Food insecurity looming in South Sudan


At least four million people in South Sudan are likely to experience food insecurity this year, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP).

Food production in South Sudan increased by 35% between 2011 and 2012 due to good rains, improved cultivation practices and expanded area under cultivation, according to the report.

This is an improvement over the previous reporting period’s food security figures, thanks in part to a decent cereal harvest, but it still means nearly 40% of the country’s population will have trouble getting enough to eat at some point during the year. This includes more than a million people who are expected to be severely food insecure.
“South Sudan has good agricultural potential and the improved harvest estimate is good news, but the country’s overall food security situation remains precarious. We must redouble efforts to improve the livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable South Sudanese and ensure they produce their own food or can afford to buy to meet their needs and are more resilient to shocks,” WFP Country Director Chris Nikoi said.

The FAO-WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to South Sudan (CFSAM) report is based on an assessment done between October and November last year. It is an important tool in assessing South Sudan’s agricultural production and food availability.
“CFSAM is our best estimate but it’s imprecise. What we need is a comprehensive agricultural census covering fish, livestock and crops. This would provide a more accurate baseline against which annual production can be better measured,” Dr Sue Lautze, FAO’s Head of Office in South Sudan, said.

South Sudan’s cereal deficit is estimated at 371 000 metric tons for the year, about a third of its total cereal requirement of just over one million tons. Commercial imports will meet some of the “cereal gap” but the report notes high food prices and poor commercial supply in some parts of the country will require a significant amount of food assistance.

The report also warns increased conflict and economic instability could increase the number of people requiring food assistance by more than a million.

Insecurity still remains a major constraint to optimising South Sudan’s agricultural potential. Incidents of armed cattle rustling, conflicts between and among communities and the activities of militia groups continue to inhibit farmers.

The FAO is implementing a broad portfolio of agricultural relief and rehabilitation projects as well as longer-term capacity building projects in South Sudan. About 70% of FAO’s seed support will be produced by South Sudanese farmers for distribution to vulnerable farming households. FAO is seeking US$40 million in donor support through the UN Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) to support livestock, crop, horticulture, fisheries and agro-forestry humanitarian interventions, as well as its co-ordination roles.

WFP’s food assistance programmes this year will focus on supporting just on three million of the country’s most vulnerable and food-insecure people, including specialised nutritional support for new mothers and children under the age of five.

WFP will assist about 800 000 refugees and IDPs (internally displaced people), as well as returnees and poor families in high food-insecure areas. WFP also supports programmes addressing the root causes of hunger, including infrastructure projects to help the most food-insecure communities increase agricultural productivity and prepare themselves better to cope with disasters such as floods.