Food Security: A Growing Challenge Globally & an Immediate Challenge in the DRC

KITOKO Food Farm is a local solution for the DRC and a model for the world. The KITOKO FOOD farm is an innovative agricultural project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) designed to address the nation’s chronic food shortages and advance its agricultural and economic development by equipping Congolese with the tools and skills needed to increase their personal food security. Combining the resources and knowledge of its founders, KITOKO makes the most of the DRC’s ideal natural farming conditions by using cutting-edge agricultural technology and techniques, including industry best practices in efficient irrigation, fertilization, fertigation and sustainable farming methods.

The KITOKO project was the vision of Messer Dan Gertler, a philanthropist, Senior Advisor to the Fleurette Group and co-founder of the Gertler Family Foundation, and Gil Arbel, a renowned agronomist in Africa. It is operated jointly by the Fleurette Group and AGRIMINING SERVICES LIMITED with the extensive involvement of The Gertler Family Foundation, one of the largest charities in the DRC.

The KITOKO FOOD farm is the first of eleven farms to be established – one in each province of the DRC. It sits along the banks of the N’Sele River some 50 kilometers outside the capital of Kinshasa. KITOKO teaches modern, sustainable farming techniques to help the community overcome debilitating food deficits and become self-sufficient. It provides farmers with practical and hands-on training, seeds, farming tools, irrigation systems, fertilizers, and assistance in getting their crops to market. When fully built, KITOKO will farm on nearly 1200 acres of vegetables, fruit trees, fish farming, goats meat and milk farming, nursery for plans and trees, making a significant impact on the availability of fresh, quality food and protein in and around Kinshasa.

The KITOKO project promotes self-sufficiency and will create stability, wealth, and job opportunities for a new generation of farmers in the DRC. And, once fully realized, KITOKO will stand as a beacon to the world on the issue of global food security.

A Sustainable Solution

According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, about 70% of the DRC population lacks access to an adequate food supply. And, the World Health Organization has declared that the rate of chronic malnutrition is ‘critical’ among children under five. Those two organizations also noted that in sub-Saharan Africa, GDP growth generated by agriculture is by far the most effective route to reducing poverty — 11 times more so than GDP growth in any other sector. KITOKO can be a solution to the DRC’s problems of malnutrition and food security while at the same time lifting the farm’s workers out of poverty. With social, agricultural, educational and financial components, KITOKO is a pioneering project for private investment in international food security efforts in Africa. It is designed to be commercially viable, environmentally sustainable, and easily adaptable to other communities in Africa and the developing world.

A Community Project

KITOKO operates in a cooperative kibbutz-style system, in which community residents tend to and benefit from the farm, ensuring maximum support and sustainability. With the support of the Gertler Family Foundation, development plans call for the construction of a primary school, a health clinic, housing for 60 families, and the construction of a practical agriculture training center by 2014. The farm, which currently employs 90 Congolese, is projected to produce tons of peppers, tomatoes, onions, potatoes and other vegetables in 2014, supplying local markets with fresh, high-quality produce at prices significantly lower than the cost of imported food. Within a year, KITOKO is expected to employ approximately 200 permanent Congolese workers, more than 80% of whom already live in nearby villages or within the grounds of the farm.

The Kitoko Kit

The Small, Medium and Large KITOKO Kits are the first in a series of innovations by KITOKO FOOD that uses a World Bank-approved irrigation process of Netafim Company in a self-contained no-fail vegetable production system to change subsistence agricultural production into country-wide sustainable food production. From rural areas to cities, the goal is to feed millions and decrease the government’s reliance on food imports to sustain the needs of its people. The KITOKO Kit will help farmers realize three excellent crop-yields each year, as opposed to the present single yield that is common across the DRC. In the KITOKO Kit, the irrigation is just a part of the solution. The kit also includes seeds, plant food, soil-specific fertilizer and pesticides. It is supported by a hands-on training program, regular agri-extension visits and a marketing component. Backed by extensive practical training and experience, each kit is tailored to site and crop circumstances, including soil and water quality, weather conditions, and seed varieties that are all researched to allow for special adapted mixtures of fertilizers and pesticides. KITOKO FOOD Farm will complete in early 2014 a sophisticated plastic covered vegetable plants and fruit trees nursery.

A Farm Like No Other in the DRC

Led by renowned agronomists Gil Arbel, Max Muland, and Eric Mpongo who have several decades of combined agricultural experience on the African continent, KITOKO employs the latest and most innovative irrigation, fertigation, fertilization and soil analysis techniques. Building on the innovations developed by Mr. Arbel during his modernization of South African irrigation and intensive value added agriculture, KITOKO is projected to become one of Africa’s leading agricultural centers of excellence in the near future.

Thanks to advances in irrigation technology and fertilization techniques — and combined with the favorable Congolese climate — the KITOKO FOOD farm is projected to have two to four full harvest yields each calendar year, making a significant impact on local food supplies and prices. When adopted as a model for the nation, KITOKO will play an important role in bringing food security to the DRC.

Helping to Turn the Tide of Hunger in the DRC

The DRC is currently experiencing a severe food deficit made even worse by poor transportation and commercial infrastructure. In 2008, the DRC imported a combined 380,000 metric tons of rice, wheat, soybeans and maize, while producing just 37,000 metric tons of those same crops domestically. In a country already suffering from poverty, that is an inefficient and costly method for feeding a nation. In other parts of the world, the mantra is “Buy Local,” and KITOKO is working in that same vein to get local, high-quality produce to market at ever-cheaper prices. The KITOKO FOOD farm addresses not only the country’s severe food deficit, but will also help the DRC become a food exporter within the next decade.

We’re Planting the Seeds of Change

KITOKO’s employees and managers will plant, grow and harvest using the latest in agricultural technology and farming intelligence, creating the foundation for a new Agriculture Research and Development Center producing vital local knowledge provided to farming ventures throughout the country. As the number of KITOKO-trained farmers multiply and sprout their own fresh food farms, KITOKO’s effect on the DRC’s food security will expand exponentially. That is how KITOKO is “Growing the Difference”.

Feeding the future of the DRC

KITOKO’s goal for 2014/2015 is to produce an annual yield of thousands of tons of vegetables that can be sent across the DRC, including: