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A thriving agriculture sector is crucial to long-term peace and development in South Sudan. Up to 95 percent of the country’s population depends on farming, fishing or herding to meet their food and income needs. Yet, South Sudan faces one of the world’s worst humanitarian and food security situations. Conflict along the border with the Sudan, outbreaks of inter-ethnic violence, flooding, low levels of agricultural production and rising food prices meant that 4.7 million people (nearly half the population) faced food insecurity in 2012 and 1 million were severely food insecure.
FAO is helping to strengthen food security and build sustainable, agriculture-based livelihoods in South Sudan through a mixture of immediate assistance programmes and longer-term support to build the capacity of local, state and national government institutions.
Protecting livestock health, herders’ futures
Livestock, particularly cattle, goats and sheep, are an important social and economic asset in South Sudan. However, endemic diseases (like haemorrhagic septicaemia, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, anthrax and peste des petits ruminants) are undermining livestock production – an estimated one in five cattle die from disease. Local and national capacity to monitor, control and respond to these diseases is severely limited, threatening about 70 percent of pastoral households and 2 million animals. FAO works closely with the relevant ministries and local institutions to ensure a reliable and stable supply of veterinary drugs, vaccines and equipment to safeguard livestock production. Cold chain equipment is provided and regularly maintained to protect these drugs and vaccines, and local community members are trained to provide basic animal health care services.
Improved yields through improved seeds
Levels of crop and vegetable production in South Sudan remain low. As is the case in much of eastern Africa, farmers rely heavily on rainfed crop production meaning erratic or delayed rains can result in poor or no harvests, while heavy rains and flooding can waterlog fields and destroy stocks. Conflict and displacement continue to force farmers from their fields during key times in the planting season. FAO has been working with South Sudan’s farmers to strengthen crop production in spite of these challenges.
A lack of availability and access to quality seeds and planting materials constrain yields. Most farmers in South Sudan use seeds saved from a previous season or acquired through their social networks – from friends and families. FAO works on two fronts to increase the availability of quality inputs. The most vulnerable farmers (particularly those returning from neighbouring countries and households headed by women) are provided, through seed fairs or direct distribution, with quality seeds and tools, along with training in good agronomic practices. At the same time, FAO is promoting seed multiplication in South Sudan. Selected farmers are provided with quality seeds and trained in production, conditioning, storage and marketing. Quality assessment councils are also set up at the local level to ensure the seeds produced are of good quality. These efforts have already translated into better yields for staple crops like sorghum.
Rehabilitating and building basic infrastructure
Agricultural infrastructure, such as water reservoirs, feeder roads and irrigation systems are underdeveloped or non-existent in most of South Sudan. These are crucial to livestock and crop production across the country. FAO interventions are promoting the establishment of community-based infrastructure, including micro-irrigation, fodder harvesting, vaccination crèches and quarantine centres, dykes to contain flooding and storage facilities. Through cash transfer mechanisms, like cash-for-work, FAO is providing vulnerable people with an immediate source of income, while building or rehabilitating the essential infrastructure that will strengthen their productivity in the long-term.
At the same time, access to vital resources, like water, is a key source of conflict between pastoral and farming communities, leading to the displacement of an estimated 140 000 people in Jonglei State in early 2012. FAO has been working with local communities to reduce conflicts and contribute to peace building by helping to restore water reservoirs and training local community members to manage and maintain these structures.