Juba - Agricultural agencies face enormous challenges in their efforts to promote agriculture and boost food security in South Sudan, ranging from lack of seeds, traning and research to high labour cost and poor roads.
The Government’s capacity to provide agricultural services is very weak, says Josph Okidi, the programme officer for the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).
“Without these services, farmers lack vital information to improve their production,” he notes.
Poor infrastructure is another obstacle, making some areas which could produce surplus food unable to access the markets.
“Areas like Akobo and Pochala in Jonglei are completely inaccessible by road” Okidi says.
In addition, he says, the labour cost in South Sudan is very high. As a result, goods from Uganda are cheaper than what is produced locally.
He also cites the unavailability of seeds and agricultural inputs on the local market, creating a lot of reliance on NGOs.
The lack of a local research centre where new breeds and varieties can be tried out is another obstacle.
The ‘Green Revolution’ in Asia in the 1970s multiplied crop yields largely through the introduction of new seed types and fertilisers.
“Most agricultural inputs come from outside and are not tested locally. There is need to establish a research station to test varieties and advise farmers on how to improve their yields,” says Okidi.
Instability and perennial conflicts also affect agriculture in many parts of the country, he notes.
Nevertheless, the FAO programme coordinator sees remarkable progress in local food production.
“We are reducing our emergency programme as people open up more land for agriculture and farmers produce more food” says Okidi.
FAO only delivered emergency food aid to six of the ten states this year.
The biggest emergencies were in Jonglei, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile, Warrap, Lakes and Unity, where the organisation targeted 63,000 households with 900 metric tons of assorted crops.
Okidi says they normally get funding to the tune of $ 5 million to $10 million a year. This year, however, they expect to get US$ 15 million, which will enable them to do more.
FAO has been offering various agricultural activities to farmers in South Sudan, ranging from support to crop production, fisheries, irrigation, providing vaccines for livestock and giving processing mills to farmers groups.
Obstacles to boosting food production
- Weak agricultural services
- Poor roads
- Lack of irrigation schemes
- High labour cost
- Unavailability of seeds and other inputs
- Lack of local research centre
- Instability and conflict
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Friday, 7 September 2012