Gabriel Peter Wandu Bimo, like many others displaced, found himself homeless by early July of 2016 after his native village (Li-rangu) became a battleground between the SPLA and the SPLA-IO. He recalled that fateful night when his houses were burnt to ashes and his livelihood destroyed, leaving him with nothing to live on. The 42-year-old husband and a father of 19, moved and settled in Ngindo, Nagbaka area, 15km away from Yambio along Nzara road.
If you visited his thriving home today, one would hardly believe Gabriel lost everything a few years ago. He graciously attributes this dramatic turnaround to the startup livelihood kits he received as a beneficiary of the Emergency Livelihood Response Program (ELRP) after settling as an IDP in Nagbaka. The ELRP, which provides farm inputs to vulnerable households (in the Integrated Phase Classification – IPC 3 and 4) including IDPs, returnees, and host communities, is implemented by Start Trust Organization (STO) in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with funding from the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Gabriel was identified as a beneficiary for the emergency support in 2017, and was given emergency livelihood kit comprising of a tool (hoe), vegetable kits (amaranths, collard, okra, Tomatoes, eggplant) and crop kits (5kg maize seeds, 5kg of cowpeas, and 5kg of sorghum) and basic agronomic training. This was all for him to produce enough for his family and reserve some as seeds for following planting season. Since then Gabriel said “it has never been one meal per day again”
Through his hard work, Gabriel has progressed to become one of the lead farmers in Nagbaka. By 2018, Gabriel was no longer food insecure and became a member of Nagbaka 1 Farmer Group with the aim of market-oriented farming. This group was subsequently selected for support under the Sustainable Agriculture for Economic Resilience (SAFER) project, a development-oriented USAID funded and FAO-supported project that works with farmers in groups of 25-30 with the aim of transforming agriculture and boosting production and productivity. Through STO a local implementing partner, Gabriel and other group members have benefited from capacity building, input provision, and extension services as part of the SAFER project package. The SAFER project has supported Gabriel to increase his farm acreage from the initial 3 feddans to 8 feddans, and he has been able to increase yields and produce for the market.
Time could not have been any better for Gabriel, when the World Food Program (WFP) supported Small Agriculture Market Support (SAMS) project opened a rural aggregation centre (RAC) in Ngindo, about 2 kilometers away, in September 2018. The RAC provided the much-needed market access for the surplus of grains produced by Gabriel and other farmers of his likes in the area. Gabriel recounts selling up to 1.4 metric tons of maize at the Ngindo RAC in the second season of 2018 that earned him up to 92,000 South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) in cash. When asked how he spent his money, he said, “I have been able to pay all my children to school”. Smiling wide, he proudly pointed at one of his sons who was home for holidays, a beneficiary of his farming enterprise. Besides supporting his children to school, he also used part of the money to pay casual labourers to expand his farm and cater for the health of his family. Gabriel has dedicated 5 feddans to cultivate maize for the current season projecting a total yield of 4.5 metric tons, an equivalent of 297,000 SSP (considering a minimum price of 3,300 per 50 kg) by the August 2019 harvest alone.
Gabriel referred to the SAMS project as a rare blessing. Like many other farmers around the country, post-harvest loses accounts for over 30% of the total harvest, partly resulting from lack of markets access, infestation by pests due to the poor storage facility, and the lack of technical know-how. Underlying the benefits of the project he continued to say “Farmers are now able to sell their grains easily and get paid as fast as possible. We argue that this kind of project should continue so that farmers can produce enough food for this country and beyond”. He referred to the partnership between farmers and STO/WFP as a friendship. Talking to a friend he commended the work that the organizations are doing and called for betterment in the price of the grains to reflect the true market price not as low as it was last season. Gabriel is an ambitious farmer who dreams of producing food to feed the whole of South Sudan.
Gabriel showered praises and gratitude to the host community who initially took the burden of feeding his family. He went on to thank STO, FAO, the Kingdom of Netherlands, and WFP for the timely support extended, saying that “this has restored my family dignity and the respect that it deserves”.
Gabriel’s story demonstrates not only the spirit of resiliency and recovery but also the convergence of the partner’s efforts towards sustainable development in Gbudue state.