The country is at the bottom of the Human Development Index (HDI) at 186 out of 189 countries. Out of 11.2 million population- (estimated by Worldometer, 2020) about 85% are involved in agriculture and 65% owns cattle. The formation of the unity government on 22nd February 2020 paves the way for the reintegration of 1.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and 2.2 million refugees. The prolonged conflicts on ethnic lines eroded trust and community mechanisms in addressing conflict and in promoting peace.
South Sudan is one of the three most-food insecure countries despite its favourable conditions (good rainfall, perennial rivers, fertile lands, etc.) for agriculture. Currently less than 5% of the total land area of the country is under cultivation. The farming communities lack the skills and knowledge to produce more food. Majority of farmers are not aware of improved agriculture practices.
In 2012 SDMIC launched its development programs focusing on rebuilding the post-conflict affected communities by enabling household food security and in nurturing peace. SDMIC operates development program in Juba, Yirol, Wau and Malakal areas. Despite various challenges and threats, SDMIC is continuing its development initiatives with the commitment to bring lasting changes in the lives of people.
Helping people to help themselves
SDMIC believes in the community empowerment process. Facilitation enables the local community to make decisions and act on those decisions. It is more worthwhile to teach someone to do something (for themselves) than to do it for them (on an ongoing basis) “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
Knowing the community and actively listening to their rich experiences and respecting the diverse viewpoints are fundamental ingredients to engage and facilitating change. Regular training, discourses and consistent engagement contribute to change in mind-set and openness for the new learning. The help starts from the present situation of the community, the facilitator sees the community situation without any judgement and without imposing upon his/her ideas. Ensure all processes at the community level nurture community towards independent functioning.
SDMIC over the last nine years enables in promoting community institutions – farmers associations at all the food security program villages in order to empower them to address their problem. The guiding principles SDMIC follows in promoting community institution are the following:
- Participants and communities move from dependency to self-sufficiency.
- Participants and communities define their problem and state the change they want for themselves and their community.
- Community managed institutions continue to provide services beyond project term.
- Engage with the government and international organizations for scaling – up of successful development models for wider impact.
Coming together to solve problem and learn
Bringing farmers together at each village help them to find a long-term solution to their problem tremendously. SDMIC facilitates farmers to form farmer’s associations at 20 villages. They come together to discuss agriculture issues, learn sustainable farming methods and resolve community conflicts. Besides they commenced saving and lending practices.
So far, 182 farmers’ associations are formed. These associations have 5,543 members with 3,054 females and 2,489 males. Each farmers’ association has the structure- having a chairperson, deputy chairperson, secretary, deputy secretary, one treasurer, and one box keeper. In the leadership structure, women represent 60 % and men 40%.
Farmers associations members represent different ethnic groups. By bringing diverse ethnic members SDMIC nurture peace and help members to understand and accept diversity. The farmers’ association platform also helps them to resolve conflicts between farmers and pastoralist communities and nurture peaceful coexistence.
Increase production and facilitate self-sufficiency
Short and long term training for farmers on sustainable farming methods enabled them to adopt new farming techniques. Farmers associations through continuous negotiation with village chiefs were able to obtain 2,954 feddens of land for cultivation. Agriculture inputs – quality seeds, tools and tractors helped them to expand the cultivation areas and increase production and ensured 5543 households food security. The training and agriculture demo sites facilitated farmers to learn and adopt the best farming techniques in their field. House backyard vegetable cultivation and planting of fruit saplings improved their household nutritional security.
Farmers are able to market the surplus – crops, vegetables and fruits in the local market and SDMIC promoted community market outlets in the Juba town. Now they are able to spend money for their children’s education and in meeting the health needs of their family members.
The joint effort with various key stakeholders facilitated lasting change in the lives of marginalized farmers. Durable peace is nurtured by enrolling members in the farmers’ association from a different tribe. Through our efforts, we are able to enhance the self-esteem of farmers and they are not only able to have food all throughout the year but also able to expand in supporting other smallholder farmers by replicating this model in their neighbouring villages. As this movement keep expanding this would decrease the country dependency on importing food items from the neighbouring countries and depending on international aid organizations.
Human Development Report 2019