The ongoing crisis in South Sudan has worsened an already fragile food security situation and up to 7 million people are now at risk of food insecurity. In Warrap State, at least 64% of the population has inadequate food baskets, in terms of both quantity and quality. For many farmers, access to good quality seeds is a major challenge to cultivation. However, measures are being taken by ACTED to mitigate against the food security situation that is further deteriorating and the risk of famine in 2015. In April, with the support of USAID / Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, ACTED organised six seed fairs in Gogrial West County, Warrap State, enabling farmers to showcase their seeds and establish networks.
Community seed fairs provide seed traders with the opportunity to showcase, sell and exchange small quantities of their seeds with farmers, and establish networks. The fairs also provide farmers and seed traders with the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experiences on the old, as well as the new, crops they grow, and to generate information about local-level seed-production capacities.
The seeds fairs involved many local women, both as traders and as farmers. The impact of increased access to seeds and consequently to vegetable production is particularly important for young women who are responsible for providing sufficient nutrition and a well-balanced diet for their families.
The fairs are launched with an opening speech by the Ministry of Agriculture county representative. The seed traders are introduced to the farmers and then exhibit their seeds; a variety of local seeds are available, including groundnuts, sorghum, maize, pumpkin, millet, okra and sesame. The seed traders provide information about each seed type and the timings for planting and harvesting. Five of the seed traders are awarded a certificate and selection of vegetable seeds for having the best quality seeds at the fair. The event is closed with traditional dancing and songs by local entertainers.
At one seed fair in Majok Awan Payam, 10 seed traders, 100 farmers and more than 260 villagers attended. One of the villagers who attended the fair said:
‘The people of Nyokthiang and Panameth welcome the seed fairs with a good spirit. We appreciate the seed fair because it encourages villagers to cultivate, and they discovered seed traders among themselves. It can make big changes in our community, especially in the way we can access seeds and improve the amount of crop production. If the rain comes regularly this year we will not face hunger in 2015’.
ACTED’s food security program manager says:
‘The current crisis across South Sudan has made it incredibly difficult for humanitarian organisations to access those most in need, plus impeded supply chains are a major challenge in delivering vital supplies and resources. These seed fairs are led by local farmers, use locally-sourced seeds, and build local networks, which empowers the communities and ensures future sustainability’.