UNMISS peacekeepers help farmers in Agok increase food security by teaching agricultural skills
WESTERN BAHR EL GHAZAL – While South Sudan may never have been food security heaven, the consequences of armed conflict in Sudan are making the daily struggle to put enough nutritious food on the table even harder.
In Wau County, Chinese peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) are intent on making a difference by teaching farmers more efficient agricultural techniques.
“I now understand that I used to make important mistakes on my farm, which led to seeds germinating too slowly and sometimes being destroyed by the sun. Sowing them in a different way and allowing for enough space between them to absorb sufficient nutrients, should lead to bigger harvests,” said Peter Charles Uchalla, one of 15 women and men in Agok who have been trained by the Blue Helmets from China.
An increased output is good, as it is likely to be needed. Fighting in neighbouring Sudan has not only led to a reduced influx of imported food because of closed borders, but also to the return of thousands of South Sudanese people, who once fled in the opposite direction. Some of them have come back home to relatives in Western Bahr El Ghazal, meaning that agriculturalists now have more mouths to feed.
Not everything is a matter of quantity, though. To help people consuming a wider range of foodstuffs, the peacekeepers also brought seeds of non-traditional products, much to the delight of Rebecca Paul Batal, another beneficiary.
“It’s great, because this year we will be growing a wider variety of vegetables to eat with staples like cassava, maize and rice. We have also been taught how to plant them and make sure they grow as well as they can,” she said.
To further contribute to the well-being of the Agok farmers, the Chinese contingent handed over gardening gloves and insect repellents as well.
“It is our pleasure to share with the people of South Sudan whatever little knowledge we have to contribute to more and better nutrition,” said Major Li Hongwei, in charge of coordinating the activity.