South Sudan’s agricultural potential is enormous, with 75% of the land suitable for agriculture, yet the country lacks adequate roadways.
The road is more than a means of transportation — it is a lifeline for certain villages in South Sudan, connecting them to markets, food, and basic services.
Years of brutal war, population displacement, and trade disruption have resulted in South Sudan experiencing unprecedented levels of food shortages. Nearly 7 million individuals — 60% of the population – face daily food insecurity.
The majority of people in South Sudan survive only via subsistence farming — producing just enough crops and raising only enough animals to satisfy their requirements. However, the country’s agricultural potential is immense, with about 75% of its land area suited for cultivation.
It’s impossible to go beyond subsistence farming – for most of the year, farmers are unable to access markets or even travel far from their villages. During the rainy season, roads get washed out, while dry weather makes travel on poor quality roads sluggish and costly.
To enhance food security and promote commerce and market growth, UNOPS built feeder roads — minor roads that divert traffic to main highways – with financing from the European Union totaling €44 million (EU).
“The EU is committed to assisting in the connection of feeder roads to major highways. This would enhance security and enable the movement of products and services across the country,” says Christian Bader, the European Union’s Ambassador to South Sudan.
Over 170 kilometres of feeder roads and four markets were created as part of the project in Warrap State, Lakes State, Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, and Western Bahr el Ghazal State.
Now that the roads can be utilised year-round, farmers can transport their produce to markets regardless of the weather.
The feeder roads make it simpler for Abuk Deng Alue, a farmer from Mayom Angok, to sell her excess food — and earn money to purchase other products.
“We travelled from the opposite side of the river with the express intention of selling okra and pumpkin leaves at this market,” Abuk explains. “Many people are purchasing our farm products as a result of the road — I just sold a bunch of okra to a large number of purchasers, which was not the case previously.”
Additionally, the market in Ayien Amoul is seeing an increase in tourists seeking to purchase groundnuts, fish, and other local agricultural goods. However, it is not only local markets that are prospering; local companies are also benefiting from the feeder roads.
“My little local restaurant is now growing as a result of the additional clients I’m receiving every market day,” explains Angong Deng Tor, an Ayien Amoul restaurant owner.
Not only have feeder roads increased access to markets, but they have also increased access to other services.
Built with materials obtained mostly from local communities, the new feeder roads have also improved the area’s feeling of security.
“The road has also enhanced security in the region by allowing many people to go late on the road, which was previously not possible,” says Simon Garang Dengand, Marial Bai County’s Paramount Chief.
To guarantee that the feeder roads’ advantages continue far into the future, UNOPS is also educating South Sudanese state engineers to take over maintenance of the feeder roads.
“UNOPS collaborates with communities and institutions to guarantee the transfer of skills and knowledge necessary for the long-term maintenance of this infrastructure,” says Peter Mutoredzanwa, UNOPS Country Director and Representative in South Sudan.
Members of the community from nearby villages collaborated on the roadways. This provided a chance for young people, in particular, to develop the skills necessary to work as drivers, construction equipment operators, masons, and surveyors.
“I wanted to be an engineer so that I could assist my people in South Sudan,” says Deng Tong Ngor, a civil engineer who gained design experience while working on the project. “Now I can use what I’ve learned in different settings and do high-quality work.”