Jie haffir brings peace to the Toposa Communities
Inter-communal violence over access to water has been a fatal risk for the Toposa communities in Eastern Equatoria state. However, 2012 has been hopeful for the Toposa people in Jie, Kapoeta East County. For the first time in their living memory, they did not migrate in search of water. The reason for this dramatic change is a newly built 30 million cubic-meter water reservoir funded by the South Sudan Recovery Fund (SSRF), a UNDP managed international donor fund for large-scale development projects in South Sudan.
Haffirs or man-made lakes are not a new concept for the Toposa. They have been hand-digging them for years but it has never been enough to meet their needs. Under the intense sun during dry-season, the lakes dry up, forcing communities to migrate in search of water for human and livestock consumption. This caused tension between communities and often led to violent conflicts.
By not migrating to search for water, the prospect of violence from the pastoralist livelihood of the Toposa communities has been reduced. “If the haffir had not been constructed, we would not have remained in our settlements and the dry season would have caused us a lot of suffering”, said a Jie resident.
Through a series of community consultations across Eastern Equatoria, the Community Security and Arms Control (CSAC) project of UNDP, identified water access as a barrier to community security in Kapoeta North and South counties. These consultations brought together local government, state ministers, village elders, representatives from the Peace Commission, religious leaders and community members to discuss and find local solutions to their security issues. The lake was built by the UNDP implementing partner Pact Sudan.
“Access to water is often a source of conflict. Working with communities to identify needs, and constructing water access points in areas where water related conflicts are most prevalent, we are helping to lay the foundations for peaceful communities”, said George Conway, Country Director, a.i. UNDP South Sudan.
As there is evidence that building haffirs mitigates conflicts among communities, there are plans to construct more water access points in other water scarce areas of the country. In Kapoeta alone, SSRF is building three more haffirs to further the benefit to various pastoralist communities. This is one of several results of the US$19.8 million SSRF Joint Stabilization Programmme for Eastern Equatorial being implemented by UNDP and UNOPS.