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Diversification of the South Sudanese economy explored at USAID / GoSS fair

By Toby Collins

November 9, 2011 (LONDON) – A fair promoting South Sudan’s products and potential for future production began on Wednesday in the national capital, Juba.

South Sudanese farmers and their produce, January 2011 (Getty)

It intends to promote cooperation between domestic and international entrepreneurs in agricultural, fishery, livestock and forestry fields.

The vice president, Riek Machar; and the minister of agriculture and forestry, Betty Achan Ogwaro, were amongst those present at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) supported, four day event.

On display was farm equipment and South Sudanese products such as cassava, bamboo, flowers, beeswax, gum Arabic, fruit, vegetables, and dried animal skins.

At the event Ogwaro described agriculture as, “the backbone of the [South Sudanese] economy.”

Machar explained the difficulties faced in Western Equatoria, in the south-west of the country, where profitable mangoes and pineapple are farmed.

Producers are struggling to get them to market. Machar suggested that investment in local fruit preservation facilities would be expedient.

Also attending the fair was USAID deputy mission director Peter Natiello, who said the majority of smallholder farmer produce only enough to support their family but with infrastructure improvements they can become profitable.

South Sudan’s climate and geography give it the potential for a strong agricultural sector, which is currently underdeveloped. According to USAID, it is “helping to develop a commercial domestic seed and fertilizer industry; and by investing in infrastructure, including feeder roads that will help farmers access markets for their products.”

The need for diversification in the South Sudanese economy is pressing; an International Monetary Fund report published in October stated that it depends on oil for 98 percent of its revenue, its output of which will be halved by 2020.

(ST)