Failed harvests, internal wranglings, bad weather and lack of money had forced most of them to give up, according to Sunday’s Rapport newspaper.
Some of the farmers were unable to return to South Africa because they did not have enough money left, according to farmers’ organisation AgriSA.
The farmers and AgriSA said the first two harvests failed because their equipment and fertilizer arrived too late. They left South Africa for the fertile Niari valley, about 300km from the capital Brazzaville, in December 2011.
“The latest harvest is good news, but we are knee-deep in debt. The harvest has not even paid for the diesel,” one of the farmers, Gavin Pote, told Rapport.
The harvest last year delivered 2400 tonnes of mielies. AgriSA vice president Theo de Jager predicted a harvest of 10,000 tons in 2012.
Worcester businessman Dewald Meyer, who is trying to raise money to help the farmers, said the project still had great potential.
“We made mistakes, but we can learn from them. The Congo can become Africa’s bread basket.”