Home | News    Tuesday 28 February 2012

South Sudan seed fair calms food insecurity fears

By Julius N. Uma

February 27, 2012 (JUBA) - Lily Asuya Kwaje, a South Sudanese returnee can hardly hide her smile. She is among the 300 beneficiaries of a one-day seed exhibition organised by United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in Morobo county, Central Equatoria state.

Having spent 11 years in Uganda as a refugee, 48-year old Kwaje, who lost her husband during the civil war, returned to South Sudan only two years ago to begin a new life.

“It was not easy,” Kwaje, a mother of six, recalls. “Being a beneficiary of this seed fair, to me, is a dream that has finally come true. This is the only we can fight poverty in our families”.

At least 400 households, comprising of widows, returnees and the elderly in Morobo were earmarked to benefit from seed fair cash vouchers, issued by FAO in collaboration with the Equatoria Farmers’ Extension Advisory Association (EFEAA). Each household is allocated SSP 45 (about $14).

Held on January 23, the seed fair is part of FAO’s community based support, which in collaboration with the agriculture and forestry ministry, seeks to transform agriculture in the world’s newest nation.

In South Sudan, agriculture, a largely underdeveloped sector, remains the backbone of rural most economies. However, despite the country’s vast arable land, only about 4 percent is reportedly in use.

The seed fair project, which focuses on seed multiplication and farmer training, is currently being implemented in the five states of Eastern Equatoria, Lakes, Western Equatoria, Western Bahr el Ghazal and Central Equatoria. It’s funded by the French government to the tune of €500,000 ($650,000 US).

Michael Oyat, FAO deputy emergency coordinator for South Sudan reiterated the organisation’s commitment to increase food availability, through training farmers in modern agricultural techniques to help them increase the number and quality of locally produced seeds.

The initiative, Oyat told a group of farmers and beneficiaries, is a key part of FAO’s strategy to stimulate seed production and marketing in the country and hence reduce South Sudan’s dependency on imported seeds.

“FAO’s mandate is to ensure that farmers have access to good quality seeds. This will enable them focus on surplus production targeting markets that will drive away food insecurity,” he remarked.

Initially, when FAO first began supporting vulnerable farmers in the country, the bulk of seeds provided were imported from Uganda, Kenya and north Sudan. Last year, however, 49 percent of the seeds distributed were reportedly sourced locally in South Sudan.

The organisation, in a statement on 23 February, said it expects 600 seed growers to sell their seed at the various fairs taking place across the country. Overall, FAO intends to issue cash vouchers for 30,000 vulnerable people to enable them purchase seed and tools.

“This is an increase on last year, when 5 seed fairs reached 18,000 vulnerable individuals,” the statement reads.

An estimated 4.7 million people in South Sudan remain food insecure, including about one million severely at risk, according to a recent food security assessment jointly conducted by FAO and World Food Programme (WFP).