Aweil – During decades of conflict in South Sudan, food assistance provided a vital lifeline to people affected by the fighting. Now, the government of the newly independent country has set its sight on attaining food self-sufficiency.
Groups of farmers backed by WFP, South Sudan’s ministry of agriculture and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are helping make this a reality through community-based projects.
In the little village of War Adhot in Aweil county of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, women and men sing as they weed out grass that may hinder the growth of their sprouting plants of sorghum, maize and groundnuts.
These farmers are looking forward to a bountiful harvest. They expect to produce 540 metric tons of food which should cover about six months of cereal requirements for 3,500 beneficiaries in the surrounding communities. These crops will help break the cycle of hunger and reduce the need for food hand-outs.
WFP is providing their community with 243 metric tons of food assistance and training to tend to their crops until the end of the year as an incentive to help develop skills and encourage longer-term food security.
It is part of the WFP strategy in South Sudan aimed at assisting South Sudan in moving away from food aid dependency towards food security and self-sustainability. Through these Food-for-Assets projects, which started in April this year, WFP plans to assist 867,000 severely and moderately food insecure people in the country. That is nearly a third of the total number of people WFP aims to reach in 2012, and the goal for the future is to expand this approach.
The harvest from the War Adhot project will feed the farmers’ families, as well as provide seeds for the next season's planting and a surplus for sale. The project is improving food security and livelihoods in a part of one of South Sudan’s most food insecure states.
A deputy in Aweil
On a recent visit to War Adhot, WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said projects like this “can help turn South Sudan into a country that can not only feed itself, it can feed the world.”
“We thank WFP 10,000 times for the help,” said Elisabeth Aduk, the head of the community-based organization that initiated the project.
Aduk urged WFP to continue supporting schemes to improve food production across South Sudan, promising to rally more people (especially women) to participate in such schemes to increase self-reliance. Aduk, the only woman leading a community based organization in the state, started the community farm project with just 30 people in 2010 . In just two years, it has grown to 500 farmers.
“You will be the executive director of WFP there (in Rome) and I will be your deputy here (in Aweil),” Aduk told Cousin.