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The African Development Bank (AfDB) grants South Sudan $14 million to boost agriculture. Photo AFP

 

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has signed an agreement with South Sudan to give Juba a $14 million grant to boost agriculture.

According to a statement seen by The EastAfrican, The Agricultural Markets, Value Addition and Trade Development five-year project which aims to enhance agricultural productivity will be implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in close liaison with South Sudan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

“The project will help increase productivity and incomes of almost 20,000 farming families in Central and Eastern Equatoria and Jonglei states, most of whom are formerly internally displaced persons who have now returned to their homes.

“The project will create aggregation business opportunities for farmers and traders, including women and youth, and provide them with new skills and the agro-processing equipment they need to produce competitive products. Farmer groups joining the aggregation centres will have their products not only tested and quality certified, but also traded with the private sector on their behalf,” the statement says.

Speaking during the signing ceremony in Juba on Wednesday, South Sudan’s Minister of Finance and Planning Athian Ding Athian praised AfDB for the great support granted.

“A diversified economy away from oil and long-term growth depends on promoting agribusiness development.

“With the support from our partners, we are building an improved marketing and trade environment for agribusinesses, increasing people’s incomes and creating new jobs, particularly for the youth,” he said.

AfDB South Sudan Country Manager, Benedict Kanu, said, “a key factor explaining Africa’s and indeed South Sudan’s low level of agricultural value addition is the inefficient marketing infrastructure. This prevents farmers and processors from realising the full value of their produce, even in their raw form.”

South Sudan has considerable unrealised agricultural potential, but the effects of continued violence combined with unprecedented flooding have seriously damaged food production, resulting in a huge food import bill, according to AfDB.

“Thanks to this generous contribution from the African Development Bank, farmers will move faster from subsistence to commercial agriculture by having access to new technologies, markets and linkages with other services and actors,” said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan.

Despite the country’s agricultural potential and 78 percent of the population employed in agriculture, the sector contributes only one-tenth of the GDP of South Sudan.

The country’s agricultural products struggle to find their way into international markets due partly to the lack of adequate food quality controls, according to reports.

In January 2020, President Salva Kiir said he was banking on oil money to revive South Sudan’s stalled agriculture and save its population from perennial dependence on food imports and relief supplies.

The plan, which he announced last year after visiting his farm in Gorom in the capital Juba, sought to tap into the earnings from oil and reinvest it into agricultural production as part of efforts for the country, ravaged by civil conflict since 2013 and 2016, to return to normalcy.

But the then Agriculture and Food Security Minister, Onyoti Adigo, cautioned against relying on the promised funds.

“We don’t need to count our eggs before they hatch. We have seen several scenarios where the council of minister approves monies but my ministry didn’t get them,” he said.

“The president should take strict decisions which require the Finance ministry to release those funds so that we can implement this plan successfully.”

Since 2015, agriculture has been severely neglected despite the huge potential South Sudan has with sufficient arable land. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), only about 5 per cent of South Sudan is cultivated due to the civil war that started in 2013, and inadequate investment in the agriculture sector. - Garang A. Malak, The EastAfrican

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