Congo Fears for Agriculture Amid Renewed Ebola Outbreaks

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A new outbreak of ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo is recalling what FAO has termed the severe impacts on agricultural market chains from an earlier ebola epidemic in Western Africa in 2013-16. Congo is dealing with understaffed health facilities, and military conflict is creating problems accessing all the medical supplies they need, according to the World Health Organization. If Congo continues to battle ebola, its agricultural industry could also be affected, analysts warn. According to USAID, approximately 70 percent of Congo’s employed population is involved in agriculture, with most being smallholder operations. A majority of the population already lives in a state of “moderate to serious” food insecurity. Congolese women, who are disproportionately affected by ebola, make up most of the farming population.

The latest ebola cases were found in August in Congo’s eastern region of Kivu. That followed an outbreak in the northwest of Congo from May to July 2018, which was the largest bout with the disease since the Western Africa epidemic in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone that “was unprecedented in magnitude and caused a major public health and socioeconomic crisis beginning in 2014,” according to the FAO.

Over the past several years, Congo has fortunately not seen a decline in production of the country’s top five crops: corn, peanuts, palm oil, and rough and milled rice. But with so many people living in a state of poverty, and the population growing at a quick pace, working towards food security is a vital goal for the country. Congo’s current population of about 85 million is forecast to reach 120 million by 2030. USAID says it is actively working in Congo to boost agricultural productivity, including new crop varieties, improved production practices, better farmer-market integration, and women empowerment.

Amid ebola outbreaks and military conflict, agricultural production in the Democratic Republic of Congo has remained static. The bulk of Congo’s working people are employed in farming, so continued ebola outbreaks could eventually take a even heavier toll on the country’s agricultural sector. Above, production of the country’s top five crops.

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