What do you do when your whole world has been crushed? When you are the head of the family but are unable to provide for your family? When where the next meal will come from is a worry you battle with day in and day out?
In 2012 when war erupted in Wau, in the Western Bahr el Ghazal region of South Sudan, fifty-nine-year-old John Ramadan, a father of eight was faced with these questions. A hardworking carpenter, John like many, lost his job because of the conflict.
“Life as we knew it changed,” said John Ramadan. “I used to have a good job as a carpenter, and I was able to take care of my family.”
“The war turned everything upside down,” he said.
In the wake of the signing of a new peace deal in September 2018, the security situation in Wau and surrounding areas improved, allowing John and residents of Wau to start picking up the pieces and begin to rebuild their lives.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), with support from the Government of Japan is helping.
Through a project called Multisectoral Assistance to Displaced and Conflict-Affected Vulnerable Populations and Other Migrants in South Sudan, IOM’s Transition and Recovery Unit (TRU) is supporting people who are returning to Wau after fleeing to escape the fighting, as well as host communities to jointly set up and operate small-scale income generating schemes.
In August 2018, IOM began providing one-week trainings in business development and entrepreneurship to 110 households in Jebel Kheir and Lokoloko near Wau town.
“The process of setting up the livelihood groups was done in consultation with both the returnees and the host community,” said Gaia Baudino, IOM’s Transition and Recovery Unit Programme Officer in South Sudan.
The training was divided into two components: the beneficiaries were first trained in effective business management including in leadership skills, decision-making and bookkeeping. Beneficiaries trading in specialized livelihood activities such as running a bakery were trained in quality assurance and good hygiene and sanitation practices.
The UN Migration Agency also trained farmers in agricultural techniques following a Training of Trainers in the Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion (SHEP) approach with support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
“It was the groups themselves who identified the business opportunities within their community, and with the trainings and the small lump-sum we provided, the groups have been able to kick-start their respective businesses to generate an income to help their families,” added Ms Baudino.
Through the project, John and six of his business partners, two of whom are persons with disabilities, opened a shop called Welcome Retail Store. Since its opening on 30 January 2019, the shop has brought significant improvement to the lives of John and his family.
“When there is something small to share, we meet and we share it equally,” says John referring to profits generated from their shop.
IOM’s Livelihoods Programme Assistant, Sam monitors John's store.
“With the money I get from the shop, my family is able to eat, and I can send my children to school.”
IOM conducts weekly visits to the beneficiaries operating the livelihood activities to monitor the business and offer mentorship.
“We review the cashbooks together, discuss challenges they are experiencing in their businesses and come up with action points together,” said IOM’s Livelihoods Programme Assistant in Wau, Sam Odong.
While the shop is helping John and his business partners make ends meet, it cannot be ignored that things remain difficult.
“There are times when the shelves of the shop go empty because of the increasing price of goods,” said John.
Despite this, John is optimistic that the situation will improve, and the economy will go back to how it was before war broke out.
“This small shop will one day grow into a thriving supermarket,” said a hopeful John.
This article was written by Liatile Putsoa, IOM South Sudan Media and Communications Officer.