On this International Day for Rural Women, South Sudan farmers are not deterred

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Women will rebuild after flooding, pandemic

A Hope Restoration South Sudan field worker makes her way through the floodwaters in Mayendit County to do outreach to rural farm families.

In South Sudan, more than 1 million people have been displaced in recent months by flooding. Of those displaced, more than 29,000 are from Mayendit County in the southern part of Unity State. Before the flooding, the country was plagued by years of civil war that also contributed to massive displacement.

It is in Mayendit County, where the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP) has partnered with Hope Restoration South Sudan (HRSS) , a women-led organization, since 2018 to implement food security projects that empower girls and women, reduce cases of malnutrition and combat poverty through farming activities.

Women and girls are provided with seeds and tools, and trained in farming, record keeping, food processing, post-harvest management and gender-based violence prevention, mitigation and management. With gender-based violence on the increase as poverty and food insecurity persist in South Sudan, providing women with access to land and the necessary tools and skills to produce food close to home liberates them from many of the safety risks posed by the search for food.

Unfortunately, some of the good progress that HRSS and the women farmers of Mayendit County have made has been destroyed by the flooding and will need to be rebuilt.

“The floods have destroyed all crops on the [women’s] farm. The level of floodwaters rose above the crops before harvests could be made. There was okra, tomatoes, cabbages, kale and maize on this farm, but all have been destroyed and the whole place is full of water,” said an HRSS field officer.

The floods alone are devastating, but they have come both during the global COVID-19 pandemic and while South Sudan continues to teeter on the edge of famine (the U.N. declared famine there in 2017).

In April 2020, the U.N. warned that we could see famines of “biblical proportions” due to the layering of difficult conditions, including the coronavirus pandemic, global economic recession, worsening climate change and increasing violent conflicts. South Sudan is on the list of the top 10 countries at risk of famine due to many natural and man-made disasters, including violent conflict, floods, locust invasion, sustained food crises and now COVID-19.

But the women of HRSS and the women farmers with whom they work will not be deterred by the challenges and setbacks.

Angelina Nyajima, the executive director of HRSS, says, “Through the project, women farmers have been able to generate income from their own farms. This has helped them sustain their livelihoods, put food on the table, take children to school and buy clothes. We pray and hope that things will return to normalcy soon so that the displaced women can go back to their homes and the farmlands submerged in water can dry up and farming will continue.”

Eileen Schuhmann, Mission Specialist for International Hunger Concerns, Presbyterian Hunger Program

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