YAMBIO, South Sudan (PAMACC News) – Since 2013, South Sudan has never known peace, and the country has been a beehive of foreign media reporting all manners of stories that depict a desperate, helpless and a bleeding nation.
However, a recent Job Fair, and event organized by the State Government of Gbudue in Yambio, some 430 kilometers west of the capital Juba depicted a totally different spectacle. It was a picture of thousands of enthusiastic women and youth – most of them ex-rebel fighters, but have a lot of hope for their future, a picture of a resilient society, and a community that is eager to produce own food to become self reliant. “Gbudue is a peaceful state, and its citizens are mediators of peace. They come up with homegrown solutions to their own problems,” Governor of Gbudue State Hon. Daniel Badagbu told a UN mission at the Job Fair, who had come to interact with local partners and beneficiaries of UNDP’s multi-dimensional support to recovery and resilience in the State. The mission, which consisted of UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director, UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa Onochie and UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director, UNDP Crisis Bureau Ms. Asako Okai was also joined by the Kingdom of the Netherlands Director-General for International Cooperation H.E. Reina Buijs, and high-level delegations from the Embassies of Japan, the Netherlands, and Sweden. “Now that peace is here in South Sudan, we need to create jobs, especially for the youth, we need to empower the women and the youth, and include these groups in decision-making,” added the governor. AGRA is already on the ground planting the seed of hope by introducing smallholder farmers – most of them women and the youth to profitable agriculture to make them food secure and have a source of livelihood. At the Job Fair, Global Agriculture Innovation and Solutions (GAIS), a local seed company working with AGRA in South Sudan showcased different types of improved seeds for drought tolerant crops, fast maturing and crops that cope well with climatic conditions in Gbudue State. The company is working closely with local smallholder farmers to multiply the seeds so that they can be planted by thousands of women and youth who have returned home from the battlefields. The event which was hosted with support from the Kingdom of Netherlands brought together women entrepreneurs of Masia Market and is supported by the Government of Japan, youth benefitting from economic empowerment projects to boost re-integration, and peace committees. “If you see the energy among the youth and women here, you will realize that they all yearn for development in their communities. Their hard work shows that they are ready to join entrepreneurships and fend for themselves,” said Pia Philip Michael, the Gbudue State Minister for Education, Gender and Social Welfare. Previously “the government could apprehend and imprison all the ex-fighters returning from the bush,” added Michael. According to the minister, the government learned that nearly all the returnees had joined the rebel groups because they were promised a constant salary of 200 dollars every month, and “this points to a livelihood issue,” he said. And now, AGRA is determined to offer them sources of livelihoods they all yearn for, through agri-entrepreneurship. “It all begins with seed,” said AGRA’s Dr Jane Ininda, who is a plant breeding expert. “If we have to make a difference, then we need to avail certifiable seed to all famers, and it should be compatible with the prevailing climatic conditions,” she said. With support from AGRA, GAIS has trained 7,200 smallholder farmers in Gbudue and Lakes States on seed multiplication. “In the two states, we concentrate on improved seeds of fast-maturing maize varieties, groundnuts, sorghum and cowpeas, which are the most appreciated food crops in these two states,” said Rahul Saharan, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for GAIS. In Gbudue State alone, over 1,900 ex-fighters have been taken through rehabilitation programs, and have been released to join vocational training and engage in agribusiness, with others being integrated into organized forces. “Guns cannot be used to win the war,” said Governor Badagbu. “All we need is to create jobs, especially for the youth by introducing them to agribusiness and giving them livelihood skills through vocational trainings,” he told thousands of residents and the UN delegation at the Yambio Job Fair. According to Reina Buijs, it is only by taking action that peace will prevail in South Sudan. “It is good to see the government, the private sector, the civil society, the clergy, and the people come together for the sake of peace,” said Buijs. “There can be many nice words on paper, or spoken, but if it does not translate in concrete actions, people cannot believe any more.” “It feels great to see the donor support being translated into future hope for the people and in implementing the peace agreement,” she said, adding that the Netherlands would be proud to continue supporting such initiatives in South Sudan.