A Market to Thrive in AweilJan 16, 2018
“I’m doing business [in Hai Salaam market] to be able to feed myself and my children, and to be able to support my children to attend school”, says Magdalene Ajok, a vegetable vendor.
Magdalene has been selling vegetables in Aweil for eight years. She is one of 96 vendors benefiting from the town’s new women’s vegetable market, called Hai Salaam market.
The Hai Salaam market is part of the joint United Nations stabilization and recovery programme in Northern Bahr el Ghazal. UNDP’s focus in the joint programme is on reinvigorating the local economy through the establishment of the Aweil Vocational and Livelihoods Training Centre (VTC) to equip vulnerable women and youth with market-aligned skills, and to boost economic activities through improvements to community-level market structures, like Hai Salaam. Both projects are supported through funding by the Government of Japan.
A multi-sectoral recovery and stabilization programme
“The integrated stabilization and recovery approach creates better coordination, planning and implementation in the various sectors and UNDP will continue to support and build on such initiatives.” says UNDP Country Director Kamil Kamaluddeen.
In addition to constructing market stalls and storage, improved water and sanitation facilities are turning the previously vacant area into a business hub.
“Before, we were selling on the street and thieves would often come for bags. Now, this market is protected by police and there is less crime. We are able to keep our goods here overnight in the storage cages [in the stalls], instead of carrying everything back and forth. We are now able to do more business and we’re happy,” says Magdalene.
Reinvigorating the local economy through VTC
Despite being relatively peaceful, the Northern Bahr el Ghazal region has remained persistently vulnerable to emergency-level food insecurity and malnutrition. More than 60 percent of the population are severely food insecure, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). UNDP-led field assessments have found further evidence that these stresses are progressively eroding community resilience, disrupting livelihoods and increasing youth unemployment in the area.
The multi-sectoral recovery and stabilization programme harnesses the technical and operational expertise of UNICEF, WFP, FAO, and UNDP, and seeks to step up on life-saving humanitarian assistance while complimenting those interventions with community building initiatives towards resilience.
“It is not only the 96 of us women here who are benefiting from the market, you can see there are over 300 women now doing business [in and around] the market, and even more families benefiting from the income,” says Yirol Deng, another vendor at the Hai Salaam market.
“We will make this our own market and we have no intention of leaving, but we want to build it up even more, through expansion, through more goods, through better goods, and through more trainings,” she says.
Focusing on market-aligned skills, UNDP launched the VTC in Aweil to support increased income generation and self-employment opportunities. The VTC has begun instructing 150 women and youth in carpentry, plumbing, bakery, tailoring, welding and metal fabrication, as well as basic literacy, numeracy, and computer skills.
Build synergies across projects to ensure local sustainability
A key aspect of the training centre is the twinning of government trainers with Aweil-based Help Restore Youth (HeRY), in order to ensure local sustainability.
“The VTC will be instrumental to provide us with skilled labor, which is badly missing here in Aweil. We need carpenters, masons, plumbers to boost our local employment and entrepreneurship. When youth are well trained they can create their own jobs,” says State Minister of Information and Acting Governor for Aweil State Hon. Lual Buolo.
The area-based approach in Aweil is designed to build synergies across projects. In one instance, WFP is providing lunch for the trainees at the VTC. And when skilled laborers graduate from the courses, they will be able to access the Hai Salaam market to find clients and projects. Already there is community demand for expanding the market.
“The community is buying from us and we are looking forward to selling even more items,” says Magdalene.
The vendors voiced their support for strengthening agriculture production and providing livelihood training so that new in-demand products, like Irish potatoes and eggs, can be sourced locally instead of imported from Sudan.
“The construction of the women’s market has created good opportunities for the women to sell their vegetables and it is also encouraging the farmers to produce more as the market increases business opportunities. As a result, the government has decided to allocate more land for vegetable production,” says Hon. Buolo.
For now, the market is showing strong initial signs of boosting the local economy. Meat stalls, groundnut processing stands, and sellers offering other goods have popped up alongside the aisles of vegetables. The shift is part of a gradual community-led effort to make the market a “one stop shop” for citizens of Aweil and surrounding communities.
“Because of this market, a year from now I think my business will have grown and will be very vibrant,” Magdalene concludes.