Peace Turns South Sudanese Vegetable Farmer’s Passion into Profit

South Sudanese farmer Jozela Simon Baba teaches employees on using mango leaves to plant vegetables in a nursery bed

By Simon Deng

She waited, saw the peace deal holding, then dived deep into her passion-vegetable production.

“Passion Farm” is the name Jozela Simon Baba coined for her vast gardens of Sukuma wiki, Cucumber, Spinach, Okra and Eggplants on a 12 acres land along the River Nile on the outskirt of Juba.

She also plants Green Pepper, Tomatoes and Water Melon as well as Pawpaw among many other varieties of vegetables and fruits.

 “Since 2021, I am doing farming in Gumbo without interruption and that is because of peace,” the 32-year-old farmer told The Dawn in an interview at her farm.

Farmer Jozela Simon Baba displays her green paper harvest
Farmer Jozela Simon Baba smiles after a huge harvest of water melon from her farm in Gumbo

Baba has already introduced irrigation to ensure she supplies the market in Juba and other parts of the country all-round the year.

Just like Baba, other South Sudanese are taking up the opportunity provided by the relative peace and security as a result of the peace agreement being implemented in the country to redevelop their livelihoods.

The war that this peace deal calmed began in 2013, leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead, displacing 4 million others, slowed local production and with it, ruining the economy of South Sudan.

With poverty rapidly creeping in and purchasing power eroded, those individuals saw the gap in opportunity during the transitional government of national unity and began putting ideas into financially productive schemes.

The country’s potential in agriculture surpasses expectations. Its rich soil resource in the Equatoria has given it a wonderful name, “the breadbasket of South Sudan.”

Endowment with such a rich resource sets a very productive based for economic evolution, peace, security and development for the nation.

China is a testament to how agriculture can create a national food security and spur rapid development.

Rice is the most important food crop in the Far East country and plays an important role in ensuring national food security. Globally China is the leading producer contributing 28.7 percent of the global production.

It stands out as a major staple food in China and the subsistence crop for most of the resource-poor farmers and consumers in rural areas. This is what enterprising South Sudanese like Baba are working to evolve in the country.

Currently, a transformation of the traditional small-scale production for people who began like Baba to rice production mechanization, intelligent, standardization and modern large-scale production has move China’s holistic development by leaps unimaginable across all its economic sectors.

Baba, by 2021, was already determined to kick start in vegetable production as a lucrative livelihood, and a base for food security and peace in South Sudan.

“I started with 1200 dollars that year, buying seeds and maintaining the farm and ended up getting 3700 dollars,” she said. “I got good money, believe me, there is money in this business.”

Her passion kicked into ideas when she was employed by a local NGO “Speed up Support for Peace, Education Development Programs” doing agriculture in South Sudan. Overseeing the production of Sorghum, Sesame and Groundnuts in Gosrome and Chemmedi and onions in Gerger, all in Renk, Baba realized “Passion Farm” was the way to go.

“What inspired me to name the farm “Passion Farm” is too much love for farming. The word passion came from my passion in agriculture,” Baba, a graduate in Business Administration from the Canadian Sudanese College in Khartoum and a Finance Officer by profession told The Dawn.

“When I was working with the NGO in Upper Nile and when I got into the farm, I found that I have too much passion in agriculture, much more than my own profession,” she said. “I love every bit of it.”

It’s though not all rosy yet Baba is determined to ensure her passion become her livelihood.

Her main challenges have been livestock breaching the perimeters of her farm, and theft, Baba said.

“I fenced the whole of 12 acres but livestock keepers sneak their goats into the farm to come and graze inside and the second is theft,” she said.

“There are a lot of unemployed people who at night come inside and steal. We have overcome this by allowing workers to sleep in the farm to provide security and I provide for them accommodation feeding and then treatment.”

Farmer Jozela Simon Baba displays okra after a bounty harvest

Baba first employed 3 people on her farm at the onset, a number that has now risen to 10.

Now Baba’s ideas are growing, looking to make agriculture a main stay in her life and for other South Sudanese.

“If you can see other countries, they have really advanced in agriculture, and this is the most neglected area in South Sudan though it provides food for us and our children,” Baba told The Dawn.

“In South Sudan we think agriculture is for people who have not gone to school but I just want to change the narrative. I want to make our South Sudanese youth and women know that agriculture is the backbone of the country. I want to attract more youth, women to venture into agriculture,” she said.

 “I want to take agriculture in South Sudan to another level.”

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