By Hou Akot Hou
Aweil rice scheme is not operating at full capacity due to lack of mechanized equipment, according to officials in Northern Bahr El Ghazal State.
Anei Deng Akok, the State minister of agriculture, said on Saturday during the tour of the scheme alongside members of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that existing tractors are in bad shape.
“We have tractors but they are in bad shape. We have distributed the few that are working in the counties. I appeal to our people and the entire government to farm,” Akok said.
He appealed for seedlings and equipment from FAO to support the farmers.
On his part, the Governor of the State Tong Aken Ngor, said long-drought season and flooding have disrupted farming in the state.
He cautioned youth to desist from loitering during farming season.
“Our energetic youth are in the market and these are the right people to mitigate their people’s problems. Hunger has reached a climax whereby the government can’t handle it alone,”Ngor said.
More than 7.7 million people, or two-thirds of the population in South Sudan. are facing a crisis or worse levels of hunger. In addition, 1.4 million children under five years of age are facing acute malnutrition, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).
Northern Bahr El Ghazal State is one of the states that are extremely food insecure due to combination of drough and flooding since last year.
Aweil rice scheme was launched in 1940’s by the British in a bid to modernize sustainable farming practices by using tractors for preparing and planting farmlands.
The rice scheme since it’s inception has run into problems in past years.
Currently, 750 rice cooperative farmers use 625 hectares of the Rice Scheme, located within the flood plains of the river Lol, while additional hectares are leased to private farming entities.
The Aweil Rice Scheme can produce some 23,000 metric tons of rice annually, if operating at full capacity.