Agricultural development and food security in post-conflict southern Sudan.
This study was set out to examine household food security in post- conflict Southern Sudan. Over the past four years the Government of Southern Sudan and Development Partners have shown increased interest in accelerating agricultural development and food security in the country. This study provides insight into the key factors responsible for food insecurity, the challenges faced and household coping strategies employed to reduce and manage risk, assure food supply, improve dietary diversity and take advantage of economic opportunities for sustainable livelihoods. The problem addressed by this study was whether cereal (sorghum, millet, maize and wheat) availability in three of the ten states of Southern Sudan improved in the five year post conflict period (2004-2008). The study explored if cereal grain production increased and how households coped with the unavailability of cereal grain. The researcher gathered data and information from multiple sources, including 542 household questionnaires and nine focus group discussion conducted between June and August 2009. Quantitative analysis supplemented the extensive qualitative data sources. The major challenges experienced by households with regard to food security were limited access to extension services, production inputs, processing, credit/saving facilities, training, market information and physical infrastructure. Evidence showed that food insecurity occurred due to the lack or absence of feeder roads, communication and transport facilities, strategic value chain alliances and partnerships; and limited exposure to communities for learning in Southern Sudan. The study concluded that the availability of cereals at the household level was generally low, although cereal production increased by small increments across the study areas after the conflict period. However, the increase in cereal production was inadequate to support the cereal needs of households, leading to food insecurity. The study identified the major factors responsible for food insecurity at the household level in the study areas as conflict, drought, floods and erratic rains. Poor infrastructure, weak policies and lack of access to services to improve farm production were among the key constraints reported by households. These factors were perceived by all stakeholders as root causes of inadequate food production in the study area. Household production provided 56.6 % of household food consumption, but this was inadequate to provide year-round. Other food sources included purchases, food aid and gifts. Households relied largely on consumption-based coping strategies when faced with food shortages including: relying on less preferred food, limiting meal portion sizes, mothers reducing their food to allow children to eat and reducing the number of meals eaten per day. These strategies are detrimental to the nutritional status of household members; considering that proper nutrition is critical for active and productive life. Therefore, food insecurity was high in the study areas and detrimental coping strategies were widely practiced, raising concerns of hunger and malnutrition. Food insecurity in Southern Sudan needs to be addressed urgently. Direct interventions to support a significant scaling up of food production (beyond only cereal production) are needed to alleviate hunger, prevent malnutrition and provide for future food security especially among resettling refugees and demobilized soldiers. In many cases food aid and direct transfers of food is urgently needed to address the situation, but this should be short-term and part of an integrated plan to boost production of food at community level. Programmes should be developed to assist households should establish food gardens, diversify cropping and undertake non-farm activities in improving food production and productivity. The local communities should participate in community-based food security needs assessment with strong support provided by the county agriculture department and state Ministries of Agriculture. This must lead to the identification of implementation measures and development of food security plans and budgets that include both increased production and market access. An inter-sectoral Food Security Council (FSC) and a framework for action should be developed to include strategic management of cereal grain reserves, establishment of an effective and and efficient public distribution system, harmonisation of relevant sector policies and development of a well coordinated food security information system. Longitudinal studies are recommended to monitor the food security situation in Southern Sudan and gain a deeper understanding of household coping strategies to inform policies and programmes. Further research is recommended to investigate how to increase the supply of food, promoting dietary diversification, improve access to economic opportunities and manage risk to help vulnerable households become more resilient to absorb shocks, stresses and threats.
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