By Jacob K. Lupai
November 17, 2009 — In my article, Agriculture in Southern Sudan vital but neglected, that appeared in The Juba Post Newspaper, Vol.5 Issue 71 of 03-07 September 2009, I showed that indeed agriculture was neglected when it only got 1.6 per cent of budgetary allocation and was in fact the last in the list of priorities. This was in contrast to the main agricultural policy of the Government of Southern Sudan consideration of agriculture as the backbone of the economy and a top priority for transformation from traditional system to a science-based one in order to be self-reliant in production to achieve food security. The implementation of the agriculture policy would focus on the provision of improved seed, agro-chemicals, agricultural machinery and credit to farmers in the effort to boost production.
The Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) is exerting every effort to improve production and food security. In this endeavour the GOSS Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has embarked on concrete steps to realize the transformation of agriculture from traditional subsistence system to mechanized farming for higher yields. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in collaboration with the Agricultural Bank of Sudan has started an agricultural programme that is aimed to benefit small farmers in all the States of Southern Sudan. This is a giant step in mobilizing resources for the transformation of agriculture from traditional to progressive modern farming in the effort to eradicate poverty in the States.
According to the Regional Manager of the Agricultural Bank of Sudan, Southern States Sector, the GOSS Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has allocated 5 tractors to each Southern State and the tractors are currently in the stores of the Bank. The tractors have accessories which are mainly seeders and disc ploughs. Other farm machinery will be made available in due course. In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Agricultural Bank of Sudan, using its policies, will distribute the tractors to the States. The Bank will also avail technological packages through the provision of farm inputs such as improved seed and agro-chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides) in addition to jute bags provided to all production areas for the packing of produce. Each State Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Bank of Sudan will provide extension services to improve production in order to realize the goal of eradicating poverty in Southern Sudan.
On credit to farmers the Agricultural Bank of Sudan has been directed by the GOSS to apply a credit policy as follows:
1. To finance operational expenses of land preparation, procurement of inputs, harvesting and any other activity, and all this will include mechanized rain-fed and traditional irrigated sector;
2. To finance agricultural marketing requirements such as storage, transportation and others; and
3. To finance productive families and rural income-generating activities.
In implementing the credit policy the Agricultural Bank of Sudan will also adopt the following policies:
1. Short-term lending:
This type of lending is of maturity date not exceeding 15 months and includes cash lending to meet operating expenses of different agricultural activities and credit in kind which is the provision of improved seed, jute bags and agro-chemicals; and
2. Medium-term lending:
This type of lending is of maturity between 15 months and 5 years. Farmers are going to be financed through numerous methods with the intention of consistency with regards to the circumstances of small farmers in the sector and areas. The methods usually followed by the Agricultural Bank of Sudan are the financing of individuals, financing of small farmers through their associations and village committees, financing farmers through clubs and groups, financing agricultural cooperatives, financing small farmers through farmers’ production councils, and financing companies consisting of large numbers of farmers.
In providing credit to farmers the Agricultural Bank of Sudan has a number of options to consider as follows:
1. The client should be encouraged to contribute to the cost of financing from their resources as proof of seriousness;
2. The client should have a good record or reputation and adequate knowledge of farm management and should be regular in fulfilling their commitment; and
3. The client should be encouraged to deposit their savings in the Agricultural Bank of Sudan as a prerequisite for finance and as a good sign for credit worthiness.
In the letter dated 09/11/2009 addressed to Director Generals in the Ministries of Agriculture and Animal Resources in the Southern States, the Regional Manager said it is important to mention that the Agricultural Bank of Sudan does not claim collateral except for the medium-term lending such as in the case of the 5 tractors allocated to each State. This depends on close supervision and a follow-up in the field as the credit basic security. The Bank depends basically on the personal guarantee that is often enhanced with checks in seasonal operational credit to small farmers. It expects each State Ministry of Agriculture to cooperate in organizing small farmers into farmers’ associations, farmers’ groups, cooperatives, village councils and so forth with the aim of providing integrated agricultural and administrative services, and guarantee the use of the credit for the intended purpose under the implementation and supervision of the State Ministry of Agriculture.
To make the collaboration between the GOSS Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Agricultural Bank of Sudan a reality each State Ministry of Agriculture should follow up the distribution of tractors and accessories, and provision of inputs to the farmers with the Bank’s branches in the States. For Central, Eastern and Western Equatoria, and Jonglei States they should deal with the Agricultural Bank of Sudan Juba Branch. Northern and Western Bahr El Ghazal, Warrap and Lakes States should deal with the Wau Branch. Upper Nile State should deal with the Malakal Branch and Unity State to deal with the Renk Branch.
The challenge is now with each State Ministry of Agriculture to take the initiative and make the difference. The GOSS Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has done its part by laying the groundwork for the take off stage. We have been blamed for poor agricultural production because the bulk of food commodities have been imported. Partly the blame is right due to our lack of any visible commitment to agricultural development. Often we have offered lip service to agriculture that has been, in most cases, starved of resources. This trend, however, has to be reversed by all means.
Each State Ministry of Agriculture should aggressively go on the offensive in agricultural development for self-reliance in production to achieve food security. Southern Sudan is blessed with abundant arable land and substantial water resources. It is therefore unacceptable that we should rely on foreign food imported from across our borders. With the collaboration between the GOSS Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Agricultural Bank of Sudan there is no reason why we shouldn’t seize this opportunity. It is a challenge to us all as agriculturists in each State to double our efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve food security in Southern Sudan. If others can do it why on earth cannot we do it? Of course with commitment we can, can’t we?
In conclusion our weakness seems to be the high expectation of ready made goods that we have hardly contributed anything in making the goods. This dependency culture is one single enemy of development in Southern Sudan. Let’s hope that we have learned enough to move forward with confidence in our development endeavours. It is now up to the Director General in each State Ministry of Agriculture to follow up with the Branch of Agricultural Bank of Sudan for the State concerned. Seeing is believing and unless we are seen to produce the blaming may not stop.
The author is an Agricultural Extension Expert and a PhD in Food Security. He is a regular contributor to Sudan Tribune and can be reached at [email protected]