South Sudan PfRR leads the way on tackling hunger and poverty in conflict environments

AGRF 2020

September 6th, 2019

“And now for something completely different”, announces Mr. Patrick Diskin, Deputy Mission Director of USAID’s South Sudan mission, recalling a catchphrase from British sketch comedy television series Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Two thirds of hunger in Africa is caused by conflict, not the environment, and yet this is the only on-program session at AGRF that treats the topic. Building resilience and improving food security in conflict-affected areas of the continent is a largely under-tapped opportunity for transformation. Here lies great bounty and potential for both public and private sector engagement and investment to transform lives.

Seeking to address this opportunity for transformation in South Sudan, the Partnership for Recovery & Resilience (PfRR) is a multi-donor, multi-partner, multi-sectoral initiative working towards a comprehensive and harmonized approach.

The PfRR is not some “fancy option”, it is a critical factor in the response needed to create a working solution, emphasizes Mr. Pierre Vauthier, South Sudan Country Representative for FAO. The challenges faced by people in South Sudan are such that it is “impossible to separate humanitarian response from resilience and peacekeeping.”

This need for a combined approach is all the more clear considering the population’s primary livelihood systems, a large proportion of which are reliant on mobile assets such as livestock. Free movement is dramatically affected by the conflict, which is very much ongoing. Over 400,000 people have died from the conflict directly since 2015, and 2,000,000 people have been internally displaced.

Even a short burst of conflict can have a long-term impact. A two-week burst of conflict at planting time could affect food security for 12 to 18 months.

The consequences for food security are dire. 6.96 million people are facing food insecurity crises in 2019. The population of South Sudan is highly vulnerable and food insecure.

Taking into account the diversity of conflicts, communities, and overall contexts in South Sudan, the partnership takes an area-based approach and brings the community to the fore in its decision-making processes. This approach is supported by four pillars:

  1. Rebuild trust in people and institutions
  2. Re-establish access to basic services
  3. Restore productive capacities
  4. Nurture effective partnership

There is a lot of work to be done. It is necessary to support this move from linear approaches to broader long-term systems-based approaches, says Mr. Alexander Davey, South Sudan Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council. Additionally, the efforts at regional and global level should be directly linked to the country level since these conflicts are not solely a national issue according to Dr. Abebe HaileGabriel, Assistant Director-General and Arica Regional Representative for FAO.

Mr. Vijay Parmar, Co-Founder and Director of Equatoria Teak Company (ETC), South Sudan’s leading sustainable forestry company, brings to light the potential for private sector investment in South Sudan and the importance of developing an effective private sector engagement plan.

With a successful combined effort, there is a huge potential to “reverse course and channel drivers of conflict into drivers of wealth and cohesion,” according to Ms. Hsiao Wei Lee, Senior Strategy Advisor and Head of Programme for the World Food Programme in South Sudan. Ms. Lee reminds us that the country has rich resources in oil, water, and minerals, and swathes of very fertile land. She also emphasizes that “South Sudan has 65 ethnic communities that each bring unique qualities and their own potentials for growth. All this builds a good basis for social cohesion, resilience, and economic growth.” An inspiring angle!