By Paul Jimbo
Recent news that some 53,000 bags of sorghum have been stocked in Renk, Northern Upper Nile awaiting transportation and distribution to hunger -stricken communities was in itself good news in the humanitarian aid circles.
“We are having in stock quality of food in our store in Upper Nile. The food is available for transportation to areas where there is food shortage,” said Ruai Makuei Thiang’, the Managing Director of Agricultural Bank of South Sudan said.
More encouraging is that the consignment is part of the produce by local farmers.
Rual Makuei further confirmed that the grain in stress are stocked in two categories of 250,000 bags are awaiting transportation.
My reason for choosing the above topic is to delve in matters food security, the situation and where we should navigate to.
Food security is defined 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.
Many countries face different challenges 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 grim picture of the 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 and 2916 has been the major factor that has exacerbated the suffering of the people.
We are a very well-endowed country in arable land, yet our production is very low- largely due to old methods of farming.
These old and ancient 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.
Improvement on our agricultural structures is key to achieving food security; these include but not limited to facilitation of access to markets and price information. Government should adopt policy that promotes investment in agriculture.
Price policy, provision of access to fertilizers and agricultural credit access and this can be done through the existing Agricultural Bank, Tax breaks from importation of agricultural items and incentives through longer work permits.
The above policies should be incorporated in a well-designed program that should be inclusive of all stakeholders in the agricultural sector. It should be implemented with the desire of benefiting the small-scale farmer that make up the majority and also bring on board private sector players.
Adopting these policies will standardize and streamline the operations of the sector and therefore encourage investment in the agricultural industry.
Agricultural equipment dealers will be attracted, and this will signal mechanization of the farming process which will cut on the labor required.
It will also attract finance into the agricultural sector and create competition in the financial market and hence bring down the cost of capital for buying farm inputs. These policies will attract private sector investment throughout the entire value chain of the sector.
New improved agricultural technologies, inputs, digital tools and initiatives are making agriculture resilient, productive, and efficient.
To build thriving agribusiness, South Sudanese youth need to tap into these new technologies and digital tools. Thus, there is a market for innovation centers, vocational training centers and other institutions that are set up to train, support and meet the needs of African agripreneurs. Tens of youth graduate yearly with degrees and diplomas in agricultural studies.
Their skills and knowledge should be tapped by government to train and form institutes to teach modern agricultural practices. These graduates and skill already in the field is human capital that the government should not let go to waste.
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.
It is the duty of the government to see the potential of agriculture is realized in the country. Aweil rice scheme is one such project that the government through the concerned ministry and its partners should incubate and create a success story that the country should be proud of.
Many such projects can be replicated across the country that meets different needs of the country.
It is hard to dispute the economic leverage of agriculture for development and growth. It is therefore only wise to give food security a high priority political discussion. Agricultural revolutions take time but with the right attitude and country’s leadership it happens and these benefits are immense.