With the support of the Netherlands Embassy in South Sudan, a Cordaid-led consortium supports thousands of farmers and their agribusinesses in Yambio, Torit, and Bor counties. This is creating jobs and reduces food insecurity. Two entrepreneurs share their stories.
The five-year Food Security through Agribusiness in South Sudan project (FSABSS), which started in August 2018, is funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands Embassy in South Sudan. With a budget of 10 million euros, its final goal is to support 10,000 farmers, one thousand start-up agribusinesses led by women and young entrepreneurs, and 750 established medium and small enterprises.
Improving food security and creating jobs
All efforts are geared to improving household food security, income, and job opportunities in the three counties. Because hunger and malnutrition levels in the country are at historic high levels, with 5.5 million people in need of food assistance, structurally addressing food insecurity has the highest priority.
Loan opens door to successful enterprise
One of them is Khamis Marlis Taban, mother of six children and living in Torit County. “I used to rely on washing clothes (dobby) and piggery to earn an income. The dobby income was about 2000 SSP a day (13 Euro)”, Ms. Marlis Taban explains. She is actually a teacher by training and used to work as one. “But I was only paid 1500 SSP a month, and it could take about five months to get the salary. So, I was not able to cater for the basic needs of the family. Such as medical bills, food, school fees, and clothes”, she continues.
“They say I am the only women who really farms well in the area. And they encourage me to continue.”
Khamis Marlis Taban
With the support of the project, Ms. Marlin Taban developed a business plan. “Business development assistants guided me to become eligible for a revolving loan fund scheme. And I applied for a 600.000 SSP loan from Cordaid Investment’s Rural Finance Initiative (RUFI) to start vegetable gardening.”
Once she received the loan, she established her own enterprise, which specialised in market vegetable production. She called it Saint Monika Enterprise. Her garden plot measures 100 by 80 metres and her crops include cowpeas, tomatoes, kales, spinach, and green pepper.
“This makes me proud”
Saint Monika Enterprise significantly improved the family’s standards of living. “Providing food and covering basic needs has become so much easier”, the mother-of-six and successful entrepreneur says. Her collaboration with the FSABSS project and her enterprise made her known among many farmers.
On a good day, Ms. Marlin Taban’s vegetable sales generate up to 17.000 SSP. On a bad day, it can be 2000 SSP. “On average I can earn 120.000 SSP a month”, she points out. The loan not only enabled her to become self-reliant but also to grow and to employ three young assistants whom she pays 5000 SSP a month each, as well as provides three meals a day and shelter.
The project also linked her to vendors, and restaurant and hotel owners. And it enabled her to develop friendly relationships with customers and community members. “They say I am the only women who really farms well in the area. And they encourage me to continue. This makes me proud.”
While successfully cutting her own path, Ms. Marlin Taban continues to face challenges. Like the poor quality seeds she gets from suppliers, pests, and other plant diseases. And sometimes timely loan repayment is hard. But after negotiation with RUFI management, she was able to reschedule repayment. And to deal with diseases, she received technical assistance in good agricultural practices and integrated pest management. After which her vegetable production improved. And loan repayment took place as planned in the past 9 months.
Starting a maize processing plant
In Yambio, a few hundred miles west of the capital Juba, 24-year old Michael Aliam Sikindi is another such perseverant and skilled entrepreneur who was able to improve and expand his business with the support of the project. He started in 2016, as the sole owner of a maize grinding mill and groundnuts paste machine. In 2019, after business skills training and accessing a 3 million SSP loan, things moved fast. He established a first-class maize processing and packaging plant in Yambio. His business carries the name Gamboripai agro-processors and service company (GAPSEC). Gamboripai meaning ‘God’s will’ in the local language Azande.
GAPSEC has been fully registered as a company operating in Western Equatoria State. Mr. Aliam Sikindi has constructed a permanent building. “This offers a store for the products, an office and a machine room for first-class maize production”, he explains. GAPSEC fully started its processing and production in September 2020.
Solving a score of problems
“Every month, we buy around five tons of maize grains from local farmers. We process this into high-quality maize flour for human consumption and into maize bran for livestock and poultry feeding”, the young entrepreneur adds. GAPSEC also provides milling services for the community.
“I want to expand our maize processing capacity. To start new services, such as a maize thresher, groundnut processing, even rice, and oil processing…”
Michael Aliam Sikindi
With his business, Mr. Aliam Sikindi solves several problems at the same time: “We provide market access for smallholder farmers throughout the State. Our plant saves time and reduces the burden of using rudimentary maize processing ways, especially for women. We also offer an alternative for expensive maize flour imported from Uganda. And we alleviate high transaction costs for traders.”
Importantly, GAPSEC also provides job opportunities. It now employs seven people, most of them young workers. They are paid 10.000 SSP a month each. This income helps to reduce the economic hardship of all employees and their families.
Michael Aliam Sikindi has the vision to become one of the major agro-processors in Western Equatoria State. “I want to expand our maize processing capacity. To start new services, such as a maize thresher, groundnut processing, even rice, and oil processing…”
Some more project achievements
The Food Security through Agribusiness in South Sudan project is well on its way to achieving the goals set for August 2023. Apart from having already assisted 8060 farmers and entrepreneurs like Khemisa Marlin Taban and Michael Aliam Sikindi, it has done a lot more.
Like establishing and supporting 190 farmers associations, 123 cooperatives, and 60 village saving associations that have mobilized savings and social funds of more than 6.000 USD. It has supported 135 medium and small enterprises and 195 young and women entrepreneurs. It created loan access for a total amount of 130.735 USD to 935 farmers, almost half of them women. These farmers come from 26 cooperatives, and 2 existing and 8 start-up businesses. People established 52 community-managed disaster risk reduction committees with the project’s support. To mention only part of the project’s achievements.
On average, between 2018 and 2020, participating farmers reported a 60% maize production increase, 50% sorghum, and 2% groundnut. Notwithstanding inflation of about 100%, a survey among 415 farmers indicated that 36% of them had increased their income within the last year. Project support created more than 50 jobs for young South Sudanese in different agribusiness activities.
Addressing root causes of insecurity
These figures are about scales and averages. But in the end, every figure stands for a multitude of stories. Of people at their wit’s end to address the basic needs of their kith and kin. Of their relentless resourcefulness to overcome challenges. And of how access to finance serves as a flywheel for entrepreneurs, their families, and communities.
Hardship and degrading poverty are major causes of insecurity, malnutrition, and crime in South Sudan. Supporting the entrepreneurship of people like Ms. Marlin Taban and Mr. Aliam Sikindi structurally increases people’s resilience and enables the country to move forward.