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FAO encourages agricultural investment to tame food insecurity

By Philip Buda Ladu


Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is urging South Sudan to invest in agriculture in order to fight food insecurity.

FAO Deputy Director-General (DDG), Beth Bechdol, who visited South Sudan, underscored the need to invest in agriculture and transform agrifood systems to enhance food security in the country.

In a statement obtained by this outlet, Bechdol reiterated FAO’s commitment to supporting the people of South Sudan, emphasizing the need to prioritize investments in agriculture.

She noted that at least 90% of the population should rely on farming, livestock rearing, and fishing for their livelihoods.

Bechdol led a high-level delegation, including Rein Paulsen, Director of the Office of Emergencies and Resilience, and Lifeng Li, Director of Land and Water, on a 6-day visit to South Sudan.

Their courtesy visit comes amid concerns of a deteriorating food security situation expected to worsen due to looming floods predicted to affect the country from June to July, peaking in September 2024.

According to officials, the looming floods might impact between 600,000 and 3.3 million people across the country, based on varying impact scenarios.

“It’s time to invest in agriculture—especially when the most food insecure are farmers themselves. There is so much potential in the agricultural sector of South Sudan, and prioritizing agriculture can make a difference,” Bechdol stated.

Her visit comes a year after a successful Rome-Based Agencies (RBAs) mission undertaken by the Heads of FAO, World Food Programme (WFP), and International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD) to South Sudan, which set the tone for renewed RBA collaboration.

WFP Deputy Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Rukia Abdullahi, joined FAO’s Bechdol on the ongoing mission.

They visited St. Mary Magdalene’s primary school in Kapoeta, where WFP provides meals for over 1,000 children, and FAO complements these meals with vegetables grown in a school plot to enhance their nutrition and enable them to stay longer in school.

Deputy Director-General highlighted that “cooperation at the RBA level is both strategic and the right thing to do.”

During her visit, Mr. Bechdol met with government authorities, donors, partners, and the communities served by FAO.

She is bringing attention back to South Sudan, highlighting the challenges faced and the opportunities that exist to change the trends and improve food security.

South Sudan is a land with abundant natural resources, and to unlock its full potential, there is a need for all stakeholders involved to work together to tap those resources and diversify the economy through agriculture.

National Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Josephine Lagu in a meeting with Bechdol thanked her for the follow-up visit.

The two discussed the partnership between the South Sudan government through the Ministry of Agriculture and FAO, describing it as “effective and premised on mutual respect.”

Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Onyoti Adigo, also commended FAO as a strong partner, stressing that “livestock is part of food security.”.

Mr. Bechdol expressed FAO’s readiness to support the people of South Sudan.

“Alongside partners and the government, FAO is providing the needed water for people and livestock, sources of nutrition for women and children, and support to develop the livestock value chain to enable farmers to make a living and support their families,” she stated.

Above-normal rainfall forecast this season and large volumes of water being released from Lake Victoria into the Nile River will worsen the floods predicted to surpass the record levels witnessed in September 2022, necessitating a high level of preparedness.

However, the gap is slowly being filled through resilience-building measures by UN agencies and local partners to move the country away from dependency to resilience.

Bechdol stressed the need to strategize ahead of the floods and set in place early warning systems and anticipatory actions.

“We need to bridge emergency and resilience. And we can achieve this by transforming agrifood systems to be more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable,” she added.

Last month, the Transitional National Legislative Assembly embarked their oversight role in an attempt to ensure the revival of dormant national agricultural schemes to restore food security and tame economic crises.

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