By Moses Gum
Hungry families in South Sudan said they were unable to meet their dietary need as most of them have remained on the run for long time.
“Before the conflict, life was good and we could eat amply. We could eat breakfast and dinner before being displaced, but now we go for days sometime without food. My children cry always because they are hungry” said Dora Yangi.
Dora Yangi 42, a mother of six children who hailed from Amadi state and was among those displaced said she was not getting support with her kids.
She said before they left their home, they were able to do some domestic work like growing vegetables and other subsistence crop.
“We have been growing food crops such as fast maturing vegetables to increase families’ access to nutritious foods and bridge the food gap. But now no way to support my family, I only rely on relief food from China” Yangi said.
The 42-year-old mother thanked the Chinese government for having supported her and the children with food and sleeping materials.
Mary Adit, 23 from Wau state said the conflict had destroyed the livelihood as they remained vulnerable to anything.
“I have really felt the pain of this war. Like now I don’t have money to go and buy food and clothes in the market. This is very unfortunate to suffer like this in my own country”, she said.
She said as war escalates to rural areas she had to run from the village to the church compound.
“As I came with my mother, we first slept in an open space under a tree. We spent two weeks without tent and mosquito net”, she said. .
She said those families staying in camps and in church compounds were really suffering and crying for peace to come.
“People in South Sudan are really suffering and are crying for peace. If humanitarian partners could see us now they would feel sorry because no human beings should live like the way we are,” Adit expressed.
In conflict affected states people are facing emergencies of food insecurity, which was almost a step to famine on the international scale of hunger crises.
The degree of malnutrition is repeated many times over in other communities because fighting had destroyed livings and constrained aid agencies to deliver relief food.
Adit said she remained grateful to government of China for having donated sleeping tents and mosquito nets days after they faced harsh conditions.
“I am extremely happy when government give us some rice and sleeping tents written in China language. This rice helped us and made us very strong. We were able to sleep in good place. So we are very happy”, she expressed.
She called on the government to continue ties with China because of their effort in saving lives.
Across South Sudan, the number of people experiencing severe food insecurity is estimated at 4.8 million. The situation was projected to deteriorate from the beginning of this year and the ‘hungry season’ – when households run out of food before the next harvest – .
Food and Agriculture Organization and the government is focusing on strengthening food security by improving livelihood. An Initiative has already been taken by FAO to provide fishing, crop- and vegetable-growing kits to more than 4.2 million people, many in difficult to reach or conflict-affected areas, to support them to grow or catch their own food.
Some local citizens complained that the donated rice by the China government is fake and tasteless, a statement rejected by Beijing and Juba.
Angayita John one of the residents of Rock City in Juba described the China’s rice as “fake and plastic like” which does not have good taste”.
“I am among those who got the rice donated by China. I received a bag of 50 Kg. I was so happy with China people”.
Angayita described the rice tasting like a plastic when already cooked and chewed and had no good flavour.
The rice was not good because it is tasteless and did not have good flavour like other rice”, she said.
She also said though the rice was not satisfying the household needs; still it came to the help of most families.
“If it is not because of this China rice, I would have not lived with my children. We were starving but now we are free and strong”.
Angayita thanked the China Government for their support urging them for helping those who were helpless.
China Ambassador He Xiangdong announced that the donation was “given in kind and in good heart” and that it was real and original rice meant to help people of South Sudan.
The former chairperson of the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission Martha Nyamal condemned the alleged reports of fake rice said by some locals.
“I want to tell the public that the rice donated by China is not fake, it is very good with high quality. No need for the government of Peoples of China to donate fake rice. This is a lie and the government condemn it in strongest term possible”, Nyamal said.
She said China as true friend gave the donation to people in need and had no any intention to feed the public with fake food.
Last year there were reports of alleged looting of China’s donated items at Warehouse in Juba.
Local South Sudanese business people selling agriculture produce Konyokonyo Market in Juba.
Despite worsening security situation in the country, local citizens struggle to grow some subsistence crops for consumption and for market.
The agricultural sector has more potentials than the much non-existent oil, gas and minerals. However, agriculture has not received the deserved attention from both locals and foreign investors.
According to the World Bank, South Sudan has 80 percent arable land and with River Nile figuring much economic activity where many local use to grow most crops.
Dominic Doki, a local farmer in Juba said he faced challenge of producing enough crops for market due to numerous factors facing his work.
“As we all know, our country is rich in soil. We have high potential for agriculture. If all practice farming then there would be no complain of food shortage”, he said.
In South Sudan, people rely on rain fed farming with only few practicing irrigation during dry periods. Irrigation was practiced by small scale farmers who grow vegetables”, Doki said.
He said many local famers faced challenges in producing enough food due to poor harvest, pests, flood and drought.
Doki said that they often risk transporting their agriculture produces to the market due to insecurity and lack of feeder roads.
“As farmers in rural areas, our problems are very many. One can cultivate more hectares, sometimes due to climatic change, rain may stop or flooding may occur before harvest hindering some yield of crops and led to complete failure”.
“In this situation you cannot do anything”. “Other prevailing factors include lack of storage, electricity and access to marketing opportunities”, Mr. Doki further explained.
He cited insecurity and late climatic change as additional impediments in South Sudan.
Mr. Doki said that he regretted because the conflict made them not to produce enough food due to inaccessibility to farming lands.
A fruit vendor at Konyokonyo market who identified herself as Monica Iguele said as local retail seller her business was not growing because there was limited supply of produce from farmers.
“Our businesses have been good but this year we are not getting any profit. So we are confused what to do next. Local farmers to sell to us at very expensive price and if we give out no profit forth coming”, she complained.
She said as a merchant, she was looking after farmers to produce enough food for local household.
“We are encouraging farmers to produce more crops if they can in order for us to buy at cheaper prices. What these farmers produce here along the Nile here is very important”, Mrs. Iguele added.
She said improving security and promoting agriculture would help people stop depending on foreign donations and avoid importing food commodities from the region.
Farmer display her agriculture produce in Yambio Mr. Onyoti Adiego, Agriculture Minister
To reduce and minimize the risk of famine and dreadful conditions, the government of through the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Organization launched a food security campaign to encourage farmers to return to their fields for the main planting season.
The campaign launched on 4th April, 2018 in Yambio, Gbudwe state involved the use of media to increase awareness of the critical nature of the planting season, and introduce new measures to stimulate farmers to increase their farming activities.
“It is only through agriculture that we can come out of all these sufferings. Our economy has worsened; food items are so expensive in the market. This is simply because people are not serious to cultivate,” said Onyoti Adigo, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security.
Onyoti said the campaign would also be extended to other former ten states as the way of heartening local farmers to boost agriculture in the country.
He stressed the need for war to stop and engage in agriculture as the only means of eradicating poverty.
Minister Onyoti said agricultural sector still had a long way to go to realize its full potential despite unwavering conditions and believed food security would improve and people’s lives would change if the conflict stops.
FAO’s country Deputy Representative Mr. Pierre Vauthier said Food and Agriculture Organization would continue to stand ready to help and support farmers during agriculture season.
“As, we launch this campaign, our target is to win a battle of fighting food insecurity. If all of us participate in farming our agricultural production will increase in the country.”
Mr. Vauthier called on farmers to plant their crops early so that they could be able to harvest their crops during the lean season.
Since December 2013, China has been continuously providing both regular and emergency humanitarian assistance to South Sudan.
South Sudan, which gained its independence in 2011 after two decades of war, is one of the land-locked East African countries. It has a total population of 12 million.