FAO delivers agricultural aid shipment to Nuba Mountains

July 7, 2003

The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said on Tuesday it had successfully delivered a substantial amount of seeds and tools by road to more than 10,500 households in a previously inaccessible rebel-held territory in southern Sudan.

The FAO said it had distributed about 130 tonnes of sorghum, maize, sesame, cowpea, groundnut and vegetable seeds to various parts of the Nuba Mountains controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

Farmers also received some 13,400 agricultural tools, including hoes, axes, machetes and sickles, to support the resettlement of returnees and boost food security in the region, the statement said.

The delivery of the urgently needed agricultural aid to the disputed region was made possible by an internationally monitored ceasefire agreement signed between the Sudanese government and the SPLA/M in January 2002, it added.

Anne Bauer, the FAO's director for emergency operations and rehabilitation, said the operation was "a real breakthrough for people who have been living under insecure and extreme conditions" in the Nuba Mountains. "This project will make farmers and their families less dependent on food aid and could be a contribution to peace and stability in the region," she said in the statement.

The FAO said it had also distributed about 154 tonnes of local crop seeds and more than 16,000 hand tools to an estimated 12,500 displaced families and returnees in areas controlled by the Sudanese government. "In total, the delivery of seeds and tools is expected to result in the production of 8,200 tonnes of food in 2003, and to improve livelihoods and food security - a contribution to peace," the statement said.

The Nuba Mountains region, geographically located in northern Sudan, but whose people have identified with the SPLM/A struggle, has been a zone of conflict since 1985.

As a result of the war, a large part of the region's population has been forced off the plains and is living in insecure and precarious conditions, cultivating the limited agricultural land on the hills.