As the main planting season begins in South Sudan, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has announced today that it is accelerating its efforts to get vital seeds, tools and other materials to some of the country's most vulnerable farmers.
"For many farmers, this is the only opportunity to plant cereals this year," added Serge Tissot, FAO's acting representative in South Sudan. "Without seeds now, they will have to wait another year to plant and that means they won't see another cereal harvest until the end of 2016."
With up to 18 flights loaded with seeds, tools and fishing kits leaving Juba each day, FAO is working to get these materials into farmers' hands in time for planting in conflict-hit areas of Upper Nile and Jonglei states, where hunger and malnutrition levels are particularly high.
In the last few days, almost 100 tonnes of inputs have been flown from Juba to local airstrips, representing just a portion of those destined to reach over 175,000 food-insecure farming families in Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei by the end of May.
The current wave of fighting comes at a crucial time for farmers who have depleted their food stocks and have only the next few weeks to plant their crops. The airlifts are just one part of FAO's wider efforts to provide conflict-affected and food-insecure families in South Sudan with a means to produce their own food and build more resilient livelihoods.
FAO aims to support 2.8 million people throughout South Sudan in 2015 by providing a combination of vegetable, crop and fishing kits, as well as other kinds of support.
Crop kits contain at least three cereal seeds (sorghum, cowpea, maize, groundnut and sesame) and are sufficient to plant 1.3 hectares per family. Recipient households can be expected to harvest 1 360 kg of cereals in September/October, enough to feed their families for five months.
FAO has also been carrying out widespread livestock vaccination campaigns during the dry season, targeting animals based in the cattle camps before they start migrating as the rains begin.
"So far, we have reached 2 million animals in 2015, protecting the main social and economic asset of hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese agropastoralists, as well as safeguarding public health from the spread of animal diseases," said Mr. Tissot.
As part of FAO's efforts to control livestock disease outbreaks, the Organization has facilitated a meeting between the veterinary authorities of Uganda and South Sudan to discuss cooperation for the control and prevention of transboundary animal diseases.