The Bukanga Lonzo Debacle: The Failure of Agro-Industrial Parks in DRC is a new report of the Oakland Institute that exposes the numerous land rights violations and human rights abuses, pollution and health hazards, misspent funds, charges of embezzlement and corruption, and legal action since the establishment and collapse of the Bukanga Lonzo agro-industrial park pilot in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The report’s extensive research on the project and its impact reveals that agro-industrial parks are a false solution to the challenges faced by DRC and Africa when it comes to food, agriculture, and poverty alleviation.
The Bukanga Lonzo agro-industrial park was set up in 2014 through a public-private partnership between the government and a South African company, Africom Commodities. It was to use 80,000 hectares of land for the production of corn and other commodities. The state spent nearly US$100 million of public money on the project.
“The time has come to transform Congolese agriculture from a subsistence sector to a powerful engine of global economic development,” claimed President Joseph Kabila Kabange, while celebrating the first harvest in March 2015.
However, three years after it was launched, the project collapsed in 2017. The South African staff left the country, the local staff was fired, and in June 2018, Africom launched a court action against the country at the International Court of Arbitration in Paris for non-payment of their expenses. Africom blamed high costs and the unreliability of the government’s plans and payment, and launched a court action in July 2018 against DRC for non-payment of expenses.
The DRC government blames Africom for the failure. While activities remain on stand-by, the government announced in 2018 its plans to revive the park and pursue plans to establish 21 other such projects.
This report evaluates the Bukanga Lonzo pilot project to draw important lessons that should inform future decisions around agricultural investments in the country and the current plans of the DRC government and two international institutions that have encouraged and supported agro-industrial parks, namely the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB, or BAD, in French).
Whereas this first park was designed as a pilot, many of the issues identified by this research highlight mistakes that not only can be corrected, but that are likely to occur again in the establishment of any future park. The analysis concludes that agro-industrial parks are the wrong model based on wrong assumptions for the agricultural sector in DRC. While investing in Congolese agriculture should be a priority, the international investors’ focus on large-scale, industrial farming conducted by foreign interests does not address the need to improve productivity, food security, sustainable development or income of the farmers.
Original press release with video
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Photo: Chief Nzasi Ndukupala of Baringa Ngasi said in a 24 June 2018 interview: “ They tell us that all our land belongs to the state. We have inherited these lands from our ancestors. This is where they are buried. These lands can’t be sold and we need to preserve them for future generations. Source: Oakland Institute.