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South Sudan

Year: 2015 Revision date: -- Revision type: --

Regional report: --

Print version:



(Click the map to obtain a detailed map)

NOTE: This profile is for South Sudan after the split with Sudan. For the profile prior to the split, kindly refer to the Sudan pre-2011 profile.

Geography, climate and population


South Sudan is the newest country in Africa. It became independent from Sudan in 2011 after a civil war and a referendum in favour of secession. South Sudan has an area of about 644 330 km² (the exact area still needs to be confirmed), representing around 30 percent of pre-2011 Sudan. It is a landlocked country bordered by Sudan in the north, Ethiopia and Kenya in the east, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the south, and the Central African Republic in the west. South Sudan is constituted by 10 States, corresponding to three regions of pre-2011 Sudan: Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Greater Upper Nile. Each State is further divided into counties, payams and bomas.

The main feature of the country is the White Nile river extending over clay plains and slopes gradually rising southward to mountains up to 3 000 meters above sea level in the Imatong Hills. The Sudd wetland is the inland delta of the White Nile and one of the largest swamps worldwide. It consists of lakes, marshes and extensive floodplains, some parts of which are infested by insects which are hazardous to humans and livestock.

The cultivable area is estimated at about 2.76 million ha (4 percent of the total land area) (Table 1) and nearly 50 percent is found in Upper Nile, Jonglei, and Warrap states. The forest resources of South Sudan cover approximately one third of the total area of the country. Natural forests are diverse including rainfall savannah, woodlands and special areas of mountainous vegetation in the Imatong mountains, making it one of the richest areas of concentrations of biodiversity in Africa. Shrubs cover around 39 percent of the country and herbaceous vegetation around 22 percent (AfDB, 2013).


Most of South Sudan has a sub-humid climate. The average annual rainfall is around 900 mm/year, and ranges between 700 mm in the lowlands areas of Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Bahr el Ghazal and 2 200 mm/year in Western Equatoria and highland parts of Eastern Equatoria.

Depending on the regions, one or two rainy seasons can be distinguished (WB, 2013):

  • Western and Central Equatoria have a bimodal rainfall pattern: The first occurs from April to June and the second from August to November. This pattern creates a long wet season (with just July a bit drier), a short dry period (December to March) and long agriculture growing seasons (280–300 days).
  • Other regions have a unimodal rainfall pattern with a wet season (May to October) and a dry period (November to April). Their annual growing season is relatively short (130–150 days).

The mean temperatures in South Sudan are typically above 25°C and can rise above 35°C, particularly during the dry season, which lasts from January to April, and trigger migration for pastoralists. In the more agricultural zones such as the Hills and Mountains zone and the Green belt zone, there are two rainy seasons, April to July and August to December. As a result, potential evaporation decreases from a maximum of 2 400 mm/year in the north to 1 400 mm/year in the south.

However, rainfall in South Sudan is decreasing and this is likely a result of climate change, although it is relatively less in comparison to northern part of the country (WB, 2011).


South Sudan’s population is 11.3 million in 2013 with an annual growth rate of 4.1 percent (over the period 2012-2013), which is the highest in Africa (Table 1). Population density is 18 inhabitants/km² and 70 percent of the total population is rural. At the national level, 57 percent of the population had access to improved drinking water sources in the year 2012 (JMP, 2014). In urban areas this coverage was 63 percent, while in rural regions it was 55 percent (Table 1). The situation regarding sanitation is even worse with only 9 percent of the population with improved sanitation facilitation in 2012 (16 percent in urban areas and 7 percent in rural areas). The Human Development Index is not yet available for South Sudan. However, years of conflict have left South Sudan one of the most underdeveloped regions worldwide, despite its rich natural resources. Poverty in South Sudan is widespread and especially acute in rural areas, the remote areas of the south and in the Bahr el Ghazal region (GoSS, 2011). It has an incidence of 50.6 percent in 2009. In 2013, the life expectancy in the country was 55.3 years and the under-five mortality was 104 per 1000 births, progressing from 121 in 2008. Primary education is also lacking behind in South Sudan, as attendance was only 41.3 percent of the children in 2011, one of the lowest enrolment rate in the world, even lower for girls (34.3 percent). Consequently, the adult literacy of the over 15 years old in 2010 is very low with 27 percent (GoSS, 2011).

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).

Water resources

Surface water in South Sudan comprises the Nile river system (nilotic water) and the Rift Valley basin. About 20 percent of the Nile basin lies within South Sudan, while 97.5 percent of Sudan lies in the Nile basin:

  • The Nile basin, 627 890 km² (97.5 percent of the area of the country)
  • The Rift Valley basin, in the southeast of the country at the border with Ethiopia and Kenya, covering 16 440 km² (2.5 percent)

The Nile system within South Sudan comprises:

  • The White Nile system, upstream of Sobat river, originating on the Great Lakes Plateau
  • The Baro/Sobat river system originating in the Ethiopian highlands
  • The Bahr El Ghazal basin, an internal basin in the west of South Sudan and also extending to Sudan to the north

Both the Sobat and Bahr El Ghazal rivers are seasonal rivers, contrarily to the Nile river which is a permanent river.

The major groundwater formation is the Sudd basin, also called the Umm Rwaba basin, the extent of which is currently unknown as well as its relationship with the overlaying surface water, in particular the swamps.

In 2013, the Sudd is the only Ramsar listed wetland of the country. It is an inland delta of the White Nile and is made up of lakes, swamps, marshes and flood plains. Its extent fluctuates from 10 000 km² to more than 35 000 km² depending on rainfall and evaporation, which is exceptionally high. An estimated 50 percent of the inflow to the Sudd, mainly through the White Nile system, is lost to evaporation. It is one of Africa’s largest swamps. The Jonglei Canal, between Bahr el Jebel and the White Nile, was planned to divert water from upstream of the Sudd to a point farther down the White Nile, thus bypassing the swamps with the purpose to make more water available for irrigation and hydropower downstream. Works on it were discontinued in 1983 after two thirds were completed because of civil war and local opposition to the project. There are attempts to revive this highly controversial project, but with no concrete decision yet. The Bahr el Ghazal and Sobat/Machar swamps are also large.

Internal renewable surface water resources are estimated at 26 000 million m³/year, internal renewable groundwater resources at 4 000 million m³/year, which is all considered to be overlap feeding the base flow of the river system. Therefore the total internal renewable water resources (IRWR) are equal to 26 000 million m³/year (Table 2). The White Nile enters South Sudan from Uganda with an average annual flow of 37 000 million m³. The river receives about 13 000 million m³ from the Sobat river, coming from Ethiopia, joining the White Nile just upstream of Malakal. The daily discharge at Malakal fluctuates between 50 million m³ in April to 110 million m³ in November (ratio 1:2). While the total of IRWR and inflow is equal to 76 000 million m³/year (=26 000+37 000+13 000), only 34 000 million m³/year leaves the country to Sudan, due to an exceptionally high annual evaporation in the huge swamp area estimated at 42 000 million m³.

While the total renewable water resources are estimated at 76 000 million m³/year, accounted water resources are less due to an agreement between pre-2011 Sudan and Egypt that 65 500 million m³/year should enter Egypt from Sudan. While it is not known yet what the agreement will be after the splitting of Sudan into South Sudan and Sudan, this will have consequences for both South Sudan and Sudan, especially since South Sudan is much more humid than Sudan. For now AQUASTAT has considered that 26 500 million m³/year of the total flow of 34 000 million m³/year flowing from South Sudan to Sudan is submitted and secured through the agreement to flow to Egypt, which is equal to 34 000x(65 500/84 000), whereby 65 500 million m3/year is the accounted inflow into Egypt according to the agreement and 84 000 million m³/year is the total flow to Egypt (see Sudan country profile). Therefore the total (accounted) renewable water resources for South Sudan are equal to 49 500 million m³/year (=76 000-26 500). It should be mentioned that this calculation done by AQUASTAT is an interim calculation that neither represents AQUASTAT’s position or recommendation, nor should it carry any political significance. Information will be updated as soon as information on a new or updated agreement will become available.

Dam capacity is limited in South Sudan. The Maridi dam, also called Kazana, was rehabilitated in 2010 for public water supply and irrigation uses. Feasibility studies have been contracted in 2008 for three medium-sized dams: the Sawa dam in Wau, the Baraj dam in Juba and the Kenti dam in Torit (respectively in Western Bahr El Ghazal, Western Equatoria and Eastern Equatoria states), aiming at fulfilling South Sudan’s needs for electricity and clean water. In addition, the Bahr el Jebel hydropower cascade has also been proposed constituted by five projects in Fula, Bedden, Shukoli, Lekki and Juba yielding an estimate 2 590 MW compared to the current 22 MW available (for a demand of around 45 MW).

Traditionally micro-dams across small water courses or dikes were constructed for livestock watering. Other water facilities were also developed, such as hafir which is an underground reservoir for storing rainwater carried by streams and situated away from human settlement and animal pasture, open wells and expanded/deepened seasonal river banks (GoSS, 2013).

Non-conventional water sources are limited in South Sudan. The country being landlocked, desalination of seawater is not possible.

International water issues

Surface water and groundwater resources are mostly shared with neighbouring countries. The Nile river, which is shared between 11 countries, is the primary source of South Sudan’s water in addition to its IRWR. However, more than half of its water resources evaporate before reaching the border with Sudan.

The first Nile Waters Agreement between Egypt and pre-2011 Sudan was signed in 1929. It allocated to Egypt the right to use 48 000 million m³/year, while it gave Sudan the right to tap only about 4 000 million m³/yr. The agreement does not allocate to Ethiopia any rights to use the Nile waters and also still binds Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Kenya and bars them from using the Lake Victoria waters. In 1959, the Nile Waters Agreement between Egypt and Sudan assigned to Sudan 18 500 million m³/year, measured at Aswan at the border with Egypt. The other riparian countries are still not included in this agreement.

In the beginning of the 21st Century the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) created and prepared a Strategic Action Programme, which consists of two sub-programmes: the Shared Vision Programme (SVP) and the Subsidiary Action Programme (SAP). The SVP is to help create an enabling environment for action on the ground through building trust and skill, while the SAP is aimed at the delivery of actual development projects involving two or more countries. Projects are selected by individual riparian countries for implementation and submitted to the Council of Ministers of the NBI for approval. Pre-2011 Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt also adopted a strategy of cooperation in which all projects to be launched on the river should seek the common benefit of all member states and this should be included in accompanying feasibility studies. South Sudan was admitted to the NBI in 2012.

However, the NBI is intended to be a transitional institution until the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) negotiations are finalized and a permanent institution created. This new Nile CFA was signed in 2010 by five countries–Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and United Republic of Tanzania–and in 2011 by Burundi. Egypt strongly opposed this agreement which gives deciding power over large-scale hydraulic projects to a commission representing all the signatories, hence cancelling Egypt’s historical right of veto. Pre-2011 Sudan, a traditional ally of Egypt, initially also rejected the agreement, but the new Sudan is now considering its signature due to increasing awareness of the unequal sharing and also hoping for benefits, in particular from the Ethiopian Renaissance dam, expected to be completed in 2017. South Sudan is also still to decide upon the CFA signature, especially because its water contribution to the Nile is considerable and the country is not bound by the 1959 Nile Waters Agreement. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has not signed yet either. The CFA was put on hold due to the Egyptian revolution of 2011. As mentioned in the previous section, for now AQUASTAT has considered that 26 500 million m³/year of the total flow of 34 000 million m³/year flowing from South Sudan to Sudan is submitted and secured through the agreement. However, it should clearly be mentioned that this is an interim calculation that neither represents AQUASTAT’s position or recommendation, nor should it carry any political significance. Information will be updated as soon as information on a new or updated treaty will become available.

South Sudan shares also three transboundary aquifers with neighbouring countries (Table 3), for which there is no sharing agreement.

Water use

Total water withdrawal in pre-2011 Sudan was estimated at 27 590 million m³ for the year 2005. The largest water user by far was agriculture with 26 150 million m³. Municipalities and industry accounted for withdrawals of 1 140 million m³ and 300 million m³ respectively. Figures for 2011 for South Sudan have been estimated based on the above figures for pre-2011 Sudan, keeping the same total for South Sudan and Sudan together and considering that no essential changes have taken place, that almost all irrigation is located in Sudan (Figure 1), that the population of South Sudan is 17 percent of the total population of pre-2011 Sudan and that most (75 percent) of the industries are located in South Sudan (petrol area) (Table 4).

Irrigation and drainage

Evolution of irrigation development

Irrigation potential in South Sudan is estimated at 1.5 million ha that could be brought under irrigation by smallholders and commercial farming. This potential is divided between the Nile-Sobat river basin (654 700 ha potential), the Western and Eastern Flood Plains (in Warrap, Unity and Jonglei states), the Mangalla region (45 km from Juba, at the confluence of the White Nile and one of its tributaries in Central Equatoria state) and the Green Belt zone. The Green Belt zone’s agricultural production usually exceeds subsistence level, so modern irrigation techniques could further increase the production (AfDB, 2013). However, small streams and irregular land impede large-scale irrigation (Yongo-Bure, 2007).

This potential includes in particular (AfDB, 2013):

  • lowlands where farmers make use of flooding to supplement water for growing rice
  • areas adjacent to river floodplains, where farmers cultivate short-maturing varieties of sorghum
  • areas around swamps/marshes where extension of the growing season is possible by planting in moist soils left by receding floods

In addition, large flood plains are located in the enormous Sudd wetlands, the potential of which was estimated at up to 1.6 million ha by itself (FAO, 1997). They, however, would require extensive works.

Before the 2nd civil war broke out in 1983, the overall plan for irrigation development in Southern Sudan was to irrigate about 270 000 ha of land (AfDB, 2013). Because of the instability, development of irrigated agriculture was constrained, except for a few formal irrigation schemes, which were constructed in the 1970s as pilot agro-industrial projects. However, they have never been fully operational, were neglected during the periods of civil conflict and war and are largely non-functional at present (GoSS, 2013) but there are plans to revive them (UNEP, 2007):

  • The Melut sugar scheme: initially planned for 35 000 feddan, or 14 700 ha, of irrigated sugarcane. In 1979-80, 42 ha were cultivated and construction of irrigation infrastructure started in 1979, but implementation stopped before 1983. There were plans to restart it with the help of the pre-2011 Sudan Kenana Company in the 2010s with an initial capacity of 40 000 tons of sugarcane, to be increased to 110 000 tons, or 50-60 percent of the South Sudan’s consumption.
  • The Aweil rice scheme: located in the southern bank of the Lol River (Northern Bahr el Ghazal), founded in 1944 by British officials, expanded in 1976 by the government of Sudan with international aid, and partially rehabilitated in 2007 (FAO, 2013). At its peak in the 1980s, the scheme benefited about 1 000 tenant farmers, but it ceased operations in 1986. A rehabilitation project encompassed an area of 4 500 ha in 2010, to be extended to 6 500 ha benefiting around 2 000 households (UNMIS, 2010). In 2012, around 600 ha were planted with rice, and the area doubled in 2013. It relies on semi-natural flood irrigation without effect on Nile volumes, since using water that would otherwise evaporate, (CLICO, 2012).
  • The Mangalla–or Mongalla–sugar and agro-industrial project: located in Central Equatoria. It was an experimental station established in the 1950s to grow sugarcane, but production was shifted to the north of Sudan after 1956, under much less favourable conditions requiring heavy irrigation.
  • The Wau fruit and vegetable canning factory: the irrigation pump had a capacity to water only one feddan or 0.42 hectare.
  • The Penykou rice pilot project: located in Jonglei. Around 125 ha rice were planted in 1980-81 under irrigation, with a maximum yield of 4.5 tons/ha.
  • The Upper Talanga tea project: a planned area of 500 ha was to be under tea cultivation in the 1980s, including 85 ha by smallholders. Phase 1 was completed with 80 ha tea and 30 ha cereals.

The current area equipped for full control irrigation is only 32 100 ha:

  • about 12 700 ha is in Upper Nile state, including the Renk scheme of about 2 000 ha in Gaiger, Magara and Abu Khadra, where cotton, sunflower and other crops are irrigated
  • 300 ha in Jonglei state and 500 ha in Western Equatoria state
  • the remaining 18 600 ha are small parcels of land across the country, mostly individual farmers in isolated locations with simple water-lifting techniques from rivers to support perennial fruit and vegetable production.

In addition, about 6 000 ha of spate irrigation, confined primarily to Northern Bahr el Ghazal, is used for rice production (Figure 2) (AfDB, 2013).

Modern irrigation techniques, involving improved flood control measures or water pumping into gravity schemes, were introduced in the 1970s in the above listed pilot projects in order to gradually substitute traditional flood irrigation.

Role of irrigation in agricultural production, the economy and society

Traditionally in the floodplain area, irrigation is used in small vegetable gardens cultivated with additional water from hand pumps, storage ponds, or lakeside moisture (with the help of drains). In the wet season, flood waters are diverted into rice fields, and sugarcane and banana are grown on dikes protecting fishing camps and lowland settlements. In the dry season, along the river vegetables and tobacco are irrigated through manual and small pump-driven lift irrigation, and maize and cowpea are grown using receding flood water. Irrigation has therefore played a critical role in traditional farming systems as a means to secure food supplies, especially in the drought-prone areas (GoSS, 2013).

Currently, the main irrigated crops are rice, fruit trees and tree plantations (Table 5 and Figure 3). Two harvests are possible each year in the bimodal rainfall area of Western and Central Equatoria, where the growing season is long, but generally only one harvest is possible in the unimodal rainfall areas further north except where water is readily available for irrigation (GoSS, 2011).

However, agriculture being mostly rainfed in South Sudan, farmers have little experience with irrigation. Consequently the research, extension, and advisory system is not yet ready to support widespread irrigated agriculture. The government considers that in the medium term it will be easier to increase the agricultural production through small increases in rainfed crop yield and expansion of rainfed cropland than through increase of irrigated area. This is despite the fact that irrigated yields are typically three to four times higher than rainfed yields, and that rainfed yields are even only half of comparable yields in Uganda and Kenya (GoSS, 2013).

In addition, large scale land acquisitions are ongoing in South Sudan. Between 2007 and 2010, around 2.64 million ha of land were leased or acquired by foreign investors in the agriculture, forestry, carbon credit and bio fuel sectors alone (Grain, 2011).

Women and irrigation

Because experience with irrigation is low in South Sudan, this is also the case for women. However, women are responsible for a lot of the agricultural work (WB, 2011). And the government in its water sector assessment mentions that “In moisture-rich patches of land, tobacco and vegetables are grown, primarily by women” (Goss, 2013).

Traditionally, the customary land tenure system limits women’s rights to access land and property (USAID, 2012). This is even accentuated by the fact that they are usually less educated than men. Despite spending long hours collecting water, they do not have access, control or use of information on water resources (WB, 2011).

Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture


The responsibilities in water management and irrigated agriculture are shared between three Ministries:

  • The Ministry of Electricity, Dams, Irrigation and Water Resources (MEDIWR) resulting from the merge in 2014 of the former Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources (MIWR), which had the overall leadership in the water sector since the formation of the Government of South Sudan (GoSS), and the Ministry of Electricity and Dams established later in 2011.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Tourism, Animal Resources and Fisheries (MAFRARF) resulting from the merge of the former Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Cooperatives and Rural Development (MAFCRD), and the Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries (MARF).
  • The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Physical Planning (MLHPP) for the water supply, and formerly called the Ministry of Housing, Physical Planning, and Environment (MHPPE).

At state level, Ministries of Agriculture, Animal Resources and Irrigation (MAARIs) were instituted, as well as water and sanitation directorates.

In addition, the South Sudan Urban Water Coordination (SSUWC) is responsible for the development of access to improved water supply, under the responsible Ministry.

The institutional water sector is challenged by a lack of clarity for respective missions between MEDIWR and MLHPP and by weak capacity at state level in terms of availability of qualified staffing, equipment, management and operational systems.

Water management

Water management in South Sudan is impaired at the basis by a lack of water data and information for both surface water and groundwater resources (WB, 2013). A water information system called the South Sudan Water Information Clearing House (SSWICH) is currently established, the purpose of which is to provide a systematic way of gathering information about water to assist in decision-making at all levels of the water sector (WB, 2011).

Currently no formal system for allocating water resources to sector or user exists, apart from customary laws (USAID, 2012). This is despite strong competition in the dry season, leading sometimes to disputes between farmers and pastoralists, who have to travel considerable distances depending on water availability.

The 2007 Water Policy recognizes the ineffectiveness of the top-down approach adopted in pre-2011 Sudan, which resulted in very limited stakeholder involvement in Southern Sudan. It therefore recommends improved users participation into the water sector (GoSS, 2007). However, water user organizations were not formed in for example the Aweil rice scheme during its rehabilitation project, even though this was planned (FAO, 2013).


The 2007 Water Policy recognizes that a proportion of the costs specific to the irrigation operations and maintenance should be recovered through fees charged to water users. However, it also commits the government to develop a financing strategy in the long term due to the central importance of water resources management for development in the country. Private sector investments are encouraged (GoSS, 2007).

Policies and legislation

The government of South Sudan formed in 2005 established an Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan. As a result, laws from pre-2011 Sudan were rejected and there was a need to provide for sectorial policies and legislation, including in the water sector. Some policies were thus defined even before the independence. There is no legislation yet dealing specifically with water management and irrigation.

The 2011 Transitional Constitution lists water among the natural resources that the government must “protect and ensure the sustainable management and utilization” together with land, petroleum, minerals, fauna and flora (GoSS, 2011b). The only water-related law is the 2011 Urban Water Corporation Act which deals with water supply and in particular the public water utility SSUWC. There is, however, a 2009 Land Act specifying the ownership and land tenure system.

More water-related policies have been drafted or are currently under preparation. The 2007 Water Policy distinguishes water resources management, rural water supply and urban water supply. A water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) strategic framework was prepared in 2011 and recommends the establishment of a Water Council as an advisory board, as well as a Water Resources Management Authority to enforce regulatory functions. An irrigation development master plan is currently under preparation by the MEDIWR and MAFCRD.

More generally, a number of policies and strategies for the country’s agriculture and environment exist, in addition to the South Sudan development plan 2011-2013:

  • National agriculture and livestock extension policy
  • A draft land policy (2011)
  • Natural resource sector plan 2011-2013
  • National environmental action plan
  • National environmental policy drafted in 2010 together with an environmental protection bill

Environment and health

South Sudan's environment is stressed by unregulated exploitation of natural resources and extraction of oil, as well as pressure exerted by large numbers of returnees. Soil degradation exists due to unsustainable and expanding agriculture (AfDB, 2013), and in particular wetlands and swamps are drained for oil exploitation or agriculture (GoSS and UNDP, 2012). But the most critical environmental concern is related to the water resources and their management.

Water levels in rivers are decreasing due to increased erosion and siltation caused by land use changes and overexploitation: forest clearing, over-grazing and fires (USAID, 2012). Former permanent rivers became seasonal in the last decade, especially the rivers along the border with the Central African Republic: Lol, Jur, Gal and Peyia rivers. Drop of the groundwater table is also observed in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State. Decreasing rainfall, attributed both to local environmental changes and climate change, might also explains those groundwater level drops (AfDB, 2013).

There are some punctual salinity issues in groundwater quality around Malakal and isolated villages (WB, 2011), as well as water pollution from oil industrial wastes in Unity and Upper Nile states. However, the main pollution is caused by the lack of improved sanitation (with only 9 percent of the population having improved sanitation facilitation in 2012) as well as the absence of collection and treatment of wastewater. Most domestic wastewater and untreated excreta are carried directly into rivers and boreholes, polluting both surface water and groundwater, often used directly by the population for drinking and cooking. Discharged water contains fecal coliforms, causing water-borne diseases. As a result, an outbreak of cholera prevailed in Juba in 2006 for a year (JICA, 2007). But also industrial wastewater is discharged directly into the Nile river, such as in Malakal from an electricity power plant (AfDB, 2013).

Prospects for agricultural water management

Irrigation will form an important component of future strategies for achieving food security and agriculture-based economic growth in South Sudan in the long term. Agriculture is expected to be the single biggest user of water in future and as demand for irrigation water grows there is need to establish policies and strategies to promote efficient and responsible water use and mitigate potential conflicts between competing users (GoSS, 2007).

The initial step for future water management is an assessment and mapping of the water resources in the country, especially groundwater which remained unknown up to now (AfDB, 2013). This review is ongoing according to the country development plan (GoSS, 2011).

To complement this review from an irrigation perspective, there are currently some prospections to identify and map more precisely the irrigation potential. A national Irrigation Master Plan is under preparation to prioritize investments for the development of irrigated agriculture in the decade ahead (GoSS, 2013). The objective is to increase the irrigated area to 400 000 ha by 2020. This, however, might be quite ambitious considering the current area equipped for irrigation, which is only 38 100 ha, the lack of irrigation knowledge and the economic conditions. Regarding water and sanitation, the objective is to increase access to improved water supply to 70 percent in urban areas and 65 percent in rural areas by 2020 (AfDB, 2013). Finally, with the significant livestock activities and its difficulty to access water in dry periods, developing water resources for livestock is also an important objective for the country (GoSS, 2013).

Another future challenge is to establish a legal framework for the country's water management. This includes both a Water Act for national development, allocation and protection of the water resources, as well as an overall policy vision for the sharing of transboundary water resources with riparian states. In particular, a formal decision on South Sudan's share of the Nile water has to be taken, either as a portion of the current Sudanese share under the 1959 agreement (Salman, 2011), or as a portion of the total Nile water resources under a new agreement to be negotiated.

Main sources of information

AfDB. 2013. South Sudan: An infrastructure action plan. A program for sustained strong economic growth. African Development Bank. Tunis.

CLICO. 2012. Hydro-security profile. Case study South Sudan. Climate change, hydro-conflicts and human security project.

FAO. 1997. Irrigation potential in Africa: a basin approach. FAO Land and Water Bulletin 4. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome.

FAO. 2013. Sudan productive capacity recovery programme (SPCRP). South Sudan. Independent final evaluation. OSRO/SUD/623/MUL. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome.

FAO. 2014. South Sudan facing major food and nutrition crisis. Press Release. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome.

FAO, WFP. 2011. Crop and food security assessment mission: January 2011. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Food Programme. Rome.

Grain. 2011. Extent of farmland grabbing for food production by foreign interests: how much agricultural land has been sold or leased off?

GoSS. 2007. Water Policy. Government of the Republic of South Sudan.

GoSS. 2011. South Sudan Development Plan 2011-2013. Realising freedom, equality, justice, peace and prosperity for all . Government of the Republic of South Sudan.

GoSS. 2011b. Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan. Government of the Republic of South Sudan.

GoSS. 2013. The rapid water sector needs assessment and a way forward. Government of the Republic of South Sudan.

GoSS, UNDP. 2012. Environmental impacts risks and Opportnities Assessment. Natural resources management and climage change in South Sudan. Government of the Republic of South Sudan and United Nations Development Programme.

IGRAC. 2014. Transboundary aquifers of the world map – Update 2014. 1:50 000 000. International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre.

JICA. 2007. Preparatory study for development study. Japan International Cooperation Agency.

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