Dozens of Congolese farmers began the first vegetable harvest this week at the Kitoko Food Farm, a joint project of the Gertler Family Foundation (GFF) and the Fleurette Group. Advanced farming techniques being used at the pilot project are yielding an array of stunning produce that is being sold at nearby markets, helping boost local food security, employment and incomes.
Long rows of lush green crops are buzzing with dozens of workers picking a wide variety of produce on the farm, located about 30 miles outside of the capital of Kinshasa. Local men and women pluck ripe tomatoes, eggplants, Israeli cucumbers, green peppers, watermelon and sweet corn – an amazingly successful harvest of high-quality crops grown in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“With this harvest, the Kitoko Food Farm is truly coming alive. Its high-quality produce holds tremendous promise for communities in the DRC,” said co-founder and agronomist Gil Arbel, who manages Kitoko Food. “It is inspirational to see the Congolese embrace innovative agricultural technology to tackle their country’s food deficit and grow such beautiful vegetables.”
Said Fleurette senior advisor and GFF co-founder Dan Gertler: “We are confident the Kitoko model will be used to spread sustainable farming across Africa.”
Kitoko workers have already harvested several tons of produce from the 4-hectares (10-acre) pilot farm. Another 60 hectares (148 acres) and will be planted in January 2014. Final development plans call for an additional 283 hectares (700 acres) of intensive fruit and vegetable production, 243 hectares (600 acres) of goat grazing and 28 hectares (70 acres) for fish production.
The success of the trial harvest offers a glimpse of what is possible for other rural farming communities in the DRC. Kitoko plans to build an on-site agricultural training academy where 120 students a year will be taught the farm’s innovative farming and management techniques. After their instruction, students will fan out to manage other satellite farms modelled on Kitoko that are planned for all of the DRC’s 11 provinces, with supplies and training from Fleurette and GFF.
Thanks to the training offered at Kitoko, communities across the country will enjoy an abundance of better quality, affordable produce in the years to come.