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EMMA Report: Livestock off-take and Sorghum Market Systems

Abiemnhom County, Unity State
January, 2015

In December 2013, the political fall-out between the president of South Sudan and his former vice president led to a gradual escalation of violence with wide ranging implications: the displacement of populations and their livestock, the disruption of agricultural production and the obstruction of trade routes and markets. These problems were further compounded by the severe impacts of a ban on trade between South Sudan and Sudan and by the seasonal flooding that occurred in August and September 2014.

Within this context, an EMMA was launched to analyze the sorghum and livestock (including cattle and sheep and goats, or shoats) off-take market systems in Abiemnhom County, on which the area's displaced and host communities rely to earn an income and access essential food. The purpose of this EMMA is to understand the current and potential future livestock and sorghum market systems; how the conflict and resulting insecurity contribute to the way the markets are currently functioning, and most critically, weaknesses in market systems. In addition, this analysis forms the basis for developing a logical strategy around with appropriate immediate and longer-term responses to improve food security should be designed.

Domestic production of sorghum in South Sudan only covered about 68% of the national demand in 2013, indicating the country's dependency on imports and food assistance to meet household needs. Poor road conditions make inter-state trade challenging within South Sudan. Households in Abiemnhom rely primarily on locally produced sorghum and only turn to market supplies when their own stocks run out. Poorer households engage in a number of livelihood activities, and some families have neither the members nor the capacity to devote sufficient labor and other resources to cultivate significant amounts of sorghum. In addition, the quality of seeds is poor and contributes to low yields even in normal seasons. The compounded impacts of insecurity and the flood's damages to the second season's crop have significantly reduced already insufficient levels of local production. Though local market places have resumed operations, their only very partial recovery is marked by significantly reduced flows and high transaction costs, resulting in a more than doubling of the price of sorghum and other essential commodities at a time when households have weakened purchasing power. Traders are finding it riskier to engage in business, and roads remain poor after the rainy season.

These market inefficiencies and local production challenges could be ameliorated through a number of interventions. In the short term, improvements in household purchasing power through food vouchers and unconditional cash transfers is recommended, in addition to targeted support to businesses to reduce the risk of inflation. Long term programs to address the functionality of the sorghum market are also recommended.

In Abiemnhom, cattle play a crucial role in facilitating the sale and exchange of sorghum, while sheep and goats are also consumed at a household level. Because of its size and the prices offered, the Anet market was the preferred wholesale market for livestock trading. Even before the current crisis, Abiemnhom County (a predominantly Dinka area) was prone to attacks by Misseriya Arab pastoralists and Nuer cattle raiders, and the theft of animals en route to markets was common. The livestock market in Abiemnhom was primarily a retail market, a basic point where producers could trade in low performing and inefficient animals destined for slaughter and not the more preferred live animal markets with the associated price premiums. Following the crisis, livestock market actors faced a number of constraints, including limitations in supply and access to markets, an increase in taxes and fees, a decrease in the number of traders and producers (due to displacement) and an overall reduced demand for livestock and related products due to economic constraints at the household level.

For livestock, interventions to address key risks of disease outbreak and conflict due to disrupted seasonal migration are recommended. In the long term, the prospect of addressing key crop and livestock market system constraints hinges on addressing the crisis and ultimately the localized conflicts in the target areas. The underlying structural inefficiencies such as the business orientation of producers, limited access to inputs and extension services, a lack of flood damage control strategies and inadequate rural infrastructure should be addressed.

Report authors: 
Mohamed M. Yussuf, Mohamed Ali
Download Report (2.05 MB pdf)