Nurturing a Better Life in South Sudan
In Juba many people are very hungry. Even in the UN Protection of Civilian camps people often do not get enough to eat as the supplies in the biggest storage depot of the World Food Programme were looted during the outbreak of violence in early July. But the pictures I am attaching to this report tell a different story in Riimenze where we have been developing a Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAPR). This project heralds a way forward for the development of more self-sustainability in South Sudan. ‘From little things, good things grow!’
Most of the food produced on the SAPR fifty-hectare farm, which Solidarity has carved out of the Riimenze bush during the past four years, is consumed by our student teachers in Yambio. It is a symbiotic arrangement that has helped keep our College open when most others have closed.
The leader of the project is Sr Rosa, from Vietnam, who has learned the local Azande language and communicates with the workers in their own language. She is assisted by Br Christian, from Nigeria, who as well as looking after the house gardens and animals, is both bookkeeper and paymaster.
Our farming is deliberately labour-intensive. Each day the farm employs between 40 and 80 casual workers. There are jobs for all, including pregnant mothers and mothers with young babies. The local market now functions much more effectively because people have money to spend.
The project emphasis is on techniques that educate the people to improve their own farming practices, including prudent seed and food storage.
With a great diversity of crops, including banana, cashews, ground nuts, pineapples, coffee, cassava, sweet potato, beans of several varieties, pumpkins, tomatoes, mangoes, papaya and so on, there are diverse tasks such as cultivating, planting, weeding, harvesting, drying the food, shelling the nuts and cooking. Casual workers are given a meal at lunchtime and are paid at the end of each day. The permanent staff are paid at the end of each month. Two, new, experienced senior staff are being added to enhance the education offered within the project and to extend expertise and knowledge gained to other parts of this region of South Sudan.
Riimenze is a great example of what can be achieved by people working together. The large, central Church reminds all of the thriving community, initially nurtured by the Comboni Missionaries. The Solidarity presence has now brought about a rebirth, a new impetus. Unfortunately, there have been a couple of recent incidents—threatening intrusions from outside—but our ministry continues. Riimenze is relatively isolated and the main road is in very poor condition. Our Solidarity team are as careful as they can be and are protected to a degree by the people among whom they live. But it is a testament to their convictions that they continue to stand resolutely with the people whose hopes they share.
– Br Bill Firman, FSC