JUBA —The African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) on Wednesday signed protocols to disburse a $14 million grant to the Government of South Sudan to boost agricultural markets in a project to be implemented by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The Agricultural Markets, Value Addition and Trade Development (AMVAT) project aims to enhance agricultural productivity and boost the marketing and trade of agricultural products in South Sudan. The project will be implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in close liaison with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
The five-year project will help increase the productivity and incomes of almost 20,000 farming families in Central and Eastern Equatoria and Jonglei states, most of whom are formerly internally displaced persons who have now returned to their homes.
The project will create aggregation business opportunities for farmers and traders, including women and youth, and provide them with new skills and the agro-processing equipment they need to produce competitive products. Twenty aggregation business centers will serve as ‘one-stop shops’ where farmers can access extension services and connect to markets for their value-added products. Farmer groups joining the aggregation centers will have their products not only tested and quality certified, but also traded with the private sector on their behalf.
“A diversified economy away from oil and long-term growth depends on promoting agribusiness development,” said Athian Ding Athian, South Sudan’s Minister of Finance and Planning at the signing ceremony, thanking the African Development Bank for its growing assistance. “With the support from our partners, we are building an improved marketing and trade environment for agribusinesses, increasing people’s incomes and creating new jobs, particularly for the youth.”
The Bank’s Country Manager for South Sudan, Benedict Kanu, noted that “a key factor explaining Africa’s and indeed South Sudan’s low level of agricultural value addition is the inefficient marketing infrastructure. This prevents farmers and processors from realizing the full value of their produce, even in their raw form.”
South Sudan has considerable unrealized agricultural potential, but the effects of continued violence combined with unprecedented flooding have seriously damaged food production, resulting in a huge food import bill.
“Thanks to this generous contribution from the African Development Bank, farmers will move faster from subsistence to commercial agriculture by having access to new technologies, markets and linkages with other services and actors,” said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan.
Despite the country’s agricultural potential and 78 percent of the population employed in agriculture, the sector contributes only one-tenth of the GDP of South Sudan. Agricultural and food products struggle to find their way into international markets due partly to the lack of adequate food quality controls.
The Bank and FAO are partnering with government bodies to strengthen the safety and quality of local agricultural products. To this end, two mini testing laboratories will be established in Central and Eastern Equatoria to enable farmers to test and certify their value-added products, particularly cereals, oilseeds and maize, before selling them on various markets.