IFPRI Workshop Focuses on Agricultural Extension and Productivity in DRC

Women returning from the fields in DRC.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been the subject of buzz in the international development community as supporters are rallying funds, intellect, and awareness around the country’s intent to experience the same positive developments in child mortality as its neighbors and to begin filling in the gaps where there is a dearth of development. Ben Affleck, actor, writer, producer, and now founder and director of the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) recently partnered with USAID to draw attention to the vast needs of the DRC and to find ways to permeate DRC’s unleashed potential.

Amongst decades of continued violence and political instability, government insecurity has impeded the country’s capacity to reform. Progress has been slow, but IFPRI has been working with the DRC government since 2008 to help abet the impact of the international food crisis and shape a strategy to reinforce food security in the country. With an enhanced food security focus, DRC worked hard to develop the means to allocate 10% of the national budget to agricultural investments through the much-acclaimed CAADP process. With 90% of the country deemed fertile, arable land, the eagerness to put a well-informed plan in motion is great.

Three years since the inception of IFPRI’s involvement in DRC, a national workshop will be held June 26-27, 2012 in Kinchasa to reunite the key policymakers, NGOs, academics, and researchers involved in the partnership to find the next best move for the DRC’s continued progress agricultural development. The National Workshop on Transforming Agricultural Extension System and Accelerating Agricultural Productivity Growth in the Democratic Republic of Congo will offer the much revered “gurus” of agricultural extension, (the training and support necessary for building up farmers in holistic agricultural output, through marketing, health, and better business methods) with the opportunity to share their experiences and advice as to where the DRC could make its next moves.

“Once a breadbasket of Africa, this virtually untapped resource could return and transform the lives of millions of children and countless communities in central Africa,” said IFPRI researcher Catherine Ragasa, who will attend the workshop along with IFPRI’s John Ulimwengu and Thaddee Badibanga. They will be joined by Burt Swanson, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Mary Kamau, the Director of Extension and Training at the Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya, Patience Rwamigisa, Senior Entomologist at the Ministry of Agriculture in Uganda, Professor Paul Mafuka Mbe-pie, the Director of the DRC’s National Agricultural Research Institute (INERA), and Professor Patrick Makala, an Adviser to DRC’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, among others.

In response to a request from the Ministry of Agriculture for research-based evidence on options and strategies for transforming the agricultural extension and knowledge system in DRC , this Workshop was formed to meet a Congolese-led initiative to reform their agricultural system. With chronic malnutrition afflicting nearly 45 percent of all Congolese children, causing the permanent stunting of physical and mental development, finding the right tools to make changes at the government level comes with urgency. As USAID Director Rajiv Shaw and Ben Affleck reported in a recent Politico article, the solutions USAID and the ECI are looking to find are intended to be Congolese-led. This meeting of the minds creates high hopes that the future of the country comes up with an informed decision, using the tools to help bring wealth of potential to fruition.