Nelly Bassily | February 27, 2012
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization recently reported on actions it is taking to help people in conflict-affected areas of South Sudan to feed themselves and rebuild their lives.
In the state of Jonglei, and throughout South Sudan, poor harvests, increased demand, rising prices, conflict, and internal displacement have produced a shortfall in cereal production. It is estimated that the country will produce only half of the cereal it needs for domestic consumption in 2012.
The UN agency, also known as FAO, plans to distribute livestock vaccines and antibiotics to prevent the spread of animal diseases. The organization hopes to treat up to 100,000 animals over a one month period.
The supplies will be administered by networks of veterinarians and Community Animal Health Workers, an approach which ensures that animal health care reaches even the most remote villages. FAO aims to deliver as much assistance as possible in the two to three months before the rainy season starts and the roads become impassable.
South Sudan is the sixth largest cattle economy in Africa, and livestock are the country’s number one source of food and livelihood.
Nimaya Mogga is a Livestock Officer for FAO. He says, “These people are pastoralists, or herders. These cattle are their livelihood. Without them, they have nothing.” This is especially true in Jonglei, where the economy and culture are based on cattle ownership.
Mr. Mogga continues, “Cattle are seen as wealth in South Sudan. During lean periods, they’re sold or exchanged for food. The sale of one cow alone can buy a family three months’ worth of grain.”
Many of those fleeing from conflict took refuge in the town of Boma. Residents have taken in many of the displaced people. But their stock of staples such as sorghum and maize are running low, and they will need assistance.
It is the dry season and there are no crops in the fields. But a river near the town has sparked some hope.
Michael Oyat is FAO’s Deputy Emergency Coordinator in South Sudan. He explains, “The River Chelimon is about two hours walk away from Boma. It’s believed the displaced people could access it to fish.” But, he adds, they lack the tools for fishing.
In response, FAO is planning to provide 20,000 pieces of fishing gear to Boma and two other towns affected by the recent conflicts. FAO is also helping local communities to plant vegetable gardens along river banks, and is providing tools and seeds.
At the national government’s request, FAO is also preparing a cash-for-work program. The program will provide families with money to buy food locally.
Longer-term recovery strategies are also being pursued. FAO is developing water-harvesting structures to provide water for livestock and human use. It also plans to improve agricultural service delivery through approaches such as Farmer and Pastoralist Field Schools.
Etienne Peterschmitt is FAO’s Senior Planning and Programming Officer in South Sudan. He says, “It’s essential we move quickly in Jonglei. The sooner we move to support this vulnerable population, the sooner they can help themselves.”