Women and Food Insecurity: A Case Study of Southern Sudan
Amanda K. Jessen Bachelor of Arts Candidate University of California, Los Angeles
International Development Studies 191 Winter Quarter Final Paper
2 The goal is nothing less than the refashioning of our world into one in which no one starves, drinks impure water, lives in fear of the powerful and violent, or dies ill and unattended. -Paul Farmer
Introduction: The crisis of food insecurity for most Africans (and for African women, in particular) demands greater and more nuanced attention by both scholarly and development communities. This paper examines women in Southern Sudan and has five main objectives. This paper will 1) compare food insecurity in Southern Sudan to the overall context of global food insecurity, 2) identify root causes of food insecurity in the area, 3) highlight socio-economic and cultural factors exacerbating the effects of food insecurity, 4) discuss current development interventions and the degree to which they have been successful, and 5) provide alternative suggestions for more gender-inclusive development approaches. Food insecurity is one of the most pressing development concerns of the 21 st century. A 2003 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations report estimates that 842 million people were undernourished in 1999-2001, and since then -- despite some attempts at amelioration -- the number of chronically hungry individuals has declined by only 19 million. The FAO estimates that an additional 7 million people per year must be lifted out of food insecure conditions in order to reach the Millennium Development Goal of halving the population of those who are chronically starving by 2015 (FAO, 2003). On an international scale, the picture is uneven: levels of food insecurity have decreased in some regions, while other regions have fallen behind the development curve. For example, the numbers of undernourished declined in Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia and the Pacific but continued to rise in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Near East. In looking at how many people worldwide go chronically hungry, the casual observer might assume that there is a global absence of an adequate food supply. Most development professionals and scholars, however, argue that the “not enough food for too many people” line of reasoning is flawed at best. FAO reports that a lack of political will is the primary motivator of food insecurity. “The vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in the rural areas of the developing world, far from the levers of political power and beyond the range of vision of the media and the public in developed countries” (FAO, 2003). Furthermore, the root causes of food insecurity continue to be overlooked by growth-oriented, multilateral organizations that emphasize export-production and currency devaluation over root-centered policies that might
3 eliminate hunger in developing nations. Regionally, hunger is pervasive in Sub-Saharan Africa. In a study of 12 Sub-Saharan African nations, researchers for the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington D.C. found that food insecurity is a grave problem across countries with at least one-third of each country’s population not consuming enough food to “meet requirements for basal metabolic function and light activity” (Aduayom, Alderman and Smith, 2006). In some situations, a decline in local food production is to blame. This decline can be a result of a number of different factors from unseasonable weather patterns to a decrease in local subsistence production in favor of an increase in export crop production. This, combined with an increase in food import bills and donor food aid, has further exacerbated sub-Saharan Africa’s dependence on developed nations for survival. And rather than free these populations from hunger, ongoing dependence on the First World provides profit for the developed at the expense of sustainable growth for the developing. Unfavorable balances of trade and dependency are not the only contributors to hunger in Africa. A 1994 report issued by USAID on food insecurity in the Greater Horn of Africa concludes that natural resource constraints, a weak economic policy environment, a poor human resource base, civil strife and absence of good governance are all root causes of continuing food insecurity in the region (USAID, 1994). Conflict itself is largely responsible for a lack of natural resource availability, a healthy human resource base and sound governmental institutions, especially in a country like Sudan, which has recently ended a long running civil war (between the north and south) and is struggling to implement a peace agreement that would prevent further national disintegration in regions such as Darfur in the west. Women as Differentially Impacted: While food insecurity plagues whole populations across the world, it differentially impacts sub-groups of people within these populations; the availability of basic foodstuffs continues to evade the poorest and most marginalized of any given community. More specifically, it is well documented that women suffer a larger share of the effects of food insecurity as compared to men. In looking at the effects of macroeconomic policies, namely Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), FAO states that women comprise almost threefourths of the world’s impoverished, and according to a 1990 report by the International Labor
4 Organization, rural food producers (many of whom are women) are among the majority of the world’s poor and consequently, are the most brutally exposed to food insecurity. “The trends toward economic and trade liberalization and privatization which are intended to boost agricultural production and the economy may well result in increasing food insecurity among poor farmers and other vulnerable population groups [i.e. women], unless measures are taken to ensure equitable access to food by all” (FAO, 1994). There are clear links between poor nutrition and poor health outcomes. Because of this, women’s health is negatively impacted by poor access to nutritious and plentiful food. The effects of malnutrition are palpable; to begin, malnutrition increases susceptibility to and the severity of infectious disease, both of which can contribute to high mortality rates (Aremu, Uthman, 2008). Malnutrition can have a particularly egregious impact on pregnant women, as women who are underweight prior to giving birth experience an increased risk of death. Additionally, children who are born to underweight mothers have a greater risk of being underweight themselves and are at greater risk of contracting life-threatening diseases (Aremu, Uthman, 2008). Access to land and inputs is critical to food production for both subsistence and income generation. The International Development Research Centre in Canada asserts that although women are key actors in food production and processing, they have markedly less access to income-generating activities (IDRC, 1995). Therefore, household food security - for which many women are responsible - suffers. Jeanne Koopman, visiting scholar at the Institute for African Development at Cornell University, points out this irony in her look at the gendered nature of food insecurity, and concludes that “even though women are Africa’s most experienced and committed food farmers, women and children have been the primary victim’s of Africa’s continuing food crises” (Koopman, 1992). Ann Whitehead, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sussex, agrees, explaining that as more land is set aside for crop cultivation, many African women have a more difficult time laying claim to remaining land because of codified procedures and laws steeped in gendered assumptions about women’s roles in the formal and informal sectors of production (Whitehead, 1990). Women who are not included in land ownership schemes also lack collateral to obtain the necessary credit for purchasing muchneeded technology (FAO, 1994). Without land to cultivate, women as subsistence producers are unable to provide enough food to sustain their families. In situations where men are forced to
5 migrate away from their homes in search of wage labor, the women who become heads of household face even more uncertain outcomes. They become doubly responsible for both cultivating cash crops and subsistence crops. Balghis Badri, lecturer at the University of Khartoum, concludes that often times, the situation is worsened by overriding gender assumptions about women and wage earning (Badri, 1985). Lastly, women are often excluded from more formal market transactions by overriding cultural norms. A lack of access to the market precludes income generation for women and works to further disempower them in an increasingly market-oriented, global economy (IDRC, 1995). Southern Sudan – Socio-Economic Context: In order to understand the effect that conflict has on food security, as well as the ways in which African women are differentially affected by food insecurity, I have chosen Southern Sudan as a case study. Sudan as a whole serves as an interesting focal point for studies of food insecurity and gender because of the radical differences between its regions. Simplistically speaking, Northern Sudanese women experience lived realities differently than Southern Sudanese women. There are critically different cultural, social and political distinctions between the North and South, many of which have contributed to the recently halted civil war. Therefore, instead of risking homogenizing the problem by looking at the country through a “national” lens, I will examine the south, an area nearly destroyed by Khartoum government forces to the north and Ugandan/Sudanese Lord’s Resistance Army militia to the south and west, to highlight the intersection of women, conflict, food insecurity and development. Food insecurity in Southern Sudan has taken on dimensions of a humanitarian crisis. A 2009 USAID report indicates that the number of food-insecure individuals lies between 250,000 and 400,000 and could easily escalate to 900,000 by June of 2009. In a report compiled by the British, Danish and Norwegian governments, researchers found that Southern Sudanese in the Eastern Equatoria State rank “a lack of food” as their second most pressing concern - just after availability of proper health care and just before threats to physical security (Mc Evoy, Murray, 2008). In the Famine Early Warning System Network’s 2009 food security forecast for East Africa, the report lists a seasonal hunger gap, rising inter-ethnic tensions, dry climate and cattle raids as sources of intensifying food insecurity in Southern Sudan. More specifically, if off-farm
6 food sources do not perform well and flood-recession cropping is negatively impacted by weather, authors predict a worst-case scenario which would likely impact up to 1,000,000 households (FEWS, 2008). So those who are not necessarily internally displaced still face impending food crises of great magnitude. Additionally, the overwhelming number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugee returnees in Southern Sudan is contributing to a major food security crisis. In addition to the nearly 100,000 Sudanese IDPs who have fled their hometowns as a result of inter-ethnic clashing and LRA rebel activity, there are over 50,000 Congolese refugees living within Southern Sudanâ€™s borders because LRA attacks have forced them to flee their homes. Internal displacement has put backbreaking stress on already overloaded humanitarian efforts. Because of ongoing LRA incursions in the area, IDPs and resettled refugees have the most limited access to clean water, food, and the ability to farm for an income, thereby contributing to major livelihood insecurities (OCHA, 2006). As noted above, matters of food insecurity more negatively affect women than men. In the Southern Sudanese context, women are especially at risk of exposure to and the disease risks of malnutrition. Under national law, Sudanese women have equal access to land, but this constitutional provision is misleading. Most women are not extended property rights and therefore, do not have the collateral needed for credit. â€œAccording to the 1973/74 census, only 11.7% of the tenancies of the Gazira Scheme are owned by women; 3% of the white Nile Pump Schemes of Kasti; and 9% of that of Al Diem are owned by womenâ€? (Badri, 1985). This national land ownership scheme directly affects how and where women impact the economy. According to Badri, women take part in the production of 87% of the traditional sector but only 10% of the more modern, more mechanized agricultural sector. Over the past thirty years, some development projects have focused on granting loans to women, but despite this movement forward, 1993 statistics showed that women constituted only 4.5% and 5.9% of dairy production and poultry production societies, respectively. Within these relatively economically robust and vital industries, women received only 10% of the loans to expand their productive capabilities (FAO, 1994). These statistics are disconcerting considering that, like other African populations, many Southern Sudanese households are female-headed (Mc Evoy, Murray, 2008). Other Development Concerns:
7 Food insecurity is only one of many pressing development concerns facing Southern Sudan. An analysis of the Millennium Development Goals reveals that Southern Sudan is far from achieving all eight, development goals. A recent report compiled by USAID and US Embassy staff indicates that the area is “chronically underdeveloped” and recovering slowly from recent conflict. According to UN data, Southern Sudan ranks 147 out of 177 countries in terms of the 2008 Human Development Index. The World Bank concluded that the motivators of poverty in the area are conflict, exhaustion of assets, lack of modern production skills and internal and external displacement. An example of the slow rate of development can be found in progress toward fulfilling the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to basic needs. From 2000 to 2007, Southern Sudan has made less than a one percent increase in those who have better access to these basic needs (World Bank, 2008). Health is a major concern in the area; according to WHO, between April 14 and March 3, 2008, 194 cases of acute watery diarrhea (AWD) and five related deaths were reported in Yei, Central Equatoria State alone. Several of these samples tested positive for cholera, and over sixty percent of these incidents were among children under five (USAID, 2008). On a more macro level, 27.017 cases of AWD were reported in the south with 54% of these cases affected children under five. Cholera was found in 31% of these cases. Availability of clean water and sanitation sites is remarkably low and is often the cause of many water-borne illnesses that plague the area. Additionally, malaria, measles and meningitis continue to plague populations in the south (IDSR, 2008). An absence of good governance is another striking, development concern. The newly formed Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) lacks a coherent and cohesive platform and broad-based legitimacy, as the regional government is still largely conceptual in nature and supported mainly by intellectuals, most of whom are out of touch with rural realities. In this respect, political forces are fractionalized and often operate selfishly and corruptly. “In Ikotos and Torit Counties, sections of the SPLA, police, and local administrators are accused of corruption, nepotism, arbitrary detention, imposing communal punishments, torture and raping women from villages harbouring suspected criminals” (Mc Evoy, Murray, 2008). Political interests in the area are highly localized, meaning that some interests are privileged over others, which results in the undermining of a regionally unified political scheme. Without credible
8 institutions, sustainable development is likely to continue to elude even the most committed aid workers. Achievement of gender equity is far from sight as many Southern Sudanese women continue to bear the brunt of underdevelopment. William J. House, in his article “The Status of Women in the Sudan,” writes extensively on the obstacles facing Southern Sudanese women. For instance, despite the success of the Sudanese Women’s Union in advocating for legal reform, the vast majority of women remain unaffected by constitutional protections. In addition to speaking on behalf of mostly urban, well-educated women, the Sudanese Women’s Union is relevant primarily to those living in the Islamic North. Political movement and mobilization in the north often deliberately ignores the realities of women living in the south, leaving them to organize on their own. While women in the north face some of the same discrimination as women in the south, Southern Sudanese women perhaps enjoy the advantage of living outside the fundamentally Islamist North. The imposition of shari’ah in the north has institutionalized the circumscription of women’s rights in a way that is absent in the south. Despite this, Southern Sudanese women are still confined to the informal, domestic sector and still suffer the loss of their earnings to the family unit. Southern Sudanese women are viewed as subordinate to and less valuable than their male counterparts. This socio-cultural reality has very real consequences for women who head their households and whose low status and untenable access to employment leave them living below the poverty line and, essentially, starving (House, 1988). Southern Sudanese women (like their northern counterparts) are expected to marry young and bear enough children to support the family unit. Rural women (many of whom live in the south) were found to be less exposed to notions of contraception and therefore, more likely to have higher fertility rates. Ester Boserup’s assertion that pro-natalist beliefs are “partly a consequence of a strong sex hierarchy,” where women’s bodies are saddled with numerous pregnancies aimed at increasing the viability of the family vis a vis the empowering of the family’s economic security neatly characterizes the reality of many Southern Sudanese women (House, 1988). While access to education is slowly widening for Sudanese women, there is still a heavily gendered division based on what are acceptable criteria for men and women. For example, at the University of Juba, women make up only eight percent of those enrolled in natural resource
9 studies; surprising, perhaps, since “the majority of women in such a largely subsistence agricultural economy make a such a major contribution to the production of basic food” (House, 1988). Here, there is a striking disconnect in the realities of the nature of Southern Sudanese women’s work and the extent to which opportunities are (not) made available to them to improve productive capacity. Not only are women disproportionately excluded from sectors of education that would vastly improve their abilities to produce food and manage land tracts, but the work they perform goes largely unnoticed as a result of socio-cultural perceptions of proper, female roles. Several feminist development scholars have noted that current measures of productivity – shaped by entrenched ideas about gender - obscure notions of women’s work in developing nations (Beneria, 1997, Feldman, 1991). Official tracking of women’s work in Southern Sudan is no exception. House explains that a simple change in the definition of “work” would radically alter the picture; if inclusion in the labor force were based on both primary and secondary occupations, the rate of female participation would be four times what it is now (House, 1988). He also notes that most work performed by Southern Sudanese women goes unpaid, which devalues the work they do perform. As mentioned before, most Southern Sudanese women are barred from property ownership. This relegates them to a secondary position in the family and removes them from the formal, more mechanized sphere of cash crop production. The disenfranchisement of women from land ownership is further complicated by male out-migration. Men who leave their homes in search of wage labor leave women to tend to land plots of which they exercise no legal or formal ownership. This leaves women vulnerable because they lack the training, inputs and access to credit necessary for participating in formal, agricultural production. (Badri, 1985, House, 1988, Molnar, 1991). The end result leaves land tracts without cultivation and families without food to either sell or eat. Badri highlights the connection between oppression of Sudanese women and food insecurity: Discriminatory legislation, customary laws, misconceptions about women’s roles and male dominance have affected women adversely, by depriving them of needed service in agriculture, by undermining their potential power as cultivators, by changing them into agricultural wage laborers, by undermining their right to land ownership, and by ignoring their needs for training and development. All these factors have led in the long run to continued underdevelopment and to the starvation of millions. (Badri, 1985)
10 Clearly, the socio-economic status of women in Sudan has a direct impact on development efforts in the area. Despite discrepancies in national accounting and the impact of powerful socio-cultural perceptions, women play a key role in subsistence production and could given the access traditionally accorded to men - play an economy-altering role in cash crop production. And with the increasing emphasis on cash crop production stemming from the demands of foreign exchange, sustainable, subsistence food production is more important than ever (Collins, 1991). When women are denied the necessary ingredients for increasing their productive capacities, the result is a shortage in food production and overall food insecurity. And because Southern Sudanese women (like many of their female counterparts internationally) are expected to be their community’s social reproducers, the feminization of food insecurity gravely threatens the livelihood of whole families – including the welfare of children as they are directly affected by their mother’s (in)ability to secure food. Strategies and/or Interventions: It should be noted first that the difficulties in implementing features of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), as well as ongoing hostilities within and outside of Sudanese territory, have compromised the degree to which development efforts have been successful in the area. The damage inflicted by ongoing conflict has made it especially difficult for development agencies to jumpstart the kind of interventions necessary for rehabilitating the country. Ongoing political instability in the south and the GoSS’ inability and (at times) unwillingness to decentralize and improve its internal management has hampered and will continue to impede development efforts in the region (McCrerey, 2009). The bulk of financial support for development interventions in Southern Sudan stems from government aid to the country. Following a 2005 pledging conference in Oslo, Norway, fourteen donor countries, including The Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom, European Commission, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Iceland, Greece, Canada, Spain and Egypt, agreed to funnel state funds into rebuilding Sudan. In theory, this aid, pooled into the Multi-Donor Trust Funds (MDTF), would then be dispensed by the World Bank through its cooperation with international, national and local NGOs operating within or close to states in Southern Sudan. The World Bank would oversee the implementation of development interventions by establishing regulatory bodies and attaching accountability measures to the
11 disbursement of funds. The World Bank released an emergency response paper on September 23, 2008 designed to soften the impact of a food crisis on Southern Sudan. The World Bank chose to partner with the Norwegian People’s Aid and Action Afrika Help International in its efforts to deliver and account for donor funds. The World Bank has outlined several short term and longer-term strategies: 1) quickly alleviate the harshest effects of food insecurity in the region, 2) jump-start productive activity in three regions that are suffering economic malaise, 3) further support three regions that have been successful in accessing the market, and 4) target the most marginalized members of Southern Sudanese society. MDTF assistance is aimed at financing three main components of short-term and longterm development in the region. The first component is to increase the supply response of selected staple foods in order to generate more domestic production of subsistence crops. This will be accomplished by guaranteeing more immediate access to food stuffs in the short run, ensuring more rapid technology transfers to small farmers and revamping private investment in granaries and food marketing and distribution in the long run (World Bank, 2008). Rice, sorghum, beans, sesame, cassava, sweet potatoes, maize and groundnuts are the crops that have been targeted as essential to the Sudanese diet. The World Bank recommended that these crops be given to small farmers and cooperatives to boost domestic production. The second primary component of the strategy is to implement social safety net measures targeted towards food insecure communities in six previously selected counties. The World Bank recommended that food be offered to these communities in exchange for their participation in public works reconstruction. In a sense, it sounds like the World Bank has advocated a “food for infrastructure” approach. The third primary aim is to finance the technical assistance, equipment, operating costs and the human resources required to implement these programs. Interestingly, the World Bank agreed to oversee the use of donor dollars rather than funnel large amounts of its own money into the country. The World Bank admitted that the government’s history of defaulting on previous loans is the reason behind its unwillingness to match the amounts pledged by donor countries (World Bank, 2008). While the World Bank acknowledges that women are a marginalized group within Southern Sudanese society, it does not make specific recommendations for how to improve women’s access to technology transfers, land or animal traction (for those who operate in a pastoral context). The emergency report also
12 discusses the potentially unequal effects that World Bank targeting measures might have on Southern Sudan as a whole. Only six counties were chosen to receive aid out of nearly 100 that exist across Southern Sudan. In looking at a map of the target areas, all of those counties lie to the west of the White Nile -meaning that all of Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria and Jonglei states are ignored (World Bank, 2008). It is important to note that half of the targeted population is already enjoying comparably robust economic success; by continuing to subsidize the largerscale farms and cooperatives in hopes of generating access for the less advantaged (World Bank, 2008), the World Bank is indirectly supporting the â€œtrickle down theoryâ€? so central to the neoliberal economic approach that has yet to alleviate poverty worldwide. Lastly, it is concerning that the World Bank allocated only five percent of the relief package to training activities for farmers. Women stand to benefit most from training in more modern, agricultural arenas and this component was given as much priority and weight as the administrative costs of the package implementation, also standing at five percent of the total budget (World Bank, 2008). Perhaps the most concerning aspect here is that to date, none of the MDTF money has been disbursed. The World Bank has designed its framework and designated its implementing partners but has yet to release its funds to Southern Sudan (Lupai, 2007). Many European donor countries have expressed profound dissatisfaction with this lack of progress, and NGOs in the area have been left empty-handed. While a central actor in the development of Southern Sudan, the World Bank is not the only influential institution in this theater. The United Nations and its subsidiary agencies also play key roles in rehabilitating war-torn Southern Sudan. Almost every sub-department of the UN is involved in some capacity or another, many of which are focused on quick impact measures designed to resettle recent returnees, build primary health care facilities in areas recently devastated by conflict and expand what little agricultural and physical infrastructure is available. For example, the World Food Programme (WFP) is committed to assisting recent returnees in their attempts to resettle in the south. WFP subsidizes food for education, food for work and food for recovery programs, in which subsistence is provided for those who agree to expand physical infrastructure by building roads, dams, dykes, schools and health clinics. In partnering with local NGOs, UN agencies are committed to including women in all aspects of the peace process by working with them directly in developing interventionist approaches and insisting on greater access to education for young girls (WFP, 2008).
13 The United State’s own development donor agency, USAID, is also funding specific measures to tackle food insecurity in Southern Sudan. The “USAID Southern Sudan Agriculture Revitalization Project” is an intervention which targets communities located in the six of the ten states: Upper Nile, Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria, Southern Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains. USAID has allocated $22.5 million to be spent over a five-year period of time. NGOs receiving this money designed interventions to increase access to agricultural skills and technology in six sub-sectors: 1) food crops, 2) agricultural technology, 3) forestry, 4) livestock, 5) wildlife, and 6) fisheries. Participating NGOs also expanded access to important capital for agricultural ventures and built the capacity of local commodity networks to motivate trade. There is pointed reference to the gendered nature of improving agricultural output in USAID’s emphasis on “community involvement and the equitable participation of women in all project components” (USAID, 2008). Overall, NGOs that receive this money have the flexibility to address site-specific concerns. As per USAID guidelines, NGOs must implement interventions that are gendersensitive and community-oriented, two features that will no doubt improve the likelihood of successful and sustainable implementation. International non-governmental agencies at work either in Southern Sudan or nearby Nairobi include Caritas International, Catholic Relief Services, TearFund International and World Vision, just to name a few. Most of these organizations offer food for work or food for education programs and almost all of them provide programming, staff and vital resources for improving agricultural production in the area. These organizations also deliberately endorse building alliances with local partners in order to better enhance the sustainability of their projects. For example, Catholic Relief Services has established partnerships with local Catholic dioceses order to better facilitate food interventions in the south (CRS, 2009, McCrerey, 2009). World Vision is working to expand production in other equally important ways. By establishing Farmer Field Schools in various areas throughout the south, World Vision trains farmers in ox cultivation, nursery development, vegetable gardening and alley cropping. Additionally, World Vision has distributed seeds to farmers marginalized by their rural locations. In 2006, World Vision staff handed out 34,000 fishing hooks and 4,000 rolls of twine to fisherman in need of more efficient tools (World Vision, 2009). Despite this rather detailed look at food security interventions, there is no mention of the importance of women to these processes. To date, most INGOs have designed their major agriculture and livelihoods interventions
14 with the aim of increasing production, increasing access to technology and inputs and making education and training available to local farmers. There continues to be an absence, however, of specifically woman-centered approaches to solving issues of food insecurity in Southern Sudan. With rehabilitation of Southern Sudan’s agriculture relying heavily on the resettlement of refugees - and so many refugees being women and children - it is especially distressing that most donor projects give only passing reference to women’s involvement in agriculture and livelihood development interventions. Additionally, there is no mention of the fact that many farmers who have not been displaced by conflict are either men who rely heavily on the “secondary” work performed by their female counterparts or women themselves who have been left to tend to land by their male counterparts in pursuit of wage labor outside the family plot. Increasing access to education, training and technology for women working in agriculture is one important key to eliminating food insecurity in the region; unfortunately most development projects treat women as a peripheral, rather than integral, component. Alternatives for Gender Integration: Before development efforts of any kind can be successfully completed, both Northern and Southern Sudanese must be able to rely on sound, political institutions and good governance. Ongoing political instability resulting from the fragile status of the CPA severely affects community livelihoods in Southern Sudan. With the recent warrant issued for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the south risks detrimental effects of an incomplete implementation of the peace accords. Most NGO workers on the ground argue that arresting alBashir will destabilize the peace process and potentially result in renewed civil war (McCrerey, 2009). It is the common feeling that if the north reverts to extremism, there will be negative consequences for development efforts in Southern Sudan. Without a meaningful resolution of armed conflict, development of sound political institutions in the south cannot progress. Even with the CPA technically in place, galling instances in which corruption and political wheeling and dealing take precedence over democratic methods are the norm (Mc Evoy, Murray, 2008). For example, several streams of MDTF funds have yet to be released to GoSS Ministries and/or some Ministries have yet to implement activities with allocated funding in the area because of the high degree of mismanagement and disorganization. The nascent Government of Southern Sudan is struggling to establish its own mechanism of management; with renewed fighting in the
15 region, development progress thus far could easily unravel (McCrerey, 2009). In the meantime, there are very real alternatives that development agencies should take in their efforts to contain food insecurity and its disproportionately negative effects on women. Donor agencies must insist on better monitoring and evaluation practices, and recipient organizations must improve their M&E systems for project reporting. In researching this paper, there was an overall dearth of statistical data for the south. Poor infrastructure and security concerns offer causal explanations for this, but until a working census is completed and more complete baseline assessments are performed on women in their respective communities, an absence of accurate data will continue to obscure development efforts in the area. Lourdes Beneria, feminist scholar at Cornell University, agrees that accounting failures can only obfuscate interventions because they are based on skewed data (Beneria, 1997) . For instance, in the World Bank report on food price stabilization and revitalization of agricultural practices, there was no data available on women employed in the non-agricultural sector. The fact that there was no category for women working in the formal and, perhaps more importantly, the informal agricultural sectors, is even more alarming. There is no way forward toward improving issues of food insecurity if women continue to be unaccounted for in quantitative analyses of production. It is critical for key stakeholders to continue to use Participant Rural Appraisal (PAR) methods outlined by FAO. This technique is particularly helpful as it builds bridges between development professionals and local residents within targeted communities. Working with “local knowledge” of community practices and norms has proven to be more effective than impressing more Westernized notions of modernization and development on communities in question. More specifically, this type of field appraisal can help identify issues of food insecurity and malnutrition in local terms, meaning that the right tools and ameliorative techniques are more adapted and suitable for those in the community. Additionally, FAO’s insistence on attaching value to non-renumerated activities such as firewood collecting and at-home food preparation has been helpful in understanding intra-household dynamics. “Who has access to and control over resources, including income, also has an impact on food security and coping-strategies within the household and the relative burden of men and women within each household to procure food and other essential necessities” (FAO, 1999). Tools such as social and resource mapping, gender disaggregated analysis, the introduction of time cards and the formation of
16 community-specific questionnaires aimed at supporting local knowledge are essential to successful agriculture and livelihood interventions aimed at alleviating food insecurity in developing areas. It is also essential that development professionals work to include women in the design and implementation of interventions. It is simply not enough to reach out to appointed representatives of a community because often times, those who are appointed from within communal bounds represent individuals who enjoy a more privileged position within the community. Usually, this does not include women, as they are further disadvantaged by sociocultural structures operating within the group in question. In terms of Southern Sudan, this issue has to be viewed against the backdrop of women living as refugees in neighboring Uganda and Kenya. Educated women who would be qualified to work for agencies such as Catholic Relief Services and Save the Children as national staff are choosing to stay outside of Sudan’s borders because many of them are burdened with child care; remaining in more stable Uganda and Kenya provides more opportunities for young children. In other words, the lack of physical infrastructure and primary education is a deterrent for whole-family repatriation. So rather than move entire families back to Sudan, many Sudanese men are choosing to repatriate, with some opting to join development teams in the area (McCrerey, 2009). This pattern of resettlement is leaving educated and qualified Sudanese women outside of Sudan and consequently, on the outside of development decisions and interventions in desperate need of women’s perspectives. In order to better address this situation, it is necessary to prioritize support for the construction of primary schools and primary health care facilities. Creating a secure environment in which children can be properly educated will give Sudanese families more incentive to repatriate together and consequently, will broaden employment opportunities for educated Sudanese women. Secondly, supporting a poverty-based approach to development in the area will bring more women into the inner workings of development interventions. As Mayra Buvinic, a World Bank expert on gender and development, writes, “this type of approach focuses on women as participants in the development process rather than as passive beneficiaries.” Greater attention to accurate accounting and measurements that are components of this approach will also assist in identifying the multi-faceted composition of the burden of women’s work and ultimately, will enable organizations to design interventions more in tune with women’s needs (Buvinic, 1983).
17 Agriculture interventions that have identified improved access to land, credit, inputs, technology and training for women working in the agricultural sector as vital to the eradication of food insecurity must continue to focus on these areas. Where women are barred from land ownership by customary laws, development agencies should perform cost-benefit analyses of the effects of continued disenfranchisement of women. Rather than impose Western schemes of gender equity on communities, it would be more effective to ask community members themselves where they would like to see improvements. Development agencies can then use hard numbers and statistics to demonstrate how opening up land and input access to women could expand production in ways favorable to the community. Conclusion: The effects of protracted conflict and the threat of new hostilities in Southern Sudan have seriously deterred development efforts aimed at improving food security in the area. All Southern Sudanese have suffered and are still suffering health consequences from a lack of access to nutritious and plentiful food. But these externalities, in combination with more internal socio-cultural and economic factors, have differentially impacted Southern Sudanese women in ways that both reinforce their marginalized position in society and re-entrench processes that sustain food insecurity. Until aid workers better integrate a gendered approach to agriculture and livelihoods development interventions, Southern Sudanese women will continue to be sidelined, and food insecurity will continue to persist unabated.
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Published on Feb 13, 2014
This paper 1) compares food insecurity in Southern Sudan to the overall context of global food insecurity, 2) identifies root causes of food...