Extreme poverty in rural Congo is getting worse

Families, including children, work extremely hard, yet their fields are less and less productive. This results in large scale malnourishment and no extra income to pay to shelter, hygiene, education and medical care. So many years of foreign aid have resulted in very little progress as NGO’s lack the expertise.

Farming communities have never been properly mentored in agriculture

All too often, methods from Europe and the United States are introduced with a disregard for the specific needs of the environment. Tropical soils are totally different and require unique techniques and methods. For example, Congolese farmers have been instructed to intensively plough the land, which is fine for European climates but will rapidly decrease soil richness in tropical climates. With this Western technique, the yields will actually increase for the first few seasons. However, shortly after the initial success, the organic matter in the soil will reduce leaving the farming families with poor quality land.

Many people will continue using the same techniques as instructed. Their farming methods are known as slash-and-burn, which means having to cut down forest or savannah to use the cleared land for farming for three or four seasons. After this, the ground is set aside and a new area is being cleared. After about five years, the rested land is somewhat restored and can be used again for a few seasons. The yields are not high, but they make enough to get by.

However, the slash-and-burn method seems to be less effective as the population grows drastically and there is less land to go around. The farmers can keep the fields fallow for fewer and fewer years, so the soil does not have time to restore properly. With this, agriculture turns into overcropping. Hills have increasing erosion and the soil is less productive with each season. Sometimes violence is used to take land from neighbouring people groups which lead to endless cycles of small and larger-scale conflicts. More and more young people move to the cities, as they cannot see a future in farming. With slash-and-burn, there is little hope. Thankfully there is a better alternative…