Written by Michael Agyemang, Programme Support Officer, Feed the Minds
Michael Agyemang, Programme Support Officer of Feed the Minds shares his view on how Feed the Minds, together with its project partner in South Sudan, combined literacy in farming, agricultural training, and peacebuilding to transition farmers’ lives in Mvolo county.
Working in complex, hard-to-reach environments, Feed the Minds for over 50 years has been delivering education projects to upskill people out of poverty. The people we support have often missed out on school, making it difficult to secure employment or access to life-changing skills. The lack of education, which is interlinked with conflicts, discrimination and inadequate health, exacerbates poverty.
Since January 2020, Feed the Minds has been working with Sudan Evangelical Mission to increase food security and income for 2,000 vulnerable farmers and their families in Mvolo county, South Sudan.
Mvolo county experiences acute food insecurity, low-income levels, and a lack of understanding of good farming methods. Feed the Minds’ project in South Sudan, combined farming, sustainable income, and peacebuilding to transition farmers in Mvolo county from aid-dependency to becoming climate-smart food producers. Through the skills acquired in literacy and agricultural training, 2,000 farmers have improved agronomic practices, increased food production and are food secure benefiting over 24,000 people.
Given the low education levels in Mvolo, this project prioritised practical education. Agriculture training was delivered in a demonstration garden and was hands-on to maximise learning and impact. Through the training, farmers learnt about crop calendars, seed selection, the use of organic fertilisers and post-harvest management techniques.
Emma, one of the project participants, stated:
“By following this process [training], the farmers benefit from increased yield and improved income, contributing to their respective household food security. They can provide enough healthy food for many vulnerable women, children, elders, and people with disabilities in their own communities.”
Delivering training in real-time improved farmers’ skills to increase their farm productivity on crops such as sorghum, maize, beans, and cassava. Food consumption at the household level also increased, reducing the risk of food insecurity for many families.
Prioritising education also means investing in people’s abilities. In South Sudan, low literacy and numeracy limited farmers’ ability to transition from subsistence farming to income generation. To ensure farmers could conduct accurate sales at the market, manage their personal finances, or communicate effectively, Functional Adult Literacy was applied using practical life examples. Sessions were delivered at the community level on a weekly basis with modules directly linked to agriculture and financial literacy. Additionally, to increase financial security, farmers were trained in Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) groups set-up. This provided them with the ability to save money earned from their sales at the market, access loans to start small businesses or increase household spending.
Mary, one of the project participants, commented:
“I am a farmer, so I grew maize, cassava and sorghum. I was able to harvest simsim (sesame), sorghum and cassava. For example, I harvested 15 bags of sorghum and sold 5 bags and kept the rest for the family. The money that I got as a profit, I saved it with VSLA. I was able to get a loan of 25,000 SSP (GBP 34.40) from the VSLA group. I used the money to start my own business and I have successfully been able to repay back the loan. I am now profiting from my business.”
Through this project, farmers have not only increased their literacy and numeracy skills but also improved their quality of life.
To create a conducive environment for farming and limit the risk of community conflicts, the project incorporated peacebuilding lessons in the adult literacy curriculum. Lessons, provided by Sudan Evangelical Mission, focussed on forgiveness, reconciliation, and reconstruction in a post-war setting. To establish trust between farmers and ensure farm activities continued peacefully, selected farmers were trained to become Peace Committee members. They undertook outreach to mediate disputes on resources, property, and ethnic conflicts. They also raised awareness of tolerance and peaceful coexistence between different ethnic groups.
Yuan, one of the project participants, remarked:
“Before, there was nobody in my village selected and trained in peacebuilding to help my community in conflict mediation. Before I did not have skills of handling the conflict but [through the training] in this project, I am able to help my community in solving problems.”
Through this project, Peace Committee members have been able to increase the sense of peace and security, ensuring increased food production and income levels are sustainable.
At Feed the Minds, we believe everyone deserves the opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilled life – away from poverty and discrimination in all its forms. Our education project in South Sudan gave 2,000 farmers the skills and resources to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. We are proud of the Sudan Evangelical Mission’s effort to make a difference in South Sudan’s community, benefiting over 24,000 people.