184 tons of rice and 144 tons of peanuts. Between the producers and traders, they have been able to agree on prices that work for everyone.
Planning the future
“P4P is perfectly adapted to this part of the country and matches the real needs of the population,” says Alexis Bolokoto. “However, there is still a lot to achieve, especially regarding women literacy so they can be more active and play a bigger role in the farmer’s organisations and unions. We also need transport facilities. Some of our union members have got fields in remote areas, far away from the community warehouse.”
In 2013, P4P will meet those demands by providing literacy courses for women and two 4X4 pick-ups for the farmers’ organisations.
Recently, mills and corn-shellers have been installed to process the crop and add value to the farmers’ yields. Rice shellers will also soon be installed.
Mama Mbango says she soon plans to buy a piece of land to build a new house and would one day like to start a cocoa plantation.