The United Nations Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, has begun a campaign to resettle returnees who were displaced during last year’s intercommunal clashes living in the Rumbek North area.
“We realized that household food security is one of the key factors for return and reintegration to be sustainable. To contribute to that effect, we requested UNMISS to provide us with ox ploughs,” explains Caroline Opok, a representative of the peacekeeping mission. “We have now distributed 300 of them to women’s groups in Rumbek North, because this is an area greatly affected by conflicts, displacements and food insecurity.”
Mary Agor, a local women’s leader, assures that the farming tools will be put to good use.
“We have been using hand hoes, and with that you can only do so much. With these ox ploughs coming in, we shall cultivate bigger areas, which will help us sustain our families throughout the long dry spell. We shall also have some surplus produce to sell at the market in Rumbek and thus make some money,” she says.
Because of persistent intercommunal violence consisting of cattle raids, revenge attacks and armed ambushes within the region, many dwellers have often been reduced to beggars, mostly relying on relief aid.
Tired of depending on external assistance and with oxen aplenty available, local residents figured that ploughs could make a real difference.
“The challenge they reported was a lack of implements to increase their food production produce that. That’s how the ox plough idea was born,” says Samuel Owoko, a representative of Sans Frontieres Germany, the organization implementing the project.
The potentially life-saving farming tools were handed over to women’s groups, as local tradition dictates that girls and women are the ones responsible for feeding their families. Their men, on the other hand, have pledged to bring back the bulls needed to get the ploughing going.
“We are telling men that food security is the responsibility of the entire household, not just women. We are encouraging men to bring out the bulls and put in the energy to work together with their women to expand the areas of cultivation,” Ms. Opok says.
Most of the time, male villagers bring their cattle and run into the wilderness as a way of fending off possible raids from neighboring communities. Now, their women want them back home and working.
“We want our government to make sure that there is enough security so that we can bring in our bulls and cultivate. Without peace, that will not be possible. Right now, the roads are full of armed youth. They should go away so that our men can safely return with their cattle,” says Mary Agor.