FAO seeds increase the availability of fresh vegetables in conflict-hit Akobo

FAO seeds increase the availability of fresh vegetables in conflict-hit Akobo

26/05/2016

The combined effects of long-term conflict and the economic crisis have left South Sudan facing large-scale market dysfunction. As a result, the availability of food – especially of fresh vegetables – has been very limited.

For the past three years, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been providing crisis-affected people in South Sudan with vegetable seeds to increase and diversify local food production, while reducing reliance on markets for food. In December 2015, FAO distributed vegetable kits to 2 000 families in Akobo for planting during the dry season. After just three months, the community is already seeing the effects of the kits. For one farmer, Yien Duol Pur in Akobo County, “the seeds given to us have allowed us to have vegetables for our families to eat. We cannot buy vegetable seeds here because of the fighting and insecurity around us, so it is very good we received them from FAO.”

During the dry season, and concurrently the lean season, people in Akobo mainly consume cereals saved from their last harvest and ration their stock to last until the next planting season. This year, most households in Akobo are finding it difficult to meet their basic food needs, as their stocks are insufficient for a normal calorie intake and prices in the market are too high to complement their stocks, let alone have a balanced diet. This has long-term consequences for malnutrition especially for children and women of reproductive age. With the vegetable seeds provided, they are able to supplement their diet and, most importantly, increase their access to food and decrease their dependence on markets.

Serge Tissot, FAO Representative in South Sudan, explained, “Akobo has been blocked from obtaining goods from other towns in South Sudan since the conflict started in 2013. The only route to access goods in Akobo is through Ethiopia, which is only accessible by boat. This inflates prices. We have seen that more people have turned to agriculture to sustain their livelihoods, but the availability of seeds is low. With this distribution we have supported the most vulnerable people in the community to increase their access to food,”

Jacob Nhial Nile Hope, Agriculture Extension Worker Supervisor in Akobo, added to this saying, “the Akobo market is mostly supplied by our local farmers and especially during this dry season we really depend on them. At this time households sell some assets like goats for money to buy food. I have seen that people really want to buy vegetables and often complain when there is not enough or when they cannot even afford to buy. With the seeds households can now produce their own and have produce within 2-3 months.”

Nyadew Gony Peat, a farmer in Bilkay Payam who started farming five years ago, noted “We don’t have anything but our farm so it is very important for us to plant. In the beginning we were not able to produce much, because we did not have seeds. We have always planted some maize but now we also planted some vegetables. It is new for me! I attended a training which helped me understand how to plant which really helped us.”

Despite the abundant fertile soils and water supply in South Sudan, local food production has remained very low and the continuing political instability weighs heavily against opportunities for increased food production and income sources and market functionality. Approximately 53 percent of households in South Sudan depend on markets; however, the economic crisis has eroded the purchasing power of many families. As a result, the food security situation in continues to worsen all over the country.

In 2016, FAO, together with implementing partners, is aiming to provide livelihood support to 2.6 million people in South Sudan under the Emergency Livelihood Response Programme (ELRP). The ELRP is funded by the Common Humanitarian Fund, Denmark, Norway, the Swiss Confederation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America.