FAO’s Emergencies Director visits South Sudan to view crucial resilience building efforts

FAO’s Emergencies Director visits South Sudan to view crucial resilience building efforts


Less than three years since its Independence, violence erupted in South Sudan in December 2013. Since then, 1.5 million South Sudanese fled their homes, some managing to bring valuable livelihood assets with them, but many others had to flee leaving everything behind.

“I left my livestock so I could save my children” reflects John Garang Jok who had to escape the violence in Bor, Jonglei State in December 2013 and settled in the Maligo county IDP camp in Nimule. The Maligo IDP camp hosts 5 000 people who were forced to abandon their homes last year.

Field visit to assess the livestock situation in South Sudan

To escape the conflict, Jok, his wife Mary and their eight children embarked on a 14-day journey that began by boat from Jonglei to Juba and then on foot to Nimule. The trip cost the family their entire life savings. Over the past year, the family has lived in Maligo IDP camp and has survived by managing a small cattle camp owned by a member of the host community. In exchange for work in the cattle camp, they are given milk for their children. Given a lack of sustainable peace, they are not sure when they will be able to return home. This is just one of many families that Mr Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO's Emergency and Rehabilitation Division and Coordinator of the Organizations's resilience work, met while visiting South Sudan from 15-20 January 2015.

Mr Burgeon and a team from FAO South Sudan, including Deputy Representative Serge Tissot and Assistant Representative of Programmes Nyabenyi Tipo, travelled to Eastern Equatoria State to assess the livestock situation in the area. In December 2014, FAO South Sudan issued an alert flagging the unprecedented displacement of cattle due to the crisis and the shifts away from traditional livestock migration patterns. Such disruptions have led to extensive livestock health problems as well as conflicts within and between communities of livestock owners and farmers.

The team trekked deep into the bush to witness firsthand one of these unusual livestock migrations in Magwi County. Travelling first by car, the team drove off-road and then hiked to a large-scale cattle camp where herders had just arrived from Southern Bari in Jonglei State. This particular herding community has between 1 500-2 000 head of cattle and comprises 55 households. The chief of the herding community, Jacob Manyang, said they were worried about the new diseases affecting the livestock since arriving in the area. Since the crisis, the community’s livestock has not received any medical treatment or vaccines for the cattle.

“What we saw in the field, especially in the cattle camps, was people who really knew how to manage the multiple and interlocking risks they faced while fleeing conflict. They traveled from very far places sometimes with nothing, yet they are the faces of resilience,” remarked Mr Burgeon. “A major concern is that as these are non-traditional livestock movements, they could induce tensions or conflicts with resident farming communities and affected food production in these areas.”

The FAO South Sudan team has already planned rapid emergency livestock interventions for the communities surrounding Nimule and Magwi where local authorities have reported up to nine abnormal cattle migrations currently taking place. Upon returning from the field, Mr Burgeon took time to meet with the entire FAO South Sudan team and expressed FAO HQ’s continued solidarity with the work of FAO South Sudan colleagues during extremely difficult conditions throughout 2014.

“There is a huge increase in capacity for FAO South Sudan.We are in a better position that I think we’ve ever been in”, he stated. Before he left, Mr Burgeon planted a tree outside the office and expressed his aspirations for the country: “My hope for the future here is that the situation will stabilize and we can do even more to promote resilient livelihoods. Further, through the efforts of FAO, we look forward to the day when the line ministries will have the budgets, skills and capacities they need to become the leading forces for agriculture in their country.”