The Republic of South Sudan faces the dual challenge of dealing with the effects of more than 50 years of conflict (compounded by recurrent civil strife) and huge development needs. Formal institutions are being built from scratch and the capacity of the government is constrained.
With the independence, thousands of South Sudanese returned to their homes with the hope and determination to re-build their country. Those hopes were put to the test ever since 2013 Yet despite initial set backs, returnees continued to exhibit hope, determination and resilience. The political fallout and the ensuing civil conflict in South Sudan in December 2013 changed the landscape completely and left behind shattered hopes of independence. Only through 2014 and 2015, concerted efforts locally and internationally saw the country embark in an all inclusive peace process. The negotiations gave way to a transitional government formation ushering new hopes to the people of South Sudan.
The violence in July 2016 turned a staggering 1.3 million citizens into refugees in addition to the 1.8 million internally displaced, pushing humanitarian needs to an all time high with a projected 5.1 million people in need of food assistance. Despite all these constraints, VSFG continued its programmatic operations in different locations across the country. The locations include the Greater Bahr el Ghazal ‘GBG’ (Lakes, Warrap and Western Bahr el Ghazal), Greater Upper Nile States ‘GUN’ (Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity), and Pibor.
Like most people in South Sudan, the residents of the Greater Bahr el Ghazal region have lost many livelihood assets due to recurrent conflicts and other disasters like floods and long dry spells. On the other hand, market traders continue to scale down their food supply chains. This is due to high operation costs and runaway inflation fuelled by insecurity in a region where locals have limited or no access to affordable quality farm inputs as well as modern farming technologies. This has resulted in low agriculture production, crop failure, long hunger gaps and chronic food insecurity.
During 2016, VSFG supported local farmers (IDPS, returnees and host communities) and other actors to improve food production. One approach focused on dry season vegetable growing technologies with two goals in mind:
To this end, VSFG mobilized various groups of women into vegetable growing associations and equipped them with basic skills, tools and farm inputs such as spades, hoes, wheelbarrows, and watering cans. A good example is the Tit Achor Vegetables Group in Kuac North, Gogrial West. The group started with just five members, all of which were women, to work together on food security and other activities that would improve livelihoods. Top on their minds was the burning need to make income from farming and reduce dependence on their husbands for financial support in meeting basic needs. Initially when the group started it was just focused on growing staple crops like sorghum.
However, when VSF Germany saw their zeal, determination and potential we decided to further support them by giving them essential tools. We also trained them on basic crop best practices covering crops of interest such as cow peas, tomatoes and okra amongst other local vegetables.
Whether it is during the rainy season or dry season our gardens are always safe. We are the main suppliers of vegetables in the local market. Before VSFG our yields were low because we weren’t aware of planting practices that we could use to maximize harvests.“
Adena Majok, group member