South Sudan: The challenge of going home

South Sudan: The challenge of going home

18/07/2012

James Kon is one of a growing number of South Sudanese who are creating a crisis simply by going home.

Born and raised in the South, he spent many years in Khartoum in the North and returned to the newly created state of South Sudan after independence last year (July, 2011). He’s among more than 370 000 people to have done the same.

At a seed fair supported by the FAO, in Rumbek, the windy capital of Lakes state, James Kon has been given vouchers to exchange for seed. He says it’s a life-saving initiative. James has struggled for more than a year to provide his family of 9 with shelter and food.

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“He says he completely doesn’t have anything at home,” a translator explains. “He’s yet to establish his house so he’s just under a tree making his shelter.”

With vouchers worth 85 South Sudanese pounds - the equivalent of 30 US dollars - James is able to choose from a wide variety of seeds, including sorghum, millet, sesame, beans and groundnuts.

“The main seed that he will first buy is groundnuts,” the translator says, “and after groundnuts he will select the seeds that are cultivated at the homestead so they can serve the children at the beginning while waiting for the groundnuts.”

He says the groundnuts are particularly desirable because they can be harvested just 90 days after planting, so they will give his children food in a relatively short time.

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There’s no denying that James Kon has found it difficult since he returned to South Sudan. He has many mouths to feed, bodies to clothe and shelter, and little with which to do it. But he says, faced with the decision again, he wouldn’t change a thing: “Here in South Sudan if you are free and healthy and you have seeds and there is rain, there will be nothing difficult,” he says emphatically.

James Kon worked as a day labourer in Khartoum, before he returned to South Sudan: “When people built a house, they called him,” the translator says. “When they needed odd jobs done, he’d come and help them and so make some money to feed his children.”

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says there are hundreds of thousands more South Sudanese in Sudan who could be forced to take the road south soon. Many will be reliant on handouts for food.

FAO is calling for urgent funding so it can help the returnees begin to feed themselves and their families quickly, on their own. “South Sudan is good,” James Kon explains through the translator. “He gets a place free. He has land to cultivate and he has a place to build his house.”