January 14, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan on Saturday said the government is exerting all efforts to increase food production in what he described as "greenbelt" areas in the fertile but landlocked newly-independent country.
Betty Achan Ogwaro, South Sudan’s minister of agriculture, told Sudan Tribune on Saturday that “the importance of investing in agriculture cannot be ignored. Our people must go to the field and dig, if we need to stop depending on imports from neighboring countries”.
Only a small proportion of South Sudan’s land is farmed a result of years of conflict, reliance on aid and the belief in some communities that agriculture is beneath them.
Ogwaro, who said that efforts to increase production would be focused on fertile greenbelt that covers southern parts of Eastern, Central and Western Equatoria States. Average rainfall in this area ranges between 1200-2000mm per annum.
Minister Ogwaro explained that an assessment conducted by her ministry and partners shows that these areas found good for growing cereals like maize, sorghum, finger millet, and rice. The area is also ideal to grow root crops like cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, legumes such cowpeas, pigeon peas, grams as well as oil seeds groundnuts and sesame.
Cash crops like tobacco, cotton, tea and coffee are equally ground in the area.
The area was found good for horticultural crops and fruits like mangoes, pawpaw, guava, citrus, lemons, bananas, pineapples, melons of different types. Vegetables such as okra, pumpkins among others can be grown there.
She further also said that the "central hill zones", which receive a long rainy season fro April to November could increase production. The area covers northern side of the greenbelt spanning River Nile, touching eastern parts of Western Equatoria and extends into Lakes State.
She said the government was focus communities on agricultural projects in attempt to end South Sudan’s dependency on oil.
“There is a strong to move away from depending on oil. Oil alone will not support the growing of the economy. This is the very reason the cabinet has always been talking about the need to diversify economy. Because there is vast potential in agriculture”, the minister said.
She deplored habit of depending on foods imported from neighboring countries, stressing that dependency on imports from other countries would placed dire consequences if these countries for any reasons stop exporting foods to her country.
“Currently the country import most of its consumer goods including farm produces like vegetables. In Juba, most of the supplies come from Uganda. All what is sold at Konyokonyo Markets and elsewhere in Juba comes Uganda," she explained.
“Why depend on imports from other countries while we have fertile lands, she asked explaining further these imports come with high prices and risk. “Not only is the issue of high prices my biggest concern, there are issues like destabilisation in the transportation processes. For example, she said, a breakdown on infrastructure or low crop yield in one our neighboring countries, more especially in Uganda where we seems to be getting in most of imports, could lead to a big food crisis in this country”, the minister observed.
She called on development partners to help the government invest in agriculture sector explaining the sector would create jobs for unemployed youth groups in the country.
“Through investment in agriculture the country enhances its development in two ways. One way of enhancing development would be employment opportunities as well as improved food security”, she said.