A new Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission released by two UN food agencies in South Sudan says that despite the seven percent increase in local food production last year, millions of citizens are still food insecure.
The report released by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) seen by The EastAfrican on Friday attributed the food insecurity to the impact of prolonged conflict and floods.
“Cereal production in 2020 is estimated at 874,400 metric tons, seven percent higher than 818,500 metric tons in 2019. The marginal growth will cover the needs of only a third of the population, leaving most people reliant on humanitarian food assistance and imports of essential grains, at prices beyond the reach of ordinary South Sudanese.
“The alarmingly high deficit in 2021 cereal production, estimated at 465,600 tons, keeps food insecurity at an all-time high. South Sudan needs 1.3 million metric tons of cereal a year to feed its 12.2 million people,” reads the joint report.
The report states that of the country’s 10 states, only Western Equatoria produced enough cereal for FAO and WFP to purchase locally to feed people in the other nine states.
“Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile have the highest cereal deficit levels in the country and therefore account for nearly 50 percent of all food insecure people. The combined impacts of recurring conflict and huge floods in the three states severely hampered agriculture”.
Matthew Hollingworth, WFP Representative and Country Director in South Sudan, says the marginal gains in cereal production show that where there is peace and stability, the people of South Sudan are able to turn the page on hunger.
“But in a country still battered by years of war and the ravages of climate change, modest improvements are far from enough to end food insecurity, which is the highest ever. Disrupted livelihoods, heavy losses in livestock and other assets and high food prices are pushing the average family deeper into poverty and hunger,” Matthew said.
Meanwhile, Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan, said the growth is encouraging, but lasting peace is the precondition to enable communities to benefit from South Sudan fertile soils.
“Our priority is to unleash South Sudan's potential, increase crop production and to allow communities to contribute to the expansion of the planted areas,” he said.
According to FAO, food security is a huge challenge to 7.2 million people, slightly above 60 percent of South Sudan’s population.
FAO says violence and conflict, competition among groups over resources such as farmland and water, as well as new protracted displacements due to violence and floods destroyed assets and eroded communities’ resilience.
Last year, WFP said it reached over five million people in South Sudan with life-saving food assistance, nutrition support, cash, and livelihood opportunities to improve the resilience of communities, with a focus on the most vulnerable including women, children and the elderly.
FAO said its priority remains to assist communities to increase their agricultural production and preserve their livelihoods in a way that fosters peaceful co-existence.
The UN food agency added that this year it plans to assist 700,000 severely food insecure farming, fishing and agro-pastoral households with lifesaving emergency support.