Volunteers pave a community road to ease farm produce market access

Edition 14Special Report
Members of a community vigilante group in Magwi County, South Sudan paving a community road for market access . Photo Credit: Richard Sultan

Unlike in other areas in the country where farmers form cooperatives to collectively market and sell their produce those in Magwi prefer to sell theirs directly at local markets in towns and villages. This allows them to connect with nearby consumers and avoid the complexities of long-distance transportation. Today, the road leading to Magwi is busy with human and motor traffic heading there for farm produce and the villagers are reaping the benefits of their hard work.

[rt_dropcap_style dropcap_letter=”A” dropcap_content=”WI Michael stood at the edge of his cassava and groundnuts farms, pondering his next move. A year ago, the 51-yearold farmer and a veteran of the South Sudanese liberation war, promised himself to find a solution to his produce that went to waste due to lack of access to the market.”]

For Awi and his village mates, every year comes with new challenges. In the past, they had to deal with the challenge of an elephant destroying their crops until they formed a local vigilante group and hang an alarm bell made from an old metallic wheel to alert the residents in case the wild animal was spotted in the vicinity.

Magwi, a rural county about 120 km South East of the capital Juba, borders Uganda to the north and it is one of those places that has suffered the brunt of the recent civil wars in the country in 2013 and 2018.

Its proximity to the Fulla National Game Park also makes it prone to human-conflict.

As a respected elder, Awi feels it’s his responsibility to figure out a solution. Burdened by the thoughts of how a man can work so hard and reap nothing out of it due to inaccessibility of the market, he woke up one morning and headed for the chief’s house.

After a 30-minute discussion, the chief agreed to his suggestion and tasked him to mobilise all the farmers for a meeting in five days. The meeting supported the chief’s suggestion that everyone spare two days a week to pave a 9km earth road connecting their village to the main tarmacked road to ease transportation of their farm produce to the markets.

We are well aware that some of you might have pressing issues like sicknesses and family commitments that will prevent you from taking part. In that case, we advise you to contribute anything in kind to support the work,” Chief Amoyi Kalisto said.

Charles Onen, a local government official, said insecurity has prevented the local farmers from organising themselves into a proper cooperative despite the potential benefits. “These farmers receive some agricultural extension services support provided by government agencies, NGOs, and international organisations.

These services offer training, market information, and technical assistance to help farmers improve their production practices and market access without factoring in the major obstacles of roads and insecurity that has plagued the community for ages,” Onen said. Onen said that with just a little bit of government intervention, community farmers can explore value addition and processing techniques such as drying and packaging to increase the shelf life and market value of their products.

“In Yei and Juba, there are lots of locally packaged honey and other farm produce in the supermarkets and market stalls as a result of value addition,” Onen said. However, all is not lost, with this newly paved road, comes access to the market and extra income in the pockets of the farmers.

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