Promoting Agricultural Production in the Republic of Congo: Overview, Challenges and Opportunities


The Republic of Congo is located in Central Africa and is bordered by the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Gabon, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.[1] Highly endowed with tropical forests, the country also has vast uncultivated arable land, representing about one-third of its total area.[2] Only 2% of the 10 million hectares of Congo’s fertile lands are cultivated,[3] vastly insufficient to meet the country’s food needs. It is worth mentioning that a third of Congo’s population is estimated to live in rural areas while 70% of rural households depend on agriculture. However, the country is heavily dependent on its oil sector as the main driver of economic development, severely hampering the development of other sectors such as agriculture and forestry. Due to this strong reliance on the oil sector, the Republic of Congo spends a lot of money to import food and ensure its food security. In 2016, the country spent an estimated CFAF 727.2 billion (about US$1.2 billion) to import food products.[4] 

Challenges Hampering Agricultural Production in the Republic of Congo

According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD),[5] inadequate or inexistent microfinance structures to provide financial support to farmers, most of whom are rural dwellers, is a major factor hampering agricultural production in Congo.[6] Another challenge related to the former is that traditional, subsistence-level agricultural practices/methods involving low levels of mechanization is still very prevalent, leading to low levels of production, which in turn translates into the country having to rely on imports to sufficiently feed its population.

High transport costs arising from poor maintenance of vehicles, roads, crossings and navigation channels is another major challenge.[7] Since agricultural production is generally concentrated in rural areas, construction of and access to high-quality motorable roads and affordable means of transport is a necessary piece of the food production chain to ensure agricultural produce is easily and affordably transported to urban centers to minimize or eliminate post-harvest losses. Ensuring timely and cheaper transportation of produce from the areas of production to the markets would also contribute to supplying more evenly matching demand, leading to a reduction in prices to the benefit of more buyers and households. Again, according to IFAD, marketing difficulties arising from weak collection and distribution organizations, and poor processing equipment and communications between producers, traders and consumers constitute some other major challenges hampering agricultural production, especially in rural areas.

According to the World Food Programme, and corroborated through interactions with locals, the recurrence or fear of social and political conflict has forced people to abandon their land, homes and jobs and discourages long-term investments, including in large-scale agriculture.[8] As a matter of fact, Congo has experienced periods of civil war and heightened levels of political instability and insecurity, dating back as recently as 2015.

Climate change, to which Congo is susceptible, could also be a contributor to low agricultural production. In a paper analyzing the impact of climate change in food production in Congo,[9] Edwige Kamitewoko of the Marien Ngouabi University in Brazzaville analyzed the impact of changes in temperature and rainfall patterns due to climate change on the production of five food crops—cassava, beans, bananas, peanuts and yams—which are the main food crops cultivated in Congo. The paper refers to Congo as one of the most watered countries in the African continent, with an annual rainfall varying between 1200 and 1500 mm of water per year.[10] However, the country has been experiencing increasing variability in rainfall patterns that could be attributed to climate change and the paper asserts that climatic variability and change have always presented a threat to food security in Congo through their effect on rainfall, soil moisture and production. The paper further states that excessive rainfall could restrict access to water resources, shorten the growing season, alter the agricultural calendar of farmers and even impact soil fertility. It concludes by suggesting policy approaches such as allocating more lands for crop production through public food farms, promoting the dissemination and use of climate information to farmers, and strengthening advisory and technical support for farmers.[11]

Overcoming the Challenges: Opportunities for Growth

As mentioned earlier, one of the challenges to sufficient agricultural production is the lack of funding or inadequate funding for small-scale/rural farmers. This is where strong government support comes in. Government support through the provision of and access to low-interest loans and other flexible and attractive funding opportunities to farmers would go a long way to boost agricultural production. The Government could also support farmers through capacity-building in terms of training on effective financial management and proper bookkeeping, proper use of fertilizers, better soil management and farming practices, as well as conducting research and disseminating the results.

A ripple effect of improved agricultural production is that as crop and animal yields improve, farmers stand to make more money from increased sales, leading to an improvement in their standard of living. As their living conditions improve and they share their success stories, other people are likely to perceive agriculture as a viable area of investment and thus more investors, both rich individuals and corporate entities, would be motivated to invest in agriculture, which would contribute to an overall increase in agricultural output.

As the proverbial saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved, which conveys the idea of opening up to and collaborating with others to find solutions to problems. In this regard, the Government of the Republic of Congo is collaborating with several partners to support its campaign to boost agricultural production and deal with the attendant food insecurity and malnutrition. One such partnership is with IFAD, which signed with the Republic of Congo in 2015 a US$17.56 million agreement to finance an inland fisheries and aquaculture project (PD-PAC) in the northern departments of Cuvette, Cuvette-Ouest, Sangha and Plateaux.[12] IFAD has also jointly prepared a Country Strategic Opportunities Programme (COSOP) 2019–2024 with the Government of Congo, the goal of which is “to achieve sustainable and inclusive development of agricultural production and agribusiness while supporting the Government in its effort to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1, 2, 3 and 8.”[13] The three strategic objectives of the COSOP are: strengthening the capacity of small-scale stakeholders and their organizations to create inclusive market linkages and agribusiness models and derive economic benefits from value chains with high economic potential; increasing access by small-scale producers and other value chain stakeholders to financing and financial services; and improving the policy and regulatory environment for micro, small and medium-sized enterprise development in the agriculture and food sector.[14]

The Government could also run a massive public education campaign to try and change social perceptions about working in the agricultural sector. Most urban dwellers, especially the educated youth, do not find farming an attractive choice of employment but prefer to work in the civil service or public sector in general, or with banks, multinational corporations in the petroleum industry, or international organizations, which are usually well-paid and offer relatively stable jobs. The Congolese Government could make agriculture attractive by providing farmers with inputs for production such as fertilizers and equipment as well as being an available buyer of farm produce so producers do not incur losses due to lack of available markets. The Government could also organize regional and national Farmer’s Day celebrations, as done in Ghana, to reward and celebrate successful farmers.

Individual farmers and small-scale producers could form cooperatives to boost their productivity. Such cooperatives provide opportunities for knowledge-sharing about best practices, value addition and access to credible and reliable partners, and also increase the likelihood of securing loans and other micro-finance support for their members. Cooperatives may also be considered more credible partners by the Government and other stakeholders and could also have a stronger influence in negotiations than individual and small-scale farmers and producers.

Finally, immigrants who have the knowledge, interest and means to invest in agriculture should be encouraged to do so while the locals learn from them. Just as the business acumen and investments of West African traders and businesses, referred to locally as WestAf or Warah, contribute massively to the retail sector of the Congolese economy, sometimes in partnership with the locals, so would the success of immigrants in the local agricultural space spur the Congolese to take up farming and other agricultural activity.


The Republic of Congo is naturally endowed with vast arable lands suitable for large-scale agriculture, which should make the country self-sufficient in food production. However, prevalent subsistence agriculture concentrated in rural areas further hampered by lack of funding and access to good transport networks, among other factors, have rendered the country heavily dependent on food imports. Government’s efforts in partnership with regional and international partners have started yielding results but have still not quite closed the food supply gap. More needs to be done, while the citizenry should be encouraged to take up agriculture as a viable and patriotic venture to support their country.

[1] FAO. “FAO en République du Congo.”

[2] FAO. “FAO en République du Congo.”

[3] FAO. “FAO en République du Congo.”

[4] Kombo, Fiacre. “Sécurité alimentaire: le Congo importe 75% de ses besoins nutritionnels.”

[5] The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is an international financial institution and specialized agency of the United Nations which invests in rural people, empowering them to increase their food security, improve the nutrition of their families and increase their income.

IFAD. “About IFAD.” 

[6] IFAD. “Congo.”

[7] IFAD, “Congo.”

[8] World Food Programme. “Congo.”

[9] Kamitewoko, Edwige. “Impact of Climate Change on Food Crop Production in Congo Brazzaville.”

[10] Kamitewoko, Edwige. “Impact of Climate Change on Food Crop Production in Congo Brazzaville.”

[11] Kamitewoko, Edwige. “Impact of Climate Change on Food Crop Production in Congo Brazzaville.”

[12] IFAD. “IFAD new financing to strengthen inland fisheries and Aquaculture, and to boost food and nutrition security in the Republic of the Congo.”

[13] IFAD. “Congo.”

[14] IFAD. “Congo.”


IFAD. “IFAD new financing to strengthen inland fisheries and Aquaculture, and to boost food and nutrition security in the Republic of the Congo.” International Fund for Agricultural Development, 22 October 2015,
Kamitewoko, Edwige. “Impact of Climate Change on Food Crop Production in Congo Brazzaville.” Modern Economy, vol. 12, no. 11, November 2021, pp. 1686–1702,
Kombo, Fiacre. “Sécurité alimentaire: le Congo importe 75% de ses besoins nutritionnels.” Agence d’Information d’Afrique Centrale, 4 January 2018,
Data Sources
FAO. “FAO en République du Congo.” Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2022,
IFAD. “Republic of Congo.” International Fund for Agricultural Development, 2022,
WFP. “Congo.” World Food Programme, 14 October 2019,
Technical Reports
Martin, Lisandro, et al. “Republic of the Congo Country Strategic Opportunities Programme 2019–2024.” International Fund for Agricultural Development, 11 December 2019,


I am an international affairs analyst, a seasoned language service provider (French-to-English translator/reviser, French/English tutor and writer/editor) with about 7 years combined experience in the global health, humanitarian, education and development cooperation spaces. I am fluent in English and French (DELF B2 and DALF C2 certificates’ holder) and a certified beginner-level Portuguese learner/user. I studied and worked in Switzerland for over six (6) years and gained multisectoral experience through working with the UN, CSOs, NGOs and the private sector in events organization, donor relations, translation and health communications. International affairs aside, I am passionate about the provision and promotion of quality education, economic development and poverty alleviation in Africa. I have a Bachelor’s degree in French and Political Science (First Class) and a Master’s degree in International Affairs.

View all posts by etmatey →