Amidst Dry Spell, South Sudanese Refugees Continue To Cultivate In Wetlands

Agriculture is critical for sustainable development and poverty reduction, and agricultural growth can be a powerful means for inclusive growth according to the 2008 World Development report.

Amidst Dry Spell, South Sudanese Refugees Continue To Cultivate In Wetlands
A South Sudanese refugee in Adjumani spraying his maize farm [Photo credit|Paul Night]

By Paul Night

ADJUMANI, 11 December 2017 [Gurtong]-
The report found that growth originating in the agricultural sector is two to four times as effective as growth originating in the non-agricultural sector in increasing incomes of the bottom third of the income distribution.

Agricultural growth has been the main instrument of rural poverty reduction in most developing countries and not surprising, it has also had a much more direct impact on hunger than general economic growth.

During the past two decades, a diverse array of initiatives has promoted the commercialization of smallholder agriculture in Uganda. The results have been quite mixed—over time, along commodity lines, and in different locations.

Uganda is a host to the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world. Since July last year, more than one million South Sudanese refugees have crossed into the country.

The refugees are predominantly women and young people and come from farming or livestock herding communities.

In August this year, the Director of UN FAO Mr. Graziano da Silva visited two refugee settlements in Adjumani district near Uganda’s border with South Sudan to inaugurate a micro-irrigation project that will provide the refugee and host community households with a reliable source of water for their crops and animals.

In his press release Graziano said, it is vital that funds be mobilized to support this effort so that refugees and their host communities can have a real opportunity to overcome hunger and poverty. Uganda is giving not only food and land but hope,” he added.

The government of Uganda allocates land for refugees both for settling and farming as well with the aim of self-reliance in the long run because many of the refugees have taken there for over two decades now.

As a response to the privilege of acquiring a piece of land of 50/50 meters compared to the previous 30/30 meters given, it helps some South Sudanese refugees living in the nearby wetlands at various camps across the district to start farming on their small pieces of land to avert food crisis as the dry spell is approaching some parts of the refugee settlements.

Dry Spell had started hitting several refugee camps as World Food Program cut food aid by 50 percent. But now the refugees said they could convert part of their land for farming.

The refugee agencies have started supporting them with seedlings to grow especially vegetables and short term crops to salvage the hunger situation.

Ms. Eveline  Ajok 36, a refugee in  Ayilo refugees Settlement, Adjumani district said the money she gets out of the sale of vegetables enabled her to buy other home requirements.

“I earn on average between Ugx 10,000 and 15,000 Shillings daily from the sale of the vegetables which I get from the wetlands. I do vegetable business where I earn some money for providing scholastic materials for my children in school. The vegetable growing has enabled me eat the required three meals a day,” Ajok said.

Another vegetable seller in the same settlement, Ms. Reecho Awel 42, says she also sells some of her produce to fellow refugees in other settlements out of some of her nursery beds she prepares around her home and plants vegetables like okra, onions, and tomatoes among other vegetables to sustain her family.

She said the food rationing was affecting the health of the children especially malnutrition in children as they do not feed adequately.

Mr. Musa Tombe the chairperson of the Refugee Welfare Committee for Ayilo said “this had to change since their venture attracted local market when became model vegetable growers in the district offering training to farmer groups among host communities and even many of the host communities benefits a lot from our way of planting our vegetables and many of them have begun doing the same business and with limited mechanization and modern Agro practice knowledge. The refugees in Mireyi have set required bed of vegetable seedlings, vegetables produces including Tomatoes, Green paper, Eggplant, Onion and Cabbages.”

“And we are providing affordable seedlings at Ugx 200 shillings per seedlings and people come as far as Adjumani town to buy the seedlings,” Tombe said.

Titus Jogo, the Area Refugee Desk Officer (OPM) during an interview with Gurtong said plans by some implementing partners to construct market stall for produce in the settlements is helping the refugees a lot.

“A Refugee is allotted 30 by 30 meter per household and a block comprises of 100 households. The refugees do not have a better central market for their products. There is also challenges of storage facility making most of their produce go to waste because the vegetables are perishable”, he said.

Global Aim an NGO operating in West Nile and South Sudan is providing planting material better Agro knowledge and garden implements to increase the capacity of production of the refugees.

James Addu, the Executive Director for Global Aim said this is primarily to address the nutritional challenges faced, by the refugees especially persons with special needs.
Ayilo currently hosts over 5,000 Refugee from South Sudan fleeing from hostilities between SPLM warring factions.


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