South Sudan: Female Farmer Still Optimistic Despite Hardships

Posted: September 16, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

Gracie faced incredible obstacles during her first year with P4P, and had to show a lot of patience as well. When her buyer was finally ready to pick up her surplus, 85% of it was lost. Read here why Gracie is still optimistic about P4P and her plans for the upcoming years.

JUBA — Gracie Seratiore Furimona, 42 years old, is a farmer from the village of Saura in South Sudan’s Western Equatorial state. The mother of five cultivates maize and other crops like groundnuts, rice, cassava, bananas, and beans on a small scale for home consumption.

She joined the Namukuru Farmers group in 2010. The same year, Namukuru and its 30 members were selected to participate in P4P by the Bangladeshi Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), one of P4P’s many NGO partners in South Sudan. Two out of three group members are women – an astonishingly high number, due to the fact that many men have migrated to the next big town, Yambio, to find work, leaving most households headed by women.

Last year, Gracie cultivated maize on 1.5 feddans of land (about 1.5 acres). At the end of both the first and the second harvesting season, she managed to harvest 1 ton of maize, or 20 bags of 50 kg each. From both harvests, she kept 10 bags for her family’s consumption. After BRAC assured her that she would be able to sell to the NGO through P4P, Gracie refrained from selling her maize right away on the local market and waited for BRAC, eager to sell all her surplus in one go and get a good price.

Unfortunately, BRAC had to delay the collection of Gracie’s surplus from December 2010 to March 2011. Communication problems between the NGO and Namukuru resulted in continuing delays. It was the beginning of a hard time for Gracie:

"In these months, I faced many challenges: I did not have enough storage space, my stored maize was infested by maize weevils and rats, and the worst was when a fire in the nearby forest started: I lost almost all my stored maize when the storage burned down! Two of my grass thatched houses burned down as well. Only 5 bags of maize remained that I had stored somewhere else. Out of the five, I could then only sell 3 bags, because we needed the rest for our own consumption… For the three bags I got 150 Sudanese Pounds (about US$ 55) – but I had hoped for much higher earnings!"

Gracie spent half of her income on clearing and preparing two feddans of land for the next season. The other half she and her husband spent on spare parts for her husband’s motorcycle so that he can go to Yambio for casual labor. They also bought a small radio, as they are keen to get current news and stay up to date with what is happening in Africa’s newest nation.

Despite all the setbacks in the past year, Gracie is more motivated than ever and looks forward to the next season: "This season, I am expecting a good harvest with hopefully around 25 bags! My farmer’s group has really helped me to increase our production as they train us on modern farming methods on a demonstration plot nearby. I urge organizations like WFP to continue to support us through projects like P4P so that our surplus maize can be bought, and we earn income from our produce and improve our standard of living. They should start to purchase from us right from the first season, because it is hard for us to store the grain till after the second season, but apart from that, I am really happy."

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