The limited market opportunity fueled by the strict cultural norms that relegate women to household duties in South Sudan is greatly affecting the socio-economic development of most women in the country. Many women are involved in farming activities in Western Equatoria State (WES), contributing to the food security stability in their families and community. The surplus from their farms often end in the hands of their husbands who are expected by the society to access market places and make decisions on the resources of the households, and therefore, in most cases, the money from the sales of farm harvest does not reach the women.

An initiative of World Food Programme (WFP) in partnership with Star Trust Organization is taking market close to the rural communities through the Small Agricultural Market Support (SAMS) project, supported by Canada and Germany. The SAMS project is a gender-inclusive initiative that is offering women the opportunity to access the market and the security to have control over their incomes from their farm harvests.

“There are few economic opportunities for women, and the little available ones are dominated by men who would deny their wives of any access. The SAMS project is offering the solution, by which women can easily reach the Rural Aggregation Centers (RACs), and they are directly paid rather than through their husbands. This model gives women the opportunity to invest in other income-generating activities (IGA) without the men dictating,” said Madam Prucila Elkana Yambio, the headwoman of Bapagua village in Yambio County.

STO Executive Director Mr, Tangun Stephen (left)- explaining about the Tri-cycles used in transporting maize grains to partners in Ngindo RAC.

The initial year (2018) of the SAMS initiative witnessed few numbers (10.4%) of women selling their grains at the RACs. Lessons learned indicated that women were being hindered by lack of the means of transport to carry their grains to the RACs in the previous years. WFP and STO initiated a deliberate effort to enhance the number of women accessing the RACs, by introducing tri-cycles to facilitate mobile aggregation with preferential consideration to women farmers. These efforts yielded encouraging results with the total women selling at the RACs increasing from 226 (10.4%) in 2018 to 571 (19.2%) in 2019. Through 2020, more pro-women initiatives are being considered with the hope to double the participation of women engaging in the direct sale of their farm produce with a target of reaching 50% mark in the coming years.

In 2019/2020 project phase, the SAMS initiative has injected the sum of 46,368,300 SSP (Forty-Six Million, Three Hundred and Sixty-Eight Thousand, Three Hundred South Sudanese Pounds only) to 2,960 farmers across Western Equatoria, of whom 571 are female. Though the number of women farmers still greatly falls behind a balance with their male counterparts, this pro-women initiative is yet the right move in the right direction.