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Food Shortages a Worry for South Sudan

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

United Nations agencies are warning of food shortages next year in South Sudan. The Food and Agriculture Organization says the new country is likely to produce only half the food it needs this year. The FAO blames the situation on unpredictable rains, the return of thousands of refugees, and conflict.

In August, the FAO did a study called a rapid crop assessment. It estimated that farmers in South Sudan could produce, at most, five hundred thousand metric tons of food this year.

Commonly grown food crops in South Sudan include maize, groundnuts, finger millet, pearl millet, sesame and cassava.

Food Shortages a Worry for South Sudan
Food Shortages a Worry for South Sudan

South Sudan became an independent nation in July after years of civil war with the Sudanese government in Khartoum. People in the south depended heavily on food aid during the war. Now they are trying to produce more of their own food.

Separation from the north was peaceful when it came. But since then South Sudan has faced tribal and rebel violence in several areas. And many refugees have returned from the north, adding to the population.

South Sudan is one of the world's poorest countries. Last month, thirty-eight humanitarian agencies and aid groups wrote about the country's needs in a report for international donors. One of the groups that released the report, called "Getting It Right from the Start," was Oxfam. Surendrini Wijeyaratna is a spokeswoman for Oxfam in South Sudan.

SURENDRINI WIJEYARATNA: “The most important thing is to get the right balance between humanitarian and development assistance. There are still emergency context because of localized conflicts, because the country is susceptible to droughts and floods and also because there are still quite a lot of people returning from north Sudan to South Sudan.”

In March, the Food and Agriculture Organization announced the results of another study, a seed system security assessment. It took place in late two thousand ten. It found that farmers wanted to increase their plantings by more than sixty percent.

But in some places, armed conflict interfered with clearing the land and planting the seeds. Farmers also had to deal with high fuel prices, labor problems, stolen cattle and disputes over grasslands and water sources.

Amor Almagro with the UN World Food Program says her agency has fed almost two million people as a result of planting delays. Ms. Almagro says South Sudan has a good supply of fertile land, but only four percent is farmed.

Lise Grande with the UN humanitarian agency for South Sudan says food security is a big concern. An estimated 1.2 million people in South Sudan could face major food shortages. Last year, the number was nine hundred seventy thousand.

And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I’m Bob Doughty.