50kg bags of locally-produced maize ready for purchase by WFP in Nzara, Western Equatoria State of South Sudan. Copyright: WFP/George Fominyen.
South Sudan’s huge agricultural potential remains largely untapped. By teaming up with partners, the P4P initiative is helping smallholder farmers develop business skills and tap into this potential.
As the sun rises in Nzara, a small town located in the Western Equatoria state of South Sudan, Augustino rides with a 50kg bag of maize strapped to his bicycle. He is heading to the warehouse where the Nzara Agricultural Farmers Association (NAFA) is collecting grain from local farmers for sale.
At the warehouse, built with the support of P4P, NAFA agents unload the bag, clean and sort the maize to ensure it is of good quality, transfer the contents into a bag marked with the WFP logo, weigh it and store. Augustino is then issued with a receipt indicating the type and quantity of produce he has provided.
He is not alone; it is a NAFA collection day. Several other smallholder farmers arrive on motor-bikes loaded with two, three or even four bags of maize for.
“The maize collected will be inspected and sold to WFP, and when we get the money we pay the farmers,” says Angelo Edward Zingbondo, chairperson of NAFA.
Launched in South Sudan in January 2010, the P4P pilot builds on WFP’s extensive food-purchasing power and logistics capacity to stimulate local agricultural production and foster market development in a way that maximises benefits to smallholder farmers.
The pilot seeks to develop the skills of smallholder farmers, organised as groups, to engage in farming as a business. While providing a steady demand for cereal surpluses, P4P is also setting up equipped warehouses to facilitate grain aggregation. It is also providing training to minimise post-harvest losses through better storage and management techniques, as well as to develop the organisational and marketing skills of farmers.
“Before P4P, farmers had no connection with the market - we didn’t have a store, there was no warehouse, people were just selling a few gallons of maize - but now with P4P there is a market, and they can sell in bigger quantities and make money to send their kids to school,” Zingbondo explains. “We have been taught how to research market prices, to advertise our business using the radio and the phone to obtain the best deals to sell our produce,” he adds.
There are huge challenges in implementing P4P in South Sudan. With the country just beginning to recover from decades of war, the farmers are still not very well organized, their productivity remains poor and the bad road infrastructure makes many crop production areas inaccessible. In addition, farmers are still reluctant to sell their grain through a program that doesn’t involve an immediate cash payout – even if it means the end price is more profitable. Local farmers are also not yet in a position to compete with farmers in the more developed agricultural sectors in other countries of the region, such as Uganda, whose produce is of better quality, easily accessible and sold at more competitive rates.
“Smallholder farmers have to realise that money could be made through farming,” says Marc Sauveur, the head of the P4P pilot in South Sudan. “While we are introducing good basic business practices and a temporary market for their produce, we are also strongly encouraging them to identify and engage business with other potential buyers,” he adds.
Notwithstanding these challenges, WFP has locally purchased 1,200 tons of food from farmers through the P4P pilot in South Sudan. These commodities have been used in WFP food assistance operations in the country. The maize bought from Nzara was used to provide food assistance to internally displaced persons and refugees in settlements around Western Equatoria.
“WFP is saving time and money by reducing the distance between the production areas and the distribution points. It’s a win-win scenario for the local farmers as well as for WFP,” concludes P4P Operations Support Officer Laura Nangumya.
Written by George Fominyen, WFP South Sudan