A long-term strategy to reduce hunger, improve nutrition, and increase food security in South Sudan is being launched by Tearfund.
The charity's Country Director for South Sudan, Anthony Rama, told Premier that many people have been displaced over the last decade because of conflict and flooding, leading to greater food insecurity:
"South Sudan is facing its highest levels of food insecurity and malnutrition since independence ten years ago. About half of our population is in dire need of food assistance.
"It is heart-breaking to hear from the UN that only four percent of children in Kajo Keji get the bare minimum of nutritious food. This programme will save thousands of children from going hungry and give their families the skills and resources to grow diverse healthy food."
Currently, Kajo Keji is in a state of emergency with respect to food insecurity. According to the UN, Unicef and World Food Programme, only four percent of children achieved the required minimum acceptable diet, 61 per cent of children aged two to five years old in Kajo Keji ate only one meal in the last 24-hours and 22 per cent of households ate only from two food groups, contributing to the high rate of malnutrition.
Women traditionally play a key role in food production in South Sudan, but Tearfund says they are often excluded from decision-making. The charity wants to give them a greater say in how farms are run and crops are cultivated. It will provide intensive agricultural support and business management training to 1,000 farmers, of which 80 per cent will be women.
Anthony Rama tells Premier it's all about sustainability:
"Women would be able to carry these skills into their community, into their farms and begin to revive the agricultural situation and in the long term really provide a sustainable supply of food to their households."
Seed kits will be given to 6,000 marginalised and vulnerable households in Kajo Keji to increase agricultural production and rebuild livelihoods. And 700 households in the most desperate need will also be given immediate food assistance through vouchers.
Food distribution committees will be made up of local people, of which at least half will be women.
Speaking to Premier, Anthony Rama says the project is dependent on planting cycles, but he hopes that in 12-18 months, 700 households currently receiving food vouchers will have a sustainable food supply of their own:
"Of course, this is with the hope that farmers will not have to be displaced again. But there are still challenges in terms of safety and for communities to be able to trade and move very easily. So, what we are praying for is that the peace process will continue to support this process and make peace sustainable. But we are glad about the progress that has been made."