How Juba women skip losses, dream big through vegetable preservation

How Juba women skip losses, dream big through vegetable preservation

In the heart of Juba, South Sudan’s bustling capital, a group of women are soaking under the unforgiving sweltering heat of the sun, turning its rays into a beacon of hope for local agriculture.

Under the leadership of Lucia Sebit Didi, this initiative is not only aiming at revolutionising the way vegetables are preserved but also reshaping the regional market landscape.

“It all started with losses from selling fresh veggies,” Lucia reminisces, recounting the genesis of their transformative journey. Faced with the harsh reality of perishability and market fluctuations, Lucia envisioned a solution that would not only mitigate losses but also empower women farmers across the region.

Thus, a pioneering venture was born – one that harnessed the power of the sun to dry and preserve vegetables, extending their shelf life from a mere two days to an impressive four months.

Lucia’s company embarked on a mission to sun dry vegetables, meticulously packaging them for sale both locally and regionally. The result? A triumph of ingenuity and sustainability.

“We have not only extended shelf life but also enhanced nutritional value,” Lucia proudly recaps.

 Indeed, consumers are willing to pay a premium for the high dry matter content and unparalleled freshness of these sun-dried vegetables. Through this innovative approach, Lucia’s group ensures a steady supply of nutritious produce to consumers, irrespective of seasonal fluctuations.

But their journey hasn’t been without challenges. South Sudan grapples with a dearth of storage, processing, and packaging facilities, exacerbating food loss and hindering market access.

“My business is expanding, but my customers grumble that the packaged vegetables are too expensive,” Lucia explained. “The packaging material for the dried vegetables is imported, which is why they are so pricey. There is no packaging material factory in South Sudan. As a result, we are importing them.”

 It was here that the timely intervention of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) proved instrumental. Equipped with newfound knowledge and skills, Lucia and her team embarked on a path of sustainable entrepreneurship, driven by resilience and determination.

Yet, hurdles remain. Imported packaging materials drive up costs, posing a challenge to affordability. Limited storage facilities lead to occasional losses, necessitating strategic interventions for sustainable growth. Lucia’s aspirations to expand into spice production face financial constraints and logistical complexities, underscoring the need for strategic partnerships and investments.

Undeterred, Lucia remains steadfast in her vision for the future. With dreams of international certification and market entry, she envisions a world where South Sudanese produce shines on the global stage. Her recent forays into regional markets have yielded promising results, with demand soaring for South Sudanese delicacies such as hibiscus and spicy chili.

“I believe in the potential of South Sudanese produce,” Lucia asserts, her eyes alight with passion. With plans to showcase their products through exhibitions and online platforms, Lucia is determined to elevate the visibility and marketability of their offerings, one sun-dried vegetable at a time.

In the radiant glow of the South Sudanese sun, Lucia and her fellow farmers are sowing the seeds of change – one dried vegetable, one market at a time. As they continue to harness the power of the sun, they illuminate a path towards economic empowerment and sustainable development, paving the way for a brighter, bountiful future for all.

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