1 September 2012

South Sudan: Why Can't Our Own Growers Plant the Root Crops That We Eat?


South Sudanese consume a lot of sweet potatoes, cassava, yams and other root crops in their daily diet as is evidenced from the popularity we display when buying these food items in our markets every morning.

A visit to Konyo-Konyo market will confirm this statement because the quantity of these root crops bought daily by our family market goers is enormous. What is interesting about this talk on root crops is because they are transported in big large quantities by lorries from the neighbouring nation of Uganda and yet most parts of our own country can produce these genre of crops in large quantities and good qualities. The question is why can't our own cultivators be encouraged by the extension sections of our national and state ministries of agriculture to grow such popular food crops? Moreover growing them can yield well in our soils and that can make them be abundant in our markets thus cut down the exorbitant costs that our families pay to suppliers from the neighbouring countries especially Uganda which is the main exporter of these root crops to South Sudan.

In mid 1970s, the Project Development Unit PDU introduced the growth of yams in an experimental farm in Yei and they proved to grow well in the soil in which the seedlings were planted. The yams seeds were said to have been brought to the Yei experimental farm from an agricultural institution in Nigeria, West Africa. Our ministries, both national and state should explore all possible areas and introduce to our farmers root crops which can be grown on commercial basis so that instead of being consumers we should be both consumers and suppliers of these crops. Besides yams, cassava stalks have also been brought into South Sudan for experimental purpose from elsewhere besides our own indigenous stock which we can plant to multiple. Besides the cassava roots, the leaves of the crop are also consumed by most South Sudanese communities. As for yams it is an old crop which seems to be reintroduced in the market in large quantity by the traders from the neighbouring country of Uganda and Congo. Otherwise yams can be grown by our farmers but with decline in its consumption in the recent decades their introduction in the market has only rekindled the appetite of our people in its consumption.

Root crops, especially cassava is of a great economic importance because it is consumed in many parts of South Sudan especially in the green belt which extends from western part of Eastern Equatoria through central and western Equatoria states to Western Bahr El Ghazal State. Besides it being prepared into baking flour, cassava is also used by the females in most parts of this region for brewing a mild form of alcohol called aragi. As for sweet potatoes, they are consumed as roots or boiled with vegetables and meat before they can be consumed. So the argument here is that our agriculture ministries and our own farmers should give serious consideration to cultivation of the root crops so that we can change the high cost of these food items in our markets to reasonable prices when we are their suppliers as well as the consumers.

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