African Development Bank commits $14mil for South Sudan agriculture
Merio Jimmy, Juba
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has agreed to provide a $14mil USD grant to South Sudan's government to finance the Agricultural Markets, Value Addition and Trade Development (AMVAT) project. AMVAT is aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity and boosting the trade of agricultural products across the country.
The project will be implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The FAO will work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
The five-year AMVAT project will help increase the productivity and income of almost 20,000 farming families in Central and Eastern Equatoria and Jonglei states, most of whom are formerly internally displaced persons.
AMVAT will create a number of business opportunities for farmers and traders, and seeks to provide them with skills, knowledge and equipment needed for the competitive growth of their business.
20 aggregation business centres and 10 seed enterprise groups are due to be set up as 'one stop shops', where farmers can access information and technical assistance in trading their value added products. Farmers joining the aggregation centres will have their product checked for quality and receive help in marketing their goods for the private sector.
'A diversified economy away from oil and long-term growth depends on promoting agribusiness development', said Athian Ding Athian, Minister of Finance and Planning.
Athian Ding expressed deep appreciation to the AfDB for its sustained assistance and support in South Sudan.
'With the support from our partners, we are building an improved marketing and trade environment for agribusinesses, increasing peoples incomes and creating new jobs, particularly for the youth', he added.
AfDB's country manager for South Sudan, Benedict Kanu, noted that with South Sudan being land-locked and experiencing weak urban and peri-urban infrastructure, access to lucrative domestic markets is fundamental for a profitable agricultural sector.
He asserted that a key factor explaining Africa's and specifically South Sudan's low level of agricultural value addition is inefficient marketing infrastructure. This prevents farmers and processors from realizing the full value of their produce, even in their raw form.
With 95% of the South Sudan's territory considered suitable for agriculture, half of which is prime land, the country presents invaluable yet unrealised potential. The effects of continued violence combined with unprecedented flooding have seriously damaged food production, resulting in a huge food import bill.
'Thanks to this generous contribution from the African Development Bank, farmers will move faster from subsistence to commercial agriculture by having access to new technologies, markets and linkages with other services and actors', said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan.
'We are working hand-in-hand with the Government, to allow farmers and returnees play a central role in rebuilding the agricultural sector as market-led economy for South Sudan', he added.
Despite the country's agricultural potential and the fact 78% of the population is employed in agriculture, the sector contributes only 1/10 of South Sudan's GDP. Agricultural products rarely find their way into international markets, partly due to lack of access but also due to questions of food quality control.
Effective food safety and quality control systems are key to not only to safeguarding food security and public health, but also for fostering economic development and improving livelihoods by promoting access to domestic, regional and international markets.
FAO and AfDB are partnering with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the National Bureau of Standards to strengthen the safety and quality of local agricultural products. To this end, two mini testing laboratories will be established in Central and Eastern Equatoria to enable farmers to test and certify their value-added products, particularly cereals, oilseeds and maize, before selling them on various markets.