Why South Sudan must embark on massive agriculture

Dr Santino Fardol

What you need to know:

  • The country can significantly boost its food production by prioritising agriculture and investing in modern farming techniques, irrigation systems, and storage facilities

South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, is at a critical juncture in its agriculture sector. Despite its vast fertile lands, abundant water resources, workforce, and favourable climate, the country has relied heavily on humanitarian assistance since its independence in 2011. 

This article aims to underscore the situation's urgency, question the rationale behind importing food from neighbouring countries, and urge the government to take immediate steps to prioritise agriculture. By doing so, South Sudan can achieve food security and reduce its dependency on humanitarian aid. South Sudan has the potential to transform its agriculture sector and become self-reliant in food. 

The country can significantly boost its food production by prioritising agriculture and investing in modern farming techniques, irrigation systems, and storage facilities. This, in turn, will reduce its dependence on food aid and pave the way for a more prosperous future. The government plays a crucial role in the development of the agriculture sector. It can significantly boost agricultural production by allocating more resources and creating an enabling environment for farmers. This can be achieved by providing farmers access to credit facilities, modern farming equipment, and training programmes.
Additionally, the government's investment in infrastructure development, such as roads and bridges, will facilitate the transportation of agricultural products from rural areas to urban markets, thereby enhancing the sector's growth. While humanitarian aid is essential in addressing immediate food needs, there are more sustainable solutions for long-term development. 

Continuous dependence on food aid can hinder the development of local agricultural industries and undermine the country’s self-sufficiency efforts. Therefore, it is crucial to halt humanitarian assistance and encourage self-reliance through agriculture gradually. South Sudan has what it takes to be self-reliant in food. The country’s vast fertile lands, workforce, and favourable climate provide an excellent opportunity for large-scale farming. It is time for the government to prioritise agriculture and invest in modern farming techniques and infrastructure development. By doing so, South Sudan can significantly reduce its dependence on humanitarian aid and achieve food security for its people.
Agriculture plays a crucial role in the economy and livelihoods of South Sudan for several reasons:
Food Security: Agriculture is the primary source of food for the majority of the population in South Sudan. The country heavily relies on subsistence farming to feed its people, making agriculture a fundamental sector for ensuring food security. Most of the population was engaged in agriculture, but nowadays, they seem to have abandoned it, favouring rural life over agriculture. Employment Opportunities: Agriculture is a significant source of employment in South Sudan, employing a large portion of the population. It provides livelihoods for farmers, labourers, and those in the agricultural value chain. I admire our women who still engage in small farming activities to feed their families. Economic Contribution: Agriculture contributes to the country’s economy by producing cash crops such as sorghum, maise, millet, livestock, etc. 

These products are consumed locally and can be exported, generating income for the country and farmers. Diversification: Given South Sudan’s heavy reliance on oil revenues, diversifying the economy through agriculture can reduce its vulnerability to fluctuations in global oil prices. Agriculture offers an opportunity for economic diversification and resilience.
Poverty Alleviation: South Sudan can alleviate poverty among its population by investing in agriculture and improving agricultural productivity. Increased agricultural output can lead to higher incomes for farmers and rural communities. Examples can be found in Sudan (before the conflict), Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia, where farmers are well off. 

Infrastructure Development: Developing the agricultural sector requires investments in infrastructure such as irrigation systems, roads, storage facilities, and market access. These investments not only benefit agriculture but also contribute to overall economic development. Several countries have demonstrated that agriculture can be a crucial driver of economic growth and prosperity, even without valuable natural resources like oil or gold. Some examples include Rwanda, Vietnam, and Ethiopia. These examples highlight how countries can leverage agriculture as a strategic sector to achieve sustainable development and economic prosperity.

Authored by Amb. Dr. Santino Fardol