October 18, 2014 (BOR) – Bor farmer Paul Alim Amol can often be seen pushing a wheelbarrow laden with guava fruits in the Jonglei state capital to reach his buyers.
- Bor Farmer Paul Alim Amol picks guava fruits from the trees while surrounded by flood waters that inundated his farm (ST)
Depending on the season, Amol’s wheelbarrow will also contain lemon, mango or orange fruits harvested from his one-hectare farm on the banks of the River Nile River in Bor.
As a director for environment in Jonglei state’s ministry for land and physical infrastructure, Amol is charged with ensuring environmental conservation in the region.
In 2009, he single-handedly set up a nursery for seedlings to help mitigate the harmful effects of rampant land clearing in the area. The result has been very rewarding for the father-of-three, with the business growing into a successful commercial operation.
“By the time we started surveying and demarcating plots to the people [in Bor], I realised as an environmentalist that there is sort of degradation because we are cutting [down] trees … so I decided to initiate the seedlings to be given to the citizens so that they compensate cut trees, then we can at least maintain and sustain our environment,” Amol told Sudan Tribune on Saturday at his farm as he attempted to salvage submerged fruits after heavy rains hit the region last week.
“It brings money; it brings [a] good name [to me] and can also maintain a good environment because cut trees can be replaced,” he added.
Five years on and Amol’s plantation now contains some 800 trees, including mango, guava, lemon and pawpaw, as well as avocado, which he sourced from overseas.
He has at least casual workers helping him to sell farm produce, build dykes and maintain 15 generators, which he uses to drain excess water during flooding.
His income generated from the seedling business has helped supplement his government salary of close to 2,000 South Sudanese pounds (SSP) a month and means he is able to cover the cost of tuition fees for his children to study in Uganda.
“One seedling is 10 [South Sudanese] pounds, and if I have about 5,000 seedlings this is a lot of money. I am supporting my children in Kampala in one of the expensive schools. I am now paying one million Ugandan shillings ($400) per child [per term],” he said.
This means an annual cost of three million shillings per child per academic year.
Amol says he is happy his family can now also benefit from his farming business and that he can provide his children with a good education.
“It is a very big achievement. Their school fees are not interfering with my little salary in the government, so this garden is now sponsoring my children. I am happy,” he said.
However, as an environmentalist, Amol’s main objective is not solely to make money.
- A farm worker carries a bucket of fruit (ST)
He represented South Sudan in China during a conference on global warming and climate change earlier this year.
“It gives me a sort of appreciation and it gives my education the value of being an environmentalist,” he said.
“It shows I am thinking about the environment, so all the cut trees I am now compensating them,” he added.
Amol says his enterprise is a good example of a business model that is both profitable and sustainable.
“It is self sustainable because some [trees] can die, some can be replenished, some can be sold as source of money,” he said.
“[These trees] can be used for [many] purposes; for commercial purpose, [providing] shade and also for the environmental conservation,” he added.
With many South Sudanese lacking job opportunities and languishing in poverty, Amol said some lessons could be learnt from his initiative in terms of diversification of income and minimising living costs.
“They should understand that to have money received as a salary, is not enough. You better have another source. Now, what I buy from the market is only meat [and] fish, but the rest of the vegetables, are [from] my farm. It gives me a very huge saving because I don’t spend a lot of money,” he said, joking that he has plans to construct a fishpond to further minimise his expenses.
With guava now in season, Amol now wakes up early each morning to collect the ripe fruits.
He sells the fruit to middlemen and women at 1 SSP for three pieces, although he often gives his clients extra fruit as a bonus.
He takes the remaining fruits in his wheelbarrow to the market where he sells two pieces for 1 SSP.
Amol says that people often laugh at him when they see him pushing his wheelbarrow, not realising that he is making a good profit each day.
- Paul Alim Amol displays guava fruits picked from his farm in South Sudan’s Jonglei state (ST)
On a good day, Amol collects more than 3,000 guava fruits, although close to half will rot due to lack of preserving equipment.
“People in Juba need these fruits, but there is no road,” he said.
Despite the numerous challenges facing farmers in South Sudan such a poor transport links and flooding, Amol says he is not looking for government handouts or aid assistance.
“I need roads to connect my produce to the markets in Juba, Wau and Malakal,” he said.
“I need business people to engage with [community initiatives], but not assistance from nongovernmental organisations,” he added.
Farmers like Amol are also vulnerable to severe weather fluctuations and the high cost of fuel, on which he depends to drain excess water from his fields.
“You have to buy two drums of diesel, which is 400 litres, and I have petrol engine and I have to buy petrol too. This takes a lot of money because the price of fuel is very high here in Bor,” he said.
High flood waters also bring another foreboding threat for farm workers in the form of crocodiles.
“When there is a flooding like this, people cannot work in water of two metres deep. They fear crocodiles because I am near to the Nile River. Crocodiles can jump the dyke to come and enjoy the fruits,” he said.