The advance of the rebel group, M23 and the jailing of the Congolese warlord, Thomas Lubanga has placed the Democratic of Congo back in the news this week. In addition to these overt security threats there are underlying structural issues plaguing everyday life in the DRC. In this photo essay, Bastiaan Huesken looks at the impact poor infrastructure has had on commercial businesses and the hindrances to agricultural production in the country.
Bastiaan is currently conducting an impact assessment of Projet Riz, a development project by Heineken International NV and the European Cooperative for Rural Development (Eucord) in the DRC. The project, focusing on smallholder rice farmers, has led Bastiaan to some of the most remote areas of country.
For more from this series see:
In 2009 Bralima SARL – a subsidiary of Heineken International NV– and the European Cooperative for Rural Development (Eucord) launched Projet Riz, a development project targeting rural poverty, food insecurity and access to primary education in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Specifically, the project aims to improve smallholder farmers’ productive capacity and catalyse the commercialisation of rice production by facilitating workshops detailing modern farming techniques, improving access to agricultural inputs such and crucially, by integrating smallholder rice farmers into the Bralima brewery’s supply chain.
By Bastiaan Huesken, 17th July, 2012.
1. Bridging the Gap
Infrastructure, or lack thereof, constitutes one of the greatest barriers to the commercialisation of agricultural production. Chronic economic mismanagement and internal conflict has led to serious under-funding for many years. Water transport remains the dominant form of transport for two thirds of the country.
2. When a Tree Falls in the Woods (and the bridge has collapsed)
Here four pirogues tied together serve as a ferry where a bridge collapsed. Pirogues are hollowed out trees used across the DRC as a form of transport.
3. The Motorbike Track
Most roads are only barely accessible by motorbike or bicycle.
4. Mud and Gutters
Larger vehicles, have tremendous difficulty.
5. The Bike Diaries
Due to the inaccessibility of roads, bicycles constitute the preferred mode of transportation. Rice and many other products such as palm oil, maize, manioc and ground nuts are transported to markets either by the farmers themselves, members of their family or by hired “Tolekistes”. The deplorable state of the (rural) infrastructure and the fact that loads transported exceed 100 kg make this extremely difficult and time consuming work.
6. Going to Market
Needless to say, market access is difficult.