8 July 2003, Rome -- For the first time, FAO has successfully delivered a substantial amount of seeds and tools by road to previously inaccessible rebel held areas in the Nuba Mountains in southern Sudan, according to a statement released today.

The region is controlled by the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). The Nuba Mountains are located in South Kordofan and part of Western Kordofan States. The area has been a conflict zone between the government of Sudan and the SPLM/A since 1985.

As a result of the war, many of the Nuba Mountains people were forced off the plains and are living under very insecure and precarious conditions, cultivating limited agricultural land on steep slopes and flat land on the top of and in between the hills.

The delivery of urgently needed agricultural aid became possible after a ceasefire agreement between the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A in January 2002.

Agricultural aid will improve food situation

FAO distributed around 130 tonnes of sorghum, maize, sesame, cowpea, groundnut and vegetable seeds to different parts of the Nuba Mountains controlled by the SPLM/A. Farmers also received some 13 400 agricultural tools (hoes, axes, machetes and sickles). More than 10 500 households benefited from this assistance. The project supports the resettlement of returnees and the early rehabilitation of agriculture.

FAO also supported local blacksmiths with tool kits and metal sheets to produce hand tools for returning people and farmers who want to resume agriculture.

FAO has also distributed 154 tonnes of local crop seeds and more than 16 000 hand tools to displaced people and returnees in areas controlled by the government of Sudan. This relief aid will improve the food situation of an estimated 12 500 farm families. Non-governmental organizations distributed the relief aid to people in need.

In total, the delivery of seeds and tools is expected to result in the production of 8 200 tonnes of food in 2003 and to improve livelihoods and food security.

A contribution to peace

"It is a real breakthrough that FAO succeeded in delivering seeds and tools by road to people who have been living under insecure and extreme conditions in the Nuba Mountains," said Anne M. Bauer, Director for FAO's Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation. "This project will make farmers and their families less dependent on food aid and could be a contribution to peace and stability in the region."

The project is financed by the governments of Norway, as the main contributor, the Netherlands and Sweden.

FAO said that around 300 000 households in southern Sudan are in dire need of seeds and tools, estimated at nearly $8.6 million, to resume their farming activities in the upcoming season starting in July 2003. So far, FAO has received funds of about $1.7 million.

Erwin Northoff
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53105