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South Sudan

Economy, agriculture and food security

Although endowed with rich natural resources, South Sudan remains comparatively underdeveloped as a result of recurrent conflicts. Its economy is characterized by a strong dependence on oil resources and revenues, a currently limited domestic production and a high reliance on imports.

The GDP of South Sudan was US$11 800 million (current US$) in 2013. The oil sector accounts for 60 percent of the total GDP in 2010 (AfDB, 2013) [Even though the country South Sudan came into existence in 2011, if there is information available specifically for South Sudan also before 2011, it has been included in the profile]. However, oil exports like any other economic opportunities are severely constrained by poor transport infrastructures and unreliable electricity power (USAID, 2007). In particular, the oil sector is highly dependent on pipeline shutdown, but this also restricts irrigated agriculture, as well as other agricultural processing or storage units that could strengthen the agricultural sector.

Agriculture has indeed a great potential, however it consists mostly of hand-cultivated subsistence farming under rainfed conditions on household plots of less than two hectares (FAO et al., 2011), as well as livestock-rearing. Only 20 percent of cereal farming is mechanized. The Green belt zone, in Western and Central Equatoria states, is the only area where tropical crops can be grown without irrigation (Yongo-Bure, 2007). The livestock population includes cattle, sheep and goats, which are raised in the more arid and semi-arid zones such as Eastern Equatoria. Livestock, estimated at 38.4 million heads in 2010 for the 10 Southern States only, which coincide with the present South Sudan, are either nomadic pastoralist or mixed crop-livestock systems and are a major source of livelihoods, especially in the floodplains of the Upper Nile and the semi-arid pastoral areas. Commercial exploitation of forestry is currently limited only to teak, mahogany and gum Arabic. In total, the agricultural sector accounts for around 14.5 percent of the GDP, or 36 percent of non-oil GDP in 2010 (AfDB, 2013).

Over half of the population in South Sudan is poor (daily expenditures of less than US$2) with huge regional disparities (AfDB, 2013). Eighty percent of poor households are dependent on agriculture as their main source of livelihood, putting therefore the agricultural sector at the forefront of the poverty fighting strategy. Food insecurity concerns 36 percent of the population, of which 9.7 percent are severely food insecure, and 47 percent of the population is undernourished. South Sudan is dependent on food imports (GoSS, 2011) and food aid with almost 2.4 million beneficiaries of food aid in 2010 (GoSS and UNDP, 2012). The situation worsened in 2013-2014 due to conflict resuming, not only displacing people but also preventing livestock to use their usual grazing paths (FAO, 2014).


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