Fighting Hunger and Poverty in Sudan
Women for Women International Launches Large-Scale Women-Only Agribusiness Project
Rumbek/Washington DC, December 9, 2008 - About 3,000 people gathered in Rumbek, South Sudan, to celebrate the official launch of an ambitious commercially integrated farming initiative (CIFI). The program will train and enable 3,000 women over a period of three years to grow and market a variety of crops on community land that was formerly unused.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony the deputy governor of Lake State, Awan Guol Riak donated a vehicle to the organization that will help the women to bring their crops to markets in town.
“Our biggest challenge right now is not growing crops but getting them to our customers in town,” says Karak Mayik, Women for Women International Country Director in Sudan. “The overall lack of infrastructure in the area is an obstacle to delivering fresh produce and guaranteeing quality for our customers.”
The state ministries for finance and agriculture pledged to drill three new boreholes on the farming land and a motor cycle to the Women for Women country office. The commissioner of Rumbek will provide three cooperative shops.
Currently, 880 women are being trained on land use, irrigation, crop types, and farming techniques as well as marketing of their products. They are planting under supervision of farming specialists a variety of trial crops that cover about 37 acres. Eventually, the program will include 3,000 women who will run a cooperative agribusiness on over 148 acres of farmland.
The trials have shown that a variety of vegetables, including green peppers, egg plants, kale, tomatoes, and cowpeas are doing extremely well. The women will also grow maize, short term sorghum, beans, ground nuts, and flowers. Through CIFI women are introduced to modern irrigation systems, organic integrated agriculture and a commercial approach to farming that includes market oriented food production.
The Women for Women CIFI program will increase food security and nutritional variety for the farming women and their communities that traditionally rely on animal protein and limited varieties of vegetables.
“We women used to depend on our husbands in providing funds,” says Deborah Yar Wau, a 53 year old mother of 11 and program participant in Rumbek. Like her colleagues she relied on the money her husband made by selling animals he bred or surplus from their small subsistance plot. “But through this project we have become self reliant, and at the same time, we contribute to the well-being of our families.”
Rumbek’s population, like most of South Sudan, suffers from varying degrees of food insecurity and erratic rainfalls. The area is highly underdeveloped and is only slowly recovering from total neglect after decades of civil strife and unrest.
“CIFI is a cooperative income generation model that will not only increase local food production and bring down food prices, it will also decrease the demand for outside assistance by empowering women,” says Karen Sherman, Women for Women International Executive Director of Global Programs. “This initiative will put women in charge of the food chain and positively affect their families and communities.”
Currently, between 60 and 80 percent of food in developing countries is produced by women who have limited ownership of land and market access. Studies show that women tend to invest their income into the well being of their families, including education and healthcare.
Women for Women International in Sudan is currently assisting approximately 1,000 women through financial support and a year-long program that includes rights awareness, health education, and skills training. The organization works with communities throughout South Sudan. The program is currently raising funds to start poultry farms, dairies, fish farming, and goat rearing.