Sustainable Agriculture in the Central African Republic

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SEATTLE — The Central African Republic, as its name suggests, is located in the center of the African content. Recent political strife caused by the former president, Francois Bozize, who was deposed by a coup in 2013, created religious conflict within the country. The new president and former prime minister Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected by the people in 2016 with the hope that he would bring an end to the sectarian violence. Much of the country’s economy relies on subsistence agriculture, meaning that people or villages farm for their own use rather than for a market. Political turmoil, internal violence and environmental factors such as desertification have hindered the development of sustainable agriculture in the Central African Republic.

The International Monetary Fund has been working with the CAR government for years. The IMF has been working with the government since 2009 to increase the efficiency of the government’s bureaucracy. Due to the violence, a 2016 debt sustainability analysis by the International Monetary Fund still ranks the country’s debt as high-risk. The conclusion of the report suggests that the government of the Central African Republic must work to mitigate political instability and violence and increase macroeconomic growth in order to decrease their debt and improve their debt ranking.

Increasing sustainable agriculture in the Central African Republic can help to mitigate the side effects of the country’s dire situation. Sustainable agriculture can lead to a growing economy, on both the micro and macro levels, by increasing output. It will also help to relieve the environmental system from the damage done by forestry and mining, the two other mainstays of the CAR economy.

While the government of the Central African Republic fights to end the internal strife, external organizations have stepped in to help feed the people of the Central African Republic. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) estimates that there are over 600,000 internally displaced people in the Central African Republic and an estimated 2.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Due to this displacement, harvests have been low and the USAID and other organizations have had to ship in food to the CAR and surrounding countries to help feed the affected population.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has adopted another strategy to help the government reach peace and grow sustainable agriculture in the Central African Republic. Their report states that increasing food security will increase stability in the country. By increasing stability, they hope to help the government find a peaceful solution to the conflict. Part of their plan for improving food security is to increase sustainable agriculture in the Central African Republic by growing sustainable fish farming in many rivers of the CAR and increase seed distribution. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is providing similar aid and training.

The FAO is also providing education to people who are now living in non-combat zones. In these areas, the FAO is educating displaced people and people who live in the area on the importance of sustainable agriculture in the Central African Republic and how to farm. The education focuses on the best vegetables for the environment in which they are living and how to care for and keep livestock. The FAO is also helping fighters turn in their weapons in exchange for farming equipment. The FAO provides money and education to these ex-fighters to help them rejoin society. Since the beginning of this initiative, over 1,000 fighters have turned in their weapons.

Another organization providing similar assistance is Welthungerhilfe, a charity with the goal of eliminating hunger around the world. Welthungerhilfe uses sustainable agriculture techniques to accomplish its goal. The charity is operating in the Central African Republic with a budget of €4.1 million, funding six different projects. Some projects are similar to the FAO’s, but one project is very important. During the war, many of the Central African Republic’s agricultural centers were destroyed. Welthungerhilfe is helping the CAR rebuild these sites. They also promote sustainable agriculture in the Central African Republic by providing people in the rural area around the capital, Bangui, with plots of land to produce vegetables for their own consumption and for sale. They are also helping people clear land properly so that farming around the capital can grow.

The ICRC has provided seeds such as millet and corn to the regions hit hardest by fighting. These crops were chosen since they have been bred to thrive in the CAR’s climate. Areas that have received this aid are already showing signs of increased productivity. Advanced harvesting techniques have also helped increase productivity. The benefit of this type of program is that as internally displaced people return home or move around the nation, they will bring their education with them and spread the use of sustainable agriculture in the Central African Republic.

The Central African Republic has a long journey on the road to recovery. Sustainable agriculture in the CAR will help make that journey shorter. By increasing food security and growing the agricultural sector of its economy, the government of the Central African Republic can ensure that people are well fed and they have jobs. According to the FAO, these factors decrease violence in countries where these problems exist. The peace process has been interrupted many times since the beginning of the conflict, but if many of the combatants begin to see a way to help themselves and their families through an increasingly stable system, hopefully they will lay down their arms.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

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