Aid agencies resolve to tackle food insecurity in South Sudan

Aid agencies resolve to tackle food insecurity in South Sudan
Maize stocks collected from a farm that was destroyed by floods in Longechuk County, Upper Nile (photo credit: Courtesy)

The World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have endorsed ways of improving food security within the country through an initiative dubbed “Ignite Food Systems Challenge”.

With the support from the USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), WFP and UNDP have called for new ideas to end hunger, improve food security and strengthen food systems.

The Ignite Food Systems Challenge that will be applied for online will support South Sudanese entrepreneurs. The youth are required to pitch their businesses for financial and technical support through the challenge.

World Food Program (WFP)’s Program Director, Mathew Hollingworth, said the program would deal with some of the economic challenges the country is facing.

“This program looks at dealing with one of the greatest challenges South Sudan has. This country does not grow sufficient food to meet its own need,” he said.

“And yet, it has its enormous potential you have heard us talking about so many times before. But there is another potential that this country has and that it the youth.”

Hollingworth said they wanted to invest in the youth to improve the ability of the country to feed itself.

He added that the project would be launched today and it would be a 12-month project cycle. He called on applicants to submit the applications immediately once the program is launched.

The applications are said to be submitted online by entrepreneurs as they pitch their business ideas and the best 8-10 pitches will be identified and those are the ones that will be supported.

However, Hollingworth said they were ready to provide means to those who did not have internet access to make the presentation.

The initiative                                           

Food systems include food production through farming, food transformation which involves transport, storage and handling, processing and wholesaling and retailing.

The third process involves purchasing and utilisation and dispatch to consumers.

The funding is said to be worth $40,000 aimed at boosting the already functional business. The applicant should be between 18 and 35 years old and should have an annual income of $ 5000 in the previous year.

Food insecure

In June 2021, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Program (WFP) published a report stating that cereal production in South Sudan in 2020 rose by seven per cent compared to 2019 due to adequate rainfall.

But cereal production was said to be affected by prolonged conflict and floods in South Sudan by 2021 since most of the crops have been affected and millions left food insecure.

Cereal production in 2020 was estimated to be 874,400 metric tons which were seven per cent higher than 818,500 metric tons which was the production in 2019.

In 2021, it is estimated that 465,600 metric tons will be produced as food insecurity remains high with 1.3 million metric tons needed to feed the 12.2 million population.

Among the states that reported having high cereal deficit included Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states. Central Equatoria was said to be producing enough cereals to be purchased by FAO and WFP to feed the other nine states.

“The marginal gains in cereal production show that where there is peace and stability, the people of South Sudan can turn the page on hunger,” said Hollingworth.

“But in a country still battered by years of war and the ravages of climate change, modest improvements are far from enough to end food insecurity, which is the highest ever.

 “Disrupted livelihoods, heavy losses in livestock and other assets and high food prices are pushing the average family deeper into poverty and hunger,” he added.

“This growth is encouraging, but lasting peace is the precondition to enable communities to benefit from South Sudan’s fertile soils, produce their food and exit from humanitarian aid,” said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative to South Sudan.

“Our priority is to unleash South Sudan’s potential, increase crop production, and to allow communities to contribute to the expansion of the planted areas.”

There is an estimated 7.2 million population in dire need of food security which is estimated at 60 per cent of the country’s population.

Most of the vulnerable population including women, children and the elderly were assisted by WFP in 2020 through food assistance, cash transfer among others.

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 2021 has planned to assist 700,000 population which solely depends on farming, among other sources of livelihood.

FAO had 35 implementing partners that help in the distribution of crop and vegetable seeds, hand tools and fishing kits for improving livelihoods in counties.

Meanwhile, World Food Programme (WFP) is the Nobel Peace Laureate 2020.