South Sudan’s agriculture minister speaks at IFPRI

Lays out clear plan to bring food security to world’s newest nation

IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan and H.E. Dr. Betty Achan Ogwaro

Everything is new in the Republic of South Sudan, which by merit of having achieved independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011, now ranks as the newest country in the world. So when Minister of Agriculture H.E. Dr. Betty Achan Ogwaro visited IFPRI earlier today to present a “new path forward” for agriculture and food security in her country, she was laying out the country’s first steps toward establishing an economically viable and sustainable agricultural system.

Dr. Ogwaro built a solid case that South Sudan’s agricultural sector presents a “strong opportunity not only as a driver of the country’s food security but also of its overall economic development. For example, more than 95 percent of the country’s land area is considered suitable for agriculture; 50 percent is classified as “prime agricultural land.” Yet she pointed out that only 4 percent of this land is under cultivation, most of it rainfed. With abundant water resources in the form of many rivers and tributaries coupled with high annual rainfall (500-2000 mm), the potential for growing more food to feed its population is quite high.

But unless it is tapped, potential is just potential: agricultural productivity remains low, the production gap (total demand minus net production) continues to rise, and there are a number of significant challenges along the path to agricultural transformation in South Sudan, including:

  • Lack of institutional capacity to implement food security programs (such as crop forecasting, early warning, and disaster management);
  • Poor infrastructure (for roads, markets, and storage);
  • Weak research and extension systems;
  • Inefficient farming practices, including poor post-harvest handling and storage, and limited on-farm irrigation systems; and
  • Low investment in agriculture from public and private sectors.

According to Minister Ogwaro, the country’s mission is “to create an enabling environment for the transformation of agriculture into a modern, market-oriented and economically sustainable system.” She identified three key areas for working with international partners and donor organizations: capacity building (for institutions and infrastructure), human capital investment, and research and analytical support. Such cooperation and partnerships are essential not only for helping South Sudan in the short-term, but also for attracting investments necessary to bring food security and a thriving future to the South Sudanese people. IFPRI’s Director General Shenggen Fan promised to carry Minister Ogwaro’s message to donor institutions and partners. “We have an opportunity to draw a beautiful picture in South Sudan,” said Fan.