In pictures: Women tackle hunger in South Sudan

Seeds and tools for mothers provide boost to family’s nutrition and livelihoods

Written and photos by Corrie Butler

Mary, Regina and Angelina stand proudly in front of the new garden they have built in their community in Panameth, Aweil East, South Sudan. As women, they have come together to plant several different seeds that will provide them and their families with a more nutritionally-rich diet and a sustainable livelihood for the years to come.

South Sudan is grappling with unprecedented levels of food insecurity, with less than half of the population able to produce, collect, or purchase sufficient food to meet their basic needs. The increasing numbers of displaced and refugees due to conflict as well as escalating food prices has interrupted food production.

“It is not easy for us to get food,” explains Ayuen, mother of five, from Panameth, Aweil Centre. “If we are lucky, we can eat one meal a day.”

Women bear the brunt of food crisis. An estimated seven out of ten of the world’s hungry are women and girls (UNIFEM and Women’s Funding Network).

Yet, investing in them is key to tackling food insecurity. Women produce half of the world’s food and up to 80 per cent of the food in developing countries (UN Department of Public Information).

The South Sudan Red Cross has targeted 5,000 mothers in Aweil East and Aweil Centre in order to strengthen agriculture and food production.

Red Cross has provided mothers with farming tools and seeds to build gardens that will feed their families, but also provide opportunity to sell what they don’t need in the market so they can earn an income.

Seeds include pumpkin, okra, kale, amaranthus, jews mallow and onions – all nutritionally-rich and resilient to conditions in Aweil East.

In partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, South Sudan Red Cross has also helped train women in modern farming methods.

“We’re helping build their resilience. For example, we have taught them how to better use irrigation for the rainy and dry seasons,” says Anei Deng, Agoronist with the Ministry of Agriculture.

“We’ve built this garden much better than the ones we’ve done before,” says Mary, mother of five.

“We will have a lot more food for our families and to sell in the market,” says Angelina.

“There’s nothing that men can do that women can’t do. I decided to become a lead farmer for my family. With the farm, I can sell the surplus in the market so they can eat and go to school.

I’m ready to share what I’ve learned with other mothers so they can also help themselves.”

Ayuen, the mother of five, enjoys a moment of rest after a hard day’s work in the garden with her youngest, eight-month-old son, Garang, in the shade of a tree. As a lead farmer, she is now trained in modern farming practices by the South Sudan Red Cross, taking what she has learned to train others in her community.

“I will be able to get food for my family. I will train as many people who are willing. We will be able to help ourselves.”

In a new approach to coordination – the Movement response plan – IFRC and ICRC have come together to support the South Sudan Red Cross in responding to the critical needs of the most vulnerable. With support from ICRC and in partnership with IFRC, South Sudan Red Cross is providing essential household items, livelihood and agricultural opportunities, water and sanitation, health and psychosocial support. Reaching some of the most remote and hard-to-reach communities, the South Sudan Red Cross is supporting thousands who are severely food insecure in three areas of the country: Aweil East and Central, Kapoeta East and Yirol East.