Renk farmers call for financial support to boost productivity

Renk farmers call for financial support to boost productivity
Renk food silos. [Photo, Kitab Unango, City Review]

Farmers in Renk County in Upper Nile State are calling for financial support from the government to boos agricultural produce.

Established in 1970’s, Renk Irrigation Scheme has been South Sudan’s major food basket since the country seceded from Sudan in 2011.

More than 70 per cent of the estimated population of 150,000 of Renk County practice large scale farming.

Kur Dau, Chairperson of Renk Farmer Union, says the biggest problem now is lack of fuel for use in the mechanized farming within the state.

“The issue of market is solved. Our produce used spoil due to lack of market. The WFP are now buying our food especially sorghum, and we do not have problem with market now,” he says.

Last year, the World Food Programme (WFP) procured about 23, 000 metric tons of locally produced sorghum, more than two scores of the 2017 and 2018 quantity it procured to preposition food to internally displaced, refugees and schools feeding programme across the country.

Dau said the price of the fuel would likely sharply decrease the production should the government and the concerned institutions fail to provide the needed support.

“A barrel of fuel costs P200 000 here in Renk yet planting season is still, meaning it will reach SSP250 000 or SSP300 000. So, farmers will not be able to farm this year unless there is support from the national government,’ Dau said.

Chol Anyar Diing, a farmer in Renk County, said local food production could alleviate the country’s food security if the government provides necessary infrastructure, and needed agricultural implements.

“Farmers are struggling by themselves, selling their goats, and cattle to do farming. Even in the past years the government could not provide market for our local produces,” Anyar said.

“One of the government mandates should have been to procure locally produce food, and store it to prevent food insecurity in the country,’ Anyar said “WFP has saved the famers by procuring our local produces especially the sorghum. So this has a positive impact on us farmers, and Renk community at large.”

Anyar urged the government to sustain peace and security achieved in Renk as a result of WFP in home market for local produces, creating employment opportunity for youth and women, thus shun hostility in the county.

The state Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Environment in Upper Nile, Mary William admitted lack of support to the farmers despite the great job they are doing to alleviate food insecurity in the country.

“We want to expand the farmland to 5 million fedans this year if there is support from the national government. What farmers are doing here in Renk is very good and they need support, and that is why it is very important that we support them,” said Mary.

“We call on the WFP to continue buying from farmers because if there is no market, farmers will stop production and it will affect the economy and social wellbeing in the county,” she added.

However, Santino Deng, acting branch Manager of Agricultural Bank of South Sudan in Renk said the institution lacks capital to back famers unless government provides some money.

“In 2022/2023 season, we will not be able to support farmers because there is no money. We are waiting for the capital, and if we fail to receive it, we will not be able support farmers this year,’ said Deng.

In 2021, farmers were able to utilise only about 30 per cent of the total 1.5 fedans demarcated farmland, yielding more than 22,000 metric tons of sorghum they sold World Food Programme.

Despite commending the WFP local procurement initiative that inspired majority of the population to do farming, the said lack of support from the government would likely sharply scale down the production in 2022.

The farmers said they lack institution capacity to provide fuel and financial support to boost the country’s agricultural sector and as well alleviate Sudan Sudan’s devastated food security.

According to the WFP, it has increased the level of local food procurement in Renk from 500 metric tons in 2017, to 5,000 and 7,000 metric tons in 2018 and 2019 respectively, culminating to about 23,000 metric tons in 2021.

“We realised that there has been a lot food production which was either diverted to other locations or used within but was lacking proper coordinated market,’ Lionidace Andrew, Head of Renk WFP Field Office said ‘WPF targeted to procure locally 40 000 metric tons of sorghum from Renk County, from this WFP achieved 58 per cent of the target and we managed to procure around 23, 000 metric tons.

The food agency said its target in 2022 is 40 000 metric tons of sorghum but cast doubt whether they would meet the target due to abound challenges farmers face in Renk.

“So there are several challenges WFP faces mainly the challenges that face farmers and traders also indirectly affect the WFP scale up the local purchase. The first one is the high cost of fuel which is one of the most important imputes in mechanized farmers,’ Andrew said.