Farmers in parts of South Sudan report dramatic increases of 50 percent-plus in their 2012 corn harvests after planting hybrid varieties with fertilizer for the first time, according to a report in Africa Review.
South Sudan imports about 70 percent of its food from Uganda and Kenya, but has the potential to produce enough food for all its citizens with some left over for export, the report said.
With protracted war in the country, about half the population experienced food shortages in 2011 after cereal production there dropped by 19 percent.
Results of a two-year USAid project, due for completion in August, suggest that by increasing use of high-yielding seeds and fertilizer to reach at least 100,000 farmers, the country could cut food imports by 40 percent.
Working with the South Sudan agriculture ministry, the Seeds for Development USAid project distributed 90 tons of hybrid seed and 1,000 tons of DAP and urea fertilizer imported from Kenya and Uganda for two planting seasons – March 2012 and March 2013.
The project taught 15,000 farmers and 90 agriculture staff how to plant hybrid corn using ideal spacing of rows, holes and seeds. They were also taught when and how to safely handle, store and apply fertilizer.
Many government officials feared fertilizers could cause cancer and damage the country’s soil but those fears were addressed, according to the Africa Review report.
The project also identified and developed a network of dealers to sell and dispense seed and fertilizer to farmers, keep records and manage accounts.
The fertilizer sold like hot cakes, according to George Soko, one of the agro dealers in Logo East, Juba County, Central Equatoria.
“This is the first time we are getting fertilizer in this area, but all my stocks were sold out in two days!” he said in Africa Review. “Farmers are happy to pay; they know they will get a good return on their investment. We can take even more fertilizer if it is available.”
Farmer interest in Central and Eastern Equatoria states was so good that 85 percent of agro dealers surveyed in October were optimistic about the future and profitability of their agro-dealerships.