Located on the right bank of the eponymous river in Central Africa, the Congo is a resource-rich, middle-income country that has the potential to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 on Zero Hunger and improved nutrition by 2030.
The country, however, continues to face high levels of poverty and inequality, recurring localized conflict, regional insecurity, macroeconomic instability and high rates of malnutrition and food insecurity.
Almost 90 percent of arable land remains uncultivated and agriculture is largely limited to subsistence production and cash crops such as beans, sugar cane, cocoa and coffee. Because domestic food production covers only 30 percent of the needs, Congo relies extensively on food imports from overseas. WFP estimates that 15 percent of households report poor or limited food consumption, with peaks of 30 percent in rural areas.
The Congo faces a triple burden of malnutrition among children under 5, with the coexistence of stunting (affecting 21.3 percent), overweight (affecting 5.9 percent) and deficiencies in iron, vitamin A and iodine. The diets of only 6 percent of children under 2 meet minimum dietary diversity requirements.
Gender inequalities and disability status have a direct impact on poverty, food security and nutrition – as does ethnicity. Indigenous people, whose traditional livelihoods are affected by climate change-related deforestation, experience difficulties in accessing resources and social services. UNICEF estimates that 65 percent of indigenous children are not in school.
The recurrence of social and political conflict has affected the Congo’s ability to break the cycle of hunger and poverty by forcing people to abandon their land, homes and jobs and discouraging long-term investments.
Hostilities in Pool department resulted in massive population displacement and a serious humanitarian emergency, with displaced families experiencing food insecurity and precarious nutrition conditions. At the end of 2017, the number of people in need of food assistance in Pool was estimated at 160,000.
Refugees from neighbouring countries including CAR and DRC have poor access to food and limited prospects of becoming self-sufficient, thus depending on humanitarian food assistance.
Building on its long experience in responding to crises and building resilience both in the Congo and globally the World Food Programme (WFP) is working across the country to support government efforts to achieve SDG2. WFP is also seizing opportunities to leverage digital innovation in Congo, a well-conntected middle-income country. WFP’s role is increasingly shifting from operational to advisory, with the gradual strengthening of government capacities to scale up and institutionalize mechanisms for social protection, particularly school feeding and safety nets, emergency preparedness and crisis response.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Congo
WFP provides food or cash assistance and nutrition support to 75,000 vulnerable people, including refugees and internally displaced persons. Where appropriate, the assistance is combined with the creation or rehabilitation of assets – such as fish ponds or feeder roads – which enhance the resilience of communities, families and individuals to shocks. WFP uses digital tools to provide assistance to the most vulnerable through cash-based transfers through a local network of shops.
WFP provides daily hot school meals to 80,000 children in those departments most affected by malnutrition, with a special focus on schools in rural and indigenous areas. WFP supports 65 ‘ORA’ schools in the remote Likouala and Sangha provinces to give indigenous children from very deprived communities the opportunity to enter the school system. WFP is increasingly purchasing food for its school feeding program directly from local smallholders.
WFP works with the Government to ensure social protection interventions are effective, equitable and sustained by sound data and technologies. In order to ensure these programs are evidence-based and data-driven, WFP works with the local technology ecosystem to develop digital systems and tools for Congo. Products have included optical character recognition for nutrition and remote sensing for real time flood monitoring.
Support for smallholder farmers
WFP works with 2,000 smallholder farmers – in their vast majority women – with technical support, training and knowledge so they can better aggregate food production, store it safely and get it to markets. In order to overcome the specific barriers faced by women farmers, WFP works with women members of farming cooperatives, fostering their access to decision making roles. WFP is also helping smallholder farmers adapt to a changing climate by improving weather services and diversifying rural livelihoods.
Building on its recognized supply chain expertise and infrastructure in the Congo, WFP provides UN agencies, the Government and other partners with on-demand supply chain services – including for procurement and the management of vehicles, transportation, distribution and warehousing – so they can assist their target populations effectively and efficiently.