Renk warehouse where widows and returnees get a lease of life

Renk warehouse where widows and returnees get a lease of life
Angelina Agow, the trainer of trainees, cleans the Gum at the warehouse. [Kitab Unango, The City Review]

Renk Town is arguably one of the most agriculture-rich areas in Upper Nile State. Over 70 per cent of the population here are farmers who spend most of their time tending various crops, notably sorghum – the mainstays of the economy here.

The farming culture here is summed up by a large warehouse; a distinct feature that stands proudly in the town skyline – rich and proud. On this day alone, we are told, the warehouse has more than 1500 metric tons of Gum Arabic inside. Gum Arabic.

Gum Arabic is made from the sap of the Acacia Senegal tree, or gum acacia, and is used medicinally as well as in the production of building materials.

It is here, at this warehouse, that we meet 38-year-old Christina Peter, who was widowed in 2016.

“I lost my husband to the six-year-old war in Upper Nile State. This was a painful moment, yes, but I had to find a way to survive.

“Life becomes difficult. The worsening security situation compelled me and several other widows to flee to Sudan in the North,” she says when we settle down for an interview.

Christina was forced to stay away, in a country, as a refugee for two years – before she returned home following the September 2018 Revitalised Peace Agreement and its subsequent slow pace implementation that ushered in relative peace across South Sudan.

She settled in Renk County, about 55 kilometres off the South Sudan-Sudan border, northeast of Upper Nile State. In the town with over 70 per cent of the population being agriculturalists, Christina now works in the Gum-Arabic warehouse, providing jobs to tens of widows and returnees from Sudan.

Christina works six days a week; earning about 10,500 SSP, by from cleaning Gum Arabic. Despite having loads of responsibilities, she still Christina says, saves part of her earning for the dry days.

“My biggest worry is my children’s future but I have a hope that they will get education and be able to live a good life. This is the only thing I am looking forward to.

“That is why I make sure I save something little despite challenges for them,” she said.

The the vibrant agricultural sector provides employment opportunities to many. In Renk, the arable land that kisses the horizon with its tenders lips from the land yonder, does not discriminate either.

Scores of young men can be seen busy here all day long, repacking, loading, and offloading trucks from the gum arabic producing fields to the warehouse. 

Angelina Agow, 38, a returnee who has worked for more than three years has become a trainer of trainees on how to clean the Gum. Ms Agow whose husband earns very little as a government civil servant equally benefits from working at the warehouse. 

“This work is helping me and my children. The money husband receives is very little and it comes irregularly sometimes after three or four months. So, all of us are depending on this work,” Ms Agow said “Without this children cannot get food leave alone the issue of school.”

However, Agro and Sons Investment Company is planning to cut on the gum arabic production due to abounding challenges including lack of involvement in the direct exporting of the gum, hence incurring loss yearly.

This means that the company shall be forced to reduce the number of workers, which will apparently impact the life of people like Christina. 

“We are not profiting as expected,” Miodeng Deng Nyok, Managing Director of Agro and Sons Investment said.

“We invest lots of money in producing Gum-Arabic but we sell it cheaply to companies who benefit more than us.”

In December 2020, South Sudan launched the exportation of its first consignment of 22 metric tons of Gum Acacia Senegal commonly known as Gum Arabic to Europe. 

This was by the B-Yor Trading Company in partnership with the Ministry of Trade and Industry. 

The warehouse is managed by Agro and Sons Investment.

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