FNS-REPRO has served as an eye-opener to farmers in Western Bahr El-Ghazal State.
This comes as the FNS-REPRO project has transformed the lives of farmers through increased local production to achieve sustainable lives, a development which has been made possible by the fall in both the economic shocks posed by inflation and the high exchange rate.
Currently, Farmers in Jur River County say they have enough millet, groundnuts, sorghum and sim sim as well as vegetables with the potential to supply other markets across the country which are accessible by road.
The former commissioner of Jur River County, Santino Manut Akec urged the Government of South Sudan to start buying local produce as opposed to buying from neighbouring countries. Manut believes that the food produced by farmers in Western Bahr El-Ghazal is standard and could reduce the costs of living across the country if the government and NGOs seize the opportunity by providing local farmers with tractors and other farm implements such as those for line planting.
“Under the trees here, we have our dollar. Come and take our dollars from here and take them to the banks in Juba. We have excess sorghum and groundnuts here and people go and buy these things from Kenya. The money you take to Kenya and spend on transport, bring it to us here,” Manut said in an exclusive interview.
He further urged the FAO should stop importing seeds for use across South Sudan but instead buy in Western Bahr El-Ghazal State. “Let FAO and other organizations stop buying seeds from outside the country. Let them come and buy from us. Let them come and assess our harvests in August or the end of July,” he added.
Wuol Akec, who is living with disability and is also one of the greatest farmers in Majak-alel boma, Marial-bai Payam said he had excess food in his house and only buys items to prepare soup. “We don’t buy food items from the market; the people only buy from us. Why should we buy yet we have sorghum in the house? We sell a bag at 65,000 SSP,” Wuol said. “Life is now good compared to the time I had been buying food items imported from neighbouring countries. Now, I only buy items to prepare soup. I have piled up excess sorghum and groundnuts in my house right now.”
Mimi Emilia Wanga, the Seeds Extension Assistant also said the seeds produced in Western Bahr El-Ghazal State were of high quality compared to the seeds UNFAO used to buy from neighbouring countries that did not germinate.
“Previously, we used to bring seeds from outside countries and those seeds used not to perform well. But with the coming of the FNS-REPRO, the seed production has increased, and the people are able to produce seeds in large quantities,” Mimi stated. “At least we don’t hear any complaint of seeds not germinating. With the coming of FNS-REPRO, it has really supported the seeds system of Western Bahr El-Ghazal.”
According to Mimi, the project that is about to end in September in Marial Bai Payam, has enabled farmers to continue producing and selling seeds and farm produce.
“There is market linkage which we have created for our seed producers. Even if we pull off, they will still be able to support themselves. That linkage will still facilitate the market for the seeds,” she explained. The project focal person in the state asserted that the project would not leave a loophole should it close in September as there is already a network of buyers from within as well as neighbouring states.
“We are not the only ones buying the seeds but we also have other NGOs coming in to buy the seeds. We have the NRC, they also buy, ACTED, they also buy the seeds. And also one of the strategies FNS-REPRO introduced is to link our seed producers with the seed companies,” she added. “We have some of the traders and some of the companies even within Western Bahr El-Ghazal who even come and buy from our seed producers. And also, some of the neighbouring states, they also come and purchase seeds from our seed producers.”
Mimi, however, argued that the inflation and currency exchange rates were advantageous to the farmers and therefore were not affecting the state. “They are also benefiting. As the price increases, they also increase their prices and they also benefit,” she added.
Regina Adau Dhol, whose life has also been transformed by the project, said their major challenge was the road to transport their farm produce to the markets in major towns within the state as well as neighbouring states.
“Have you seen my hands; they are bruised because of farming. We do not have tractors. The major challenge, however, is the condition of the roads to enable us to transport our farm produce. When cars are here, they get stuck along the way. We also do not have proper storage for our produce,” Adau said.
Speaking to the farmers in Majak-alel boma, Marial Bai Payam, the Head of FAO Field Office in Wau, Western Bahr El-Ghazal State, Muhammed Tafiqul Islam told farmers that the UNFAO, through the help of donors and partners, was preparing to construct a community store for the farmers in Marial Bai Payam, Jur River County.
“Now with World Bank, we are making two seed stores, one in Jur River, one in Wau but in Jur River, we propose in Majak-alel,” he explained. Islam pledged that he was coordinating with one of the vendors whom he said would be able to purchase seeds in large quantities any time this year.
The farmers start cultivating at the onset of rains in May or June so that their harvest is ready before October and November when floods occur, affecting their crops. As a result, they plant once in a year and depend on vegetable farming during the dry spell.