A two-day national workshop was held in Juba, South Sudan, on 8 and 9 June 2021, by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) of South Sudan with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The objectives were to promote the “African Initiative for Combating Desertification” (AI-CD) concept, update stakeholders on the progress of the AI-CD activities, and strengthen coordination and collaboration mechanisms for combating desertification in the country. With 70 participants from diverse institutions – ranging from national and state governments, United Nations (UN) agencies, academic institutions, the Embassy of Japan in South Sudan (EoJ), JICA, and NGOs – the workshop successfully delivered great insights on issues of desertification and concrete approaches for addressing them during the presentations and group discussions.
Opening remarks and speech
During the opening session, Professor Mathew Udo, MAFS; Ms. Maki Okusa, Embassy of Japan; Ms. Leila Shamsaifar, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); and Mr. Yoshifumi Yamanaka, JICA South Sudan Office wished for the great success of the workshop. Ms. Maki Okusa affirmed the Japanese government’s continuing efforts toward mitigating climate change and desertification in South Sudan. She also conveyed her appreciation to South Sudan AI-CD team’s efforts in implementing the initiative. Mr. Yoshifumi Yamanaka emphasised the importance of peaceful process in tackling climate change and all stakeholders can achieve this through incorporating resilience building. He wished that the workshop could pave the way to mobilise internal and external resources to promote AI-CD in South Sudan.
Following the introductory remarks, Hon. Josephine Lagu Yanga, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, made the opening speech. She stated the importance of harmonising the efforts and financial aids from various partners to support the AI-CD activities in South Sudan. Also, she emphasised the need for the capacity building of national and state governments and added that the ministry intends to support the sustainable integrated farming project in South Sudan through the AI-CD.
Presentations on the first day
As the first presentation, Mr. Bullen Kenyi Baggu, Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MEF), explained the adverse impacts of climate change on ecosystems in the sub-Saharan regions while mentioning one of the projects in partnership with FAO, consisting of tree planting and restoration of degraded landscapes through the engagement of local communities.
Following this talk, Mr. Yasuo Izumi, AI-CD Secretariat Support Team, presented several cross-sectoral approaches for sustainable resource management. The case studies from Uganda, Senegal and Japan covered strategy elaboration for sustainable forest use through ministry coordination, value chain development in the agricultural sector and business development strategies to revitalise agricultural communities.
Ms. Josephine Wanjiku and Dr. Michael Mukolwe, Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), representing the hub-country of AI-CD Horn of Africa, explained AI-CD’s genesis and its activities and approaches to sustainable natural resources management. During the presentation, they explained the AI-CD’s three main approaches: networking, knowledge sharing and access to finance, and an overview of past forums and workshops together with their highlighted outputs, including publications on good practices for sustainable land management. Then, key points for the expansion of sustainable natural resource management were cited, including awareness-raising and capacity building of stakeholders, promotion of human ingenuity through a better understanding of natural systems and establishment of funding mechanisms, among others.
After that, Mr. Edward Ugo, South Sudan Agricultural Producers Union (SSAPU), explained the activities on combating desertification conducted in South Sudan. In the presentation, he introduced the main features of past projects, such as the baseline assessment of land degradation in several counties, the engagement of farmers’ groups, the organisation of workshops and technical tours and the distribution of seedling materials.
Following this talk, Mr. Taban Elonai, MAFS, presented the key features of good practices for combating desertification. He stated the characteristics of sustainable practices from the perspective of local adaptability, environmental soundness, economic viability and social acceptability. He also encouraged the sharing of good practices between stakeholders to implement countermeasures on land degradation effectively.
To conclude the first day, Mr. Richard Abondio introduced an energy-saving stove that can be an alternative to the commonly used traditional stove. He explained the features of the improved stove, especially the utilisation of briquettes made from organic solid waste and charcoal dust. He highlighted the potential of this environmentally friendly and cheap solution which could reduce the demand for charcoal.
Presentations on the second day
On the second day of the workshop, Mr. Noel Cleopas, MEF, and Mr. John Pangech, MAFS, introduced the implementation, coordination and resource mobilisation measures for the Comprehensive Agriculture Master Plan (CAMP) and the Irrigation Development Master Plan (IDMP). They explained the background and principal features of these first national agriculture development plans elaborated through the technical cooperation between the South Sudanese government and JICA, with the support of other development partners.
A presentation was made by Ms. Leila Shamsaifar, FAO, on the contribution of UN agencies and international NGOs in the management and control of land degradation. She cited that further coordinated actions are needed to improve the productivity and livelihood of communities and ecosystems. She also stressed the promotion of sustainable land use and agricultural approaches, and the adoption of appropriate monitoring and evaluation methods.
Following this talk, Mr. Edward Ugo, SSAPU, presented the role of grassroots organisations in desertification countermeasures. He explained about several past projects where the SSAPU promoted the networking between the farmers’ organisations, engaged with governments for financing and supported farmers in the diversification of income sources to build resilience.
Mr. Bullen Kenyi Baggu, MEF, explained the national strategies and action plans to combat desertification in the context of South Sudan. He presented multiple institutional frameworks and suitable approaches to be applied in the country, such as developing and applying long-term natural resources management technologies, promoting capacity building and awareness-raising, elaborating policies and legislation, and incorporating the gender perspective.
Dr. George Tadu, MAFS/AI-CD Focal Point, presented a project concept for developing peri-urban integrated farming to combat desertification. The project’s overall objective is to build the resilience of smallholder farmers to cope with the effects of drought and desertification. The adaptation measures include improving crop productivity and processing capacity, increasing livestock productivity, and minimising farmer-pastoralist conflicts, among others. He also mentioned that potential collaboration with international agencies is sought for project development and financing.
After the presentations, the workshop participants were divided into four groups, and several group discussions were organised. The common theme “Strategies of building resilience against food insecurity while tackling desertification and climate change” was given to all groups. They were asked to come up with ideas to promote the different topics provided to each group, such as (a) booting public-private sector engagement, (b) enhancing regional integration, (c) enhancing cooperation and collaboration of national and state governments and (d) creating awareness at the grassroots level. At the end of the activity, each group presented their approaches to other groups for further discussion.
Finally, the Director Generals of Central and Eastern Equatoria States, representatives of FAO and WFP, JICA South Sudan Office and the Undersecretary of MAFS made their closing remarks. They expressed commitment to coordinated actions and a willingness for future collaboration.