Launching of Yei Green Home Agriculture Program
Agriculture is the bedrock of Yei’s development strategy. It absorbs more than 80 per cent of the labor force, with most engaged in seasonal subsistence agriculture. However, government undermined investment in large scale agricultural production and commercialization. The National Government financial institutions do not have agribusiness-friendly policies, and access to large tracts of lands that are necessary for commercial agriculture but agriculture has been made redundant for several years. A lack of infrastructure, such as roads and electricity, also constrain business operations, increase the cost of doing business, and undermine the competitiveness of Yei’s agribusiness sector. To increase investment and development sector in agriculture in Yei River County, the government and donors need to provide a variety of incentives, targeting both local and foreign investors in agribusinesses. The effectiveness of the incentives is dependent on several factors, including how they are administered or accessed.
Agriculture played a singular role in the development of Yei economy and while Yei agriculture was commonly regarded as a positive paradigm at a time when agriculture in many regions of South Sudan remained stagnant, the sector faces new challenges top of which included insecurity which affected commercial agriculture on economic development and rural livelihoods in an area dominated by small-scale producers.
In exercise of powers conferred upon me vide Republican Decree No. 11/2021 of the President of the Republic of South Sudan, read together with Sections 105 of the Local Government Act, 2009;
2. Yei River County distinct history of agriculture and food production:
Yei River County is best known for its productiveness in food crops, fruits and forestry to substantiate it as the potential food basket and an economic hub for South Sudan. It is endowed with fertile soil and favorable rainfall patterns that bear richness and suitability for agricultural production.
These combined characteristics make agriculture practices in Yei River County successful in meeting adequate food supplies and industrial food processes. These agriculture practices were proven by the ‘Provincial Development Unit’ (PDU) established in the Southern Sudan Provinces in 1973 as a pilot public corporate institution just after the Anyanya 1 War ended in 1972.
Emerging from the bitter conflict with numerous challenges to peacebuilding, refugees and IDPs integration and in order to reconcile communities, stabilize food security and livelihood economy and, improve on the subnational governance breakdown in South Sudan as opposed to the Central Government systems of the then Sudan government, the PDU initiative was launched with vigorous agriculture projects. The growth and expansion of the PDU projects neutralized many of the locally generated community conflict drives and facilitated peaceful reintegration of IDPs and refugee returns.
The programme, as it gained momentum, expanded to the whole of Equatoria Region and evolved into Equatoria Region Agriculture Programme (ERAP) in 1980s with its main activities based in Yei.
3. The R-ARCSS as an opportunity to rekindle hopes for agriculture restoration:
Today, the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) has granted the people of Yei a glimpse of peace but still skirmishes of brutal violence are being conducted between the SSPDF, SPLM – IO and National Salvation Front (NAS). The violence has narrowed down to grievances over vie for power on the share of government positions, exploitation of natural resource rights like timber, agriculture produce and extortion of money from innocent civilians to meet livelihood needs.
The conflict has degenerated into household and community violence by proxy of revenge attacks and abductions for financial ransom and has accelerated sexual exploitations and gender-based violence. These conflict drivers are triggered by lack of hope and self-confidence in winning sustainable livelihood. Thus, Yei Green Home Agriculture Programme (YGHAP) intends to create confidence and generate sustainable hope by engaging households, women and youth groups in community led agriculture and food production enterprises that install knowledge and skills to restock food reserves and explores market possibilities with new innovations and opportunities.
4. Linking YGHAP to CES Strategic Peace and Development Pillars:
These agriculture approach directly responds to the State Strategic Peace and Development Pillar on economic growth through agriculture production by increasing food production to strengthen local livelihood and national economy. The South Sudan policy objective for agriculture is ‘Poverty reduction and eradication of hunger’ which is yet to be realized. The YGHAP represents a step ahead along the National Government Agriculture Strategy.
The YGHAP shall be reinforced by yet another component on “Forest Conservation Project” which shall complement each other together. A local provisional order has been issued to regulate and restrict tree cutting. The order enforces planting of five trees for any single tree felled down. By the launch of YGHAP, all family members shall be required to plant individual fruit trees every year in every existing and increasing number of family members. That means, the more the family increases in number, the more they plant fruit tree every year according to their population increase per year.
It is based on this reason and understanding that time has come to launch the Yei Green Home Agriculture Programme (YGHAP)” to revive agriculture production and increase food availability in Yei River County to supply South Sudan and the Region in a sustainable manner.
5. The implications of insecurity on food production success over the past years:
The 2013 conflict outbreak and again in 2016, food production gains have been interrupted in Yei River County and equally the food supply chain has been obstructed as farmers were displaced to run into exile as refugees while others within as IDPs.
However, although massive production capacity and assets - including production infrastructure - were destroyed, history reveals that the community here can easily regain and restore their ability to farming. The violence is lessening and refocusing into household attacks and extortions of foods and finances because of growing household demands in the families of those carrying arms. Comprehending agriculture restocking and creating food reserves in each individual household will reconcile those families to forgive and encourage aggrieved families to engage in farming. There are increasing numbers of returnees and are willing to engage in agriculture to stabilize their livelihood and challenge violence perpetrators.
While the government initiative to promote large scale agricultural production through mechanized and commercialized farming could not be practically implemented due to precarious years of insecurity and lack of comprehensive policy guidance, YGHAP provide the window of opportunity to mitigate the challenges in community reconciliation, food production, economic stabilization and resilience.
6. Agriculture as potential tool for security stabilization:
With the signing ‘Revitalized Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic South Sudan (RARCSS), brokered by the regional body – IGAD and support of the International Communities. The revitalized government at national level is nearing completion with formation of the legislature. Meanwhile at state and county level, the structures have been set and nearing completion with the State Assembly and the County Legislative Council.
The national government is engaging the non-signatories to the revitalized peace agreement through the Rome based Saint Egi’dio peace initiative to restore lasting peace and stability and create a conducive environment for large scale agricultural production. The State and County Local Government is also coordinating efforts for grass root peace dialogue to build peace and reconcile the warring parties and community household violence.
The County Government is working to strengthen its position to create better environment for farmers, returnees and internally displaced persons to return to their villages and embark on agricultural production to reduce food insecurity. Yei River County is rebuilding the Customary Law Councils and Traditional Authority to take a key role in building a home grown household peace building process that shall strengthen its capacity to meet the challenges of providing public security, law and order.
7. The required interventions of development partners and donors in the agriculture sector:
There are several UN Agencies, International NGOs and National NGOs that have been engaged in the promotion of agriculture activities in Yei River County. The UN Agencies like FAO, WFP, UNDP and UNHCR have supported NGOs and CSOs with agriculture projects or activities related to agriculture with either funds or agriculture inputs. Some of these NGOs and CSOs have done well especially on the supply of tools, seeds and financial assistance to the vulnerable groups which are of emergence response in nature. Less than half of the farmers have received such assistance but the majority have either procured their tools and seeds from the market or use their traditional tools and household recurrent seeds that existed long time ago and have lost value.
A new approach is needed now and that YGHAP stands at its best chance to aid a sustainable food production chain that shall target supporting private sector involvement and comprehensive government and partner organizations’ backups of massive agriculture extension services and consistent seed multiplication and supply chain while providing agriculture capital and asset propagation fund.
The community of Yei River County is well aware of such actions as experienced previously by the public-private partnership approach named: Provincial Development Unit (PDU) between 1973 – 82 and Equatoria Region Agriculture Programme (ERAP) between 1983 – 90 which efforts were wasted by the war. It was from that experience that Yei was branded as the food basket for Sudan and the Middle East. These potentials still exist if revived.
8. Incentives for agricultural production and investment in Yei River County:
To stabilize agriculture production and food security, the Government and development partners need to provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to farmers and private enterprises to encourage and support investment in agricultural commercialization and large scale farming. YGHAP shall encompasses both approaches to provide a more holistic approach that underscores the community apatite to farming and increase in agriculture production.
The County Government fiscal incentives are in the form of tax subsidies incentives. The government should also provide a range of non-fiscal incentives administered by state agriculture Ministry, County Agriculture Departments and Agencies. The incentives include facilitation of registration and licensing of cooperative associations, businesses, access to investment resources, enterprises loans and grants and business finance, provision of business and export market information, creation of linkages between local and foreign investors, and facilitation of joint ventures, among others.
9. Transforming traditional farming into agriculture enterprise:
The conflict reversed progress made by the implementation of ERAP which advanced into commercializing agriculture farming particularly in Yei. Farmers were supplied with seeds and tools in return for food and seed that were recycled to generate local seeds and maintain seed quality. The food and seeds surplus were exchanged with cash to enhance household livelihood economic stability. Meanwhile, those with the ability to reach larger markets were assisted with market information to trade with Northern Sudan and Middle East Countries which boosted the national GDP placing Yei between number two and three revenue raising center after Port Sudan and Khartoum Airport respectively.
Building from this history that is full of hopes and the need to restore confidence, YGHAP shall drive to rollout a plan that seeks to support registered farmers and farmers’ cooperative groups to increase their farm acreage by mowing if available, ploughing, harrowing and planting their farms, providing selected seeds and tree seedlings in return for harvested food crops to meet the cost of work done on either single phase or installment phase return. The surplus shall be purchased or the owner can choose to sale to any purchaser.
10. Promoting fruit and flower trees farming for green agriculture:
Fruit trees represent valuable part of nutrients that are required in our daily food consumption or requirement while complimenting the dangers of environmental degradation alongside flower trees. Thus by implementing YGHAP, tree planting shall be core to increase food availability in the community. Intentional regulation shall be enforced to ensure that all family members plant fruit and flower trees every year and, the more the family produces and expands the more they plant at every year to ensure that each family member reaches ten fruit trees and more flowers.
By doing so the people of Yei River County shall have revamped and reduced the effects of climate changes.
11. Opening the pathways for agriculture commercialization:
There are multiple pathways through which agribusiness enterprises and investment can promote agricultural commercialization. These pathways are subject to the growth strategies adopted by agricultural enterprises. Access to, or availability of finance in grants and loans, land, and the economic and development priorities of policymakers and development partners, also shape these emergent pathways. The design and implementation of government-led fiscal and non-fiscal incentives in Yei River County should be made favor large-scale agricultural production and enterprise development to open the gates for agriculture industrialization.
12. What could be done spontaneously?
There are perquisites to outline steps on what can or should be done from a policy point of view to investment in agricultural and how can YGHAP increase food production and stabilize local livelihood and national economic progress in Yei River County:
1. Provide timely seeds and tools that are needed for cultivation in the first and second cultivation season and invest in seed reproduction and multiplication;
2. Enable farmers access agriculture grants and loans, cash for agriculture assets and capital and, food for work for the vulnerable groups to boost farming and act as incentive for farmers;
3. Reorganize and rebuild the capacities of farmer cooperatives and associations that are both sales and productive in nature to meet the market requirements and obligations and reduce food deficits;
4. Prioritize funding for comprehensive agriculture commercial program in Yei River County to encourage a move away from agriculture subsistence farming to massively increase the production capacity;
5. Restore and strengthen agriculture extension services by recruiting community based agriculture extension workers and provide them with comprehensive skills and farmers trainings that responds adequately to agriculture innovations;
6. Support integrated agriculture mechanization programs by providing tractors equipped with their ploughs, harrowers, planter, mowers and harvesters to boost production outputs,
7. Combine investments in small and large holder agriculture with policies on the role of cooperatives in agriculture food production and value chains.
8. Mainstreaming modern agriculture and market-oriented production skills, involving the private sector in national development goals, and improving food security through the commercialization of food crops.
9. Ensure all value chain actors are fairly represented in public–private partnerships and on commodity are potential mechanisms for developing inclusive business models in agricultural value chains.
An overarching message emerging from this brief is that launching YGHAP to support the agriculture culture sector in Yei River County require reforms and strategies that need to be put in place simultaneously. In collaboration with national governments and partners in development. The County Government role is to make the strategic policies and linkages between farmers and market opportunities, so that local and regional agribusiness can become drivers for socio-economic growth recovery.
The call here is a bell of alert that requires attention through the government institutions and use of competent, determined and committed CSOs and National NGOs is necessary and important in an emergence short term and long term response situation to avert hunger and famine outbreak.
I therefore on behalf of the people and the current administration of Yei River County extend this call and launch Yei Green Home Agriculture Programme (YGHAP) to seek for your attention and possible response to the call as outline in the subject of the letter above as I request your acceptance of my best regards.