Fast Changes in DRC!

by Adriane Del Torto, ACPM  DRC/RC

Map of DRC -  Maniema Province in Red

The mission team is complete! We are all in Kindu, in the Maniema province of the Democratic Republic of The Congo (which borders with North and South Kivu) to participate in ther Interphase Review of the Integrated Development Programme in the Maniema Province, better known as PIRAM. Aside from the CPM (Rasha Omar), CPO for DRC (Franck L. Kapiamba), CPO for Congo (Richard Bouka) and myself (Adriane Del Torto, ACPM), Technical Advisor for Farmers Organisations and Markets (Roberto Longo), The Director of  the West and Central Africa Division of IFAD (WCA) Ides de Willebois has also joined the team to see what this very important project has done to help the populations of the Maniema Province in DRC.

Needless to say, before arriving here a week ago, I was quite apprehensive: fear of unknown, how awful could this place really be? A week after my arrival, I must say, it’s much better than I could possibly imagine, my colleagues can confirm!

Ferry at River Crossing
Because there is only so much to see in Kindu (really just a big village) we crossed the River Congo and headed out down RN 31, a a national route rehabilitated by PIRAM through OFID financing. RN 31 is road from Kindu to Kasongo. IFAD/OFID rehabilitated 133km of this road as well as over 135km of rural feeder roads since the beginning of the project in 2011.

So what does this mean and how does it help the projet area? Well, let me explain to you what prices are like in Kindu. One cup of rice, maybe 250g costs about 0,50 USD, one liter of fuel for vehicles can cost anywhere between 2 USD and 10 USD, a small bottle of water at a local shop is about 1 USD a large one 2,50 to 3  USD. A simple meal at the hotel can cost you anywhere between 15 and 25 USD per person. Outrageous right? How can this be? We pay less in Rome if you know where to go. It’s quite simple really. I’ve included a map, so that you can see where the Maniema Province is (the red one) and you can see that it is a landlocked province.  Literally everything that comes to Kindu is imported by train or pirogue (local type canoe carved out of a tree trunk). It’s even very difficult for farmers to bring their produce into the cities because of lack of infrastructure.

Non rehabilitated section of RN 31 - Yes the mission got stuck and more than once!
This is why the RN 31 is so important. Since the road has been rehabilitated, believe it or not, the actual prices I mentioned earlier have gone down from what they were before. This is because to get from Kindu to Kasongo now takes a few hours as opposed to one week.  Also,  the cost of transportation for persons has gone down from 50 USD to 20 USD, consequently the cost of transportation of merchandise has decreased from 500 USD per tonne to approximately 300 USD per tonne. As a result, our cup of rice at harvest time can go down to about 0,20 USD. The total distance between Kindu and Kasongo is approximately 240km. This has improved access to over 173 villages and the overall population of the Maniema Province.

Warm welcome to the mission
While in Kasongo, we were able to meet with a few farmers groups that have received project assistance, either through the distribution of certified rice seed, capacity building for their organisation and in some villages we brought direct access to spring water by building water catchments for drinking water.
 The farmers groupings that received us with song and dance expressed their desire for further capacity capacity building and the need for some tools. Now that production has increased following PIRAM’s rice seed distribution, it is difficult for the women to continue to pound rice by hand to separate from the husks. 

The project’s big challenge in the years to come is to provide seed to over 60 000 farmers in the next few years, ensure a production of rice seed in the project area, and ensure that the surpluses of rice are sold and handled in such a way to increase farmers’ incomes.

All this to contribute to restoring Kindu back to its ancient  glory before the conflict: that of the cereal bank of East Congo!