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Conflict in Southern Sudan Could Harm Food Security

  • Lisa Schlein

Southern Sudanese who recently returned from northern Sudan receive food rations from the World Food Program in the southern capital of Juba, 07 Jan 2011

Southern Sudanese who recently returned from northern Sudan receive food rations from the World Food Program in the southern capital of Juba, 07 Jan 2011

The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization and World Food Program warn recent gains in food security in Sudan could be reversed by increasing food prices and an escalation of localized conflict. The agencies say states bordering on northern Sudan, such as Upper Nile and Unity, are most vulnerable.

The Food and Agricultural Organization and World Food Program say the number of people in need of food assistance in southern Sudan has decreased markedly. This is based on a new food and crop assessment carried out by the two agencies.

While prospects for this coming year look good, the agencies say food security in the region largely depends on the post-independence referendum period and the number of people returning to the South.

On a telephone line from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, WFP Regional Director for Sudan Amer Daoudi, says the overall food security situation improved last year largely because of the favorable rains.

But he notes this is no time for complacency because about 1.4-million people are likely to require food assistance in south Sudan in 2011.

“Now, in a worst case scenario, if there is a deterioration in the security situation ... that figure might go up to 2.7-million people that will require assistance ... So far, we are going ahead with the 1.4. I continue to hope that there will not be any situation to deteriorate and we will continue to monitor the situation as it progresses,” Daoudi said.

The report says crop-growing conditions were generally good in 2010. Despite some localized dry spells and floods, it estimates the 2010 cereal crop production at 695,000 tons or nearly 30 percent higher than in 2009.

The U.N. food agencies warn recent gains easily could be reversed. Risk factors include increasing food prices due to reduced trade flows and increased demand from returnees. They say a potential escalation of localized conflicts in the border areas, and potential increases of ethnic and inter-tribal tensions also could cause difficulties.

Daoudi says agriculture is important for southern Sudan’s development and economy. He says the region has the potential to become self-sufficient and even a major exporter of food with the right kind of help.

He says southern Sudan will need financial assistance, as well as help with planting and land preparation. He says Sudanese farmers must learn to improve crop production and create markets to sell produce.

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