By Jacob K. Lupai
April 2, 2012 (SSNA) — In the States in South Sudan one of the greatest challenges faced is the achievement of food security. There is therefore expressed desire to ensure that all people anywhere in the States and at all times have access to adequate and nutritious food for healthy living. This can partly be realized through the establishment of cereal reserves to ensure food security during the lean periods and also during an emergency. The biblical story of Joseph at the Pharaoh’s court, predicting seven years of plenty of food followed by seven years of famine, is an early example of food security practical planning in responding to lean periods and emergencies. It is therefore relevant that in the States there should be cereal reserves to ensure food security. This can be done by adopting a food security practical plan in the effort to ensure that the people in the States are adequately food secure at all times.
Food security in South Sudan
Food security situation in South Sudan may be worsening. Out of population of 8 million close to about 5 million people are at risk of food insecurity and out of the 5 million approximately 1 million are estimated to be severely food insecure partly due to a cereal deficit of 473,000 tones attributed to poor production. There is recorded substantial increase in the moderately food insecure households from 26 to 37 per cent and this shows an early sign of a potentially precarious food security situation in 2012. Also high prices have increased the number of poor people who allocate more than half of their expenditures on food and this is a concern for direct bearing on health expenditures. To cope with high prices people are making dietary adjustments such as reducing meal sizes and switching to less preferred food sources. In addition to high prices those behaviours are likely to increase the risk of malnutrition as households reduce spending on health, hygiene to cope with high prices on food. The food security situation in South Sudan clearly indicates a strong need for cereal reserves to provide a timely response to poor production in the season. Cereal reserves will stabilize market prices to enable the poor to have access to adequate food. Adopting a food security practical plan is therefore appropriate to achieve food security in South Sudan.
On Food Security, in the Working Draft, SPLM Policy Framework for the Government of Southern Sudan, 2010, it is stated that, “——–, the hunger and food insecurity which has been devastating our people in the past few years is a great concern to SPLM on the one hand, and on the other it is an indication that the agricultural policy and programs have not been responsive to climatic change nor the increasing food needs of our people”. Indeed the agricultural policy and programs have not been responsive enough because the evidence is that food security situation in South Sudan is worsening. The SPLM may need to do some soul searching why an oil producing and an agricultural country like South Sudan shouldn’t be self-reliant in food production.
Cause of food insecurity
The cause of food insecurity in South Sudan is a combination of various factors. Some of the factors include low agricultural productivity, low human capital, high food prices, delayed and erratic rainfall and insecurity. Given the potential of South Sudan as the breadbasket of the region, the factors leading to food insecurity are not insurmountable. South Sudan is a country blessed with abundant wealth of resources. It is both an oil producing and an agricultural country. With a little bit of careful planning, an accountable and efficient system, and with commitment for excellence, South Sudan might have been one of the fastest growing economies in Sub Saharan Africa. Unfortunately South Sudan seems stuck in an unbreakable circle of dependency. The SPLM National Liberation Council has just ended its meeting. It is not clear how the SPLM will be any different from presiding over an era of despair when corruption, insecurity, land grabbing, tribalism and so forth were at their peak. However, to be fair the SPLM has an excellent programme of action. The problem seems to be that the programme is more of a theory than practice.
In the SPLM Political Programme 2008 – 2013, the cover reads, Transform now! A secular New Sudan of peace, freedom, unity, equality and prosperity for all. In theory this is an excellent stuff. Nevertheless, much of this is hardly seen in practice. In the SPLM Draft Social Welfare Policy October 2009, it is stipulated that, “The Secretariat is to cherish and uphold the standard values of justice, democracy, progress, socials wellbeing, equality, human rights and dignity of the people of New Sudan”. Also in the Vision, programme and Constitution of the SPLM, March 1998, it is stated that, “We must clearly move away from the parameters of the Old Sudan of racism, tribalism, religious intolerance, historical myopia, and the associated economic collapse, instability and wars”. All the above quotations clearly testify in brief that the SPLM had good intentions in working for a country of democracy, equality, respect for human rights and justice.
Seven years down the line with the SPLM as the dominant party in government one is not so sure of the level of equality, respect for human rights and justice. Critical analysis seems to show that the appointment of ambassadors hardly confirms the upholding of the standard values of equality and fairness for all. On justice the SPLM is dead silent on land grabbing with impunity. People’s plots are being grabbed by criminals yet there is a loud talk of the rule of law and justice. Where is justice when criminals occupy people’s legitimate plots by force of arms? The usual loud pronouncements of the upholding of justice, equality and human rights seem to be nothing but end up as a public relation exercise. Hopefully the SPLM may have learned valuable lessons for the last seven years as the lead party in government for reforms to take place in the effort to achieve all that loudly pronounced.
Food security practical plan
The food security practical plan is an immediate plan of action for the creation of cereal reserves to ensure food security in the States in South Sudan. Cereal reserves cannot be realized without a budget to cater for a number of factors and physical infrastructures. For physical infrastructure each county should have a warehouse. Alternatively a warehouse can serve a number of counties as may be convenient. The location of a warehouse is important. The ease of access to the location should be carefully considered because an isolated location may make distribution of commodities difficult in an emergency. The location should also be a place that can easily be protected from vandalism. It is vital that cereal reserves in warehouses should be secure. To avoid vandalisation of warehouses and theft of the cereal reserves security guards must be deployed at all times. The security guards must be under strict orders to search thoroughly all vehicles and people entering and leaving a warehouse for any unauthorized possession of cereals from the warehouse. Taking census of population is relation to food availability is essential for planning the extent to which food commodities are needed to meet any shortfall in production. Without having a fair view of the total population in need of food in an emergency and a view of shortfall in production, it will be difficult to quantify the amount of food needed. The census of population is therefore important for the distribution of adequate food to those in need. Finally it is important to simulate an emergency situation. The simulation provides a practice in order to be ready to cope with an emergency situation. This is to provide people with the necessary experience and skills in the event of an emergency, for example, when a community is devastated by floods, conflicts or drought. An exercise in a hypothetical emergency situation is to be carried out as when people are facing a real terrible famine where warehouses are completely empty. The whole aim is to gain experience in distributing food commodities in an emergency.
South Sudan is a country with plenty of resources. It has an area of 644,329 square kilometers with a population of 8,260,490. This makes a density of about 13 people per square kilometer. In contrast Kenya, our next door neighbor, is smaller in size with an area of 580,367 square kilometers and a population of 34,707,817. For Kenya the density is about 60 people per square kilometer. It can be seen that pressure on land in Kenya is higher than in South Sudan. The implication is that people from Kenya may flock to South Sudan to acquire land to ease the pressure at home. To avoid such a scenario becoming a problem there may need to be a policy on acquisition of land by foreigners either for agriculture or for commerce.
In conclusion, on its part South Sudan has every means to be self-reliant in agricultural production for the achievement of food security. Of the total area of South Sudan 80 per cent is arable and suitable for crop production. However, despite the great potential only 4 per cent of the land is used for crop production. South Sudan is divided into livelihoods zones. Of importance is the Greenbelt zone which covers part of Greater Equatoria. This zone experiences a bimodal rainfall regime with two cropping seasons. The rest of the livelihoods zones in South Sudan experience unimodal rainfall which is a single rainy season. In the bimodal rainfall areas, two crops can be cultivated each year while in the other areas only one major crop can be cultivated. However, in the single rainy season areas, the soil type which is predominantly black cotton soil is fertile and production can be easily scaled up to increase output from the single season. This all suggests that with adequate investment in agriculture and with commitment for excellence South Sudan can be self-reliant in agricultural production for increase in cereal reserves for the achievement of food security in the States.
The author can be reached at [email protected]