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Small Farmers In South Sudan Take Bold Step Into Markets

One of the least developed regions on Earth, South Sudan is a tough place for small farmers to get ahead. But a few of them, like corn growers Paul and Angelo, have made the leap into commercial farming with the help of the Purchase-for-Progress pilot programme which works to help connect farmers to markets.

JUBA—Like most members of the Nzara Agricultural Farmer Association (NAFA), Paul and Angelo’s transformation into successful commercial farmers didn’t happen overnight.

As participants in WFP’s "Purchase for Progress" (P4P) programme, which helps to link farmers with markets, Paul and Angelo had a lot to learn about modern methods of storage and quality control. They had to start using bags and tarpaulins to dry and pack their corn, and learn to keep it safe from rot and rodents.

Purchase for Progress

P4P is a five-year pilot project launched in 21 countries.  By raising farmers’ incomes, P4P turns WFP’s local procurement into a vital tool to address hunger. Learn more 

It also took courage. Paul and Angelo live in an area also frequented by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a paramilitary group known for terrorizing small villages throughout central Africa.

But their hard work paid off when, after the first shipment, Paul and Angelo returned from WFP’s offices in Juba with $49,000 to distribute among their fellow farmers.

A running start

Purchase for Progress is a pilot project launched in 2008 with the goal of buying food from a total 500,000 small farmers in the very countries where WFP feeds hungry people.

As part of the initiative, WFP and its partners help small farmers grow more and higher quality food in order to buy it from them at a fair price. This gives them an economic boost while helping to make them players in local markets that can sustain them in the long-term.

The programme also has a number of benefits for WFP. South Sudan is a landlocked area roughly the size of France, but with extremely poor roads. Shipping large amounts of food is difficult and expensive.

While hugely beneficial, that makes the P4P programme in South Sudan one of the most challenging to date. Poor roads and infrastructure are compounded by a daunting security situation and a lack of important institutions, like banks, that would help to support the economy.

Something as simple as cashing a check in Southern Sudan can be a complicated, time-consuming ordeal.

Looking forward

But at least in the case of the pilots first graduates, the hurdles were overcome. At the time of WFP's first payment to NAFA, some 130 metric tons had already been delivered with another 120 tons set to depart for WFP warehouses. With the maize, WFP was able to feed Congolese and Central African refugees fleeing into South Sudan to escape attacks by LRA rebels.

The money earned by NAFA members is expected to go some way  to convincing other farmers in the region to join the program next year.