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Insecurity and conflict blight farming in South Sudan

JUBA - Conflict and violence mean just a small slice of South Sudan’s fertile lands are farmed -- even though the nation lacks food.

South Sudan’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Betty Achan Ogwaso (left) and Information Minister Benjamin Marial addressing the media on February 19, in Juba.
© The Niles | Robert Obetia

Insecurity is hampering South Sudan’s chances at improving its agriculture, the agriculture minister said.

Although South Sudan is larger than France, officials have estimated that just a fraction of its land is being cultivated, even though food shortages prevail in many places.

National Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Betty Achan Ogwaso said incidents including armed cattle rustling, inter and intra-communal conflict and militia groups’ activities continue to beset farming.

“In late 2012, about 40 percent of the population of South Sudan was moderately to severely food insecure.”
Betty Achan Ogwaso
The most insecure areas recorded a drop in productivity last year, she said, pointing to Unity, Upper Nile, Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria states which all saw agricultural output drop by more than a fifth.

In Northern Bahr el-Ghazel State and Warrap State, attackers target farmers working in their fields, adding to fear and reducing output. Khartoum, meanwhile, bombs farmers in Mayom, Renk and Wau, she said, which also affected farming in these states.

She added, that not only insecurity affects farming in the country, but there other factors, like, climatic conditions, pests and diseases which also affects farming in some places.

According to her all these factors combined cause famine, like witnessed recently in Kapoeta where ten people lost their lives.

Environmental conditions have also hurt production, in particular flooding which was widespread in Unity, Upper Nile, Jonglei, Warrap and Lakes states last August, water-logging crops.

Ogwaso said, the estimated area of cereal crops has increased by a quarter in 2012, compared to a year earlier. That reflects the agricultural activity of the population returning to South Sudan from Sudan post independence and also happened in response to high grain prices and includes areas where two crops are grown per year.

Hunger spreads in Payinjiar Countyby Bonifacio Taban | in SocietyCereal yields are also higher, she said. Net cereal production, after deduction of post-harvest losses and seeds use, is estimated to have increased by about 35% as compared to last year’s figure, from 563,000 tons in 2011 to 761,000 tones in 2012.

But the country still has an estimated cereal deficit of about 371,000 tonnes, she said.

She added, since the harvest in August and September 2012, prices of locally produced maize and sorghum have declined in most markets due to increasing supplies of newly harvested and diminished demand by households which could consume their own production.

“In late 2012, about 40 percent of the population of South Sudan was moderately to severely food insecure,” Ogwaso said.

A FSMS mapThose officially dubbed as severely food insecure, have remained stable over the past last three years at around ten percent. Those most at risk are those who are dependent on natural resources (especially charcoal production and firewood collection).

According to Denis Deng Chuol the director for Food Security Monitoring System (FSMS) said that South Sudan is likely to face food insecurity this year, due to ongoing political and communal conflicts.

Adusi Wongo, a farmer from Central Equatoria State said South Sudan farmers face many challenges in food production. These include, a lack of government support, no tools and farming machines.

Peter Baba, the director of a South Sudanese famers’ association urged the government to support farmers to enable them to produce more food, and reduce dependency on foreign imports.


The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or opinions of the publishers of www.theniles.org

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