National, News

Cattle keeper turns to crops to curb food insecurity, poverty

By Adia Jildo


A South Sudanese smallholder farmer who has a burning zeal for entrepreneurship has taken up cultivation of staple crops to feed his family and sell the surplus in the local market.

Jacob Magai Alier, a former cattle herder said he honed his farming and home gardening skills after he was selected by a cooperative group supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

“I started this work because of hunger. If you are hungry, you will definitely think about other ways to feed your family,” Magai said during a recent interview in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

Magai Farm is located near a small seasonal stream in Juba-2, a suburb of Sherikat, about 3kms from Juba and every day, he wakes up early to remove the sand from the stream so that he can collect water for irrigating his crops.

“I would just need the support of a water pumping system to be able to get water for planting. The weather is now extremely hot for these crops to cope with heatwaves,” Magai said.

The father of seven supplies fresh organic tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, and eggplant to local markets, realizing a financial breakthrough and boosting nutritional security of his family.

“My children are in school, and I am able to handle their basic healthcare requirements when they are ill, thanks to the farm produce,” Magai said.

As commodity prices continue to skyrocket in South Sudan daily, Magai sells over five boxes of red tomatoes to the community, adding that he is willing to persist despite economic challenges.

He sells a box of fresh tomatoes worth 150,000 South Sudanese pounds, (about 115 U.S. dollars), adding that he makes about 400 dollars on a regular basis.

Magai said he has employed over 15 people in his small farm and pays each 25 dollars per day.

Ajak Lueth, who is a beneficiary of Magai farm, attributed its success in securing food to the local community to its proximity and friendly cost of staples.

“We have the nearest market, which is a kilometer away and sells tomatoes, but they are very expensive. Here, I am able to save money, time and support my brother’s business,” Lueth said.

Another local resident said that every morning, she buys a bucket of tomatoes at Magai’s farm at a very affordable price, adding that in the last three months, she has been able to obtain fresh fruits to boost her health.

Kuany Alier, a 40-year-old employee at Magai’s farm pick fruits every day, securing sufficient income to sustain her family.

“I do clean the tomatoes and green peppers everyday compared to when I would stay home and stare at nothing. This job has changed my life. I can now cater for my children’s needs comfortably,” Alier said.

According to FAO, South Sudan is likely to experience a drop in production of key staples due to inter-communal violence which has displaced many farmers alongside climatic shocks including recurrent droughts and flooding.


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