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South Sudan naturally endowed for sustainable growth through agriculture

FAO land cover survey shows just 4.5 percent currently used for farming

Photo: ©FAO/
Transport on the White Nile in South Sudan
July 8, 2011, Rome/Juba - As South Sudan celebrates its independence on 9 July 2011, the world’s newest nation faces many challenges in building a strong and stable economy that supports the food security and livelihoods of its population.

FAO has been actively working in South Sudan and stands ready to further assist the world’s newest nation to develop a strong and sustainable agricultural sector.

The UN agency has drawn up a $50 million Interim Assistance Plan (IAP) for the agricultural sector that will build capacity in ministerial and state agricultural extension offices, mediate to prevent conflict over water resources and develop the livestock sector.

The IAP will contribute to the new government’s overall development plan for South Sudan. The interim plan also includes the establishment of a seed production sector and an urban and peri-urban agriculture component as many returnees arrive in the capital Juba and other major towns in South Sudan and will need to produce as much as their own food as possible.

$61 million assistance ongoing

"South Sudan is enormously rich in terms of natural resources, and with 95 percent of the population dependent on them for survival, it has huge potential for sustainable growth through agriculture" said George Okech, Head of Office, FAO South Sudan.

FAO currently manages a $61 million emergency rehabilitation programme in South Sudan that has already helped 250 000 returnee and internally displaced households who fled their farms during the conflict return to agriculture, as well as vulnerable households who are hosting the returnees.

The support offered includes training young people in Farmer Field Schools and building administrative capacity.

Satellite view

In addition, as part of the Agency’s support effort to the new nation, FAO recently carried out an extensive satellite land cover survey that showed just 4.5 percent of the available land was currently under cultivation.

This data was then verified on the ground by local experts using GPS. The survey was carried out with the support of the €20.6 million EU-funded Sudan Institutional Capacity Programme: Food Security Information for Action.

The objective of the land-cover survey was to identify the distribution of major agricultural land, as well as other natural resources, including forest, grazing pastures and rivers.

"The launch of the land-cover database could not have come at a better time for the new nation of South Sudan", said John Chuol Dhol, South Sudan’s Director General for Agriculture Production.

Not only is the survey a new robust method for developing an improved agricultural data collection system, it could also lay the foundation for a new system of natural resources monitoring and act as a useful tool for food security monitoring.

A workshop to present the outputs and results of the land-cover database, organized by the South Sudan Government and FAO, will be held in Juba, South Sudan, in August 2011.

FAO will be discussing its $50 million Interim Assistance Plan (IAP) for the agricultural sector with donors in August in the hope of securing funding for this important programme. FAO donors in South Sudan include Canada, the EU (Echo) CERF, the Common Humanitarian Fund, France, Spain, Switzerland.