EMULATE GREEN HORIZON
By Paul Jimbo
South Sudan is one of the few countries in the Sub-Saharan African that is blessed with huge chunks of fertile land.
However, different reasons including security, floods, droughts and conflict continue conspiring to deny the world’s youngest nation the chance to feed its population.
As a veteran journalist, I have had some rare opportunities to traverse the country far and wide and my experience cannot be completely covered in this commentary.
All I can report about is that South Sudan has the full potential to feed its population. In fact if the above concerns were to be fixed then, the entire East African region can look up to South Sudan for food.
This country has huge swaths of arable land that if properly put into agricultural use, can have surplus to export to its neighbours.
It has all sorts of ecological zones that favour different types of crops.
The benefits of being food secure are very important for our country. First and foremost, a strong agricultural sector will help in addressing the issue of unemployment. Direct and in-direct jobs can be created and many young people can have a career in the agricultural sector. Secondly it will help the country in maintaining a healthy balance of payment.
We spend so much money on importing food which is facilitated by hard currencies. That hard currency can then go into healthcare, education or infrastructure investments.
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), defines food security as when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preference for an active and healthy life.
We face many challenges as a country but none dire than the threat of food insecurity. One in every three people in this country is considered severely food insecure.
The statistics paint a very serious situation. There are many factors that have hindered the realization of food security but the subsequent violence that followed the outbreak of war in 2013 has been the major factor that has exacerbated the suffering of the people.
These old ways make agriculture tedious, labor intensive, a risky business, unrewarding, and unproductive. Better cultivation and management methods are required.
We need to harness and exploit technology to transform our subsistence way of farming in order to increase yields. Consequently, food security will be improved.
Recently, fourth year students at University of Juba’s School of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies had a rare chance to visit a model farm that engages in local food production.
The students were taken on a field trip to Green Horizon farm located beyond Bilpham Military Headquarters.
To them it was a rare opportunity to understand the real practical aspect of what they had been taught but the bigger picture of the field visit was to show case the country’s huge potential to embrace mechanized farming in food production.
I met a section of the students and true to their words, they came face to face with experiences they would live to wrote about.
Green Horizon’s is a model farm that purely and solely seeks to produce adequate food to feed the people of South Sudan.
The firm works very closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and that explains how the university students had the opportunity to visit the farm to have a first-hand experience of what it takes to produce all sorts of horticultural crops.
The students were taken around the 100-acre farm by agricultural experts and were showed some of the latest state of the art and advanced types of farm machinery.
These include combine harvesters, seed drillers and planters. In fact some students confessed they had never even seen how sukuma wiki (kale) vegetable looks like but had the rare opportunity to do so at Green Horizon farm.
It feels good to realise that some of the bananas and vegetables we buy in our local markets are from the Green Horizon farms.
The government should continue working closely with partners in the agricultural sector to boost food production.
Furthermore, giant firms like Green Horizon, have what it takes to convert large hectares of land into more meaningful use.
The firm has the capacity to operate more model farms across the country and this depends on the security situation.
The government should continue encouraging more mechanized farming through provision of incentives including waivers on duty and taxes paid on agricultural and farm implements and equipment.