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May 23, 2013

FAO Project Will Track S. Sudan Food Production

by Andrew Green

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Thursday launched a $9 million project aimed at helping South Sudan to better track food production, a move that officials hope will allow alerts of possible food shortages to be raised well ahead of time.

Sue Lautze, the head of the FAO office in South Sudan, says the three-year project would replace the current system, under which "we don’t really know how much food is produced, by whom, of what type, when is it available, how much of it is lost to post-harvest losses."

The new standardized system is expected to facilitate sharing and gathering information about food supplies in a country where the FAO has said as many as 4.1 million people could go hungry this year.

South Sudan Minister of Agriculture Betty Achan Ogwaro said the system will allow officials to focus on preventing food crises instead of having to respond to them.

Officials will go out into the field, gather data and transmit information about crop yields, weather patterns and other agriculture-related issues back to a centralized database.

Centralizing data will make it easier for officials to analyze information and zero in on areas of potential concern, the FAO chief technical advisor for the new data collection program, Diress Mengistu, said.

Training for Ministry of Agriculture employees on how to standardize data collection will begin in the coming weeks, he said.