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YEI - 17 Jul 2019

Yei farmers accuse authorities, NGO over dead cassava seeds

Hundreds of farmers in Yei River State have accused the state agriculture ministry and its partners of allegedly distributing to them dead cassava seeds.

The seeds were initially meant to boost food security in the state.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj last week, several farmers claimed they received fake cassava stalks imported from Uganda by non-governmental organizations after government approval.

John Liwa, a beneficiary farmer, said they received the cassava stalks in late April, but they failed to germinate when planted.

He said several farmers reported the matter to agriculture ministry officials, but they were allegedly reluctant to address their concerns.

“Some of the seeds like groundnuts germinated well, but the cassava stalks given to us could not germinate after planting. The stalks given to us were stored for a long time,” said Liwa.

He added, “If the government wants to know more about this concern, let them ask other farmers and they will express the same concerns. Let the government instruct these NGOs to buy seeds locally from farmers around the state than importing seeds from other countries”.

Anthony Diko, another farmer, expressed worries over what he described as distribution of “dead cassava stalks” to farmers like him.

“We were each given two kilograms of cassava stalks by an NGO and most of these stalks were all rotten inside because they were stored in polythene bags and that could be the reason why they did not germinate.  If an NGO wants to help farmers with seeds, they should buy locally produced seeds that are properly stored,” said Diko.

Diko urged the ministry of agriculture to monitor all seeds imported into the country before they are distributed to farmers for planting.

For his part, the state minister for agriculture, Evans Sokiri Kijore said his office recorded several complaints over cassava stalks and seeds distributed by NGOs dealing in the food security cluster.

He said the distribution was done without the consent of his ministry.

Sokiri accused NGOs tasked to distribute seeds to the farmers of failing to comply with the regulations set by government.

“We have received a report about cassava stalks that did not germinate. Currently, we are undertaking investigations into how these stalks were distributed by Tdh [Terres de hommes] to the farmers. Some of these NGOs bring in varieties of seeds for distribution without the consent of the ministry,” he said.

A committee comprising of technical staff has been formed to investigate the factors behind the distribution of dead cassava seeds to farmers, according to the minister.

Officials from the Tdh were not easily reachable on the matter.

Despite the huge agricultural potential South Sudan possesses, only about 5 percent of the country’s arable land is reportedly cultivated.