Stephen Good, World Relief’s Agribusiness Senior Technical Advisor based in Mozambique, recently monitored some of our agricultural programs in South Sudan. The following are his impressions of World Relief’s sustainable development work with South Sudanese farmers. South Sudan is the youngest country in the world. Officially declaring independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011, this infant republic is in the initial stages of forming a cohesive nation. But the road to unity has been violent and today marks one year of this new country being at war with itself. Beyond conflict, South Sudan also faces more common, natural challenges.
Western Equatoria State receives rain from April to December. The soils are relatively good, but are easily damaged by exposure to the hot sun and rains. Local farmers generally use a field for no more than two years before abandoning it to slash and burn a new area of forest. This is intensive and expensive work as extra hired labor is often required. Plus, it inflicts long-term damage on the environment.
Even though travel is a significant challenge in this region, World Relief is working with local farmers to ensure lasting development. Just to get to the project site takes an hour and a half on a propjet plane, followed by a 3 hour trip in a Landcruiser, or an 8-10 hour, bone-jarring automobile ride from Juba.
Where peace ensues in Western Equatoria State, opportunities abound everywhere you look. World Relief’s agriculture program for food security, sponsored by Canadian Food Grains Bank, provides improved seed for maize and cassava to 600 farmers. A significant focus is helping them to multiply these seeds for future use and learning how to protect these seeds from disease and pests. Equally important is the work in teaching improved conservation agriculture methods. Green manures and cover crops (legumes) provide a living source of mulch and nitrogen which is able to restore the soils quickly and sustainably. Using these practices could completely eliminate the destruction of the forests, improve yields, reduce labor and even allow farmers to improve marginal land to a strong productive state.
Farmers are also given opportunity to join World Relief’s Savings for Life program. Savings for Life trains people on forming and facilitating savings groups. Savings group members learn how to save and borrow in a format that doesn’t require a formal banking institution. Many of the farmers who are in savings groups have started using loans from the group to improve their situations by purchasing seed, hiring labor and expanding their growing areas. One farmer said, “If we do agriculture, we can produce crops, sell them and save more. If we do savings, we can have more money for farming and production.”
To learn more about World Relief's work toward sustainable peace in South Sudan, read our most recent statement from our advocacy experts at http://worldrelief.org/file/advocacy/south_sudan_statement.pdf.