In South Sudan, Canada-Supported Community Roads link Population to Social Services

For rural communities in South Sudan a road is not simply a way of getting somewhere, it is a life changer. The World Food Programme and its partners have been supporting communities to construct community access roads under the food for assets programme. Here's how it changed the lives of a small community in South Sudan's Greater Bahr el Ghazal region. 

Early this year, community members in the small village of Makuach in Aweil West County in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state met to discuss how to tackle some of the problems they faced. After thorough consultation with all community members the decision was almost unanimous: to build a dyke across the dirt road that connects the village to a nearby rural town of Udhum.

“This is the only road that we have to access markets and a health center,” explained Ajok Agar, a 45 year-old resident of the village as she pointed to the narrow road.  “But when the rain starts it becomes impassable for any vehicle and very challenging for those walking on foot.”

The absence of a road has an impact on economic life and health care of the community in Makuach, especially during the rainy season when the existing paths that serve as roads are submerged leaving the villagers with no option other than to walk for hours through swamps to reach nearby towns.  

“Sick people are carried by men on wooden stretchers to reach the nearest health center,” Ajok said. “The men walk very slowly in the water and this takes hours. Recently, a woman in labor died before seeing a health worker.” 

The residents of Makuach resolved to follow the example of other villages in the Northern Bahr el Ghazal region to construct a road-dyke. The 1.5 metre high structure would block flood waters from submerging the path but it would also be wide enough to allow people and cars to move. 

The project was submitted through a community based organization to the World Food Programme (WFP) which has been supporting communities in the area through the Food for Assets (FFA) creation programme. 

WFP has received C$ 20 million from Canada for a three year (2016-2019) project to support initiatives to restore livelihoods and enhance the resilience of the targeted communities against future man-made or natural shocks through the creation and rehabilitation of assets. WFP gives each person a ration of food comprising cereal, pulses, and vegetable oil, in return for the days worked on the building or boosting of assets that will benefit the whole community. 

 “Life will be much easier once the project is completed,” said Kuach Dhol, 50, who is the chairperson of the Makuach village project management committee. 

This new 1.7 km dyke-road covers the most flooded area and the villagers are already using it to access markets and schools. A further 8 km of community access road, which is not a dyke, has also been constructed through the FFA assistance. 

About 275,000 people are participating in family and community asset building activities implemented by WFP through the support from Canada in the Greater Bahr el Ghazal states (Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap) and Eastern Equatoria State. The project is contributing to promoting a sense of ownership of the assets amongst community members and also improving longer-term food and livelihoods security.

“We are all energized. We can’t wait to finish this road and start another activity,” said Kuach with a broad smile.

Story by Getahun Amogne