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The East African : Nov 3rd 2014
The EastAfrican MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 1-7,2014 VII s suits fo≥ ove≥alls and gumboots both the citizens and foreign investors compared with the extractive industry. Compared with Kenya where only a third of the land is arable, South Sudan has 80 per cent arable land. The country also receives more rainfall, making it conducive for agriculture. The River Nile and the many smaller rivers form the basis of much of the economic activity of the former larger Sudan. Currently, commercial farming is y and must be ready to sacrifice eir privileged lives for the sake of e greater good. As he put it, “Withut sufficient food production, South udan will only be independent politally while perpetually relying on its ighbours for food. An independent untry is one that is self-sufficient in od.” Mr Duku works on the farm from m to 6pm in the evening, giving structions and inspecting the cultated areas that are scattered over e 300 acre area. Kerepi Farm is a ccess story by the country’s standds and Duku wants to change the mage of South Sudan in the rest of the world, which is one of war, killings and hunger. The farm has motivated the com- munity to believe in their own ability to grow food where once they travelled to Elegu market in Uganda to buy foodstuffs. Duku’s philosophy is that, “If Ugandas can do it, there is no miracle apart from getting down to cultivating the land. Let us eat what we produce.” The agricultural sector in South Sudan has more potential than the much fancied oil, gas and minerals. However, agriculture has not received the attention it deserves from mainly practised in Upper Nile State in Renk, where a big farming scheme was established by the Khartoum government. The war has now slowed down production. The current conflict is mainly concentrated in three states; Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile, while there are opportunities for farming in seven out of the 10 states. Before Kerepi Farm came into ex- istence, the Pageri area was a forest and had been neglected because the liberation war was fought most heavily in Eastern Equatoria so most of the locals had taken refuge in neighbouring Uganda. In order to start farming, Duku had to clear forests that has not been farmed for the past 20 years. But even after the war ended in 2005, the local comminities have not taken to farming on a big scale. Duku hopes to increase the farmed A section of Kerepi Farm planted with maize, in the background and the region’s staple crop, cassava, in the forground. Picture: Fred Oluoch area to 500 acres by next May. This season, Kerepi produced 500 bags of maize in the first harvest, three tonnes of onions, two tonnes of green pepper and 10 tonnees of eggplant. “We want to interest potential farmers from all over East Africa to take up farming in fertile South Sudan. But first, we want to increase the purchasing power of the youth by making them understand the power and the benefit of agriculture, reduce crime and make them less susceptible for recruitment by militias,” he said. Duku has so far spent $400,000 on the farm. Local youth are the biggest benefi- ciaries of the project which employs 70 people and provides water for domestic use to several villages. The farm has three solar-powered boreholes that pump water to four water tanks each with a capacity of 5,000 litres that are also used for drip irrigation during dry season. The assistant farm manager, Owen Duku works on the farm from 6am to 6pm in the evening, giving instructions and inspecting the cultivated areas that are scattered over the 300-acre area. Kerepi Farm is a success story by the country’s standards and Duku wants to change the image of South Sudan in the rest of the world, which is one of war, killings and hunger. Vuga, has worked on the farm for four months and now offers training to the sorrounding communities. Kerepi Farm has attracted workers from other regions and from across the border in Uganda. For instance, Fred Alumai is a Ugandan who has worked on the farm for six months as a farm hand to raise school fees. He is also getting practical lessons on good agricultural practice. He plans on starting his own one acre farm project once he goes back to Uganda. Among the crops grown on the farm, cassava is the most prominent in the region. It is a staple that is eaten raw or cooked and is also ground into flour. Cassava covers 60 acres of the farm. Sorghum is grown on 200 acres because it needs less water to grow. The current crop will be harvested in November, together with 60 acres of maize and cassava in the mixed farming section; five acres of sweet potato, five acres of groundnuts and 30 acres under various vegetables such as tomato, cabbage, eggplant, green pepper and the two varieties of sweet and water melons. The farm is now supplying Juba, 150 kilometres away, with fresh vegetables. According to John Amba Modi, the chief of Kerepi Payam location, the Pageri Administrative Area, Eastern Equatoria State, his administration has been encouraging locals to form groups and engage in commercial farming because there is enough fertile land to eradicate hunger. The chief is trying to reduce idleness by encouraging the youth to take up farming. “The Kerapi Farm has created apositive impact on the society and I am encouraging others to start similar projects. The main challenge is that the area depends on non-gov- ernmental organisations to provide seeds, but they are not enough to go round or arrive too late, after the planting seasons already passed,” said Modi. Kerepi Farm, according to Duku, has entered into discussions with Juba University for agricultural students to conduct their field work on his farm. Most of the agricultural students have been graduating without field work. He is also working closely with agricultural experts from Makerere University to help in identifying the right seeds according to the soils in the region. David Eriga, Town Clerk of Nimule Town Council, says that the town will next year start its own farming project on a 10-acre farm. However, as it will be rain-fed, it is going to depend on whether the rains come on time. The council is also coming up with a policy that all people must attend to their farms at least once a week to improve food production.
Oct 27th 2014
Nov 10th 2014