Leveraging innovation to support food security - South Sudanese Youth: Rethinking Agriculture for employability
October 14, 2022
South Sudan, one of the world's most food insecure countries, has less than 1% percent of the global population, but about 55 percent of South Sudanese face acute food insecurity. Insecurity, conflict, displacement, and climate-induced shocks are primarily the key drivers of food system insecurity.
Many years ago, and even recently, most people despised the farm; agriculture was perceived as something for the old and the poor. Most of the people, a majority of them young, had a negative image of agriculture because they saw it as back-breaking work, low value, and 'dirty.' However, this mindset is slowly changing; South Sudanese youth are changing this narrative and are taking their space in Agri-preneurship for employment.
Given the shift in the mindset of the youth and prevailing circumstances in the country, investment in food systems innovation is crucial to sustainable development and improving food security in South Sudan. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with the support of USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Affairs (BHA) and in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), launched the IGNITE Food System Challenge in November 2021 to look for South Sudan’s brightest and newest ideas on how to tackle hunger, improve food security and strengthen food systems.
What is “Food Systems”?
Interlocking networks of relationships that encompass functions of producing, processing, marketing, consuming, and disposing of goods from agriculture, forestry or fisheries. In other words, it involves all activities needed to produce and transform food and ensure it reaches people.
Design thinking approach
With clarity on the interconnectedness among the ventures that applied to compete, a few of the ventures selected for the challenge were taken through the design thinking approach at a Bootcamp that aimed to nurture and equip these young entrepreneurs and innovators with skills to evolve their ideas and business to the next level. This was geared towards enabling them to look beyond and innovate for food security, scoring achievements that would cascade beyond their teams to other stakeholders and inform the agriculture value addition. In more ways than one, the design thinking training flipped the linear thought process on its head, allowing the agri-preneurs to see the challenges as opportunities, encouraging peer learning amongst ventures, innovation, and creativity in solving challenges facing food systems and food insecurity in South Sudan.
“After the training, it is worth noting that South Sudan has huge untapped agribusiness potential but with little or no existing value chain development. Through the practical skills gained in the bootcamp, we developed strategies on how tap into the value chain potential in our businesses” South Link, one of the shortlisted companies.
The Cooperative Bank of South Sudan financial experts shared best practice on agricultural finance and microfinance practice for agripreneurs. This aimed to offer alternative sources of capital for the companies to diversify their investment options beyond the IGNITE Food Challenge grant for future sustainability and business growth.
The selected enterprises worked on refining their business models to scale up their businesses through various design thinking tools such as user personas and user journey maps. They identified opportunities for innovative solutions presented by some of the challenges in food systems in South Sudan, such as infrastructure, insecurity, and access to markets.
This is part one of a two series blog, watch out for part two coming soon on learnings from the ventures on their ignition journey.
Follow us on Twitter for updates! @Undpsouthsudan.
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