Juba — South Sudan's Northern Bahr el Ghazal State launched a campaign to encouraging the local population to participate in agricultural production in an effort to solve the country's food crises.
Around half South Sudan's 8 million population are expected to be food insecure this year, according the United Nations. Northern Bahr el Ghazal is one of the worst affected after the area witnessed a season of unreliable rainfalls in 2011.
Ayii Bol Agany, minister of agriculture in the state said his ministry is providing technical assistance aiming at improving traditional farming methods. The government is trying to encourage the local population to agriculture as a livelihood and to sustain themselves.
The state has set up 60 demonstration fields spread across the state and provided 1,000 individual households with seeds to help the start producing their own food.
"We are providing farming implements to farmers group. We let them fill the forms with clear details including dates on which tractors would be returned. We are also providing technical assistances with help of our partners."
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation purchases seeds locally and distributes them "to the needy groups", minister Agany explained.
He commended Governor Paul Malong Awan Anei for allowing government employees take a half day every Friday to allow them to spend time cultivation crops.
"Rains have started and our people are seriously engaged in cultivation. The spirit of cultivation is high. People are competing with the rains," Agany told Sudan Tribune by phone from Aweil town, capital of the State on Saturday.
Most people in the state are interested in the development of the country and are ready to take on intense farming operations in order to make South Sudan rely less on food aid, the minister said.
However, Agany said that some citizens "fold their hands" and do not wish to take up farming. "It is high time that such people realise" the importance of agriculture in development, he said. Currently on a tiny percentage of South Sudan's arable land is being used to produce food.
Agany became the state minister of Agriculture in 2010, assuming the office at a time when the agriculture sector, the mainstay of the area was grappling with critical challenges.
Since assuming the position Agany has had to cope with poor crops yields erratic and poorly distributed rainfall in the 2011-2012. Many farmers were left without enough food to see them through the off season..
Northern Bahr el Ghazal has trained 40 forest guards to encourage people to use but South Sudan's natural resources but "preserve our environment", the minister said.
"This is fundamental because this is the most perfect time to nurture the environment. Every citizen should therefore make it a moral duty to at least plant a single tree. This would not only help in protecting our forest cover but also check the desertification that is threatening the country."
The official noted that timber trade, coupled with the massive cutting of trees for either residential purposes is seriously affecting soil conservation and protection of the environment which he thinks should therefore, be the concern of all.
"We urge every citizen to take advantage of this season to launch a green revolution by planting a tree so that we can collectively save the land from the double menace of deforestation and desertification."
The minister advised the timber trade to also "endeavour to put the interest of society above profit maximisation. The Forestry Department is taking active steps to ensure that those who are legally accredited to be engaged in the timber trade do so with caution while those who are illegally felling the trees just for their individual selfish interest are apprehended and brought to justice", he explained