Norman Borlaug, U.S. agronomist, humanist and Nobel Laureate, who is considered the father of the Green Revolution, once said that "you can't build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery." And so, any country intent on improving its economy, stability and security must first develop its agricultural sector.
That is why the U.S. Government, acting through the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, recently launched a new agricultural program in partnership with the Government of Southern Sudan.
"I came most recently from Darfur," said USAID Director Dr. Rajiv Shah, speaking of his recent trip to Southern Sudan. "And every single person I spoke to, of the hundreds of thousands that were in the [Internally Displaced Persons] camps I visited, had agricultural backgrounds and sought again an agricultural future, but their access to viable, productive resources has been limited severely by the conflict."
Indeed, agriculture is the backbone of economic development in southern Sudan. Eighty percent of the population lives in rural areas, and nearly everyone works in agriculture. Yet over 90 percent of these people live on less than a dollar a day, and according to the World Food Program, more than half of the population of 8 million, 52 percent, more often than not go to bed hungry every night. This country of farmers cannot feed itself and is highly dependent on food imports from neighboring Uganda and Kenya.
Over the next 5 years, and with a budget of 55 million dollars, USAID will implement the Food, Agribusiness and Rural Markets, or FARM, Initiative in Southern Sudan. The program will help smallholder farmers increase their production of staple crops, such as maize and sorghum, by providing technical assistance, and improve trade by, among others, building new roads to connect farmers with fast-growing markets for their goods.
"USAID is proud to work with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on this innovative and promising project,” said USAID Administrator Shah. “The FARM program marshals a variety of resources in a re-emerging agricultural area and will inspire others to join as partners in reducing hunger in southern Sudan. This is a solid, high-impact use of U.S. support that will save lives and develop livelihoods."