South Sudan: Returnees Find Hope in Farm Support for Self Reliance

Oil storage facilities at Bentiu, Unity State, South Sudan.

For two years Moses Aloro eked out a living at Uganda's Rhino Camp for refugees having escaped from South Sudan when renewed fighting hit Yei in River State in 2016.

When the revitalised peace agreement was announced in September last year committing President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar to form a transitional government of national unity, Mr Aloro returned home.

"We just returned to Yei only to discover our homes no longer exist. Things are hard and we are starting from scratch," he told The EastAfrican.

Mary Okello, a mother of four who also recently returned from Congo's Biringi refugee camp, said she was also starting life afresh, cautiously optimistic that the war will end once and for all.

Mary and Moses are just two returnees to Yei where their resettling would have been much harder had it not been the help of relief agencies, that have equipped them with skills, products and implements for self-sustenance rather than aid.

Several non-governmental organisations in Yei are empowering the returnees to be productive by providing them with seeds and farm implements needed for household food production and hopefully, the market.

"A national food cluster organisation, Mugwo Development Organisation, (MDO) supplied us with assorted vegetable seeds and hoes. I am good to start a new journey," said Mary.

Moses said he was helped with farm inputs by United Methodist committee on Relief (UMCOR), to "enable us produce our own food."

He hopes the government and the opposition factions will stop the war and enable economic activities take root.

UMCOR program manager Dara Elisa said the organisation was also assisting thousands of internally displaced people with farm implements, seeds for quick maturing crops and fishing kits.

"In Yei County, we are targeting 4,375 households and 3,290 households in Morobo County with emergency livelihood support to the vulnerable population for them to recover from food insecurity and gain resilience in food production," Mr Elisa said.

Amba Faustine, the director of MDO, said they were also helping returnees with technical training to venture into other craft that generate regular income.

"The security situation is improving and people are returning to settle in their homes therefore we are appealing for more support for self-sustainability and recovery programmes," said Mr Faustine.

Yei River State Minister for Agriculture and Forestry Evans Kijore encouraged farmers to return to their homes and farms saying the government was committed to the revitalised peace agreement.

"The priority of the government at the moment is peace and stability but we are also offering technical assistance to farmers, the internally displaced and returnees," Mr Kijore said.

Once there is lasting peace, Mr Kijore said the government would encouraged large scale, mechanised farming to reduce reliance on food imports.

"My message to the government and the political parties is that we need peace. Once there is lasting peace, we can initiate development projects through business, agriculture and get better health and educational services around us," said Mary.

It is a message that President Kiir, Dr Machar and other leaders in conflict hit countries in Africa should heed.

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