WESTERN BAHR EL GHAZAL - Floods, deforestation, plastic pollution, and poor agricultural yields were good enough reasons for authorities in Wau to join peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan to mark World Environment Day.
Ongoing conflict in bordering Sudan has cut off imports into Western Bahr El Ghazal, raising concerns about food security.
However, livelihoods must continue and families must have food to eat.
Chinese Blue Helmets serving for peace in this young nation, therefore, came up with an innovative and sustainable plan that could, potentially, positively impact community members.
They decided to share their knowledge of small-scale kitchen gardens with local authorities!
“It is interesting to see how peacekeepers are using very small spaces to cultivate vegetables and fruit for everyone in their base,” said Daniel Akwong Bwola, state Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Forestry.
“We are going to collaborate with them to train our extension officers on these methods and they have promised to provide us with a variety of seeds,” he added.
Vegetables, however, aren’t easy to cultivate and peacekeepers shared tips, tricks and basic scientific principles that guarantee a high-quality home harvest.
“A critical element about the skills shared with local interlocuters today is that our peacekeepers have tested these farming approaches on the soil and climatic conditions in the state,” explained Sam Muhumure, the Head of the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Field Office in Wau.
“This means that these techniques actually work on the ground,” he continued. “I’m heartened that the Minister for Agriculture has found this intervention worthwhile to replicate across the state.”
Alongside showcasing their garden produce as well as tasty meals prepared from them, peacekeepers also imparted easy-to-emulate lessons on waste segregation and management.
“No solid waste goes out of our camp,” revealed Lieutenant Colonel Li Hui, Commanding Officer of the Chinese engineers. “We recycle all plastics while biological waste from plants goes back into our gardens as compost."
This is in line with the UN family’s push to beat plastic pollution and encourage more green ways of living for everybody on the planet.
With abundant rains currently, it is hoped such simple yet effective methods of vegetable cultivation will trickle down to rural communities, giving them enough produce from their lands to ensure not only that their families don’t go hungry but also have surplus to sell in local markets.
The latter—trade—has always been boosted by UNMISS engineers through their extensive repairs of roadways across South Sudan. Engineers from China are no exception.
“The major road construction we were conducting from Diem Zubeir to Raja is now complete, and we hope when people begin using the agricultural model we have showcased, our infrastructural work will prove helpful in enabling them to sell what they grow,” stated Colonel Hui.
For Elia Kamilo Dimo, Acting Governor of Western Bahr El Ghazal, communities should take advantage of these new cultivation methods, given relative stability in the state.
“The people of Western Bahr El Ghazal are primarily farmers and we have been blessed with rich, fertile soil,” he averred. “Our state is, thankfully, largely peaceful and I encourage everyone to learn these sustainable farming methods and cultivate their own food.”
World Environment Day is annually observed across the globe on 5 June. - Roseline Nzelle Nkwelle, United Nations