South Sudan’s Peace Makes Starving Bellies Fill Again

Misa Modecai was already struggling to sustain his family of five with three meals a day and when crisis reached his region, he could only slash that to a single meal, sometimes hoarding cooked food to ensure they can eat again a day later.
Coffee seedlings in a nursery in Nzara County.  Photo by Okech Francis 

By Okech Francis  

Misa Modecai was already struggling to sustain his family of five with three meals a day and when crisis reached his region, he could only slash that to a single meal, sometimes hoarding cooked food to ensure they can eat again a day later.

Modecai was teaching at a remote school deep in Nzara County of South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State when crisis knocked at his door by 2016, rendering him incapable of his duties as a breadwinner.

With roads closed, farms cut off, and commodities including food limited, Modecai’s family rooted for the most daring  of survival methods-cooking a meal and rationing it over 2 or several days.

While active fighting never reached his area, “life though was not easy, business was bad, people could not farm-they abducted people from farms and there was targeted killing-you feel it may be you next,” Modecai told The Dawn in an interview in Nzara. 

“Tea was totally cut off, sometimes we eat lunch then keep some of the same food for supper, it was not easy to get treatment and prices of drugs were very high,” Modecai narrated the situation. 

But hope is returning, especially with the 2018 peace deal, and South Sudan developed a mechanism of a transitional government that has pacified the country and created security that people like Modecai are benefiting from to rebuild livelihoods destroyed in the devastating wars.

Displaying a maturing Coffee Berry. Photo by Okech Francis 

The conflict which began in 2013 left hundreds of thousands of people dead, displaced four million others and devastated a virgin economy thay was building on the country’s independence from two years earlier.

Modecai, like many others is picking up opportunities that present themselves, and capitalising on the peace and security, is making strides in ensuring his life is better.

His family now enjoys three meals a day, the children go to school, and can save money for future emergencies-his new work is commercial agriculture.

He has joined the high tide riding in Nzara, commercial production of the areas indigenous Excelsa coffee which thrives even in the wild in the area.

“I have last year (2022) planted 223 seedlings, this year 97 and next year I plan 236 seedlings,” Modecai said. (The interview was in early December. )

With the peace implementation running smoothly in South Sudan, Modecai has vowed his family will always have a full belly with farming as the trick. He stopped teaching in 2021 to focus on harnessing land.

“I can afford to pay the children in school, I can afford food on the table, I have bought land,” Modecai said.

The rush for production of Excelsa coffee is letting communities realise a better source of livelihood. 

A logging company, Equatoria Teak Company,  itself planting vast hectares of Excelsa Coffee as well as replanting Teak massively is providing market for the coffee, and themselves will add value and then export to the international market. 

Like Modecai, 1477 farmers are engaged in coffee production since 2022 with a massive 459 hectares soon undergoing harvest, Jackson Matenge, a coffee consultant at ETC told The Dawn. 

“More people are showing interest yet when we started this project, we could not think we would achieve this number,” Matenge said.

“Our target is to achieve 750 hectares-291 to go in the next two years,” he said.

Such innovations that involve the communities have seen agriculture thrive in developing nations like China.

For the Far East country, its economic reform began with agricultural liberalisation, a step South Sudan is undergoing.

Between 1978 and 1983, agricultural reforms successfully transformed collectives into household-based farming, which means the more food is produced, the more the individuals will earn. It produced record-breaking growth in grain and meat output, overcoming endemic food shortages experienced since the 1950s. 

Changes in agricultural trade patterns since the reform also have been remarkable.

From 1980 to 1995, while the proportion of foodstuffs in China’s total exports dropped from nearly 17 percent to about 5 percent, the total value of food traded increased from about US$6 billion to US$16 billion. More importantly, after more than one and a half decades of reform, China has become a strong net food exporter in the world market. The success is however not only due to greater incentives to individuals involved in household farming but also to the flexibility that individuals can easily get access to the market through  ‘agricultural cooperatives’, which brought great profit to the agricultural producers

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