Agriculture and farming in Congo Brazzaville

Congo Brazzaville

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Agriculture in Congo Brazzaville

Republic of the Congo is situated astride the Equator in west-central Africa. Officially known as the Republic of the Congo, the country is often called Congo (Brazzaville), with its capital added parenthetically, to distinguish it from neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is often referred to by its acronym, the DRC, or called Congo (Kinshasa). Congo’s landscape is a variation of coastal plains, mountainous regions, plateaus and fertile valleys. About 70 % of the country's area is covered by rain forest. The highest point mountain is Mont Nabemba located in the Sangha Department. The country’s tropical climate is characterized by heavy precipitation and high temperatures and humidity. The Equator crosses the country just north of Liranga. In the north a dry season extends from November through March and a rainy season from April through October, whereas in the south the reverse is true. On both sides of the Equator, however, local climates exist with two dry and two wet seasons. Annual precipitation is abundant throughout the country, but seasonal and regional variations are important. Precipitation averages more than 1,200 mm annually but often surpasses2,000 mm. In 2021, the Republic of Congo had an estimated total population of 5.3 million, 70 per cent of it currently residing in cities and towns, mainly Brazzaville and Pointe Noire. The country is urbanizing rapidly. The Congolese economy is not dependent on agriculture, which contribution to GDP has declined from over 30 per cent in the 1970s to around 3.5 per cent in 2020, and food imports have soared.

The Congo (Brazzaville) has three types of agricultural production systems:
subsistence agriculture: small-scale (1–2 ha), accounting for 90 percent of agricultural output of primarily staple crops;
urban and peri-urban agriculture: producers with small gardens, as well as semi-modern commercial farms producing for urban consumption;
agro-industrial production systems: monocultures destined for export markets or urban niche markets.

Uncultivated arable land is estimated to represent about one third of the country’s total surface area. Only cassava is widely grown, for subsistence, and accounts for 90 per cent of food production. For the Republic of Congo, agricultural production of cassava is of key importance as it is the basic starch-based food ingredient in local households, reaching as much as 84% of the energy value consumed by the population (FAO, 2010). Cassava farming is also a form of self-supply which means is it mainly used by producers to feed their own family. Cassava production is a labour-intensive process based on traditional technology grounded in a complex social context. The use of machines and plant protection products, whether in the farming process or for necessary processing purposes, is not widespread. Other cash crops include rice (which is grown in the Niari valley and in the north around Djambala) sugarcane and tobacco. Important crops cultivated in the country also include taros, sweet potatoes, corn (maize), peanuts (groundnuts), cotton, bananas and fruit. Livestock consists of sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry. Commercial cattle ranching is concentrated in the Niari valley.

Forestry

According to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, Congo's forest area is estimated at 22.5 million hectares (about 60 per cent of the territory), of which 80 per cent is considered commercially exploitable. Congo also has an abundant and diverse fauna and flora, consisting of 6,500 plant species, 200 mammal species, more than 700 bird species, 45 reptile species and more than 632 insect species. Nevertheless, the contribution of the forestry sector to the national economy remains low, compared to some neighbouring countries such as Cameroon and the Central African Republic.

Congo has two main forest areas, one in the south and the main one in the north. The southern part covers about 5 million hectares and is formed by the forests of the Mayombe, Niari and Chaillu massifs. The Mayombe forests remain rich in okoumé (Aucoumeaklaineana) and cover less than one million hectares. The Chaillu forests are rich in Okoumé (Aucoumeaklaineana), Limba (Terminaliasuperba), Ilomba (Pycnanthusangolensis) and Sipo (Entandrophragma utile). The dense, humid forests of the northern zone cover over 15 million hectares and contain commercially important species such as Sipo (Entandrophragma utile), Sapelli (Entandrophragmacylindricum), Wengé (Millettialaurentii) as well as light hardwoods such as Ayous (Triplochitonscléroxylon).

Congo is among the world’s largest producers of limba and okoumé woods. Products include logs, sawn wood, and veneers. An estimated 575,000 Congolese live in forest areas (around 15 percent of the population), which provide subsistence for these often remote and vulnerable populations. Forests are also the primary income source for a large portion of the Indigenous Peoples community. Over 4.3 million hectares of Congolese forests are under protection, either as national parks or other types of reserves, the majority of which are in the northern half of the country.

Fishing

The Republic of the Congo, has relatively narrow coast which opens to the Atlantic Ocean on the west, and ranges from Angola (Cabinda) in the South to Gabon in the North. Commercial marine fishing is conducted off Pointe-Noire. The catch includes tuna, bass, sole, and sardines. Freshwater fishing on the rivers, lakes, and swamps is largely a subsistence activity. In the early 2000s, industrial and artisanal fishing activities yielded a roughly comparable catch. In the Congo basin, fishing activities are a major source of protein and of income for many households. Fishermen combine a broad range of fishing methods adapted to the seasonality of the floodplain and the particular features of its habitats. Pond fishing is a collective fishing method that consists in emptying pools still flooded during the low-water season in the otherwise dry floodplain in order to capture the fish that have sought shelter there. In inland fisheries, 35% of the fish caught by households is kept for personal consumption Assuming the same rate applies to coastal fisheries, 35% of the fish consumed by the coastal rural populations of the Congo would be caught by the household itself. Catches included mainly sardinellas (Sardinella aurita, S. maderensis) and bonga shad (Ethmalosa fimbriata) with the remaining evenly distributed between Southern meager (Argyrosomus holopedium), chub mackerel (Scomber japonicus) and Atlantic bumper (Chloroscombrus chrysurus).

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