Endowed with 80 million hectares of arable land, diverse climatic conditions, and abundant water resources, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the potential to become the breadbasket of the entire African continent. Yet, despite its agricultural and economic potential, it continues to have the highest level of hunger according to the Global Hunger Index. The agriculture sector in DRC is undergoing major transformation as it addresses challenges and emerging issues that affect food security in the country.
The government is seeking to strengthen and improve upon the current agricultural extension services. Agriculture extension relates to providing the necessary information and training to farmers to support them in improving their yields, through new knowledge on agricultural practices and technologies.
On June 26-27, policymakers, researchers, implementers, and others will participate in the "National Workshop on Transforming Agricultural Extension System and Accelerating Agricultural Productivity Growth in the Democratic Republic of Congo" organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the United States Agency for International Development.
"Knowledge is one of the key tools that farmers need to improve their livelihoods," said John Ulimwengu, IFPRI research fellow. "Improving agricultural extension services in DRC will contribute to increased food security."
Findings from surveys on agricultural extension in the provinces of Bas-Congo, Bandundu, and Kinshasa, conducted by IFPRI, a member of the CGIAR Consortium, will provide in-depth analysis of institutional and capacity issues in the extension system.
In addition, national policymakers, researchers, and practitioners, as well as experts from African and other countries will share their experiences on agricultural extension programs in their own countries to provide concrete examples of challenges and successes with these programs. Keynote speaker Burt Swanson, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will share lessons learned from extension system reforms in various countries.
Patience Rwamigisa from the Ministry of Agriculture in Uganda will discuss his experience with the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) in Uganda and discuss what to consider when coming up with a national agriculture extension plan. Mary Kamau from the Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya will share background on Kenya's National Agricultural Extension Policy and discuss the processes of monitoring and implementation for agricultural extension policies.
"This workshop will allow dialogue and insight from people all across DRC, as well as provide a better understanding of challenges and opportunities for agricultural extension from other African countries which will help strengthen and initiate positive reforms to our agricultural extension system," said Jean-Chrysostome V. Mukesyayira, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in the DRC. "It will guide us in developing a national agricultural extension policy."