As an implementing partner of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Star Trust Organization (STO) in collaboration with the State Ministry of Agriculture launched input distribution and seed fairs on April 12, 2019 in Ikpiro (Yambio). Attending the launching was STO Executive Director Mr. Tangun Stephen, Head of FAO Yambio Field Office Mr Louis Bagare and the Director-General of the State Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Two sets of beneficiaries are targeted under two projects in this 2019 seed fairs implemented by STO:
1) Up to 11,234 vulnerable households (of host communities, internally displaced persons – IDPs, and returnees) in six counties (Ibba, Yambio, Nzara, Ezo, Tambura and Nagero) receiving support from the 2019 Emergency Livelihood Response Programme (ELRP) funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
2) Whereas, 4,480 households supported in groups of 25-30 members (in Yambio, Nzara and Tambura) under the development-oriented Sustainable Agriculture For Economic Resilience (SAFER) project with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The event included direct distribution of livelihood kits (including crop kits, vegetable kits, fishing kits) to relevant segments of the beneficiaries. A standard package of crop kits composed of 5kg maize, 5kg of sorghum and kg of cowpeas; while vegetable kits composed of Amaranths, collards tomatoes, Okra, Onion, eggplants, watermelon, pumpkin, a hoe and a maloda, and the fishing kits composed of hooks size 4 and 5, monofilament, Twine sizes 12 and 14.
Whereas the seed fairs entailed the issue of a voucher (valued at 4,000 South Sudanese Pounds) per each relevant beneficiary to procure their preferred seeds from the seed vendors (among available seed types – groundnuts, maize, sorghum, cowpeas, rice, sesame, etc.).
To complement the input provision, a session was provided to sensitize the beneficiaries and all the farmers present on basic agronomic messages and Fall Army Warm (FAW). During this session, STO agronomists and agriculture scientists educated the farmers using Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials (banners, leaflets) and mini demonstration farms set up at the site.
In his opening remarks, Mr Tangun highlighted the partnership between STO and FAO and thanked the support that UNFAO gives to the implementations of different agricultural projects with the donation from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and United States. Explaining the seed fair event, he said that it is a mutually benefiting activity for both the seed vendors and the beneficiaries. Some seed vendors are farmers who have been supported as beneficiaries in seed production and multiplication and now have the opportunity to earn money from their produces; whereas the beneficiaries have the benefit to purchase locally produced seeds of their preferences. Asked on why women were evidently the majority during the function, STO’s premier alluded to the fact that women are most vulnerable in our communities and STO is keen to make sure that proper targeting is in place to address the need of the most vulnerable in the society. In his concluding remarks, he underscored STO’s slogan as ‘Agriculture is our Culture’ and labelled Yambio and the entire region of Western Equatoria as ‘a natural destination of money’, whereby the region should be ‘a departure terminal for food (and agriculture products) to other places and an arrival terminal for money’. In this way, the local economy will boom and we shall become an example in South Sudan and the region at large.
Louis Bagare the head of the office for the UNFAO Western Equatoria reiterated to the partnership existing between STO, FAO and the government in ensuring the food security in the region. He echoed the benevolence of the people of the United State of American and the people of the Kingdom of Netherland who despite the crisis in the country have not forgotten the people of South Sudan. He also commended the government for the revitalized peace agreement which has ushered in relative peace enabling farming activities.
The seed fair, he exclaimed, is an initiative to inject cash into the local economy and ensuring that the farmers make the choice for the type of seed they desire. Shading more light on the number of women present in the function, he said that vulnerability is the major criteria for identifying the beneficiaries for the emergency project since women are highly subjected to threats and suffering. In a more development-oriented SAFER project, women form 60% and this shows that more women are involved in farming activities. He would have not ended without emphasizing on the benefits of timely planting that it improves productivity and FAO is keen on delivering farm inputs and distributing seeds on time as it was the case that was ongoing. And lastly, Mr Bagare thanked everyone and highlighted that distribution and seed fair will be taking place over in the six (6) counties and across Yambio simultaneously.
The Director-General who was the highest government official in the function, and the Guest of Honour, Mr Mariano commended the work of UNFAO and STO in engaging the farmers and the timely provision of seeds and tools. Addressing the beneficiaries, the DG cautioned against the consumption of the seeds and instructed them to plant as they had requested. As a key take away from the speech, he asked the audience to engage in the plantation of trees as part of the ‘cut 1 plant 5’ campaign which the ministry is championing.
The beneficiaries could not shy away from their joy, they expressed their gratitude in the several seed fair sites ‘Tambuahe fu FAO na STO, na aboro America, na Netherlands ti pa undo rani’ a Pazande phrase to mean thanks to FAO, STO, the Dutch and the American people, was rampant. Distribution of farm inputs is not only a way to avail the much-needed seeds but it offers an incentive to boost agricultural production and productivity as most farmers are encouraged to produce their own food and seed.