William Hammink, Director of the USAID Sudan Mission was in Washington, D.C., yesterday speaking to a large audience about the recently launched Food, Agribusiness, and Rural Markets (FARM) Program. A collaboration with the Sudanese Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the project is intended to assist the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) in achieving its agricultural development and food security goals. FARM has three primary components that aim to raise incomes for smallholders in the region:
- Boosting agricultural productivity
- Increasing trade
- Improving the capacity of the private and public sectors to support market-led agriculture
The FARM Program will increase access to agricultural technology, inputs, and training, as well as address current transportation and infrastructure obstacles in order to better connect producers to local and regional markets. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)
To achieve these objectives, the five-year, $55-million FARM Program will increase access to agricultural technology, inputs, and training, as well as address current transportation and infrastructure obstacles in order to better connect producers to local and regional markets. For a region that has been so steeped in war and conflict, and severely lacking in agricultural investment from both government and the donor community, Mr. Hammink noted, “It’s not going to be easy and it’s going to take a while, for sure – but our hope is to jumpstart donor interest and donor involvement.”
After giving an overview of the project, Mr. Hammink entertained questions from a diverse set of constituents working on issues like nutrition, electrification, agribusiness, research, and extension. The Sudanese Ambassador to the United States, John Ukec Lueth Ukec, asked about mechanization and transportation – two of the biggest challenges USAID will address. “In Southern Sudan, most people use hands or hooves for agricultural production,” he said, noting that in order to create a more sustainable production system, technology needs to be scaled up. Mr. Hammink responded by telling the story of introducing an ox-driven plow to farmers who had previously used only their hands. While the “new” plow is in fact a 2,500-year-old technology, it made a tremendous difference for these farmers. Mr. Hammink emphasized that there was no single solution to technological improvements and that each area might need a different approach. The question still remains of how to scale up the reach of these interventions to reach hundreds of thousands of smallholders and not just a few hundred.
Regarding transportation, Mr. Hammink said that donors are “absolutely and increasingly” addressing necessary improvements in physical infrastructure for the land-locked region of Southern Sudan. One important ongoing project is the effort to pave the 192-kilometer Juba-Nimule road, which he called the “lifeblood of Southern Sudan into Uganda.” Such improvements in infrastructure will be necessary to transport the hoped-for increase in production of cash-crops.
USAID is not working alone, but in collaboration with numerous NGOs and, of course, the Government of Southern Sudan. There are also innovative partnerships. For example, Virginia Tech university will assist the University of Juba and Catholic University of Sudan to develop a long-term strategic plan for building institutional capacity in agriculture and natural resource management, as well as to develop a suite of effective teaching, research, and extension programs.
For more on agricultural innovations in Sudan and neighboring countries, see Innovation of the Week: Water Harvesting, and In Eastern and Southern Africa, Improving Trade and Identifying Investment Opportunities.
Ronit Ridberg is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.