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Getting Farmers Back to the Land in D.R.C.

Congolese left productive fields behind as they fled war. Now, international efforts aim to renew agriculture and reduce hunger. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

The Food and Agriculture Organization recently reported that hunger increased by seventy-five million people last year. The United Nations agency blamed rising prices for food, fuel and fertilizer.

The F.A.O. estimates that in two thousand seven, the world had nine hundred twenty-three million undernourished people.

Among them are most of the people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The D.R.C. has a population estimated in July at sixty-six million. The Food and Agriculture Organization says seven out of ten of them do not get the food they need.

The D.R.C. is huge. The central African country has about seven million hectares of productive land. Yet only about one million hectares are used for permanent crops.

Farmers fled their land after civil war began in nineteen ninety-eight. Five years of conflict, hunger and disease killed four million people.

Now, five years have passed since that war officially ended. But hundreds of thousands of people in the D.R.C. remain homeless. And there is continued unrest, mostly in the east.

In the southern province of Katanga, however, there is a tense, sometimes shaky peace. Four hundred fifty thousand people returned to Katanga by the middle of this year. The F.A.O. says many plan to farm and fish again.

International organizations are working to get farmers back on their land.

The Food and Agriculture Organization has more than two hundred workers involved in the effort. They travel around to supply seeds, tools and animals. They also provide supervision and training to support farming and fishing.

The agency says its fifty million dollar program has assisted about two million men, women and children in the last three years.

Former colonial ruler Belgium and the European Commission are supporting the program. Commission projects officer Patrick Houben says big companies will not invest in small-scale farming. But he says the only way to renew agriculture is to begin with small farmers.

Other groups and countries including the United States are also supporting the program.

Joachim von Braun is director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington. He said in Kinshasa recently that the D.R.C. has strong possibilities for agriculture and that making use of them could reduce poverty fast.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Bob Doughty.