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South Sudan faces chronic food insecurity in which the structural ‘hunger season’ faced by communities in vulnerable states pushes malnutrition rates over emergency thresholds on an almost yearly basis. Against this back-drop, South Sudan is also subject to periodic shocks which create heightened spikes of food insecurity. Severe weather in 2011 and 2012 caused closure of the border between South Sudan and Sudan, reduced food production and increased conflict along border areas due to the influx of refugees.
In response to the above situation, Oxfam undertook an EMMA study within the agro-pastoral and agricultural border states of Western Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap and Upper Nile. The study was conducted to ascertain whether cash transfer programming would be an appropriate mechanism for food security response, by assessing whether markets could respond adequately to increased demand without causing inflation. The methodology of the study combined the use of primary and secondary data, with primary data collected during October 2012. This briefing summarizes the results of the study but is not a full EMMA report.
The three states included in this study are sorghum-producing areas, where the majority of the target population are producers as well as consumers. However, production at the household level is low due to erratic weather conditions, poor access to quality services/inputs and a lack of modern techniques. Although local markets in target states do purchase surplus local sorghum production, it was found that the sorghum market relies on the Southeast/Central Sudan, Renk area of Upper Nile, Northern Uganda, and Green Belt of South Sudan areas of production. Due to poor infrastructure, market integration across the northern states of South Sudan is weak, meaning goods cannot move easily to meet demand. During the baseline year, overall vulnerable households across the three target states faced a small sorghum deficit.
During the emergency year, vulnerable households in all three states faced a severe deficit in their ability to purchase basic foods due to severely reduced yields and decreased income levels in Warrap and Upper Nile. The local sorghum market became distorted; prices increased and demand fell simultaneously because of the closure of the border with Sudan, high inflation and high availability of food aid. This means that in the emergency year, it is likely that households' access to sorghum would still have been constrained even if vulnerable households had been provided with sufficient cash to meet the demand, which could have led to further inflation.
The report suggests that supporting purchasing power alone will not be sufficient to meet people’s needs because of the risk of inflation. Therefore, this assessment suggests activities designed to improve the functioning of the market in addition to improving consumers' purchasing power. Contingency funds and other flexible funding are recommended to limit risks associated with this volatile environment. It is also advised that short-term programs need to be coherent with longer-term ones that focus on addressing the chronic issues that inhibit resilience building.