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UN Announces Famine In South Sudan

South Sudan Export Crops Curiously Unaffected

by Daniel Johnson

Photo: South Sudan News Agency (
Photo: South Sudan News Agency (
A United Nations press release on February 20, 2017 officially declared a famine in parts of South Sudan, with over 100,000 people facing immediate starvation and another 1 million people classified as being on the brink of famine. From the report:

“Famine has become a tragic reality in parts of South Sudan and our worst fears have been realised,” said Serge Tissot, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative in South Sudan, in a news release issued jointly with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

“Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive,” he stated, explaining that these people are predominantly farmers who have lost their livestock, even their farming tools.

Famine is currently affecting parts of Unity State in the northern-central part of the country. A formal famine declaration means people have already started dying of hunger."

For people who have been following recent events in 'the world's newest country', which came into existence following a long and brutal civil war that tapered off following a referendum in 2011, this isn't new. But the acknowledgement of how bad the situation has gotten is a welcome change from the UN's largely piecemeal response to the ongoing crisis. 
US and UN officials were heavily involved in the referendum, claiming neutrality but largely favoring separation. Former US President Jimmy Carter, American actor George Clooney, who now acts as 'brand ambassador' for Nestle's brand of South Sudanese coffee, and many other 'big names' were involved in the campaign, while Libyan leader Gadaffi and Egyptian President Mubarek strongly favored the unity campaign. 
The resulting government has been on shaky ground ever since, reacting strongly to criticisms, even from longtime supporters concerned that the government is acting in a non-democratic manner. 
Since the separation, western business interests have aggressively manoeuvred for control over South Sudan's resources, especially it's most fertile agricultural areas in the centre of the country. 
Those fertile agricultural areas aren't being affected by the problems causing the 'famine' in the northern parts of the country; the problem is that they have been used for export crops, including to grow coffee for the Nestle subsidiary Nespresso.
Citing conflict in the region, Nespresso announced on October 4, 2016, it had temporarily suspended operations in the country. However, a release three days later, dated October 7, 2016, appears to indicate that operations in South Sudan were continuing. It is currently difficult to determine whether Nespresso's activities are continuing in the region, though it is clear they are trying to turn the area into a booming export region.
The benefits of the South Sudan agricultural 'boom' have been lost to the South Sudanese for the most part; even the coffee growers themselves can barely subsist because of food costs associated with imports. 
The drought is mostly in areas in the north that are largely marginal for agriculture to begin with, while there are still crops growing for export.
Smallholders grow 80 percent of South Sudan's cereal crops, but farmers are discouraged by policies that cause high transport costs, unavailability of agricultural inputs, and no real agricultural extension services to speak of. 

Many experts say that aid would be much more effective if it involved investing resources into developing better extension services for smallholders, but instead the western advisors have pushed the government to give all the benefits to large-scale, foreign controlled industrial agricultural schemes that boost food production but mostly for export, doing little to help people in South Sudan itself. It might cost less to do those things than it does to import food into Sudan to feed the people trying to scratch bare survival from the drought effected areas. 

This is because various 'aid' organizations are controlled by western business interests who are pushing for more control over African farm land, expecially USAID, Citibank, the Corporate Council on Africa, and the IFC.

Many suggest that if the South Sudanese were allowed to use the best farm land to grow food for South Sudan instead of Nestle-controlled coffee production for western consumers, food security wouldn't be a difficult issue at all.
For more detailed information on South Sudan's history, read The Traumatic Past and Uncertain Future of South Sudan: Perspective from Social Responsibility on Local and Global issues & the relentless struggle for education, Nhial Thiwat Ruach, Nov. 2015, AuthorHouse

References (as appear in the links):

1. United Nations News Agency Press Release, February 20, 2017

2. United Nations Food And Agriculture Agency Press Release, February 20, 2017

3. BBC World News, January 30, 2011, South Sudan Referendum: 99% vote for independence.

4. Newsweek, October 10, 2014, George Clooney, South Sudan, How World's Newest Nation Imploded.

5.Bloomberg, October 7, 2015, Nespresso, Clooney Promote Coffee In War Torn South Sudan

6. South Sudan News Agency, February 5, 2017, Whose Actually Governed In South Sudan.

7. Nestle Press Release, April 8, 2016

8. DW News Video, Coffee From South Sudan: Blessing Or Curse, Youtube, Dec. 7, 2015,

9. The World Post, June 1, 2015, Meet The South Sudanese Farmers Who Want To Feed Their War-Torn Nation


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Daniel Johnson (Daniel Johnson)
Regina Sask
Member since August 2013


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