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July 21, 2011

New nation of Southern Sudan seeks to develop agriculture

by Cathy Majtenyi

During more than two decades of war, the people of southern Sudan relied heavily on food aid brought in by foreign aid agencies. Following the signing of the north-south peace agreement, and on the eve of South Sudan’s independence, the focus is now shifting from providing emergency food relief to developing long-term agricultural policies.

People here have long needed emergency food aid to survive. Civil war plagued Sudan for two decades, before a peace agreement in 2005 ended the fighting between north and south. Then a referendum earlier this year brought southern independence. South Sudan becomes the world’s newest country July 9.

And agricultural is the new government's top priority.

The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the government are monitoring food production, rainfall and other trends.

Government officials say only four per cent of SouthSudan is farmed, yielding around 700,000 metric tons of cereals a year.

Undersecretary of Agriculture Beda Machar Deng wants to change that. “The Ministry of Agriculture is aiming by year 2011, the food production will be at least 1.2 million metric tons, that could be able to feed the farming population that we have," he said.

Deng says his ministry is encouraging farmers to move beyond subsistence farming.

But South Sudan's limited number of all-weather roads presents a problem. Cattle rustling and banditry also are problems.

As are the remnants of war, said Undersecretary Deng. “Even up to now, the mines are taking tractors, up to now the mines are taking people, up to now the mines are also blowing up cattle in the farms. The mines are still there, so the population is still fearing," he said.

But, Deng says he still thinks that with the right planning and support South Sudan can be become Africa's breadbasket.

VOA News

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