When Food for the Hungry staff in South Sudan announced Chol Long Luak’s name as recipient of life-saving seeds and farm tools, the first thing the 45-year-old mother of 11 said in Arabic was, “šukran gazīlan, FH!” (“Thank you very much, FH!”)
Those heart-felt words resounded throughout Chol’s isolated community, Toch Payam, which FH staff can only reach after an eight-hour boat ride from their base office.
Like many, Chol had suffered greatly due to losses from massive flooding from June thru October 2012. Communities like Chol’s dot the landscape along the mighty Nile River, which provides the farmers with life-giving water in the desert. But months and months of high water destroyed crops like sorghum, maize, beans and pumpkin, just when those crops were starting to sprout.
Foraging for food
“Last year, all my crops were destroyed by floods. I did not harvest anything,” Chol said. “The competition was intense for lalop [a tree with edible leaves and fruit].” When FH visited the community in early 2013, Chol and others reported that in additional to lalop, they were hunting or foraging for food like fish, water lilies, nuts, berries and honey to feed their children.
For Chol, FH stood out from other agencies immediately: “Agencies come and collect information about our living conditions, promising to come back, but none return; FH is the first agency to come back,” said Chol.
Re-planting made possible
With a grant from the U.S. government’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), FH provided 2,334 farmer leaders like Chol with seeds and tools so they could re-plant their fields and gardens.
Chol is also learning some improved farming techniques, to protect the soil on her small plot and increase her harvests. As a farmer leader, Chol will then teach 12 more farmers in her community – many of them women – what she has learned.
Chol and her neighbors haven’t had easy lives.
South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, has suffered from years of strife. FH has been working in this part of South Sudan since 2005, and has had to halt programs temporarily when it became too dangerous to work. Families living in the area had to flee their land when vicious fighting threatened their safety.
And many in this region are among the millions struggling against the creeping Sahara Desert, eradicating pasture land vital to feed their livestock. The floods also killed cattle and inundated grasslands. The 2012 floods will set back many families for years.
Thankfully, FH gave Chol the opportunity to improve life for her family, when no one else would. “The food security project delivered seeds and tools when there was no hope,” Chol said.