Statement by Toby Lanzer, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator & UNDP Resident Representative - South Sudan 2nd Governor’s Forum
Statement by Toby Lanzer, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General,
Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator & UNDP Resident Representative
Your Excellency, General Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be here with you today and address such an auspicious assembly of South Sudan’s leaders. I have been in your country for just over 100 days, during which it has been possible for me to visit all ten states. I will continue to travel to different parts of the country so that I can listen to the people of South Sudan and of course to everyone gathered in this room today. My role, as well as that of the entire United Nations community under the leadership of Hilde Johnson, is to support you in meeting your needs and aspirations for a prosperous and just state.
The theme of this year’s Governors’ Forum, “Agriculture for Sustainable Food Security and Economic Growth”, targets one of the key development challenges facing South Sudan. Just yesterday, I returned from a one-week trip to five European capitals where I advocated for donors to support development and humanitarian action here. On my way back, I picked up an issue of Time magazine at Cairo airport. The cover page read: “Africa Rising”, with the subtitle “It’s the world’s next economic powerhouse. But huge challenges lie ahead.” This is what millions of readers across the globe are now learning about Africa. The potential of this continent is enormous, and with hard work and the right investments, South Sudan will succeed.
We know that this country is blessed with soil and climatic conditions that allow for the production of a wide variety of food and cash crops. Yet, the cereal deficit has doubled since 2010 and 2.4 million people need food assistance. The number of food insecure people is not expected to decrease markedly next year. Becoming food secure is not easy, as shown in this year’s Africa Human Development Report: “Towards a Food Secure Future.” This report highlights many issues, such as the need to increase agricultural productivity and production, which are relevant to South Sudan.
We know that the land use patterns in this country are complex and seasonal, and that diverse populations across the nation have used mobility across ecosystems to manage a risky environment. There is broad consensus that the land can be more productive; the challenge is to capture this potential sustainably from both an environmental and social perspective. For example, there are many users of the land, and transitory tenure rights need to be considered in the expansion of cultivated land.
The rangelands of South Sudan host some 12.2 million cattle, valued at over $2.4 billion, and almost an equal number of goats and sheep. However, the productivity of this livestock base could be significantly improved. The livestock sector has a vast potential to generate economic growth while enhancing food security. To achieve this, ambitions for crop production must be matched by similar ambitions for livestock productivity and marketing. This source of economic growth will benefit greatly from the development of a national road infrastructure.
An estimated 83% of the population lives in rural areas, relying principally on diversified livelihood systems that include rain-fed, small-scale agriculture, fishing, livestock, and natural resource extraction. Over the past year we have seen increases in farm production, including an expansion of land under cultivation by smallholders. When the rains are plentiful, as was the case this year, this can translate into increased production. However, with almost no access to irrigation, food production is largely determined by rainfall, notwithstanding that one of the mightiest rivers flows through this country.
Investment in agriculture remains low and inputs and technologies for production lag behind those used in much of the developing world. The 2003 Maputo Declaration commits countries in Africa to increase agriculture spending to at least 10 per cent of government budgets. While that target remains unmet, South Sudan is making progress: 5.2 per cent of government expenditure has been allocated to agriculture in the current budget.
Let me underline that productivity of agriculture and food security need to be addressed in a holistic manner. This entails: improved transport; ensuring the political empowerment of pastoralist communities; protecting fragile ecosystems; technology; better use of inputs and improving storage; access to markets and financing; enhancing access to animal-powered traction; research; and addressing insecurity and conflict among communities.
In this regard, I would like to highlight a few UN initiatives that contribute to food security and livelihoods in the country. Thanks to donor funding, and partnership with some fifty non-governmental organisations, the UN, in particular FAO and WFP, assists the government and state ministries of agriculture in food security and livelihoods. We have over 1,100 staff across the ten states working on food security and economic growth. The overwhelming majority of our team is South Sudanese. In recent months, the UN and partners have distributed food to 2.1 million people, and seeds and tools to 60,000 households, and trained more than 2,000 farmers at more than seventy farmer field schools. WFP is planning to rehabilitate feeder roads, for example 140 kilometers in Eastern and Western Equatoria, connecting farmers to markets.
The UN stands ready to support the government and the people of South Sudan in developing sustainable agriculture for economic growth. FAO leads our technical support in this area, while WFP is finding new applications for food assistance to improve productive infrastructure, contribute to building community resilience including the use of labor intensive approaches, and empowering women. The work of UNESCO, UNICEF, and WFP in education and nutrition are essential for food security. In several states, UNOPS has supported the construction of offices in the ministries of Agriculture and Forestry and Animal Resources and Fisheries.
The combined work of UN agencies contributes $285 million during this year and next under the Economic Development and Social and Human Development pillars of the South Sudan Development Plan.
As you move forward developing a New Deal and Compact, we look forward to the government’s further emphasis on agriculture as a national priority. I affirm the UN’s continued support to this crucial endeavor, and my colleagues and I look forward to supporting the work of the governors at the state level in the coming months and years.
I hope that your deliberations this week are fruitful.