Unresolved insecurity is threatening food production

Anisa Jokudu Bullen, women representative at Suk Yei selling food produce. Photo: Adia Jildo

By Adia Jildo

Farmers and vendors selling food produce in Juba are decrying the recent and continued insecurity caused by cattle herders in food producing areas leading to low production and losses.

The food stuff venders are raising concerns amidst losses they incur in their businesses.

Anisa Jokudu Bullen, the women representative vending at Suk Yei said traders are running on losses as food from Morobo, Yei is hardly reaching Suk Yei market, and other markets in Juba, adding that the stuffs are getting spoilt in the farm.

“Magwi which was producing a lot has now insecurities. Some farmers are now in the refugee camps. Areas of Yei, Morobo, Kajo-Keji, and Wonduruba are all under insecurities. I don’t have any hope on whether these food issues will end,” she said.

The vender said presence of insecurity has led to a drop in the level of food production quoting how areas such as Wonduruba and Morobo have cut food supplies.

Anisa said that it is now more than four months since the rate of food produce brought from the greater Equatoria dropped.

“What we are now doing is not business. We are just keeping our money so that we cannot eat it all. This is why we are selling these things,” she said.

Anisa also stressed that some women who make losses end up taking produce from farmers on loans and promise to pay back if goods are sold with profits. She stated that this act has led to arrest of over 5 people due to failure to refund the amount owed even after making losses.

“These women fight to get something to sell from those who sell it in wholesale. At times, it does not bring back the money they expected and hence they are taken to the prison and fined,” she said.

She reiterated that some traders reach Juba with spoilt produce and therefore register losses on their goods.

She called on the government to evacuate cattle and their herders to enable sustainable food production and surplus for sale to Juba city.

Anisa added that goods from Uganda have become so expensive and which are tagged with a lot of taxes levied on them.

“Let the government look at our situation, if we are begging the government for security which was supposed to be the right of everyone, what does it mean? Some of these women struggle because they are either widows or even wives of military personnel who do not get salaries timely,” she complained.

Alice Abwola, a farmer who exports her goods to Juba town from Magwi said she is disappointed by the security situation as she might not be able to farm this year which will put her family’s life and children’s education at stake.

“This year, we shall die of hunger because this year there is no farming; we cannot go to the farm and even keep our families besides, our business for up keep. If the government does not provide a solution, then there will be no food in Juba,” she said.

Alice who brings her goods from Magwi said “we were promised that we shall sell our produce at a market in Amee junction but the cattle herders have made the whole of our villages so insecure”.

She said most people who were farming are fleeing to camps which caused a low level of food products.

“We are very tired of this trade here in Juba. There is nothing we gain; everything here is to be paid for starting from the farm, check points, loaders also demand and we face a very difficult situation when we are getting here,” she said.

Susan, also a trader said that besides the security situation, food staffs have become scarce thereby cutting cost on goods. She buys her food produce from Uganda where a lot of taxes are levied and costs spent in order for it to reach Juba.

“You cannot do a profitable business now; all we do is to help our children to have a living and cater for the small needs. Besides that, there is nothing you can ever get from this business,” she said.

Some food produce that was farmed locally within the Equatoria regions are now being imported from Northern Uganda in Arua.

She called on the government to create a conducive environment as insecurity would threaten the work of traders due to rise of prices.

Deng Ayuan, a driver who transports produce from Elegu-Nimule to Juba said he had been transporting fresh foods from Magwi before which he believes if security of Magwi county was stable, food would still be produced in plenty.

“I could transport food produce from Magwi but now we go up to Nimule and get some food stuffs from Nimule. These traders are even importing things that were produced and now they are not enough to be sold,” he said.

The executive director for Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, Edmund Yakani said procedures of the government to enact laws on cattle regulation is not a steed fast solution.

“Enactment of the laws is a long-term solution. Right now, we need an immediate solution,” he appealed.

He said that cattle in the Equatoria regions should be moved away from the farm areas, their movement limited and relocated back to their areas of origin.

Edmund said delay in the removal of cattle and their herders would lead to starvation in the region and the country would experience food insecurity.

“National Parliament needs to decide including the state Parliament on the immediate actions to combat the possibilities of hunger in the region,” he said.

He said that displaced people who were sources of agricultural produce and had impact on food security have been left to depend on food aid.

Edmund stated that delay in the evacuation of cattle herders would lead to tensions between farmers and herders hence possession of arms by farmers which might intensity into a brutal clash.

“The government has to be serious. They need to mitigate the presence of cattle pastoralists in the farming communities” he said.

He said that county commissioners affected by herders and presence of cattle have to admit citing insecurity due to presence of cattle herders for the government to make decision.

“Until we are able to get the cattle out of farming areas, food insecurity is eminent in the Equatoria and that means a lot in terms of humanitarian assistance,” he said.

Edmund called on the government to move away some military commanders citing that some military commanders are collaborating with herders hence their slow movement.

He urged the government to establish a complete force to enable cattle herders evacuate as herders are armed beyond security personnel.

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