17 February 2012The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is supporting a series of short- and long-term projects to help the people of South Sudan’s state of Jonglei, where ethnic rivalries often result in bloody conflict, to feed themselves and build reliable sources of livelihood, the agency said today. Working with local communities, FAO is supporting the distribution of livestock vaccines, fishing gear, vegetable seeds and tools to boost development in the world’s newest nation, which attained independence from Sudan in July last year after decades of fighting for self-determination.FAO aims to deliver as much assistance as possible in the next two to three months before the onset of the rainy season when unpaved roads in much of the under-developed country become impassable. Future initiatives will also focus on rainwater harvesting and other measures to strengthen long-term resilience, the agency said in a press release.In Jonglei and throughout South Sudan, poor harvests, increased demand, rapidly rising food prices, conflict, and displacements have been blamed for the prevailing food shortages.Cereal production from the latest harvest is about 19 per cent below the preceding cropping season, and 25 per cent lower than average over the past five years. The cereal deficit for 2012 is estimated at more than 470,000 tons – almost half of the country’s total consumption requirements for the year.FAO will provide vaccines and antibiotics to prevent the spread of animal diseases and to treat up to 100,000 livestock over the course of about one month.“These people are pastoralists, or herders,” said Nimaya Mogga, a livestock officer with FAO. “These cattle are their livelihood. Without them, they have nothing. During lean periods, they’re sold or exchanged for food. The sale of one cow alone can buy a family three months worth of grain,” he said.Many of those fleeing from the recent inter-ethnic conflict took refuge in the town of Boma where staples like sorghum and maize are now in short supply.“River Chelimon is about two hours walk away from Boma,” said Michael Oyat, FAO’s Deputy Emergency Coordinator for South Sudan. “It is believed [that] the displaced people could access it to fish. They’re hampered only by the lack of fishing gear.”FAO is providing 20,000 pieces of fishing gear to residents of Boma and two other towns affected by the outbreak of conflict in Pibor and Likuangole in December. FAO is also assisting local communities to plant vegetable gardens along river banks.At the request of the Government, FAO is also preparing a cash-for-work programme through which families will earn money to buy food locally while helping to rehabilitate rural infrastructure.