Effort Seeks to Raise Income for Congo Farmers

CHICAGO, IL (February 3, 2011) – The region of the Democratic Republic of Congo served by the Congo Covenant Church is the poorest in the country, according to a survey commissioned by the Paul Carlson Partnership (PCP).

Nyenemo Sanguma, a Congolese national and former PCP intern, conducted the survey in December. He asked questions of participants in the Farmers to Markets economic development program.

The program creates what is called a “value chain” between subsistence farmers located in the Ubangi region of northwest Democratic Republic of Congo and distant markets in the city of Kinshasa, some 600 miles to the south. The accompanying photo was taken in a field belong to a peanut farmer.

“The most startling answer, even to the Paul Carlson staff, came in response to a question asking how much money each of the farmers had earned selling produce in the most recent growing season, one of two such seasons in the year,” says Byron Miller, PCP director.

The median amount – half of the responses were above this and half below – was nine dollars. Even if the other growing season produced better results, the total for a year would likely not be above $30,” Miller said.

That is only 10 percent of the $300 average annual income for the entire country. “We have known we work in one of the poorest provinces in this poorest country in the world, but we never expected a number like this,” Miller said.

At the end of the three-year Farmers to Markets program, PCP will survey the same people to help measure the effectiveness of the project.

A $658,000 grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development will cover approximately two-thirds of budgeted expenses estimated at $1 million. PCP continues to raise funds to cover the rest of the project’s costs.

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