Backgrounder: Food Security in South Sudan

Prior to the conflict that erupted in South Sudan in December 2013, almost 50 percent of South Sudanese were considered food insecure. The ongoing fighting between government and anti-government forces has exacerbated chronic food insecurity. Today, more than two million people are displaced, and an estimated 7.3 million people (two-thirds of the population) are at risk of food insecurity, with more than 3.9 million people experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity. Food availability and access are expected to worsen because of the lack of freedom of movement, which limits people’s ability to provide for themselves, the disruption of traditional trade networks, the looting and destruction of existing crops, and the difficulties associated with getting food to affected communities.

Canada seeks to prevent widespread food insecurity and reduce the risk of famine by boosting food production and protecting livelihoods for vulnerable populations. Canada is supporting smallholder farmers and fisherfolk to continue to produce food throughout the crisis and helping both women and men to access markets. The focus is on year-round staple crops, root crops, legumes, fruits and vegetables, as well as fish in order to diversify the risks of losing crops, promote nutritional value, and provide food for a longer period of time.

South Sudan has huge agricultural potential, with 90 percent of its land being suitable for farming and 50 percent being prime agricultural land. Also, 78 percent of households depend on small-scale farming or animal husbandry as their primary livelihood. Beyond supporting rural households to become food self-sufficient in the short term, the development of commercially viable crops is one of the preconditions for long-term sustainable economic growth in South Sudan. Over the long term, and depending on the security situation, agriculture is expected to play a key role in diversifying South Sudan’s economy and supporting economic growth, building on its domestic and regional market.

Women are the primary food producers in their households, accounting for 70 percent of the agricultural labour force, and contributing as much as 80–90 percent of labour for household food production. However, men generally make decisions on what is cultivated and, in most cases, control the small amounts of money gained from the sale of produce and decide who eats what and when they eat it. Agricultural productivity is likewise constrained by other household responsibilities, including food preparation, caring for children and fetching fuel and water. Given women’s key role in the food security of their household, DFATD works to specifically enable women to increase their intra-household decision-making power, and to participate in and benefit from the outcomes of interventions, without unduly adding to their workload burden. Specific effort is required to design projects that ensure women receive adequate training, have control over farming inputs and have the capacity to participate in markets.

Examples of entry points for boosting food production and moving beyond subsistence agriculture include (but are not limited to):

  • technical training (pre-harvest and post-harvest) and pilot projects, including demonstration plots;
  • supporting localized knowledge transfer through government extension officers, model farmers, farmer field schools, etc.;
  • the provision of farming and fishing inputs (i.e. seeds, tools);
  • the provision and training on irrigation techniques (i.e. treadle pump) to access water year-round;
  • the establishment of productive cooperatives or associations (to leverage pooled land, tools, storage facilities, labour, etc.);
  • innovative approaches to increasing producers’ ability to upscale their operations to a commercially viable level in response to local and domestic (and/or regional) market opportunities; and
  • counselling on nutrition and the importance of diversified food consumption, including training on the preparation of newly introduced food products.

Examples of entry points to support market participation and protect the livelihoodsFootnote 1 of smallholder farmers and fisherfolk include (but are not limited to):

  • supporting various components along the value chain in response to context-specific gaps for agriculture and fisheries (e.g. value addition activities and equipment such as drying, processing, packaging);
  • linking informal value chains to formal value chains, including through partnerships between smallholder farmers/fisherfolk, middlemen, and local entrepreneurs;
  • where feasible, increasing producers’ knowledge of local, domestic (and regional) market opportunities;
  • where feasible, improving local, domestic (and regional) marketing and distribution functions, thus improving marketability and market access (collection, transportation, storage and transit, transfer, formal and informal transaction, payments);
  • establishing and supporting existing service cooperatives to assist in aggregate input purchases, storage, processing, marketing, negotiating, etc.;
  • training on business skills, literacy and numeracy, including leadership and entrepreneurial skills for women;
  • vocational training related to agriculture and fishery sectors (i.e. blacksmithing to repair hand tools, etc.), particularly through the use of mobile trainers linked to existing vocational institutions and curriculums;

DFATD food security programming in South Sudan aims to geographically focus the majority of its investments in Eastern Equatoria and the market triangle connecting the three states of Warrap, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Western Bahr el Ghazal. It also takes into account the importance of targeting youth, given that approximately two thirds of South Sudan’s population is under the age of 30. Youth are chronically unemployed and at risk of being recruited by and/or associated with armed groups. DFATD programming tries to engage youth in order to provide them with sustainable economic opportunities as an alternative to widespread cattle raiding and inter-tribal violence.

DFATD investments in South Sudan must be informed by an understanding of key conflict issues in the operating context and an understanding of the potential impact of programming interventions on this context. Conflict-sensitive approaches range from placing an emphasis on risk management to minimizing unintended negative impacts on the conflict dynamics to even more deliberately addressing and engaging drivers of conflict. At a minimum, conflict sensitivity requires a “do no harm” approach to ensure that interventions do not create or exacerbate conflict.


Footnote 1

Under this call for proposals, funding will not be provided to support any microfinance or revolving-fund activities.

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