Empowering lives: one person at a time in South Sudan

How the World Food Programme is using food to transform lives in South Sudan

Tomson Phiri
Nov 20, 2018 · 5 min read
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Participants in WFP’s Food Assistance for Assets (FFA) programme harvest groundnuts at their community farm in Kuac South, Warrap State. Photo: WFP/Gabriela Vivacqua

Every day is about finding enough food just to survive in South Sudan. Paid work is hard to find. Most people struggle just to live from hand to mouth.

But in parts free of conflict across the 18th largest country in Africa, hundreds of thousands of people are building better futures for their communities.

The World Food Programme’s Food Assistance for Assets (FFA) programme — a partnership with non-governmental organizations and the Government of South Sudan — provides food for work, giving once poor and hungry communities real opportunities to take their first steps out of the hunger trap.

In Food Assistance for Assets, members of a community who are physically able to work but food insecure, are provided with food assistance by WFP to help build or rehabilitate infrastructure to increase their families’ food security.

Projects include crop farms, vegetable gardens, community access roads and fish ponds. Community members select the assets through a planning process in which priorities are identified and action plans are developed. WFP gives tools and other items as required and training wherever possible.

Here are four inspiring women and keen FFA participants you should meet:

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Akon Majok smiles as she shows groundnuts she just harvested from her ‘feddan’ — a plot in Kuac South, Warrap State. Photo: WFP/Gabriela Vivacqua

Akon Majok is a 43-year-old proud mother, farmer and one of the many enthusiastic participants in Food Assistance for Assets. She was born and raised in Kuac South, Warrap state where she lives with her seven children.

She has participated in the programme for three years as a member of a farm growing sorghum and groundnuts. Although she will soon make way for others, she declares that the seeds planted during her training will remain with her forever.

“Now I have skills, no one can take that from me!” she says.

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Alice Matembu works on the Yabua-Ngindo road as part of the community access road rehabilitation project in Nzara County, Yambio. Photo: WFP/Gabriela Vivacqua

Alice Matembu is a 45-year-old widowed mother, grandmother and smallholder farmer from Nzara county, Yambio — near South Sudan’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With others, she has been working on opening and rehabilitating access roads as part of FFA.

“Before we had to use the main road to access Nzara, taking us long to get there,” says Alice. “We have been working on this short-cut road rehabilitation and now we are able to move around easily. Even ambulances use this road now and are reaching the hospital faster. This project is changing our lives!”

The road connects Yambio and Nzara counties, improving community access to markets, health centres and other services, such as banks. Participants receive the equivalent of US$40.50 in local currency for 15 days of work.

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A stretch of the Ngindo-Nzara road that Alice and fellow community members are rehabilitating as part of Food Assistance for Assets in Nzara county. Photo: WFP/Gabriela Vivacqua

“Improved access for smallholder farmers to markets means they can reliably sell more produce at higher prices, encouraging farmers to invest in their own businesses and increase the quantity, quality and diversity of the goods they produce,” says Adnan Khan, WFP’s Country Director. “Strong links to markets for poor rural producers are essential to increasing agricultural production, generating economic growth in rural areas and reducing hunger and poverty.”

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Cecilia Gunyake and her 3-month-old son Robert, stand in front of an aquaculture project she leads in Nzara county. Photo: WFP/Gabriela Vivacqua

“Before this pool was built the area was just bush.” says Cecilia. “We have worked hard clearing the site, then excavating, fertilizing the pool and bringing water from the Nagbaka river. Now we have fish. We can eat and sell the surplus at the local market. I even bought a bed.”

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Members of the Nagbaka Fish Framing project harvesting fish. Photo: WFP/Gabriela Vivacqua
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Ayen Kon Madur stands in front of her thriving garden after receiving training as part of Food Assistance for Assets. Photo: WFP/Gabriela Vivacqua

Ayen Kon Madur, 40, loves taking part in FFA in Kuac South, Warrap State.

“The programme changed my life. I don’t need to forage wild fruits any more, I have the food I receive from WFP and the food from the vegetable garden,” she says.

Ayen is using the new skills she acquired to improve her own family garden, which is now overflowing with a variety of vegetables and other crops.

“After I graduate from the programme, I will keep using the skills I have learnt to continue with the vegetable garden and generate some income,” she says.

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An FFA participant picks vegetables at her farm in Yambio. She says that her crop yield increased following her training. Photo/Gabriela Vivacqua

Enabling environment

Despite fighting and insecurity in many parts of South Sudan, some places are stable and give WFP opportunities to work with communities to rebuild sustainable livelihoods. Combining conditional food or cash assistance with training and asset creation helps hungry families to manage to shift away from relying on humanitarian assistance, and to start supporting themselves.

New skills need funding

WFP financial literacy training in places where families receive cash-based transfers means that participants learn basic numeracy and best practices of financial decision-making such as saving, lending and credit. The training also passes on messages on the prevention and reporting of gender-based violence.

With support from Canada, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom, WFP helped nearly 600,000 people in South Sudan with Food Assistance for Assets in 2018. With enough donor support, WFP plans to increase that number to 650,000 in 2019.

Find out more about WFP in South Sudan

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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