The conclusions of a study conducted on Integrated Soil Fertility Management (GIFS) demonstrate that the primary challenge of Congolese agriculture is to increase productivity without increasing environmental damage. Until then, she specifies, the increase in agricultural productivity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been mainly driven by the increase in exploited land, by cutting down the forest, in a slash-and-burn cycle of around twenty. years.
Also, demographic pressure has reduced the cycle length to only 5 to 10 years and further increases the pressure on virgin forest, thus putting at risk the second forest lung on the planet. Rather than increasing the areas, the time has come for a sustainable increase in yields, therefore believe specialists following this study.
That is why, they argue that purely organic techniques can increase yields by 20-30%. However, they question whether this will be enough. However, they note that organic farming should be encouraged wherever it is remunerated, implying that the difference between the yields of organic farming and modern farming is compensated or even exceeded by a higher price.
On the world market this seems possible, they explain, thanks to organic certification and the willingness of this growing segment of the market to pay more (in particular through the premiums for organic certification), but only if the difference in price at least compensates for the difference in performance, which does not always seem to be the case. And for food crops, they indicate that a purely organic approach comes up against two key factors: the land can only be cultivated one year out of 5 if we want to maintain its productivity, and the domestic markets do not remunerate the products. biological.
For them, settling farmers on their land and ensuring its uninterrupted productivity thus requires cultivation techniques very different from those in force today. And they argue that ISFM (Integrated Soil Fertility Management) is a method of intensification that has learned from past mistakes made elsewhere that made the Green Revolution never happen in Africa.
By an optimal combination of organic matter (to capture water and nutrients from the soil and fertilizers) and well-dosed mineral fertilizers, experts say, the risks of using these mineral fertilizers are under control and their valuation gives a yield which is 2 to 3 times greater (therefore an increase of 100 to 200%). This considerably lowers the cost of production per kg of food produced and thus makes food more accessible to everyone, they say.
And they confirm that GIFS thus on the one hand protects the environment by preventing the cutting of virgin forest, erosion and soil depletion, allowing the sedentarization of agriculture and on the other hand ensures the profitability of family farming by providing producers with a viable income while democratizing food prices.
Finally, specialists advocate an ecosystem approach which they believe is essential for Congolese agriculture, while protecting the environment with the adoption of agroecological techniques.