U.S. Starts $55 Million Program to Boost Agriculture in Southern Sudan

The U.S. started a $55 million program in Southern Sudan mainly to help improve the ability of small farmers to grow staple crops, the U.S. Agency for International Development said.

The five-year initiative, called the Food, Agribusiness, and Rural Markets (FARM) program, will focus on the Equatoria region, where agricultural production is seen to have the greatest potential, USAID said today in a statement released in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan.

“Agriculture is the backbone of the economic development in southern Sudan, employing the majority of the population of more than 8 million, 80 percent of whom live in rural areas,” according to a USAID statement.

Southern Sudan, which depends on oil for 98 percent of government revenue, is due to hold a referendum in January to decide whether to secede from the rest of the country. The vote is part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended a 21-year war between north and south Sudan. As many as 2 million people died in the conflict.

Oil fields in Southern Sudan account for most of the nation’s oil output, which, at 480,000 barrels a day, is the third-biggest in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

USAID plans to increase its presence in Southern Sudan, the agency’s administrator, Rajiv Shah, said today in an interview in Juba.

Dependence On Oil

“All of that will require, as of today, more personnel and more resources, and that will only continue to increase really over the next 18 months,” he said. “I think you’ll see a big increase in numbers of people here.”

Southern Sudan’s government sees agriculture as a means to help ease the economy’s dependence on oil, said Pagan Amum, the secretary-general of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which governs the region.

“There is going to be rationalization in all aspects of expenditure to create funds for the development of our agriculture,” Amum told reporters in Juba on May 17.

The government also planned to develop large-scale farming to make the region more self-sufficient in food and to boost exports, he said.

Southern Sudan’s Council of Ministers may approve a proposal on May 21 to end all taxes on consumable commodities in response to the region’s food crisis, Minister of Information Paul Mayom Akech said by phone today.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alan Boswell in Juba at aboswell2@bloomberg.net;

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