In the heart of South Sudan, where conflict runs deep, the power of agriculture shines as a beacon of hope. War, extreme poverty, colonialism, and exploitation of resources have left indelible marks on the landscape and its people, challenging their survival and development. Amidst these challenges, Lift Up the Vulnerable’s partners at Hope For South Sudan (HFSS), located near the South Sudan and Uganda border in Eastern Equatoria, launched the Empowering Leaders through Nutrition-Smart Agriculture project in collaboration with Rise Against Hunger in 2020. This five-year initiative aims to enhance crop production for both consumption and income, and to improve dietary diversity for better nutrition. By exploring the profound connection between food security and peace, this initiative illustrates how agricultural projects can transform communities, alleviate hunger, and pave the way for lasting stability in regions scarred by war. 

Bryan Pride, Technical Program Director at Rise Against Hunger, has been a key guide for our farm team on the ground at HFSS and has helped train, mentor, and empower the local leaders in innovative and sustainable agriculture practices. For this collaborative project, Bryan was recently awarded the Rising Star Alum Award by the Congressional Hunger Center. 

“As the Technical Program Director for Rise Against Hunger, Bryan is working to not just treat—but prevent—malnutrition by incorporating nutrition into agriculture and food security programs.” 

We invited Bryan to share more about why agriculture is so critical in preventing trafficking in warzones and what he’s observed in visiting our farms at HFSS and Our Father’s Cleft (OFC) in Sudan: 

Conflict Starts in the Stomach 

The over five-decade civil war between Sudan and South Sudan, the longest in African history, left lasting destruction. Once-vibrant markets are now desolate, limiting income opportunities and access to goods. Without income, people cannot buy food or seeds, leading to hunger and desperation. 

“Desperation drives theft, destruction, and conflict as people struggle to survive. When basic food needs aren’t met, conflict often continues.” – Bryan Pride 

Challenges Communities Face in Starting Agricultural Initiatives 

So why don’t individuals or communities grow their own food? Well, it isn’t that simple. 

One reason is because many believe agriculture is impossible in South Sudan and Sudan due to harsh climatic conditions. Dry conditions, unpredictable weather, and prolonged droughts cause frequent crop failures. However, conservation agriculture techniques can improve yields despite these challenges.  

This leads to the second reason, lack of quality education across Africa means many farmers lack formal training, hindering their ability to improve farming practices. 

Farmer Field Schools, like the one launched by Hope for South Sudan this year, effectively educate farmers in surrounding communities, leading to improved farming practices and food security. Ensuring food security addresses the underlying causes of vulnerability, thereby significantly decreasing the risk of human trafficking and fostering safer, more stable communities. 

“Food secure communities have more opportunities to establish markets to buy and sell surplus harvest at affordable prices, generate income to send their children to school, and afford to feed their children diverse and quality diets to keep their children healthy and free from needing to attend clinics due to routine illnesses.” – Bryan Pride 

Lastly, the long-lasting conflict has wreaked havoc on individuals’ abilities to safely farm. 

Farming requires a sense of peace. Ezekiel Ayub, the indigenous director of LUV’s Our Father’s Cleft highlighted that farming symbolizes peace and stability, showing communities that self-sustainability is possible despite past conflicts. Farming reduces resource scarcity, mediating conflict by providing food and agricultural opportunities. Access to food helps stabilize communities and reduce trauma. 

Agriculture Empowers Communities 

“Agriculture empowers communities because it allows them to provide for themselves rather than wait for food assistance.” – Bryan Pride 

Traveling to food distribution centers takes time away from farming, meal preparation, childcare, and increases the chance of sexual assault, kidnapping, or robberies. Dependency on external food sources is unsustainable. Educating individuals about farming and nutrition empowers them to control their future and livelihoods.

Local Innovations and Traditional Practices at HFSS 

Hope For South Sudan has blossomed into an agricultural beacon of prosperity and hope for the people learning successful farming practices in the Farmer Field School Program. 

During compost training, teachers shared how they and their elders practiced composting, which many stopped in favor of chemical fertilizers. However, these fertilizers are often too expensive and can harm the soil if not properly applied. HFSS has reintroduced successful traditional practices such as using smoke to dry maize, wood ash for pest control, and growing indigenous crops. The smoke-drying structure and wood ash methods mimic traditional post-harvest and pest control techniques, resulting in better yields. 

Since the agriculture project began, Hope For South Sudan has cultivated most of its food, achieving record yields. In 2023, 75% of all consumed food at the school and safe house was from the HFSS farm! Malnutrition cases have been treated, with no recurrences in the past eight months, which is remarkable. Improved nutrition has led to noticeable differences in student performance and behavior, enhancing the overall health of the student body. Both students and teachers report significant improvements, highlighting the project’s success. 

The efforts of Hope For South Sudan, in partnership with Lift Up the Vulnerable and Rise Against Hunger, highlight the importance of agriculture in empowering communities and preventing human trafficking. Your support and donations are essential to continue this vital work as we expand our farm projects at our other partner locations. Together, we are empowering communities in Sudan and South Sudan, fostering a future where food security and peace prevail. Join us in making a lasting impact. 

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