16 November 1998


An FAO Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission visited southern Sudan from 1 to 23 October 1998, to estimate cereal production and food supply situation in Government and rebel-held areas .

Growing crops were assessed, on-farm stocks reviewed and factors affecting production analysed. In the Government-held areas (northern sector) the Mission was assisted by staff from the Ministry of Agriculture, Khartoum, and from the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC).

Information in the northern sector was provided by State ministries and NGOs, particularly CARE International, ACORD, Oxfam, and by Sudan Red Crescent (SRC), UNDP and UNICEF. In the southern sector, information was provided by UNICEF/OLS, WFP Food Economy Unit and NGOs, particularly SCF-UK, Lutheran World Federation (LWF), WorldVision, Veterinaires Sans Frontieres(VSF)-Switzerland. Information from field workers of local NGOs (Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (SRRA), Relief Association of Southern Sudan (RASS) and Fashoda Relief and Rehabilitation Association (FRR)) was obtained through field interviews and reviews of the contributions of the OLS workshop with agricultural supervision from all over southern Sudan. Information on growing conditions, prices and populations was provided by WFP units in both sectors who also provided logistic support. Information received was cross-checked by a series of interviews in the northern and southern sectors with farmers, traders and by spot-check field surveys and measurements.

The Mission forecasts total cereal production for 1998 in southern Sudan at 537 700 tonnes, of which 192 400 tonnes are expected from the mechanized farming sector in Upper Nile State. The remaining 345 300 tonnes are estimated to come from the traditional sector, the bulk of which will be sorghum. Production in the traditional sector is double last year’s poor harvest due to better rains and a season relatively free from migratory pests and diseases.

Although the rains were delayed everywhere and were erratic in the first two months, they stabilized from mid-July and have continued up to November throughout the three regions of southern Sudan. The resulting yields are far better than last year.

However, it is predicted that five states (Jonglei, Bahr el Jebel, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Lakes and Warrab) will be in cereal deficit and food aid will be required throughout the coming marketing year, particularly in Bahr el Ghazal region, as normal trade routes and infrastructure have broken down. It is unlikely that this year’s production and any surplus on-farm stocks in the traditional sectors of Upper Nile and Western Equatoria will be accessible through market forces due to the segmentation of the population. Similarly, most of the 192 000 tonnes produced by mechanized farms in Upper Nile State is likely to be marketed in northern and central parts, with little traded southwards. Large scale local purchases of surpluses from Upper Nile State are recommended to cover the food deficit in the southern states.

In order to boost agricultural expansion, the Mission recommends the introduction of food-for-work schemes in secure areas in Bahr el Ghazal aimed at house rebuilding and farm rehabilitation, in conjunction with seed and tool supply schemes.


Southern Sudan, an area of 640 000 km2 with an estimated population of 5.3 million, has been in a state of almost continuous conflict since 1983. Access to its diverse agro-ecology, which has historically supported a complex mixture of livelihoods including farming, fishing, hunting and trading, has been partitioned by civil strife and looting. In addition to the man-made problems associated with conflict, the area has experienced changes in weather patterns over the past few years with dry spells and floods exacerbating uncertainty, restricting options and denying timely access to land.

Apart from this disruptive pattern of events, the natural resources normally offer a wide range of crop producing opportunities with a growing season ranging from 150 days in the northern plains to 240 days in the Green Belt in the southern zone. Altitude and soil-type variations add both to production opportunities and to risks where traditional seasonal movements are restricted. Administratively, the Government divides the area into ten states, grouped into three regions, namely Upper Nile (Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei States), Bahr el Ghazal (Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Lakes and Warrab States) and Equatoria (Western Equatoria, Bahr el Jebel, Eastern Equatoria). Past development policies, easier access and better security have led to the emergence of large-scale mechanised agricultural holdings in the northern plains of Upper Nile Region. There, cereal production, mostly sorghum, from less than 1 000 large-scale farmers generally accounts for 30 percent of the total cereal production of the South. The remainder comes from some 800 000 subsistence or near-subsistence households estimated to be agriculturally active throughout southern Sudan. These farmers produce mostly sorghum and maize, with millet and upland rice as minor crops in some areas. Reliance on cereals varies according to agro-ecological zone, with groundnuts and cassava becoming increasingly important to the west and south respectively. Fish, livestock products and wild food contribute significantly to the regular diet.

The 8-month growing season beginning in April/May offers the opportunity to grow short cycle crops in the Green Belt. Elsewhere, a minimum 150 day growing season offers opportunities to re-sow with other crops or varieties if rainfall is interrupted.


The disruption to the civil service by fifteen years of civil strife has led to a complete breakdown of the official gathering of agricultural statistics. In Government held areas, Ministry of Agriculture offices, though existing, have restricted access to agricultural areas and virtually no operational information-gathering facilities. In rebel-held areas, agricultural officers attached to SRRA (Sudanese People’s Liberation Army - SPLA) and RASS (Southern Sudan Liberation Army - SSLA) are few, equally immobile and equally dependent on hearsay and anecdotal evidence in assessing agricultural production. In both Government and rebel-held areas, NGOs support agricultural activities and provide relevant but general information regarding crop and animal production in their localities.

Relief monitoring exercises and food assessment enquiries conducted by OLS and WFP using rapid appraisal techniques, including the use of secondary data from other sectors and interviews of key informants, provide useful estimates of existing conditions and performance. Such data are, however, very far removed from cadastral surveys and yield estimates required for reliable estimates of the harvest.

In consequence, crop production for 1998/99 has been estimated by the Mission from area projections based on "best bet" regional population statistics multiplied by adjusted average holding size. Yield projections are based on an analysis of factors affecting yields, a review of time-series data; monitors’ reports coupled with key information interviews and field observations taken during the Mission’s visits including crop-cuts and area measurements.

3.1 Main factors affecting production in 1998/99

3.1.1 Rainfall

Rainfall in southern Sudan generally increases from about 850 mm per annum in the northern states to 1 800 mm per annum in the southern states. During 1998 the distribution pattern was characterized by a late start and an erratic first two months followed by heavy and regular rains throughout the remainder of the season, continuing until November.

Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NVDI) images confirm less vegetation than normal up to July-August; images in September-October, however, show the positive effects of later rains throughout southern Sudan, resulting universally in better than average vegetation growth.

Early dry spells reduced germination and stunted early sorghum growth in some places but more generally caused farmers to plant later, increasing the risk of failure with long-cycle crops in the sandier soils. Fortunately, regular and sufficient rain in most areas from July/August have supported good vegetative growth in the later sown sorghum and millet crops and improved the yields of early sown crops.

Heavy rains generally in the neighbouring countries increased the area of riverine floods and prolonged the period of flooding leading to significant but localized crop losses in riverine villages and towns.

Similarly, khors and lakes have expanded with concomitant improvement in fish stocks, 1999 fishing possibilities and dry-season grazing opportunities.

3.1.2 Input availability

The traditional sector depends predominantly on family labour with no fertilizer use, no historical or present access to pesticides, fungicides or herbicides and with an overall reliance on carryover seeds. Conflict induced population displacement, particularly in northern Bahr el Ghazal and western Upper Nile, increased competition for home-produced seeds already reduced by the prolonged dry spell in 1997. Such difficulties were ameliorated to some extent by kinship support mechanisms, local market purchases and OLS/NGO seed distribution schemes. Of the 1 800 tonnes of seeds distributed by NGOs in the rebel-held areas, significant amounts were late and much of the remainder not destined for IDPs was redistributed under local arrangements and sown tentatively in small quantities.

The disruption of trade routes and markets has reduced the availability of tools. Locally produced malodas are in short supply because of lack of access to steel for the blacksmiths that are still working. As a result, cultivation tools are used for longer, become smaller and therefore less efficient, making clearance and cultivation more difficult.

In the mechanized sector, carryover seeds were generally available from last year’s harvest. However, the late and restricted availability of credit delayed the purchase of fuel in Renk and Malakal, leading to reduced an late planting compared with State Ministry plans.

No fertilizer is used in the mechanized farming sector and access to chemical sprays is restricted to campaigns organized by the Ministry against pests at national level. So far no such campaigns have been initiated but the Mission noted plans to spray Quelea quelea sites in Renk and Malakal.

3.1.3 Pests and diseases

This year has been comparatively pest and disease free. No outbreaks of migratory pests were reported and non-migratory pests were said to be a tolerable levels. Such pests that were noted included termites, stainer bug, stalk borer and monkeys.

No outbreaks of cereal crop diseases were noted. However, the Mission is concerned with the general acceptance of the presence of cassava mosaic virus by farmers and agricultural officers in the cassava growing areas.

3.1.4 Security

During the growing season, military activity has disrupted agricultural activities in Bahr el Ghazal, western Upper Nile and in Eastern Equatoria. Movement restrictions on local population reduced planted areas around the major garrison towns.

Uncertainty of harvest, following the bitter experience of militia-looted crops, reduced planting in the railway corridor and in areas of conflict in Unity, Lakes and Warrab States.

Population displacement during the cultivating season due to hunger and conflict has also reduced planting in some areas. In a year with comparatively good natural conditions, including good rains and minimal attacks by pests and disease, insecurity would seem to be the main cause of serious food deficits that are probable in five out of the ten states. It is also the main cause of complete stagnation in natural resource-based economic activity in all states except Upper Nile and Western Equatoria. Because of the fragmentation of all but the simplest of markets, each State may be assumed to be in a situation of enforced isolation. Even intra-State trade is confounded by lack of contact between the garrison towns and the surrounding countryside

3.2 1998 Production

In the traditional sector, cereal area per household is expected to have decreased in most States due to the combined effects of uncertainty, insecurity, poor tools and reduced access to seeds. Improved data availability has also resulted in a downward revision of previous estimates. However, in Western Equatoria cultivated area is expected to have increased as NGO sponsored cereal seed multiplication programmes are encouraging farmers to expand cultivated areas. Overall, these factors appear to have offset one another, resulting in a similar total area planted as last year.

The mechanized sector in Upper Nile State expanded in all centres, partly due to improved rainfall and partly due to the Government policy providing four other southern states with the opportunity to farm 500 hectares in the zone.

Sorghum yields per hectare in both sectors are estimated to be much better than last year’s drought affected crop and equal to or better than yields obtained in other rainfed sorghum growing areas of Sudan in 1996/97. Maize and millet yields are expected to have similarly improved. The increased silt deposits as a result of more floods are expected to have improved maize yields in the recession cropping season in 1999 in the eastern reaches of the Sobat river.

In consequence, the Mission estimates that the 1998/99 cereal production in southern Sudan will be 537 700 tonnes from an estimated 720 100 hectares. The harvest expected from the traditional sector is 345 300 tonnes from 461 700 hectares, which is 99 percent higher than in 1997/98 from a similar area to last year. The harvest expected from the mechanized sector is 192 400 tonnes, which is 24 percent better than 1997/98 from 35 percent more land cultivated.

Area estimates for the traditional sector based on population statistics are given in Table 1. Table 2 presents cereal production by year and by State since 1996. Despite considerable improvement on last year, five states will be in food deficit during 1999, particularly if other components of the food economy are also affected by the conflict. These are likely to include reduced access to wild food or fishing areas and reduced livestock numbers due to raiding and looting.

Table 1: Area and Population Estimates for the Traditional Sector 1/

Total population Rural population Households
Hectare/ Household Total Area (hectares)
Upper Nile 1 685 000 1 600 750 266 791 0.50 133 500
Upper Nile 361 000 342 950 57 158 0.92 52 500
Unity 481 000 456 950 76 158 0.52 40 000
Jonglei 843 000 800 850 133 475 0.31 41 000
Equatoria 1 543 000 1 408 850 243 809 0.80 194 996
West 510 000 484 500 80 750 1.24 100 103
Bahr el Jebel 380 000 304 000 50 667 0.78 39 352
East 653 000 620 350 103 392 0.54 55 541
Bahr el Ghazal 2 088 000 1 983 600 330 599 0.40 133 760
North 685 000 650 750 108 458 0.21 22 409
West 300 000 285 000 47 500 0.62 29 450
Lakes 496 000 471 200 78 533 0.54 42 187
Warrab 607 000 576 650 96 108 0.41 39 714
TOTAL 5 316 000 4 993 200 832 199 0.55 462 256

1/ Based on information from OLS/WFP and Mission’s estimates.
2/ Number per household used: 6

Table 2. Cereal1/ Production by State (1996, 1997,1998) Traditional and Mechanized

1996 1997 1998
Area (000 hectares) Yield (tonnes/ hectare Production (000 tonnes) Area (000 hectares) Yield (tonnes/ hectare Production (000 tonnes) Area (000 hectares) Yield (tonnes/ hectare Production (000 tonnes) 98/97 % Production
Upper Nile 68.7 0.50 34.2 53.0 0.40 21.5 52.5 0.79 41.4 +93
Unity 46.7 0.28 12.9 41.3 0.25 10.2 40.0 0.44 17.4 +71
Jonglei 79.6 0.29 23.0 57.4 0.22 12.6 41.0 0.65 26.8 +113
W. Equatoria 72.4 0.98 70.9 51.0 0.77 39.4 100.12/ 0.99 99.1 +152
Bahr el Jebel 52.8 0.47 24.6 43.0 0.31 13.2 39.4 0.65 25.7 +95
E. Equatoria 88.5 0.46 40.6 54.1 0.34 18.5 55.5 0.70 38.9 +110
N. Bahr el Ghazal 55.3 0.25 13.7 41.3 0.25 10.2 22.4 0.65 14.6 +43
W. Bahr el Ghazal 54.2 0.39 20.9 41.8 0.32 13.2 29.5 0.76 22.3 +69
Lakes 93.4 0.55 51.0 70.1 0.32 22.5 41.6 0.79 33.3 +48
Warrab 45.1 0.51 22.9 39.0 0.31 12.2 39.7 0.65 25.8 +112
Traditional 656.7 0.48 314.7 492.0 0.35 173.5 461.7 0.75 345.3 +99
Renk 166.2 0.44 72.8 140.4 0.89 126.7 207.0 0.76 157.3 +24
Malakal 2.0 0.85 1.7 4.2 0.86 3.6 5.5 0.76 4.2 +17

7.6 1.07 8.1 10.2 0.75 7.7 -5
Tayara 44.4 0.35 15.6 37.8 0.43 16.2 35.7 0.65 23.2 +43
Mechanized 212.6 0.42 90.1 190.0 0.81 154.6 258.4 0.74 192.4 +24
Total Traditional & Mechanized 869.3 0.47 404.8 682.0 0.48 328.1 720.1 0.75 537.7 +64

1/ Mainly sorghum but includes 30 percent maize in traditional sector.
2/ Includes double cropping of maize, upland rice and millet.


3.2.1 Other crops and livestock

The well-distributed late rains have favoured production of perennial crops, browse and grazing. Further, goundnuts in the traditional sector and sesame in the mechanized sector are expected to yield well as their short cycles are not likely to have been disrupted by the late planting. The condition of livestock is generally better than last year due to improved nutrition. Problems reported included the endemic diseases of trypanasomiasis, Contagious Bovine Pleural Pneumonia (CBPP), foot and mouth and anthrax. Donor sponsored rinderpest campaigns appear to have successfully reduced the incidence of rinderpest outbreaks throughout the area, although reports from Eastern Equatoria suggest that the cover may have been disrupted by military activity and restricted access, leading to reduction in vaccinations.

3.3 Agricultural situation by State

3.3.1 Upper Nile Region (Upper Nile, Unity, Jonglei)

Upper Nile State

Upper Nile State with an estimated rural population of some 57 158 households forms the transition zone between the huge mechanized farming zones of the eastern clay plains and the traditional subsistence farming of the remaining states in the south. The State includes an estimated 250 000 hectares of large scale enterprises farmed by less than 1 000 farmers. Unit sizes vary from 20 to 2 000 hectares and in total they account for some 30 percent of cereal production in the south. Historically, most of the production goes northwards to national and international markets through Kosti.

This year, the total mechanized area cultivated and planted increased by 35 percent, which, though substantial, is less than the planned area due to delays in establishing the credit policies upon which some 50 percent of the farmers depend. Due to late rainfall and late credit, only 60 percent of the area was estimated to have been planted at the optimum time (June-July) to match the usual five month growing season. The remainder, however, has done well due to the prolonged and generous rains in September and October. As a result, and because all seeds used have been treated against smut and to date no serious disease or pest infestations have been reported and most farmers have weeded at least once, good yields are expected resulting in a harvest of some 192 400 tonnes. Of this production some 1 200 tonnes has been produced by four other southern states’ Ministries under a Government scheme to promote inter-state support.

In late October sorghum prices in Renk have increased to 20 000 Sudanese Pounds (S£) per quintal (90kg) as the mechanized harvest was still at least one month away. The contracted Bank price under SALEM (risk/profit sharing) schemes has been set at S£ 23 000 to meet increased costs and to provide incentives.

The traditional sector has also benefited from late rains and a comparatively pest and disease free season and, except in the west, a conflict free year. Production from the main growing season is thought to be secure in most parts of the State. It is expected to reach 41 400 tonnes which is twice last year’s poor crop and will meet the State’s probable cereal requirement and leave a surplus. The figure also includes a forecast of second season (January-April 1999) maize grown on residual moisture in the eastern Sobat riverbeds east of Nasir, which should benefit from increased area of alluvial deposits.

Unity State

In contrast to Upper Nile, Unity State’s farmers have had less opportunity to take advantage of the improved natural conditions. Conflict has disrupted cultivation and weeding, and is likely to disrupt harvesting throughout the State. Fields away from households have been abandoned and yields are expected to be lower. In an attempt to redress the imbalance, ten tractors were supplied by the Government to the State Ministry of Agriculture to speed up cultivation and cultivated 1 650 hectares which were sown to millet.

Despite the man-made problems, production of cereals in 1998/99 is expected to be vastly improved on last year’s poor harvest. Cereal production, predominantly sorghum (66 percent) and maize, is expected to be in the order of 17 400 tonnes from some 40 000 hectares, which, though some 71 percent better than last year, reflects a much lower yield per hectare than in neighbouring states because of the disturbance to the timeliness and efficacy of husbandry practises.

The production will only just meet the State’s expected cereal requirement according to the WFP/OLS estimated use of 30 kg per head per annum.

Jonglei State

The late arrival of the rains this year caused some farmers to move to the lowland to secure a crop in anticipation of a similar rainfall pattern to 1997. Unfortunately, heavy rains in Uganda resulted in unprecedented volumes of water in the Nile, which caused widespread flooding of the lower land in the State.

Areas around Bor have been particularly affected with early crops lost. However, the highland crops, both early and late plantings, have benefitted from the continuous rains from the middle of the season onwards. These rains have also benefitted groundnuts, browse and grazing, wild foods such as water lily seeds, lalop and fish stocks.

In consequence, the Mission anticipates a reduction of some 30 percent in the area harvested, but a substantial improvement in yield per hectare of both sorghum and maize. Estimated at 0.65 tonnes per hectare, the yield is triple last year’s extremely low estimates of 0.22 tonnes per hectare, with a resulting harvest of 26 800 tonnes. This is expected to provide 81 percent of the State’s cereal use based on WFP/OLS figures of 38 kg per head per annum.


3.3.2 Equatoria Region (West Equatoria, East Equatoria, Bahr el Jebel)

Western Equatoria

West Equatoria is the most productive state in the south. Situated in the Green Belt with a growing season of around 240 days, two harvests of maize and groundnuts are obtained and a wide variety of minor cereals including upland rice and finger millet are intercropped with the main staples. Cassava, intercropped with groundnuts and sorghum is left to develop over periods of two to three years whilst the land is otherwise left "fallow". This pattern of cassava-fallow offers a very secure carbohydrate stock-in-ground as it can be dug as required. Market prices as low as S£ 2 400 per quintal for cassava flour reflect its availability. Rainfall is generally in the order of 1 800 mm per annum and is usually well distributed. This year was normal in all respects, supporting continuous growth of cereals and root crops.

No migratory pests or disease outbreaks were reported. However, the Mission noted the universal presence of cassava mosaic disease which must be responsible for substantial losses, but does not seem to be a cause for concern. Given that cassava growing is being encouraged elsewhere, the Mission feels that precautionary measures should be attempted to prevent contaminated planting material being multiplied and distributed to other states.

Area cultivated in 1998 is estimated to have increased due to NGO’s contracting farmers to multiply sorghum seed for distribution. Hitherto, the impossibility of marketing surpluses has hampered development. However, increasing numbers of Zande returnees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) may mean that more grain will be needed locally during late 1998 and 1999.

Yields per hectare are estimated at just less than 1 tonne per hectare.

It was noted that most farmers in the area have substantial granaries capable of holding up to 6 tonnes. Stored crops included groundnuts, upland rice, millet and sorghum. Maize is consumed early in the season to avoid storage losses and a second crop grown to provide seed for the coming year.

Cereal production from the State is estimated at around 99 100 tonnes which is more than twice last year’s level and 40 percent up on the 1996/97 estimates. It includes the forecast double cropping of maize for consumption in mid-1999 and will provide a substantial quantity for sale unless the influx of returnees from the DRC increases.

Eastern Equatoria

Unlike the Western Equatoria State, Eastern Equatoria has had its agricultural season severely disrupted by civil strife. Information on the season is sketchy due to restricted access to the main production areas.

Satellite images and rainfall data follow the general pattern of most of the southern states with a late and erratic start compensated by well-distributed rains later in the season. It is likely that bombing of towns, military engagements and inter-faction raiding will have restricted the opportunity of farmers to take advantage of the better rains or harvest all of the areas planted. Therefore, the productive area is not expected to be any greater than last year, which was 40 percent below the estimated 1996/97 harvested area.

Farmers with access to their fields are likely to obtain better yields than last year, given the absence of significant pest and disease outbreaks. As a result, maize and sorghum production is expected to be around 38 000 tonnes which, although substantially better than last year, is nowhere near the potential of the area. Cereal requirements are estimated at around 32 000 tonnes based on the WFP/OLS estimated per caput annual use of 49 kg, which suggests that some surpluses will be available if other elements of the food economy are not disturbed.

Bahr el Jebel State

As with Eastern Equatoria, information from Bahr el Jebel state is scanty. Despite the presence of ministerial offices in Juba, access and means to gather meaningful data are severely limited, as indeed is the access to farm land around Juba for the farmers themselves. Elsewhere, production on the upland, where farmers moved from the Nile islands and riverine lowlands early in the season to avoid floods, has benefitted from a rainfall that, although late and erratic until August, stabilised and continued regularly until October. As in other areas, the season has been free from significant pest or disease outbreaks.

Seed distribution by UNDP, UNICEF and other agencies has helped in redressing the loss of seeds last year, particularly as movement restrictions and renewed fighting prevented access to sources in the more productive areas in the south of the state.

Other inputs are limited to tractor services in the Juba surroundings, which have deteriorated due to late arrival of fuel and access problems. Around Juba, given limited access to agricultural land, continuous cropping is exhausting the soil, striga is ubiquitous and yields are falling. Immediate access to balanced fertilizers is needed to reverse the situation.

Cereal prices in Juba, fluctuating from S£ 17 000 to S£ 60-70 000 per quintal, reflect the dependence of the Juba population on supplies arriving by barge from the north, rather than the influence of this year’s harvest. At around 25 000 tonnes of cereals for the whole state, production is estimated to be well above the cereal harvest of 1996/97 and equal to 90 percent of the requirements based on WFP/OLS estimated per caput intake of 74 kg per annum.


3.3.3 Region Bahr el Ghazal (Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Lakes and Warrab)

Northern Bahr el Ghazal

Located along the borders with Darfur and Kordofan, Northern Bahr el Ghazal state includes the northern flood plains of the Nile, whose main agricultural practices are influenced by seasonal flooding, a mixture of soil types and rainfall usually supporting a growing season of some 150-180 days. In addition, there is a second season based on residual moisture, during which cropping of tobacco from January to April is the main activity. However, this practice is limited due to insecurity and shortages of planting material.

The declaration of a "cease fire" in the region in April, plus an end to fighting between rebel factions, offered an opportunity for displaced farmers to return to their homesteads. In the event, although substantial numbers of people returned, a combination of factors has led to a lower estimate of area cultivated than last year. Mission visits to homesteads in the area observed that although farm size may be up to 2 feddans (2 x 40m x 70m), the area actually cultivated and planted rarely exceeds 20-30m radius from the house. Fields away from the homestead have not been cultivated.

The findings suggest that the reduced capacity for cultivation is due to food shortages, fear and uncertainty as to the future, and risk avoidance practices. Such a traumatic state is unlikely to be overcome by seed distribution. In consequence, the estimated average farm size in the State for 1998/99 has been reduced to 0.2 hectares.

In keeping with the other states, the rains were late, initially erratic, and then stable and good and have continued until October. Unusually extensive flooding has caused crop losses on the lowland areas ranging from 10 percent to 80 percent according to village location. No rice crops from Aweil are expected. Fields on the upland have produced good crops of sorghum, millet and groundnuts.

No outbreaks of migratory pests or serious crop diseases were noted. Regarding non-migratory pests, birds, millipedes and stainer bug were local causes for concern. Cereal prices were generally high but expected to drop.

Livestock, where noted, were in good condition but were generally significant by their absence. Last year’s factional raiding and looting seem to have disrupted ownership patterns of cattle, sheep and goats, and have also adversely affected availability of farmyard manure..

Cereal crop production is not expected to exceed 14 600 tonnes, which is only some 29 percent of the expected requirement of the State, based on a WFP/OLS estimated per caput use of 73 kg per annum. This deficit is very unlikely to be met by improved fish stocks or wild foods.

Western Bahr El Ghazal State

Western Bahr el Ghazal State is located for the most part along the northern section of the Ironstone plateau, an area characterized by red laterite soils interspersed with alluvial deposits in the low-lying areas. Rainfall is generally sufficient to support over 180 growing days, producing cereals, groundnuts and significant amounts of cassava harvested in 18-month cycles. Harvesting of annuals takes place from July to December. Sorghum is the most important cereal crop.

This year, the rain followed the familiar pattern of a late start and an erratic early season, followed by good rains from July/August onwards. However, full advantage of the conditions was not taken in all areas. A breakdown in law and order in Wau town displaced thousands of people to and from Government held areas during the planting season, putting pressure on villagers and townspeople alike, and stretching the coping mechanisms to breaking point. Associated looting not only annihilated seed stocks, but also destroyed revolving funds and farmer confidence.

Despite being centres of agricultural trade, no inputs are available in Wau town or in Raja, and credit is inaccessible. Although banks are present, they will not lend to farmers without collateral. In Raja, compared to Wau and its environs, conditions have been comparatively secure and farm sizes are larger. Yields throughout the State are expected to be at least double last year’s, resulting in an expected production of some 22 300 tonnes from the state, a harvest similar to 1996. This meets the expected requirement based on WFP/OLS estimated cereal intake of 73 kg per head, and suggests that, with cassava and groundnuts, the population is in a much better position than their northern neighbours in the region.


The two remaining states in the Bahr el Ghazal region, Lakes and Warrab, include the western Nile flood plains and part of the Ironstone plateau. Lakes includes the important production centres of Rumbek and Tonj; however, insecurity, displacement and looting by various militias have wrought havoc and seriously affected the previous livestock-crop balance which provided the area with its livelihood.

Given good natural conditions, despite the late and erratic start to the rains, production is expected to be greater than last year, but from a substantially reduced area. However, at an estimated 33 300 tonnes, it is over 90 percent of the WFP/OLS estimated requirement based on a per caput use of 73 kg per annum.

Warrab State

Warrab state is in a similar position to Lakes state, with an important production and trading centre, Gogrial, having been totally undermined by civil conflict and uncontrolled militia action. Enforced movements out of the town placed pressure on villages in the vicinity hastening this year’s breakdown of coping strategies. As a result of the losses of seeds, tools and farmer confidence, and despite far better natural conditions than last year, cropped area is not expected to have increased beyond last year’s low level. Yields however are likely to be better resulting in an estimated cereal production of 25 800 tonnes, which is less than 60 percent of the anticipated requirement based on an estimated per caput use of 73 kg per annum.


The grave food supply situation in Southern Sudan, which caused a large number of deaths by starvation, particularly in Bahr-El-Gazal, has eased somewhat since August, with improved food aid distributions and the beginning of the new harvest.

Although the 1998 cereal production could cover overall consumption requirements in the Southern States, it is unlikely that the surpluses produced in Upper Nile and Western Equatoria states will reach the cereal deficit areas. The breakdown in trade routes and infrastructure, as well as the volatile security situation, prevent movement of goods even within states. Furthermore, the very low purchasing power of the population after several years of civil conflict and economic disruption, severely limits access to food.

While the substantial increase in this year's production will result in a general improvement of the food supply position, the situation varies greatly according to the outturn of the harvest, the consumption patterns and the coping mechanisms in different areas.

Table 3 shows production and per caput availability of cereals by State in 1998. Cereal consumption figures are based on WFP/OLS food economy studies over recent years. They take into account consumption of livestock products, an important component of the basic diet for the population in Southern Sudan.

Table 3: Southern States Traditional Sector - Population and Estimates of Cereal Deficit

Population Area cultivated (ha) Yield (tonnes per ha) Production (tonnes) Per caput availability (kg/yr) Per caput use (kg/yr) Surplus/ (Deficit)
Upper Nile 361 000 52 500 0.79 41 415 115 30 30 324
Unity 481 000 40 000 0.44 17 425 36 30 2 886
Jonglei 843 000 41 000 0.65 26 789 32 38 (5 901)
W.Equatoria 510 000 100 103 0.99 99 118 194 110 35 700
Bahr el Jebel 380 000 39 352 0.65 25 697 68 80 (4 940)
E. Equatoria 653 000 55 541 0.70 38 878 60 49 5877
N. Bahr el Ghazal 685 000 22 409 0.65 14 633 21 73 (35 620)
W. Bahr el Ghazal 300 000 29 450 0.76 22 238 74 73 730
Lakes 496 000 41 622 0.79 33 298 67 73 (2 976)
Warrab 607 000 39 714 0.65 25 814 43 73 (18 817)


Aggregation of the cereal deficits at state level suggests a deficit in some states in the order of 70 000 tonnes. This is matched by surpluses in other states. However, the deficit could be higher because disruptions to the livelihood systems (such as inability to cultivate due to insecurity or looting of cattle) may have resulted in an increase in cereal consumption requirement in particular locations.

Protracted food assistance will be necessary for households who gathered a poor harvest in 1998 and for a large number of displaced people and those in conflict -affected areas. Given the available production in the mechanized enterprises of Upper Nile State, local purchasing to direct the flow of grain southwards should be encouraged, particularly if this could be accomplished in the dry season, thereby expediting delivery to the northern sector deficit areas. Consideration should also be given to providing other inputs such as fertilizers to areas literally under siege (e.g. Juba) to revitalize the exhausted soils.

Where security allows, food aid should be used to encourage increased agricultural activities. It is therefore suggested that Food-for-Work incentives should be offered for farm rehabilitation in Bahr el Ghazal region. Such activities may be organized with the NGOs using the traditional labour self-help groups.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Telex 610181 FAO I; Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG) for further information if required.

The Special Alerts/Reports can also be received automatically by E-mail as soon as these are published, subscribing to the GIEWS/Alerts report ListServ. To do so, please send an E-mail to the FAO-Mail-Server at the following address:, leaving the subject blank, with the following message:

subscribe GIEWSAlerts-L

To be deleted from the list, send the message:

unsubscribe GIEWSAlerts-L


TOC Return to menu