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Western Bahr El Ghazal women reap big from vegetable farming supported by FAO

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Hundreds of women in Western Bahr El Ghazal State are reaping profits of their hard work toiling in the farms to grow various types of vegetable crops under a four-year project being implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Nyanut Athian, a 28-year-old widow and mother of eight, says her vegetable farm supported by FAO under the Food and Nutrition Security Resilience Programme (FNS-REPRO) has enabled her to enroll her children in school and also improved her income.

She is a member of the Cow Cooperative Group in Marial Ajith village that is composed of 30 members.

Athian is grateful to FAO for training her and colleagues to grow vegetables.

“I will not stop farming as long as I live on this earth, this work will only stop when I die. I have benefited a lot from this vegetable farm,” she told The Dawn during the visit to her farm in July.

Athian harbors plans to build a permanent house for her children and buy goats to diversify her farming business.

The Food and Nutrition Security Resilience Programme funded by the Dutch government has benefited 300 vegetable farmers in Western Bahr el Ghazal.

The project focuses on building the seeds system, encouraging farmers to produce seeds and market them through trade fairs.

“Through vegetable farming, I am able to pay the school fees for my two children. One child is in primary school and the elder one in the University and I also cater for their medication,” Athian says.

Teresa Nyanut Wuo, a mother of seven in Marial Ajith says prior to the start of the project in 2021 they did not know how to plant vegetables.

Wuo, a member of the Long Life Cooperative Group lost her husband Manyuot Akok, during the liberation war fought by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army against the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).

She is grateful to FAO for equipping her with farming knowledge and skills that have earned her money from growing varieties such as amaranths, egg plants, tomatoes, kale, okra and green pepper.

“I managed to buy a goat with the money I got from this project,” Wuo says.

“This cloth that I am wearing, I bought it with the money I got from sales of vegetables,” she says, adding, “We no longer make mats and collect firewood.”

Another beneficiary, Anoon Mabior, a 24-year-old mother of four, says her vegetable farm has provided her with food and income.

Mabior, whose husband Akec Kongoro is a teacher at Marial Ajith Primary School owns 12 feddans of tomatoes and 9 feddans of kale.

The profits from her vegetable business have enabled her to enroll for adult education at Alel Chok Primary School.

In addition, Mabior is also in position to afford school fees for her children.

“I made a lot of money during the dry season last year. I saved more than SSP 70,000 with saving group, and I have used some money to treat my children and injected the rest into the farm,” she says.

Maria Adut Anei, 28, mother of three, says the lucrative vegetable farming made her ditch the non-profitable business of selling mats and tall dry grass.

Anei belongs to the Rou Cooperative Group in Marial Ajith.

“Before FAO came with this project, we were suffering. FAO trained us on vegetables and our lives have changed, we are able to feed our children from the produce,” she says.

Women on vegetables farms on 20th July 2023 [Photo: Awan Achiek]

Moses Akec Akot, World Concern FNS Field Assistant, says the project which started in 2021 has helped farmers to be self-reliant in Jur River County.

“What we want to achieve is seeing them progressing and to be food secure so that they can feed their families and meet their needs,” Akec says.

“We also give them skills so that they benefit from this project and have something to eat and support them to pay school fees for their children and medication.”

World Concern is FAO’s implementing partner of the FNS-Repro project.

Akec says the project has tremendously transformed livelihoods of widows.

“Most of them are widows who are heading the households; we want them to be breadwinners of their families and this is why we are supporting them,” he says.

“Before this project was introduced, farmers used to buy seeds from the market but now the beneficiaries are producing enough and they no longer buy from the market like it used to be in the past,” Akec adds.

The FNS-REPRO Programme started in October 2019 in Somaliland and Sudan, and South Sudan was requested to join on October 1st, 2020.

The four-year project covers Western Bahr el Ghazal, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, and Upper Nile states.

South Sudan faces unprecedented humanitarian needs, with more than six million people facing food insecurity crisis.

This is coupled with recurrent inter and intra-tribal conflicts, resulting in the loss of lives and productive assets.

Displacement from agricultural and grazing land is rampant in some locations in South Sudan due to conflicts, and women and children are the worst affected.

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