By Prosper Munda
In the midst of the fight against COVID-19, agricultural journalists in Congo are continuing media coverage in all corners of their national territory. From the Equator through to North Kivu, they are working amongst the small landholders who have not been in confinement so far because the cities must be fed.
Travelling through Kinyandonyi, in the Rutshuru territory of the province of North Kivu, we are about 74 km from the city of Goma, the capital of the province. It is a rich production basin for the corn sector and here we stopped to talk to a peasant farmer in his cornfield. Accompanied by agronomists, he is learning the mechanical techniques to fight armyworm caterpillars.
The technique, according to agronomist Alexis Nzabanita, is to remove the caterpillars by opening the leaves of the corn plant to find the caterpillar’s hiding place and then remove them by hand. When a caterpillar is found, it is crushed by the farmer or the agronomist. The attack of these armyworms arrived when the COVID-19 pandemic had prompted the governor of North Kivu to prohibit all movement between the cities and unaffected areas.
Jean-Baptiste Musabyimana, national coordinator of the Association of Agricultural Journalists of Congo (AJAC), took advantage of this time to report on the work of farmers. In Masisi territory, in the potato sector, he accompanied the provincial minister of agriculture on a tour of farms. This was part of a program to raise awareness amongst producers to make more effort to increase productions. This period, he said, was an opportunity for farmers to feed the whole nation as other trade remained closed. During this journey, he reached Butembo and Beni which are insecure areas that have also experienced outbreaks of the Ebola virus disease. Very touched to see that the producers continuing to work despite all these outbreaks, the delegation with the provincial minister of agriculture, Pélagie Kabano, urged them to persist in continuing their work by promising them the government’s full support.
“The agronomists are with us. It is thanks to this that we already see the difference between cultivating with and without fertilizer,” says Jean-Bosco, one of the farmers met in his field and interviewed by AJAC. He said he is happy to be accompanied by the agronomists as they allowed him to improve his performance.
Work continues as well in other provinces by agricultural journalists from AJAC who will continue will continue to support the peasant farmers during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.