FAO in South Sudan

How the Agricultural Markets, Value Addition and Trade Development Project (AMVAT) changed the life story of a widow in South Sudan for the better

FAO programme staff and AMVAT implementing partners during a training workshop on how to ensure project beneficiaries receive updated information and skills required to ensure a beneficiary-centered approach to their work.

Jennifer Apio lives in Gumbo, a small suburb located in the Rejaf Payam of Central Equatoria.  A mother of four, Apio, 32, is a widow, who has been the head of her family since she lost her husband.

 Her life story has since been turned around when the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) implementing the Agricultural Markets, Value Addition and Trade Development Project (AMVAT) for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), through funding from the African Development Bank, started working with the Mazzarello Women’s Cooperative in January 2022.

Being a widow, she found it difficult to put food on the table for her children, often being forced to move from one local market to another in the hope of finding a better market for local dried fish, so that she could buy basic needs.

“I used to sell fish in Gumbo market, but there were no customers. So, I moved to the markets in the city in order to find favourable prices,” says Apio.

Despite her tireless efforts to provide for her family, the deteriorating economic situation in the country made it hard for the widow to sustain her family. The prices of food commodities remain extremely high, and the little profits she made from selling local fish could not allow her to buy nutritious food for her family.

“I never used to afford meat, fruits or vegetables for my children. They were expensive and my little profits were not sufficient,” says Apio.

In addition to failure to afford nutritious food for her children, buying medicine when they got sick was difficult for the widow. Most of the items are imported and the prices of medication triple once they reach the country, putting basic medicines beyond the reach of vulnerable families, such as Apio’s.

The money she makes from dried fish sales was barely enough to enable her to buy medication.

On a good day when she had customers, Apio would make 1200 SSP, (approximately US$1.5). She would then spend this money on buying food items, water and other necessities. Apio’s life entirely depended on selling fish and she always wondered how she could make more to buy food for the kids.

“I was always stressed and worried on how to provide food and pay school fees for my kids,” she said, adding that she had lost hope for the future of her kids, since she had no husband or relative to support her.

All her four children entirely depended on her for the basic needs.

Apio joined the Mazarello Women’s Cooperative in January 2022.  The cooperative aimed to help vulnerable women find a supportive community and empower them through creation and supporting of marketing activities.

The AMVAT project is funded by the African Development Bank  through the South Sudan Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and is implemented by FAO to enable beneficiaries to increase productivity, add value to their produce, aggregate and access markets.

This group of 150 women are trained on various skills including, Village Saving and Loans Association (VSLAs), good agricultural practices, farming as a business, cooperative management, climate smart agriculture, business plan development, value addition, markets and marketing. 

Members of Mazarello Women’s Cooperative were supported by FAO with seeds for groundnuts, maize, sesame and okra to enable them to produce nutritious foods for their children. The AMVAT project further supported the Mazarello Women’s Cooperative with groundnut paste machines, sorghum/maize miller, and sorghum threshers to help them add value to their produce. Through the groundnuts and sesame they harvested, the cooperative produces groundnut and sesame oil, which they sell in the local market and to hotels in Juba.

“The training we got from FAO has enabled us to multiply and increase the profits from our produce. Now we sell our groundnut and sesame oil to Afex Hotel and customers within Gumbo,” Apio and her colleagues say.

Through the Village Saving and Loans Association, members were trained on how to save profits from their sales and also borrow money in times of emergency at low interest rates.

“I am now able to save and borrow money from the cooperative and not worried about the life of my children when there are emergencies. I can now buy meat, fruits and vegetables for my children,” says Apio.  Since Apio joined the VSLA she has accumulated total savings of 890,000 SSP (approximately USD890).  She has been able to construct a better house for her family.


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For more Information please contact:

Chakanyuka Bosha, Communications Specialist,FAO South Sudan, [email protected] +211 922 002 251

Mary Mading Nyanbul, Communications Associate

[email protected] +211919442668