Why We Care
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The importance of growth in rural DRC
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Socio-economic challenges to growth in rural DRC
Our three plantations – Lokutu, Yaligimba and Boteka - are all significant in size and remote in location. The nearest large towns or cities to the plantations are between 60 and 200 kilometres away and access to the plantations is severely restricted by road. This means there is a reliance on the river Congo to transport produce, materials, people and equipment to and from the plantations; be it food, fertilizer, fuel, building materials, spare parts or specialist advisers. This hinders the pace at which activities can be undertaken whilst also increasing the cost considerably.
At 2.3 million km2, the DRC is larger than the combined areas of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden and Norway.
"As the crow flies", Boteka is 600Km from Kinshasa with Yaligimba and Lokutu 1,100Km.
A barge of supplies takes around 3 weeks to get from Kinshasa to Lokutu.
The remoteness of our operations also places pressure on the socio-economic infrastructure of both the plantations and their wider area of influence. As with much of DRC, the plantations are in areas which have under-developed local economies which limit the ability to move away from subsistence farming and towards other enterprise-based livelihoods. A legacy of isolation and difficult access to markets has also resulted in reliance by communities on resources available locally such as timber, fuelwood and bushmeat; activities which are not sustainable in the long term given rapid rises in population and pressure on natural resources in the area.
Prior to Feronia acquiring the business in 2009, there had been little in the way of investment in worker housing for twenty years and existing healthcare and education facilities were also very run down. Access to potable drinking water was limited to a small number of boreholes that had not fallen into disrepair and, in the absence of these; water supplies were taken from streams, rivers and ponds.
How can sustainable development at Feronia help growth in rural DRC?
The DRC government has identified the following four pillars as part of its growth and poverty reduction strategy:
1. Strengthening governance and peace
2. Diversifying the economy, accelerating growth and promoting employment
3. Improving access to basic social services and strengthening human capital
4. Protecting the environment and fighting against climate change
An important part of the second pillar, “Diversifying the economy, accelerating growth and promoting employment” has been to reinstate agriculture as a priority growth sector. Despite having huge agricultural potential, the DRC still relies heavily on imported food, creating food insecurity through fluctuating prices and scarcity. We aim to contribute to local sustainable food production and security by increasing the availability of edible oil and crop products to people in the DRC as well as enabling opportunities to develop sustainable livelihoods through investment in community development.
We recognise the challenging history and context in which we operate and are committed to conducting our operations in a way that supports the development of all four national priorities - through improving the livelihoods of our workers and communities through the promotion of employment, skills and educational programs, the improvement of healthcare facilities and infrastructure as well as the creation of opportunities. We are also committed to protecting the natural environment in which we operate.
We strongly believe that addressing these challenges is central to securing the future success and longevity of our company and improving the livelihoods of both our employees and broader communities. This is a long term commitment.