The harvested crop

Harvesting the fields

Tending to the crops

Caring for the land

On July 9, the Republic of South Sudan will celebrate its first birthday as an independent country. As the world’s newest country, South Sudan faces many challenges as it forms a new government, develops laws, and redevelops infrastructure that was destroyed by decades of civil war. The people of South Sudan – primarily subsistence farmers – also face many obstacles.

Though agricultural land is plentiful in this region, from the 1980’s into the 2000’s, many farmers fled for their lives to refugee camps in Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and to Internal Displacement Camps within Sudan. As a result, agricultural land became overgrown and children who would have traditionally grown up on farms and absorbed farming skills from their elders, are now adults who know nothing about farming.

Equally tragic was the impact of the war on young people; many had to join the armed forces or the armed groups who fought for various political factions during the long civil war. They were far too young to be fighting a war but forced recuitment of children and youth was practiced by all sides.These two scenarios – children raised in refugee camps away from farms and youth employed as soldiers – reveal some of the deep wounds within Sudan that require gospel power in order to heal.

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) has been working in Yei River County in central Equatoria State since 2010. Through four projects in this region, CRWRC hopes to help the rural population increase in their farming skills and work together to improve agricultural production so that families can meet their needs and so that food can be sold both within South Sudan and exported to neighboring countries.

The projects are designed to train over 800 farm families each year in “best practices” for growing food staples such as maize, ground nuts, beans and sorghum; and promote good agricultural practices through broadcasts over two Christian radio stations in Yei River County (Spirit FM and Easter FM).

Integral to this vision is the embodiment of Christ's good news. “I believe in the gospel’s power to change lives and effect reconciliation between warring individuals, including tribes with a long history of conflict. Without the gospel woven into our projects, our impact could be hollow if not palliative,” said CRWRC South Sudan Country Representative and Program Director, Albert Dizon.

CRWRC’s work in Sudan, mostly funded by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB), is comprised of several components: training farmers in basic agricultural techniques to improve crop yields, sharing the cost of hand tools to clear more land, and distributing seed. Beneficiaries of the program include recently returned occupants of refugee camps and subsistence farmers that have been established in Yei River County for years.

“The project was able to demonstrate that impacts can happen immediately following an intervention as opposed to seeing it at the tail end of a development program,” said Dizon about the results he’s seen over the past two years. “At least 73% (or 582) of the 801 training participants that have adopted the basic farming methods from the training have testified of being able to meet their households’ dietary requirements. Those with surplus sold it commercially so they could meet equally important needs like the children’s education and access to a balanced diet.”

Taipule Lugala Mudure, a participant in the project, echoes Dizon’s enthusiasm. He says, “The CRWRC training allowed me to meet my household`s food needs. Its farm radio program, which I conscientiously follow, guided me in proper pricing and right timing for selling my produce. If this is sustained, the future is looking up. We will have a better food supply, including the means to cope with other basic needs for the household.”

John Ajo, another participating farmer, shares dreams for future CRWRC projects: “I am hoping that additional training opportunities will be provided by CRWRC, particularly in areas like agro-forestry and animal husbandry. If this is granted, more rural people will have better chances of improving food production and raising their level of income.”

In South Sudan, war’s wounds aren’t having the last word. Jesus, the Word made flesh, is speaking a healing word, binding the wounds of the brokenhearted (Ps. 147:3). He is generating new strength and hope through people like Albert Dizon and Christians like you who support the project through your prayers and gifts to CRWRC.

~ by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema and Kristen deRoo VanderBerg