Climate-Smart Agriculture in Democratic Republic of Congo: History
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Subjects: Agronomy
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Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is one of the innovative approaches for sustainably increasing the agricultural productivity, improving livelihoods and incomes of farmers, while at the same time improving resilience and contributing to climate change mitigation. In spite of the fact that there is neither explicit policy nor practices branded as CSA in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), farmers are utilizing an array of farming practices whose attributes meet the CSA criteria. 

  • climate-smart agriculture
  • climate change
  • university curricula
  • food security

1. Inventoried CSA Technologies and Practices

Previous studies revealed that farmers in DRC have no adaptation and resilience techniques branded as CSA [4,16]. However, farmers in the DRC engage in several practices that aim to increase productivity, adapt to changing climate scenarios, and mitigate adverse effects of high carbon emissions [4,16]. Inventoried CSA practices are clustered under five general themes: agronomy, agroforestry, livestock and aquaculture, post-harvest management, and energy systems) .

1.1. Agroforestry

CSA practices in the forestry sector aim at using agriculture as a response to reducing deforestation while at the same time lowering agriculture’s carbon footprint and promoting a resilient and more productive farming system [4,75]. Scientists prominently promote agroforestry in DRC because of the large hectarage of forests; the country records one of the highest potential zones for REDD+. For instance, Kavira [75] reported that 87% of surveyed farmers of Kubagu area in North East of DRC adopted agroforestry practices following technical supervision of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). However, Unega [67] reported that only 42.2% of surveyed farmers surrounding the UMA forest in the east of Kisangani planted trees following technical and financial support from the Association pour le Developpement Integré de Kisangani et de la Cuvette Centrale Congolaise (ADIKIS/CCC).
The University of Kisangani has been undertaking efforts to implement studies in few areas surrounding forest regions in the north and central-east, with a great potential of enhancing sustainable production, improving smallholders’ livelihood, and promoting resilience and/or mitigation of carbon emissions. However, these results need to be disseminated and scaled up among smallholder farmers in their specific villages since climate-smart interventions are highly location-specific. For example, a study was conducted to assess the response of legume trees as an integrated soil fertility management alternative at the experimental site of the University of Kisangani in Simisimi, eastern DRC. Results revealed that Albizzia chineensis was the best legume for agroforestry with 17.6 kg of fresh matter and 5.8 kg of dry matter and would play a critical role in the integrated soil fertility management in that area, while at the same time lowering agriculture’s carbon footprint [68]. This finding was confirmed by Zalo [69] who reported that Albizia Chineensis and Albizia laureniii cultivated in alley cropping with banana recorded relatively higher fresh matter contents (0.3 and 0.2 kg, respectively) at Simisimi. These findings suggest the use of agroforestry as a response to reducing deforestation, preserving biodiversity, and sustaining soil fertility.
Furthermore, small-scale agroforestry actions, seeking at regenerating Miombo forests mixed with agriculture, were implemented in the vicinity of Lubumbashi, though these initiatives remain marginal due to the lack of financial and public policy support [70]. The low adoption rate recorded among smallholder farmers implies inefficient extension services in disseminating and increasing awareness of farmers on agroforestry benefits and how it is instrumental in coping with climate change. Moreover, technical and financial supports from government or non-governmental organizations are crucial to perpetuate such CSA technique. However, to achieve these goals, commitment by all stakeholders, including the government, private sectors, NGOs, universities, and farmers, is essential from conception to implementation.
The Geographic Information System (GIS) coupled with the remote sensing are being used in eastern DRC to identify suitable zones for agroforestry and assess the impact of the forest cover in reducing the soil erosion [51,76,77].

1.2. Agronomy

In eastern DRC, the Université Evangélique en Afrique (UEA) with its partners has initiated a series of project dealing with CSA practices. These include soil restoration at the hill scale, adapted agroforestry tree selection, soil and water conservation techniques, land use and land cover assessment in wetlands, biofertilizer and biopesticide development, waste recycling, use of resilient crops, etc., [21,40,42,44,45,51]. Figure 5, Figure 6 and Figure 7 present some of the common CSA practices in eastern DRC.
Figure 5. Steps in making briquettes by smallholder farmers supported by a local non-governmental organization, DIOBASS, in eastern DRC.
Figure 6. Biogas production process using cow dung at the Faculty of Agriculture, UEA, eastern DRC.
Figure 7. Predominant soil and water conservation practices in South-Kivu highlands, eastern DRC: (a) Terraces, (b) Zaï pits, (c) ridges, (d) mulching, (eh) hedges with green manure and forages as implemented by smallholder farmers of Kabare, eastern DRC with a support from UEA scientists under Food Security Project (FSP) in partnership with Mercy Corps, World Vision, HarvestPlus, and Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC).
CSA practices in crop production identified in DRC include also the use of crop rotation, fallow practice, bio-fertilizers, bio-pesticides, mulching, different crop varieties, crop diversification, adjusting planting dates, and strengthening nonfarm activities as a climate change resilience strategy [4,62,65,78]. For example, mixed cropping systems based on maize and peanuts; cassava, peanuts and maize; banana, maize and peanuts; pumpkin, coffee, or cocoa are performed in Kisangani, north-eastern DRC. According to Mugisa [63], the cultivation of maize associated with peanut at spacing of 1.30 m × 0.25 m for maize and 0.30 m × 0.15 m for peanuts recorded up to 69% increase in yield in maize compared to the monoculture of maize in the region of Kisangani. This implied that maize benefit from the association, especially high-density spacing treatments. More other positive effects of crop associations have been demonstrated in a series of studies conducted by Ndjadi et al. [62] in South-Kivu while using the permagarden farming approaches.
Promotion of multiple stress-resistant cultivars of crops such as cassava, common bean, rice, maize, cowpea, and groundnut is another climate-resilient strategy used by farmers and farmer-support structures in DRC to secure better yields and support household food security in the face of climate change. Since irrigation is rarely performed by farmers (except in vegetable production) due to lack of appropriate equipment, high cost, and sometimes due to marginal topography; soil and water conservation practices, including Zai, tied ridges, mulching, crop associations, etc., have been tested in semi-arid areas of the country (mainly in the Ruzizi Plain), in addition to drought-resistant cultivars, to adapt to water-scarce conditions, currently exacerbated by climate change [21,45]. An initiative by DRC’s PANA-ASA project (Adaptation du Secteur Agricole au changement climatique) has been strengthening farmers’ resilience to climate change by promoting better seeds in eastern Kasaï, Bandundu, Bas Congo, and Katanga since 2010 [70]. Crop diversification through promotion of neglected and underutilized crops is being encouraged in eastern DRC since these represent a valuable strategy for increasing the resilience of farmers to climate change [64]. However, such effort is being challenged by the absence of improved varieties for such crops and the lack of a functional seed delivery system.

1.3. Livestock and Aquaculture

Efforts to promote CSA practices in the livestock production sector target to mainly enhance the meat and milk production, and to ensure better animal nutrition using environmentally friendly approaches. Some of these approaches include introducing high-value species or crossbreeding with locally adapted breeds. For instance, farms of nearly 100,000 hens cover a good part of the Kinshasa market, at the same time numerous farms having between 1000 to 5000 hens are established for breeding for improved laying hens [71]. The local cattle breeds that are exploited in the regions of North-Kivu (Beni, Lubero, Walikale, Rutshuru, and Masisi) and South-Kivu are adapted to their environment but show poor dairy performance. Breeders have been crossing them with exotic bulls with better milk potential [72]. Currently, crop-livestock, crop-aquaculture, or crop-livestock-aquaculture practices are being encouraged in eastern DRC. Several efforts to improve livestock nutrition through better pastures are undergoing in eastern DRC.

1.4. Food Energy Systems

Though less expanded, there are initiatives that can be clustered under “Food energy systems” theme. These include the biogas production and improved cookstoves that are promoted by UEA under “Projet Environnement” in eastern DRC. The solar energy is also gaining pace and increasingly used in farms in remote areas where electricity is difficult to access [73,74].
No record exists for CSA practices under the post-harvest management theme. Efforts are, therefore, necessary to identify techniques already in use by farmers for conservation, to assess their effectiveness and to suggest improvements.

2. Institutions and Finance for CSA

The National Institute of Agricultural Studies and Research (INERA) partners with the Ministry of Agriculture, high education institutions, United Nations’ agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and community-based organizations of smallholder farmers to implement and promote agricultural innovations. However, there are a few, albeit limited, examples of projects that seek to promote CSA practices implemented or tested in DRC. These projects are limited in scale owing to little systematic investment or coordination across ministries and intervening stakeholders [7,16].
For example, the government developed a profile of projects supporting the recovery of the agricultural and rural sectors in the context of its initiative on “Environmental Awareness for the Agricultural and Rural Population”. The initiative “an effort to raise awareness of cultural practices found harmful to biodiversity” was carried out in the former provinces of Bas-Congo and Bandundu in the south-western DRC. Among projects implemented in DRC, few aimed at addressing the gender inequalities in agriculture through CSA. Another project is the UN Women’s CSA initiative that had four specific objectives: (i) Ensuring sustainable and secured access to land; (ii) improving women’s access to technology and information by facilitating digital platforms for women and real-time agricultural data; (iii) improving women’s access to funding, credit and investments; and (iv) increasing women farmers’ access to markets by supporting them to form cooperatives and strengthening their capacity to participate in the green value chain meaningfully. The GEF-LDCF (Groupe de Recherche et Echange Technologique) funded a project, Building Adaptive Capacity and Resilience of Women and Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, supporting women and children through a community-centered approach to adopting and adapting livelihood strategies in innovative ways, based on current and future climate change scenarios. The FAO has also been implementing and sponsoring CSA practices in DRC [7].
As mentioned in previous sections, the project PANA-ASA initiated activities aimed at deploying quality seeds of water stress resistant varieties of staple crops such as maize, common beans, and soybean to enhance the household’s livelihood through better yields, and food security, especially in the regions around Lubumbashi City. Its activities were also extended to areas where INERA, in partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), played the role of a research partner [16]. These areas included four sites within four former provinces of DRC (Eastern Kasaï, Bandundu, Bas-Congo, and Katanga).
Agroforestry project around Kisangani in North-East of DRC is ongoing. In the city of Kisangani, the European Union project, namely FORETS project (FOrmation, Research, Environment in TShopo) is designed as a substantial contribution to integrated landscape development. It includes the Yangambi Biosphere Reserve in DRC. The project focuses on the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity and ecosystem services to contribute to the sustainable development of local populations (, accessed on 27 December 2021). The activities defined on the Yangambi–Kisangani axis in Tshopo Province concern the support to local communities through awareness-raising, extension, and supervision. They also strengthen national human resources, mainly through formal training (Master of Science and doctoral programs in Sustainable Biodiversity and Natural Resources Management) at the University of Kisangani. The Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) support all research implemented. A project in Lubumbashi (Southern DRC) focusing on agroforestry is being implemented by GRET (Groupe de Recherche et Echange Technologique). The aim is to regenerate the Miombo forest while achieving food security and wealth for the farmers’ households [7]. The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), an organization of more than 140 African universities, has recently helped launching a Ph.D. program in Agroecology and Climate Sciences at a consortium of four Congolese universities UEA-UCB-UOB-UCG, to boost research and training on sustainable farming production in DRC.
However, reports (e.g., [70]) showed that most of these CSA initiatives suffer from the lack of sufficient financial supports and governmental incentives for scaling-up. Fundraising, sufficient public budgets, and conducive policies are necessary to ensure a wide promotion of CSA practices across different agroecologies of DRC.

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.3390/land11101850

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