South Sudan

From lead farmer to school director: PAH project improves lives in Magwi, South Sudan.

In 2017, Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) started a new food security and livelihood project in Magwi, Eastern Equatoria State, South Sudan with the financial support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) supported by the German government. The aim of the intervention was to enhance the short-, medium- and long-term food security of drought and conflict-affected households, mostly of IDPs and returnees who have been integrated in their host community. The 11-month project, launched in November 2017, supported 13,999 individuals in total and provided agricultural trainings for 2,040 households. Over the course of the intervention, 40 lead farmers were trained to follow best practices and support others in the community to improve access to an assortment of nutritious vegetables and cereal food crops.

One lead farmer in Biyenya, Ochola Charles Oyet, has managed to established a boarding primary school thanks to the training and support from PAH. The “Star Boma” school is located in Obbo, near Magwi, and he manages the institution himself as executive director. Ochola started working as a farmer in 2009 and cultivated varieties of vegetables. He became a leading vegetable seller in surrounding markets and towns and according to him - he was also supported by GIZ at that time. The agricultural output of his land increased thanks to the new intervention by PAH, and he used this income to establish and support the school.

“My major purpose was to promote the importance of farming in helping to improve child nutrition, supporting local economies, connecting children and communities with the source of their food”, explained Ochola, who was empowered by selling nightshade fruits on the market in Juba. “I sold them at 200 SSP (less than a dollar) per kilogram, I began getting good money at my hand then I started to establish this school”. Star Boma Primary School opened its doors in 2017.

The surroundings of the school are green, covered with enriched horticulture, different types of leaves, fruits, vegetables and maize. “I have decided to create this school not only for academic purposes but also as foundation for teaching children to engage in farming activities”, added Ochola.

In the early phase of the project, the lead farmers were given a variety of seeds; namely onion, maize, cowpeas, cabbage, tomato, groundnuts and simsim (local sesame). Ochola recalls that “We are 12 in the group, 8 women and 4 men who are very dedicated to do and perform their duties with one aim of producing good yields to chase poverty away from this area. We were trained in good agricultural management on how to grow both cereals and vegetable crops, selection of good seeds based on quality and quantity. All types of seeds distributed to us were planted and we have got good yields now”. These yields allow Ochola to provide nutritious lunch at the school for both the children and the teachers.

In addition to the training and seeds, the farmers’ groups were supported with farming tools, irrigation kits and groundnut shellers which will help them to follow these good practices in the future. Magwi is famous for its fertile soil and good climate for agricultural production and hopefully it will enable them to produce high yielding crops in the coming years.