News / Africa

Smallholder Farmer in South Sudan has Big Dreams

  • Sebit Amusa Tongun holds organic papayas he grew on a five-acre plot near Juba.
  • Raindrops cling to unripe oranges on a tree on the plot of land near Juba where Sebit Amusa Tongun grows organic fruit and vegetables in his spare time.
  • Catherine Joan carries a basin piled high with fresh produce that she bought at Sebit Amusa Tongun's smallholder farm near Juba.
Smallholder Farmer in South Sudan Has Big Dreams
Mugume Davis Rwakaringi
Every evening as he heads home from his government job in Juba, Sebit Amusa Tongun crosses the Nile River in a small wooden canoe and heads to a five-acre patch of land surrounded by forest to tend to scores of fruit trees and vegetables.

As birds hover overhead, Tongun tends to the papaya, vegetables and fruit trees that compete for sun on the land, around two kilometers outside Juba.

Tongun sells his produce -- all of it organic -- to local merchants like Catherine Joan, a widow who uses the 15-25 South Sudanese Pounds she makes per basin from reselling the fruit to look after her three children and in-laws.

On a good day, Joan said, she can sell three or four silver basins piled high with fruit or vegetables.

Tongun is pleased that the farm helps him to help people like Joan, allows him to give work to around 10 farm laborers every day, and to provide for his family. He says he nets around 500 South Sudanese pounds a day selling his fresh, organic produce to local merchants.

But his dream is to have the fruits and veg from his plot of land gracing market stalls and tables far from the South Sudanese capital, even across the border in neighboring countries like Kenya and Uganda.

Tongun said he would be a big step closer to realizing that dream if the government would give him technical assistance in key areas that are outside his realm of expertise.

He asked a year ago for help installing "modern irrigation... because that is not my profession. The irrigation which I am using now, it is very costly... it is taking a lot of water and fuel.”

If he had modern irrigation equipment, he said, he would be able to grow fruit and vegetables in abundance, year-round.

Helping small farming operations like Tongun's to grow and improve efficiency would not only help people like Tongun to realize their dreams, but would also help South Sudan to match agricultural output with a growing population, the country head of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, Sue Lautze, said. 

But that is unlikely to happen until austerity measures that were imposed by the South Sudanese government in February last year, amid a row with Khartoum over oil production, are lifted. 

“The problem is nationwide agricultural production is not keeping up with population growth, so we are not having a big enough impact yet - we are not yet at scale," Lautze said.

"And many of the questions of getting up to scale won’t be answered until the austerity measures are lifted by the government.”

According to information on the website of a major agricultural conference held in South Sudan, only five percent of the more than 74 million acres of arable land in the country are currently in use. 

Most of South Sudan's land has lain fallow for decades because of the decades-long civil war and doesn't require synthetic fertilizers to improve fertility. 

Organic farming systems rely on ecologically based practices such as cultural and biological pest management, exclusion of all synthetic chemicals, antibiotics and hormones in crop and livestock production.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs