In the midst of conflict, one woman grows a new life
Our team in South Sudan recently shared this story with us. You can send a note of support to our field teams in Africa, and share your hope for their success.
Nyatet is a 32-year-old single mother of three sons and foster mother of two teenage girls. The ruins of Bentiu town have been her home for the past year after returning from a displacement camp in Bentiu.
She fled her home on the outskirts of Bentiu in January 2014 due to escalating violence. All her siblings, her parents and her husband died during the conflict. She also lost all her assets, including a vegetable garden that was her main source of livelihood.
South Sudan is a war-torn country and most systems (government and social) are not functioning. Because of this, it is increasingly difficult for Nyatet, as a single parent without any form of income, to support and provide for the five children in her household.
To support people like Nyatet, Mercy Corps is implementing a four-year livelihoods project with vegetable gardening as one of the key components. Other components of the project include cash transfers and small business start-up grants, youth vocational training, fish farming and village saving and loans. A total of 4,000 households will participate in on-site farming training on vegetable gardening and distribution of farm hand tools and seeds.
Nyatet began working with us in March 2018 and, after successfully undergoing intensive farming trainings on vegetable gardening for the past three months, she can now access a variety of vegetables from both her private garden and demo-plot. She can use these to feed her family and to sell through her farmers group.
"Look at me now, I could not afford a decent meal apart from the food assistance at a time like this last year," says Nyatet. "But today I have a variety of vegetables from my farm and demo-plot and take care of my children using the proceeds from vegetable sales! Last week alone, I got a total of eight thousand South Sudanese Pounds (about $62) as an individual from vegetable sales in our farmer group and I bought a young goat."
Nyatet is only one among two thousand households that have benefited from this project in Rubkona County so far.
With her zeal and commitment to embrace improved farming methods, Nyatet is among 540 lead farmers who are transitioning into agriculture as a business with support from Mercy Corps. Since she became involved with this project, she’s been inspiring other women in her village to join farmer groups and establish kitchen gardens in their backyards.
The community was predominantly pastoral before the crisis, but that became unsustainable with the rampant cattle raids and other cases of insecurity. Thus, many shifted to agriculture.
In the future, we hope to be able to reach out to more farmers in South Sudan with this kind of training on vegetable gardening, and link them to markets and the ongoing support they need to succeed.