Garang Anei Kon is around 55 years of age. He has two wives and fourteen children, three of whom are married. Three of his children are aged between 14 and 16, but have never had the opportunity to go to school. Three others do attend school and the remaining five are toddlers. Garang lives with one wife at Referendum returnee settlement in Nyamlel in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan, while his other wife lives at a village in Marial Bai, some 10 kilometers away.
Garang and his family returned home in 2011 after almost 30 years in Khartoum, Sudan. Garang hoped to help rebuild his country after the referendum which saw the Sudanese and South Sudanese governments separate. Before then, he was living in relative comfort, and was able to support his family through masonry work; a skill he developed while working as an apprentice.
Garang had thought that he would find work easily – “rebuilding” a nation must surely go hand-in-hand with construction. However, as a returnee, he faced discrimination from the host community, with existing senior masons giving preference to relatives to make up their workforce. Garang observes how this made it very difficult for those like himself, returning to find a “closed” market.
To continue supporting his family, Garang started fishing during the dry season. He also farmed one feddan (acre) of bush land after the government allowed returnees to clear and use uncultivated land. The harvest reaped is just enough to provide a meal a day for his family.
In July 2012, Adeso began to implement the second phase of the Livelihood Support to Returnees and Host Communities (LSRHC) project, with funding from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). LSRHC aims to improve food security of returnee and resident households in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan, and targets 17,160 individuals (2860 households), of which 18,728 are returnees like Garang. LSRHC activities include livestock restocking, Cash for Work (CfW) and Livelihood Support Grants and apprenticeships for returnees with an existing trade or entrepreneurial skills.
Two years after his first, Garang is now undertaking a second apprenticeship under experienced mason James Lual Kuch as part of the LSRHC project. Based in Nyamlel, James has a résumé boasting work on the famous South Sudan Hotel, the Catholic Mission, the county hall and countless other structures. Like Garang, James has also worked in Khartoum, spending 10 years acquiring masonry skills including carpentry and electrical wiring. He returned to Nyamlel in 2002 and has trained many new masons since. He takes great pleasure in helping Garang re-start his career.
Garang is experienced in burned bricks construction, but has little knowledge of plastering. However, thanks to his apprenticeship, he is now eagerly acquiring this skill under James’ expert guidance. Garang cannot thank Adeso enough, and is quick to add that he would love to work under the program for a longer period than the proposed three months. He hopes to use money from Adeso’s Livelihood Support Grants to equip himself with his own tools, allowing him to practice his new skills independently.