Cash-for-work assistance enables families to rebuild their lives

Asunta Deng, 39, preserves vegetables picked from her garden by drying them.

Life for thirty-nine-year old Asunta Deng, a resident of Wau in the Western Bahr el Ghazal region of South Sudan was never the same again.

“We had lost everything,” said Asunta. A mother of nine children and the wife of a local chief, Asunta Deng lost her home and livelihoods when war broke out in Wau in July 2016, forcing her and her family to flee and seek refuge in the nearby United Nations Wau Protection of Civilians (PoC) site. The family lived in the Wau PoC for two years until late 2018 when they voluntarily went back to their village located on the outskirts of Wau town to rebuild their lives.

“When the fighting stopped, we were able to go back home,” said the mother of six girls and three boys. “For two years, it felt like our lives had been put on pause, yet nothing was the same when we came out of the POC.”

The Deng’s house had been looted and their farmland left barren: “We were really suffering; we used to live off the land and now there was nothing to put in our mouths. We had nothing to feed our children,” she said.

In April 2019, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) announced an allocation of USD 11 million to help over 260,000 people who had been displaced by conflict across the country as they returned to their homes. With support from CERF, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) implemented a cash-for-work programme in Wau which assisted returnees and host communities. Under this programme, IOM supported a total of 2,211 people to clear farmland to prepare it for planting, enabling the most vulnerable returnees and host community members, including women headed households, to address the needs of their families in terms of food security and other basic needs.

“The money that we received from the temporary work went a long way in helping us buy food for our children and helped pay for their school,” said Asunta.

The CERF-funded intervention also enabled strengthened collaboration between IOM and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which provided seeds for planting to families whose farmlands had been cleared by beneficiaries of the IOM cash-based programme.

“The partnership between IOM and FAO is without a doubt helping to improve stability and resilience of households in Wau county,” said Jean-Philippe Chauzy, the IOM Chief of Mission in South Sudan. “We provide conditional cash assistance, which helps meet immediate needs for the most vulnerable populations, and FAO provides seeds for crops, allowing families including those who would not have been able to exert physical labour to their land, due to physical disabilities and other reasons, the opportunity to grow food to eat,” added Chauzy.

Additionally, with the income that Asunta received from clearing the farmland, she was able to buy tomato seeds, peas and okra which she grows in her backyard. “I have a thriving vegetable garden,” said a very pleased Asunta. “We eat, and we dry the crops. We even sell some of the surplus produce.”

With the extra income that Asunta receives from selling vegetables, she and a group of women from the community were able to purchase teacups which they lend out during communal gatherings. “When there is a function in the village, anyone can borrow the teacups at no cost. This has really helped bring the whole community together,” said Asunta Deng.

These activities were funded through the Central Emergency Relief Fund between March 2019 and September 2019, and implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as part of a project titled, “Multi-sectoral lifesaving assistance to returnees in South Sudan” and by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in “Emergency support to enable food production and rebuild the livelihoods of vulnerable returnees in South Sudan.” 


This article was written by Liatile Putsoa, IOM South Sudan Media and Communications Officer.


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