Working with the communities in South Sudan
Juba -Internal displacement is a way of life in South Sudan, a country with a long history of civil war.
With millions forced to escape violence, conditions became difficult and unbearable for both the displaced and the host communities. As people start to move back to their original homes, they are faced with the challenge of starting life over again.
In 2011, after 21 years of conflict between north and south, South Sudan gained her independence from Sudan. However, conflict broke out in the new nation, interrupting two years of relative peace and stability.
Today, 4.14 million have been displaced due to this conflict, out of which 1.5 million are internally displaced. About 5.2 million people are deprived of basic needs like food, shelter and sanitation in most parts of the country.
Rubkona County in Greater Unity region, located in the northern part of South Sudan has been the focus of some of the worst violence during this conflict.
In 2013 and 2014, areas around Bentiu, previously considered the administrative, political and commercial centre of Unity State, were facing significant violence, forcing tens of thousands of people to seek protection in a United Nations Protection of Civilian (PoC) site.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched a project funded by the United Nations Peace Building Fund (PBF); “Beyond Bentiu Protection of Civilian site (PoC) Youth Reintegration Strategy: Creating Conditions for Peaceful Coexistence between Youth Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Returnees and Host Community Members”. Aiming to generate an evidence based analysis to understand conflict drivers and return patterns, strengthening mediation and reconciliation mechanisms, as well as encouraging economic and social interdependencies for IDPs, returnees and host communities in the region.
As agriculture plays a vital role in helping communities build resilience, fight malnutrition and improve livelihoods, IOM worked with implementing partners -the Human Aid for Community Organization (HACO), Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) and the Community Health and Development Organization (CHADO), equipping more than 800 youth with agriculture and business skills.
“I was a farmer before but did not have good agricultural skills like I do now. The knowledge I acquired from the training by CHADO has enabled me to expand my farm. I now harvest better yields which I take to the market. As a result, I am able to take good care of my two wives with profit I make” said Kuol Bol, a 41-year-old farmer under the CHADO group.
To boost the capacity of small-scale businesses in Rubkona, IOM supplied supplementary startup kits and a yearlong mentorship to 15 trained business groups.
“I was staying in the PoC with my family when I arrived in Bentiu from Pakur in 2014. I left the PoC because I wanted to be independent. I did not know where to start from, this is when I heard that IOM was conducting a training on business skills. I attended the training and we were asked to form groups which IOM would later support with startup capital to open businesses of our choice. I encouraged my other nine group members to open a shop after receiving the startup capital. I am happy because both my family and the community are benefiting from this shop. They no longer have to walk long distance to buy sugar, soap and other necessary things. said Mangal Neni, who is under the Human Aid for Community Organization in Rubkona. “Even my wife does not suffer looking for firewood in the bush anymore because she is buy it from the market, thanks to the profit I get from this shop” he added.
“Seeing the youth from Bentiu PoC and those from Rubkona working side by side, for the very first time in years, to cultivate their jointly owned vegetable gardens was a humbling experience”. Said Sayiorri Emmanuel, IOM Conflict Mediation Specialist.
He added that the many trainings, confidence building meetings and interactions with youth in Rubkona, strengthened social cohesion bonds and helped the conflict-affected population regain dignity.