DRC: Sustainable family farming

Support for peasant innovation processes and collective evaluation of agricultural practices – For sustainable, viable, and integrated family farming

Within the territory of Madimba, our long-standing partner – the BDD-CCDS – sets up support activities for rural households, through the CODEVs (village development committees). In recent years, activities have focused particularly on the identification of sustainable and viable family farming methods, in the context of very strong pressure on land and on natural resources.

Interventions also specifically target support for activities managed by women, as well as professional education for young people.



The territory of Madimba, where the city of Kisantu is located, which houses the offices of our partner, extends along the national route 1 linking the capital to the ports of Matadi and Boma. Located only a hundred kilometers from Kinshasa – and between 2 and 6 hours by road depending on the state of traffic! – the farmers of Madimba are under pressure, with the growing food needs of this metropolis of more than 14 million inhabitants.

As elsewhere in the DRC, sustainable land management is threatened by a set of sociological, economic, and environmental factors, which are linked to agricultural practices:

  • Population growth and problems related to the overlapping of customary law (“rightful claimant” traditionally administering the granting and use of land) and Western civil law (title deeds) is increased due to the proximity to the city ​​and its businessmen.
  • To this, we can add that agricultural practices (cassava cultivation on slash and burn) are both less and less productive, and do not allow regeneration of already heavily deforested and overexploited land either. Thelow availability of the main factors of production (land, capital, and labor), however, pushes farmers to favor these cultivating and fertilization systems (ash from burning) which are not very intensive in inputs.
  • Finally, agricultural activities are mainly seen as subsistence and food security activities, rarely as an economic activity in their own right. Despite immense production potential, this dynamic often prevents production and processing activities from generating a profit that meets household needs.

    The combination of these parameters results in a dramatic impoverishment of the land, which directly and immediately threatens the agricultural income of farmers and their means of survival, but also impacts, in the medium term, the ecosystems and their services which support human activities and allow life in general (soil fertility, local climate regulation, water storage and availability, etc.).




The objective of this support project for family farmers is to contribute to the development and co-construction of sustainable and viable agricultural models, adapted to the specific contexts and systems of farmer’s constraints  – and which will make it possible to both improve their production conditions and their yields, while preserving or even restoring services environmental conditions necessary for the resilience of populations and local development.

The assumptions underlying this project are as follows:

  1. There are production methods based on the enhancement of natural processes (conservation agriculture, integrated management of soil fertility, use of natural and local inputs, and various associations including agroforestry, etc.), which can both lead to direct impacts on farmers’ incomes and strengthen the sustainability of agroecosystems
  2. However, this set of practices represents a significant change within production systems, the determinants and impacts of which are rooted in a multidimensional way within the land (land contexts, cropping systems, production factors, cultural environment, training and available information, access to inputs, collective dynamics, etc.
  3. To respond to this complex issue and contribute to removing the obstacles to the agro-ecological transition, the projects must consider the specific contexts of the stakeholders and propose technical solutions that fit into the systems of constraints (biophysical, economic, and social) and can be collectively adapted. Spaces for exchanges, negotiations and consultation are also essential to allow the development of support strategies according to their assessed relevance.

The major challenge is, therefore, to put in place the conditions necessary for peasant innovation and the identification, experimentation, evaluation and adaptation of sustainable and viable practices. These must be relevant and adapted to the contexts, and therefore, capable of encouraging adoption, dissemination and integration within agrosystems.

Expected Actions and Impacts

Concretely, the actions of the project set up by the CCDS are articulated on three levels:

Support for the development of the CEDITA center for young agri-entrepreneurs from rural areas of Madimba territory

This center has a triple mission of training students over a 3-year cycle; experimentation and evaluation of promising agricultural practices; and support for sustainable rural entrepreneurship initiatives (student projects and IGAs of women’s groups in the region).

Agronomic trials are conducted and feed the field schools and actions in the villages, specifically in the fields, an opening to partnerships (memoranda, agricultural schools, research centers, etc.), and numerous visits for exchanges and open days. The

research themes identified collectively relate to the sustainable management of soil fertility, the fight against pests, and crop diversification.


In addition, student training tends to be based on active pedagogical methods, integrating experimental spaces within the courses, to combine theory and practice. Support for the installation through access to land and other start-up means should be provided at the end of their training. These young people will thus constitute a nursery rewarding for the continuity of the agricultural profession.

Support for the securing of farmer field school spaces (CEP), their operation and the dynamics of animation around the trials carried out

These secure production spaces within the villages make it possible to bring together local farmers, facilitators, and one or more agronomists in order to build the capacity of farmers to identify the constraints of their production methods, and to choose, test, and evaluate the best solutions and the most suitable.

A collective learning cycle is thus set up based on the issues and ambitions identified participatorily within the group (on crop fertilization, pest management, access to inputs, hardship at work, etc.), and is based on an experimental system shared and led by a technician, based specifically on the tests carried out within the CEDITA center.

Each household member of the CEP has access to an individual and secure plot over several years in the field school where it can set up the practices which seem be the most promising within the experimental systems. With the support of the animators, the observations made on the integration of these practices in the individual plot are compiled and exchanged in order to feed the next learning cycle.

Material, logistical, and (in)training support for farmers who are members of the CODEVs targeted by our partner

At a broader level outside the PIUs, CCDS support in the villages associated with the project also includes technical training and participation in exchange visits, as well as material and logistical support according to the needs identified during the diagnoses and consultations. This can be support for structuring farmers’ organizations and their integration into provincial federations, or even in the processes of land tenure security and conflict resolution. This would also include support for market information systems (MIS) and crop diversification (with occasional material contributions, particularly in agricultural tools, seeds, or reproductive nuclei for the development of livestock farming). In addition, reforestation initiatives are supported among volunteer farmers.

Poster on the Farmer School Fields (CEP) in french


This project is implemented by our partner, the Diocesan Development Office (known as BDD) within the Caritas Health Development Coordination (known as CCDS) in Kisantu.



Local strategic support is provided by our team of project managers from the Mbanza Ngungu office in the transition process towards integrated approaches and participatory dynamics – still little known in the region.

It is our expert in “CEP approaches”, Laurent Kikeba, who is responsible for supporting the CCDS agronomists and facilitators in setting up the dynamics of facilitation and research-action. A “training of trainers” was thus launched for the BDD-CCDS team and spread over a season, within a “CEP of trainers,” in therefore, an (almost) real situation! The content of these trainings is focused on the participatory identification of study themes, the installation of experimental devices, the collection and analysis of data, the facilitation of activities and exchanges, and the monitoring and evaluation from the learning process. The facilitators trained in this way then work with the producers during joint sessions with the agronomists after each weekly training session.


Belgian Cooperation (DGD)


€693,389 (Jan 2017–Dec 2021)