The school farm grows watermelon, pumpkin, maize, groundnuts, rice, and sorghum. We have also planted over one hundred fruit bearing trees like mango, papaya, lemon, and guava, the oldest of which will begin producing in two years. From planting and tending to these crops, to harvesting, processing, and storing them, this program teaches our students the principles of agriculture, environmental stewardship, and sustainable commerce through hands-on experiences.
Four million people are affected by food insecurity in South Sudan. The acute malnutrition rate for children under five is nearly double the global average. In a country where the average citizen’s age is 16, agricultural skills and creating sustainable food sources for the young and growing population is imperative.
As one of the premier education facilities in the country, we recognize the importance of leadership development outside of the classroom. Weekend and evening programs build community among students and staff, while giving useful life skills to students to use beyond graduation. VADF directly addresses regional food insecurity by including organic agriculture in the science curriculum at MBSS and creating a teach-back mentality to serve the community at large.
In 2013, we successfully launched an agriculture program to teach necessary skills to the community, support the science curricula, and supplement the school’s nutrition program that provides meals for all students and staff during the school year.
Since 2013, we have consistently cultivated groundnuts, sesame, vegetables, sorghum, maize and fruit trees to supplement students' nutrition program. Additionally, between 2014 and 2016 we hired agricultural teachers installed a simple irrigation system to fight the dry season and train students, teachers and community members on good agricultural practices to increase farm productivity and leased a tractor and other farm equipment to properly till earth to fight flooding.
In 2017, we continued these regular sustainability efforts, and also raised enough funds, through our "Give the Give of Clean Water" campaign, to dig a deeper bore hole to support irrigation. The borehole is expected be dug in early 2018.
The VADF in pursuing its vision has initiated a community empowerment project to support organic farmers in the local communities of Aweil State and South Sudan as a whole. During a survey conducted recently by the VADF at some selected villages at Marial Bai area, it was established that most farmers cultivate food crops but at a lower level. They mainly deal with main food crops that make part of the stable food for the local community. The survey revealed that more than 90% of those surveyed currently cultivate low acreage of one to two acres of food crops and desire to increase the acreage under cultivation to more than 5 acres. The survey also showed that women and girls are the main source of labour in the farm.
Though most of families cultivate mainly sorghum, research shows that several other food crops can do well in the region. These other crops include but not limited to groundnuts, okra, sesame, maize, pumpkin, watermelon, onion, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, rice and a variety of vegetables among others. Several fruits such as mango, pawpaw, banana, guava and oranges can do well.
South Sudan is endowed with large community farmland that is currently uncultivated. Most families lack the support and capacity to cultivate the available land due to different reasons.
Challenges Faced by the organic farmers based on the VADF survey.
Lack of financial support to increase the acreage of the land under cultivation.
There are no farm machines such as tractors to help in preparing more land for cultivation.
Lack of enough labour to cultivate higher acreage
Lack of manure to improve the soil fertility and improve the yield from the farm
The VADF initiative to support the organic farmers
The VADF has already identified and supports 50 women farmers from some selected villages who expressed their interest of increasing their acreage of organic farming in 2019. Each of 50 farmers is supported by the VADF to cultivate 5 acres of food crops. This support will continue for a period of three years after which the supported farmers can sustain the projects on their own. This number will be increased each year to include more women and youth from more villages. Using the VADF’s agricultural and field extension officers, the pilot women farmers will eventually become the trainers to the fellow farmers in the community. The VADF’s also addresses critical aspects of crop handling such postharvest and value addition issues.
The VADF supports women farmers by:
Training them on the best practices on organic farming
Helping them to prepare the 5-acre land for planting crops in good time
Providing the necessary seed for planting depending on what the farmer desires to plant
Providing organic manure from the VADF’s cattle project
Providing field support through VADF’s agricultural field officers
Benefits of increasing acreage of organic farming in the community
Improves the food security in the community.
Improves economic status of the community. Local farmers can sell the surplus from their farms therefore generating some income to supplement their other sources of income. With the additional income, the women farmers can support the education of their children.
Improves the nutritional health status of the community.
Improves sustainability of farming and reduces over dependence on relief food.
With the help of partners and donors, the VADF will continue empowering women farmers cultivate more acreage to support their families. $100,000 can fully support 50 women to increase acreage to 5 acres each therefore improving food security, economic status and peace in the region.
Organic Fish Farming
The VADF in pursuing its vision has initiated a fish farming project which will serve as one the community empowerment and livelihood programs in Aweil State and South Sudan as a whole. In addition to training the local fish farmers, the fish farming project will also serve as a research center for learning institutions, women, youth and other partner organizations. The VADF has launched a pilot project by building a demonstration fish bond to raise Tilapia fish. The VADF chose Tilapia because it is known to do well in climatic conditions such as those found in Aweil and across the region.
The first pilot demonstration fish bond holds 1500 fish but the Foundation plans to expand the project so that it can raise more fish and fingerlings for the local farmers. The VADF has identify between 50 fish farmers who will be trained in fish farming in Aweil State and on completion of the training, the fish farmers will be supported to build their own fish bonds and be supplied with fingerlings. They will also be given the necessary field support by VADF until they can manage their fish bonds by themselves. Trained fish farmers will also become trainers for other interested fish farmers in the region with the support of the VADF’s field officers.
Currently there are no fish bonds in the region and therefore the local community only rely on fish from the rivers which are scarce due to the seasonality of the rivers. Fish can only be available during rainy season and shortly after when the rivers are still flowing. The rainy season is generally four to five months depending on what part of the region one comes from in the Bahr-El-Gazal region. Fish farming will improve the supply of fish to the residents throughout the year. Fish is one of the stable foods for the residents of the region.
Benefits of fish farming to the community
Improves the food security in the community. Fish is a good alternative to meat and therefore the local farmers do not have to slaughter their goats and cows for meat.
Improves economic status of the community. Local fish farmers can sell their fish therefore generating good income to supplement their other sources of income. With the additional income from fish, the farmers can support the education of their children.
Improves the nutritional health status of the community. Fish is a great source of several essential nutrients therefore reducing malnutrition among the members of the community.
Raising fish is cheaper and quicker compared to the livestock. Tilapia fish takes between 4 to 5 months to mature (grown above 1Kg). This will ensure that there is a good supply of fish to many families during dry season.
Note: The initial cost of starting fish farming is higher, but it is important to understand that most of the initial high cost is a one-time investment. This includes drilling a borehole and building a fish bond. These capital cost will be recovered within a short time therefore making fish farming cheaper in the long run.
Fish farming can become self-sustaining after the first year of fish harvest. This is because a farmer can harvest fish from the bond twice a year and can generate enough income for personal use and to buy new fingerlings and fish feed.
The cost of supporting 50 women in fish farming until they are independent is $200,000.