South Sudan

Women Groups key in improving livelihood in South Sudan

Empowering women groups to play more roles in small-scale agriculture production would improve the livelihoods of families and contribute to enhancing food security in the rural communities, according to Jenti Kiden Williams, The chairperson of Yembe Women’s Group.

Women are key drivers in improving the quality of life of their families and communities in South Sudan.

They provide the largest percentage of labour force in food production at family farms which constitute the primary source of livelihood for over 80% of the population living in the rural areas.

However the huge potential of women as food producers is currently constrained by factors such as limited access to land, inputs, training and financial services that holds them back from creating better lives for themselves and their families, according to the United Nations Food Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Thus empowering women through the provision of key resources such as access to land, farm inputs, technologies, extension services as well as financial services are vital links in boosting food production.

Women group work is widely articulated and viewed by many as a catalyst for change in South Sudan.

Majority of women join groups with the hope of generating income for their families but most of these groups are often unable to generate the required startup capital and as a result miss many opportunities that come along their way.

Many count on aid agencies for support such as Yembe Women Group in Yei River County who received support from the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) through a revolving small grant, to enable them produce food to meet local market demand.

Yembe Women Group was formed in 2002 initially to meet the immediate food needs of the member, according to the group chairperson. “But later we realized that by farming in a group we can earn more money to cater for medical bills, tuition fees and other family needs” Kiden said.

“For long we wanted to expand our farm but lacked capital until NPA came to our rescue” she said. The group received 15.000 South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) as grant in 2014 and used part of the money to hire tractor to plough their farm. “We used the remaining part of the money to plant maize, beans and cassava” Kiden explained.

NPA with funding from NORAD rolled out a Smallholder Production and Marketing Project (SPMP) to equip smallholder producer groups to increase agriculture production through provision of small grants and improved crop varieties complimented by an effective extension system and technology transfer.

SPMP worked with selected farmer groups and provided them with revolving grants to increase the production capacity of the farmers.

“Grants were disbursed to the producer groups in two installments. After meeting the initial criteria, we give them 60% of the total amount of agreed money. The remaining balance of 40% if released upon satisfactory performance by the group” explained, Mr. Michael Wani, NPA’s senior project officer.

Mr. Michael said grants are recovered from groups upon sale of produce after harvest.

The Project worked together with the County Technical Committee (CTC) who among others oversaw the selection criteria of farmer groups and grant recovery.

SPMP kicked-off in 2013 and supported farmers in 10 counties, covering (4 in Central Equatoria-Yei, Morobo, Kajo-keji and Terekeka; 3 Counties in Eastern Equatoria-Ikwoto, Magwi & Torit; 3 Counties in Jonglei State-Bor, Twic East and Duk Counties, Mr. Emmanuel Yengi, NPA’s Deputy Food Security & Livelihood Program Manager, explained.

Planned activities could not take off in the Duk County, in Jonglei state due to security issues.

The project also provided grants to private sector actors and local level organizations to enable them buy food from farmers upon harvest to ease the challenges farmers faced in access to markets, as well as availing inputs to farmers groups at the on-set of the season Mr. Yengi added.

A grant for seed mulplication targeted Nonprofit Community Based Organizations (CBO) does seed multiplication in their locality.

Organizing women into groups and helping them to identify and address their needs is a critical step to empowerment.

Helping them access productive assets and trainings would build their capacity to own and manage their organizations that would eventually lead to improvement of their household income and livelihood.

18.03.2016 | By Tamama Norbert Mansfield