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An EMMA Study: Market support in South Sudan

Abyei Town
June, 2011

Abyei is a relatively small and disputed area of land on the border of North and South Sudan that in recent years has experienced much turmoil. In May 2011, following violent skirmishes, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) sent troops into Abyei seeking to push out the Southern forces. The resulting occupation of Abyei town and the land north of the river Kiir led to the displacement of much of the population from Abyei town and outlying areas into Twic County and to Agok in southern Abyei. Compounding the pressure and instability caused by the numbers of both the returnees and the IDPs, the North blocked important trade routes to the South in the midst of the traditional lean season. The combination of these factors had a significant impact on food security in both the short and medium terms. Moreover, due to the displacements, land both north and south of the Kiir was not cultivated during the primary planting season. IDPs returning home faced the loss of agricultural assets, including their seed stores and their tools for cultivation.

This EMMA was conducted jointly by Mercy Corps and the Norwegian Refugee Council in June 2011, approximately four weeks after the start of the crisis. This assessment focused on analyzing the impact of the conflict and the road closure on the maloda (traditional hoe) and okra seed market systems in northern parts of South Sudan, as it was clear that this closure, rather than the fighting itself, had a major impact on the local market systems. The target group of this assessment included displaced households without shelters (in Twic and Abyel), host community households (primarily in Twic) and displaced households with access to agricultural land (in South Abyei and Twic).

Malodas are considered as a basic need by IDPs and host community members alike and are used during the planting season especially. Prior to the crisis, farmers commonly took scrap metal to the blacksmith, who turned the metal into a maloda. As part of routine distributions, NGOs have regularly distributed one alternative East African hoe per household. These are generally disliked by farming households and are often taken to local blacksmiths for reshaping. Therefore, despite regular NGO distributions, there is a constant and viable market for malodas in the region. After the crisis, local production of maloda was inhibited by a decrease in availability of scrap metal and the insufficient skills of practicing blacksmiths. New metal sheets found in Wau were increasingly being used by the local blacksmithing cooperative, as the supply lines for metal sheets from Khartoum were restricted by the road closure. On the other hand, the emergence of new actors, such as China and Dubai, offered opportunities to create alternative supply lines. Based on these findings, this EMMA report suggests that NGOs stop working as "market actors" and promotes market responses that encourage the market to function better on its own. It also suggests that longer term programs should focus on promoting new and more effective agricultural practices.

Prior to the IDP and road closure crises, okra seeds were supplied to South Sudan either from Khartoum or from East Africa. However, there was little evidence that local traders in the target areas kept okra seeds, as local demands were being met by regular NGO distributions. The majority of okra seeds distributed by NGOs were sourced from outside of South Sudan. After the road closure crisis, seed sellers in Juba were able to increase their supply by sourcing from East Africa. However, there were no existing market linkages between the Juba traders and the local targeted markets. Okra seeds were only being sold in Aweil and Wau, but seed traders in Agok were purchasing other seeds from Aweil, demonstrating an existing market linkage that could be broadened to include a range of different seeds. This report concludes that in-kind seed distributions often undermine markets in the region and inhibit the development of market linkages.

Report authors: 
Carol Brady, Emily Henderson, Phillippa Young
Download Report (911.3 KB pdf)