DRC: Where roads go, farmers will follow (Syfia Grands Lacs)

| November 1, 2010

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Jackson Tambwila is a small-scale farmer in Kasenga, a village in Katanga province, southeastern DRC. In recent months, he has been selling his produce in Lubumbashi, the provincial capital 110 kilometres away. Previously, this was not possible because the roads were in such bad condition.

He explains, “Four years ago I could not cultivate two hectares of maize for fear I could not sell it all.”

When the roads were poor, few traders came to the villages to buy agricultural products. Those who made the trip paid low prices. Mr. Tambwila says, “They were only thinking of their profits. We worked hard to earn very little.”

But now, prices are better. And if traders do not come to his village, Mr. Tambwila loads his crop into a car and sells it in Lubumbashi.

Over the last two years, the roads linking Lubumbashi to many farming areas have been upgraded. Everybody is happy because everybody wins. Ntsihilla Teresa travels the 200 kilometres to Lubumbashi. She says, “Now I can buy what I want. Onions, potatoes, fruit … for I am sure of arriving on time and selling my produce in good condition.”

In some provinces, farmers wait weeks or even months for freight trains to pick up their products. Many, like John Mbambu, lose everything. In 2007, he lost most of his maize crop while waiting for the train at Kamina station. But now he is relieved, saying, “Now I can send my goods by road to Lubumbashi.”

Growers are no longer afraid to expand their production area. They can also grow a wider variety of crops. They are confident that they can sell their products to traders who visit the villages more often. And going to town is no longer too costly. Kasongo Mwana Nzazi, a farmer, explains how it was in the past. “… We were forced to give half our goods in transport costs.” Today, transport costs are fixed. Farmers pay a predetermined price per bag. This cost is low enough for them to make a profit.

Villages alongside the rehabilitated roads are expanding. Families are moving from remote areas to be closer to the road. Mwelwa Prosper is chief of Kafundo village, which borders the road. He says, “Fifty families moved into my village in the last two years.” They are enjoying the benefits of a better connection to the city.