Resilient seeds to strengthen the resilience of communities
Katanga, like three other sister provinces, is testing the efficiency of resilient seeds developed in Congo by a Congolese team to guarantee food security and increase the capacity of producers who are facing the threat of climate change. Look, the seeds are growing!
Katanga Province, Kipopo study area. We take the track from Lubumbashi for a distance of 25 km; a bumpy track which forces us to take a long detour because the main bridge was reduced to pieces by an overly heavy truck six years ago and still hasn’t been rebuilt! Usually the journey only takes ten minutes but since the destruction of the only bridge you have to give yourself an hour. It’s not easy for farmers to dispatch their produce by road or transport materials there.
Furthermore, over the past few years the dry season in this area has become alarmingly long and it now lasts eight months at a stretch. Rainfall is decreasing; traditional farmers and fish farmers are the first to suffer as a result. These uncontrollable changes in climate are a headache for this already very vulnerable population (80%) living in a province which is extremely rich in minerals, but whose acidic soil is much less fertile than elsewhere, and it is dominated by food insecurity.
NAPA-ASA (National Adaptation Programmes of Action - Agricultural Sector Adaptation)
- Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism project via the Sustainable Development Department
- Launched in 2010; project duration four years
- Objective: to reduce the vulnerability of small producers and rural populations faced with the effects of climate change on rain-based agricultural systems and food security
- Financing: Global Environment Facility (GEF) as part of its support to the least developed countries (LDCs), and the UNDP
- Total: US$6 million, of which US$3 million is from the government; US$50,000 from UNDP
- Partners: public services, NGOs, women’s associations, INERA (National Institute for Agronomic Study and Research), IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture), UNIKIN (University of Kinshasa - Corn Research Centre), SENASEM (National Seed Service), SNV (National Extension Service), METTELSAT (National Agency of Meteorology and Teledetection by Satellite), community radio: RCK/Katanga, Formoza/Bas Congo, Ditunga/Kasaï Oriental, Tomisa/Banduddu
- Four INERA pilot sites: Ngandajika (Kasaï Oriental), Kipopo (Katantga), Kiyaka (Bandundu) and Gimbi (Bas Congo)
Weather and resilient seeds
The NAPA-ASA project has been involved in the adaptation of the agricultural sector to climate change project since 2010. Specifically, NAPA-ASA strengthens the technical capacity of small producers and rural populations in terms of production tools and agricultural planning.
At the end of the track, practically in the middle of nowhere, there stands an INERA weather station with its sad memories of the 1995 pillages. It has since been re-equipped with thermometers, an anemometer, a heliometer, a weather vane, a heliograph, and an evaporimeter. Meteorological data is collected, measured and compared every day; soil dryness and wind force as well as varying air and soil temperatures are also measured. This information is transmitted daily to Kinshasa and community radio stations, who also tell farmers when it is the best time to plough, sow and harvest.
At the same time, a screening of resilient varieties of rice, cassava, beans, peanuts and black-eyed peas has been carried out in three large agro-ecological areas in the DRC, which led to the identification of varieties and clones adapted to climate change in these areas and which at present enable seed production in the provinces of Bandundu, Bas Congo, Kasaï Oriental and Katanga.
In Katanga, 100 households in four villages were identified out of a total of 464. The head of the house was female in 58 cases, and male in 42 cases. The 100 households received enough seeds to cover a field measuring 0.5 hectares per household in November 2013.
Jean-Claude, the head of the project, explains: “The NAPA-ASA project is a participatory project. We have involved communities in feedback and household screenings. We explained the selection of seed varieties, which they understood and then accepted. We also support ten agricultural multiplier associations in each province and favour women’s associations thanks to which we can learn very specific lessons on the achievements and what remains to be done. For example, it is important for farmers to pay attention to the weather forecast and advice broadcast by community radio stations. If, for example, farmers are unaware of the late arrival of rain, flowering will take place later and the harvest will be smaller.”
Growing all year round
Research on resilient varieties has taken longer than predicted so the NAPA-ASA project is still in its operational phase, but the results are promising. Moreover, training has taken place on using fertiliser and organic materials (rather than chemical materials which are too toxic for the soil). Other training has focused on the resilient seed production chain management and maintenance system established in each of the four study areas. That’s why we are led, on tiptoe, into the hanger housing the sacks of resilient seeds. We cannot stay there long due to strict sanitary measures.
Further away, hydro-agricultural developments have been established in the lowlands to enable farming in all seasons. The wheat grows to the same height as Maurice, head of the INERA station, who is at least 2 metres tallThe rows of wheat stand in line proudly, crossed by the little “streams” which are out of sight. Two fish farm ponds measuring 600 square metres each were installed in Kanyameshi and 50 kg of tilapia nilotica fish larvae introduced.
Another complementary element of the NAPA-ASA project is the distribution of goats and mills: 44 breeding stock (including four bucks) and four mills were given to transform farming in order to benefit the 100 households targeted in the four pilot villages according to a rotating crop sharing model so that over time the whole community can make use of the goats and become self-sufficient.
The NAPA-ASA project, in association with INERA, is therefore aiming for sustainable long-term human development by attempting to revitalise agricultural research through the provision of animal gametes, fish larvae and plant seeds which are healthy and resistant to disease and insects and adapt to the climate.
In the province of Katanga as well as the other three pilot provinces the major challenges of the peri-urban and rural sector remain food security, fighting poverty, purification of materials, biodiversity and environment conservation, and market integration for economic competitiveness.