An inaugural visit was paid to Aweil, to discuss plans to modernize cultivation to boost the rice scheme.
Sara Beysolow Nyanti, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Resident Coordinator for South Sudan, paid a visit to Aweil, Northern Bahr El Ghazal.
The three main objectives of the meeting were Peace, Progress and Associations. They showed keen interest in the historic Aweil Rice Scheme Project.
Rice Scheme is a mechanized system that sought to modernize sustainable farming practices by using tractors to prepare and plant farmland, launched as early as 1944 by the British.
Though the vision of the Rice plan is so broad, it encountered some challenges in recent years.
The representative of the farming community, Peter Akon, stated that “The cost of fuel skyrocketed and spare parts for the tractors weren’t cheap either.”
“Another problem was, farmers were not trained to use modern technology, they had little knowledge of rice processing techniques, and capacity building opportunities for them were non-existent.”
These challenges among others including lack of seeds, caused local farmers to largely, but not entirely, abandon the Rice Plan.
Not until DSRSG Nyanti traveled some 20 kilometers from the town of Aweil, with his delegation, to take a closer look at this innovative and now nationally-led project under the auspices of the state Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
Currently, 750 cooperative rice farmers use 625 hectares of the Rice Plan, located within the floodplains of the Lol River, while additional hectares are leased to private farming entities.
These numbers don’t seem like much to the common observer.
UNMISS deputy chief saw was incredible potential for food security in a country that has been ravaged by perennial conflict and climate change, leading to widespread poverty, displacement and hunger.
“If we are able to harness its full capacity, the Aweil Rice Scheme can produce about 23,000 metric tons of rice a year,” said DSRSG Nyanti. “That’s enough to feed the entire population of South Sudan and have a surplus,” he added.
The evaluation of the rehabilitation project was also high on the list of local authorities.
“We want the Rice Scheme to be rehabilitated and to have a fresh start because we will not only be able to lift our own people out of the clutches of poverty, but also help communities across South Sudan,” said Lily Albino Akol, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Security. “The restoration will be a joint effort between my Ministry and the Food and Agriculture Organization, financed by the African Development Bank,” she added.
It is a challenging and exciting project. Most importantly, according to the DSRSG, it is an essential step for South Sudan to forge a prosperous future.
“Right at this very moment, there are 8.9 million hungry people across the country. We must do everything in our power to ensure that this terrible scenario changes for the better. Therefore, I urge you all to do your best to double your yields and work collaboratively to restore the rice mill,” Ms. Nyanti told the farmers who gathered to meet her.