South Sudan is a country facing monumental challenges. Since its creation as an independent country in 2011, its citizens have experienced a dramatic decline in quality of life. In early 2015 the World Food Program estimated that 4.6 million people – 40 per cent of the population – are facing serious food shortages and hunger. While many people in South Sudan will depend on food aid for some time to come, Veterinarians without Borders, in partnership with Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Germany, Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Suisse, and local governments, has begun a modest two-year project to help some South Sudanese begin the journey back to food self-sufficiency. This new project follows an earlier intiative in Maban that focused on helping refugees who have come to South Sudan, with their animals.
Offering Integrated Support to Small Farmers
With funding from Global Affairs Canada, as well as VWB/VSF donors, the project is offering an integrated program of support to small farmers and fishers that will help them increase production of cereal grains, vegetables, fruit, and livestock, and will help fresh water fishers increase their catches. Support includes training, as well as inputs such as better seeds and tools, as well as fruit trees and training in animal traction. Irrigated vegetable production is dramatically increasing yields during the dry season and livestock production is being increased, including small livestock such as chickens that offer a quick financial or nutritional return. In addition to production assistance, the initiative is working with producers and community groups to improve the value chain for food products through better processing, storage and marketing. It is improving support systems for small farmers and fishers by training agriculture extension workers and community animal health workers and coordinating farmers to engage in the planning and policy process at both county and the state levels.
The project will take place in two states – Warrap and Northern Bahr El Ghazal. They were chosen as project sites because of their relative stability, for their potential for substantial increases in agricultural production, and because they are among the most food insecure regions in the country. The two states already account for more than 25 per cent of the livestock in South Sudan. As well, the VSF consortium (VSF Germany, VSF Suisse) has extensive experience and infrastructure there and has long-standing relationships with local development partners.
Big Challenges, Great Potential
Working in South Sudan presents some dramatic challenges. It is a very poor country. It has endured decades of conflict, and as a result less than four per cent of the arable land is currently in production. Education and health indicators are among the lowest in the world, reflecting the impact of protracted conflict and limited provision of social services. Only 27 per cent of the adult population is literate and less than half of all primary school-aged children are in school (51% boys and 37% girls). Yet overcoming poverty is all about confronting difficult challenges. South Sudan has enormous agricultural potential, and it is a good fit for Veterinarians without Borders because in many areas of the country, livestock is incredibly important culturally, nutritionally and economically.
*VWB/VSF's work in South Sudan is undertaken with funding from the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.