Curbing Hunger [PART III] // A Day at the Seed Fair

[Note: This is the final post in a III part series – please take time to read the intro blogPart I, and Part II]

As the dry season, five painfully long months of no rain and extreme heat, comes to a close and the hunger season (the period between cultivation and harvesting) appears without welcome invitation, it is time for the people of South Sudan to plant, plant, plant.

The end of the dry season also means that it is time for a very important event – the World Concern (WC) Seed Fair!

For the past two years, World Concern has partnered with USAID to host a week-long Seed Fair in Warrap State, South Sudan. WC is able to target the most at-risk families in Warrap State communities (meaning those families with the fewest resources, an absent spouse, disabled children, etc.). These families are awarded ‘money’ to purchase farming tools and seeds from designated community members in a set location, i.e. at the Seed Fair.

Seed Fair Dough.

Seed Fair Dough.

Such an event requires major preparation: mobilizing communities, gathering local vendors, organizing an accessible location, and the cutting out of hundreds of Seed Fair dollars (I had the honor of cutting those beautiful ‘5 dollar bills’ to your right – good thing there was sweet reggae music coming out of the radio as we were cutting and stacking late into the evening).

During this week, World Concern staff members travel every day to a new community to operate a bustling, lively, and greatly beneficial distribution fair. 800 hopeful households attended, and benefited from, the week’s festivities. 

View from the WC Compound the night before the Seed Fair.

View from the WC Compound the night before the Seed Fair.

Before I show off some pictures of my day at the Seed Fair, let me clarify, World Concern is did not hand out farming goods – we had the privilege of facilitating the day’s activities. Using the money we give them, it is the locals themselves who sell and purchase goods from one another – benefiting both parties involved. [At the end of the day’s festivities, the vendors exchange their generated Seed Fair income for real South Sudanese dollars.]

My Seed Fair experience occurred in a disadvantaged village called Magai. I spent the day hanging out under a couple of massive trees, talking with vendors, eating fresh groundnuts, making funny faces with children (apparently my faces are the most entertaining – I’ll try to take this as a compliment…), sitting with mothers by the central water pump, counting Seed Fair dollars, and learning more about life for the average family living in Magai.

As the Seed Fair photographer, I was able to both observe and participate (easily my favorite part of this job). Of course, the dichotomy of observed behaviors captivated most of my attention (and mental processing upon returning to the compound that night): I observed as mothers fed their family leaves for lunch and numerous children with uncomfortably distended bellies played with sticks in the shade. Yet, I also observed the fine art of South Sudanese bartering and mommy’s giggling with their children while enjoying the company of their neighbors.

Overall, here’s how I’d summarize the events of the day:
“You’ve got that. I’ve got this. How about I give you this for that?”

In my opinion, the selling and sharing of local resources within a cooperative group of individuals is community defined – and the Seed Fair is community at its finest.

WC staffer, Bonface, doing some Seed Fair preppin'.

WC staffer, Bonface, doing some Seed Fair preppin’.

We love the Seed Fair!

We love the Seed Fair!

Listening while WC staff explains the day's activities.

Listening while WC staff explain the day’s activities.

Mommas.

Bonface getting the day started.

Bonface getting the day started.

Community under trees.

Community under trees.

Hanging out with Seed Fair vendors.

Hanging out with Seed Fair vendors.

Groundnut chompin'.

Groundnut chompin’.

One of my favorites from the day.

One of my favorites from the day.

Malouda shopping.

Malouda shopping.

Fingerprint stamping. Because the large majority of people in South Sudan are illiterate, fingerprints are used as an alternative to signatures.

Fingerprint stamping // Because the large majority of people in South Sudan are illiterate, fingerprints are used as an alternative to signatures.

Agol Dor // This is Agol's second year attending the Seed Fair. A mother and farmer, she is not able to generate enough income for her family to eat more than one meal per day (during the dry/hunger seasons in particular). "The Seed Fair has helped my farm improve." As well as attending the Seed Fair, Agol has received dry season training from World Concern. "I am very happy with the training. I never go to the market for onion or legula...I am very happy with what World Concern is doing here."

Agol Dor // This is Agol’s second year attending the Seed Fair. As a farming mother, she is not always able to generate enough income for her family to eat more than one meal per day (during the dry/hunger seasons in particular). When chatting, she told me, “The Seed Fair has helped my farm improve.” As well as attending the Seed Fair, Agol has received dry season agricultural training from World Concern. “I am very happy with the training. I never go to the market for onion or legula…I am very happy with what World Concern is doing here.”

Receiving Seed Fair dollars.

Receiving Seed Fair dollars.

Vendors add up their shared income at the end of the day.

Vendors add up their shared income at the end of the day.John Majok // 25 yr old Groundnut vendor. Prior to the Seed Fair, he had no money to do his work (farming simsim, dura, groundnuts). The Seed Fair has brought him both an increased income and new relationships - he plans to continue his business in the Magai community.John Majok // 25-yr-old groundnut vendor. Prior to the Seed Fair, John had “no money to do his [my] work”(farming simsim, dura, and groundnuts). The Seed Fair gave John an increased income as well as new relationships – he plans to continue his business in the Magai community.

Vendors collecting their earnings.

Vendors collecting their earnings.

The Seed Fair is over and it's time to play!

The Seed Fair is over and it’s time to play!

Alongside curbing hunger in South Sudan, World Concern is currently working towards expanding our work in the village of Magai through our One Village Transformed (OVT) project. Check out the link and partner with us!

In three days, I leave on a 6AM flight to Chad, where I will spend three or so weeks visiting and documenting World Concern’s projects. I look forward to seeing more OVT locations and traveling to villages where we hope to implement OVT in the near future. Though I am a bit weary of the heat and bumpy roads awaiting me, I am once again humbled to experience life from a new perspective, to walk (even if only for a few weeks) in the shoes of another beautiful people group. Look out for photos, video, and stories to come!

***Read more about our work in Chad here and here. And watch for more recent stories when I return!

 

 

 

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