Diaspora Volunteers Provide Hope and Support for Agricultural and Enterprise Development
After more than 21 years of civil war, a fragile, temporary peace returned in 2005 to southern Sudan (now South Sudan) with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. The war had destroyed infrastructure, institutions and physical capital, crippling economic growth and livelihoods at all levels.
Within this context, VEGA Member Winrock International in collaboration with four other VEGA members implemented the Agricultural Market and Enterprise Development (VEGA/AMED), a three-year program funded by USAID through the VEGA LWA to improve the environment for increasing private sector employment opportunities across sectors from construction to information technology to agricultural markets in Southern Sudan. The program accomplished this through small business development, skills and asset building, improved governance and increased business productivity.
“From the training conducted by AMED, I learned how to carry out proper farm management including costing my expenses and calculating profit and loss. Previously, I used to work randomly but now I am more organized. I have even built a small hut for the farmworkers at the garden so that they can maximize time spent tending the crops.”
– Ali Osman, Natabo Farmer Association, South Sudan
Despite the enormous challenges and a difficult operating environment, VEGA/AMED worked in partnership with local government authorities and civil society, responding to requests for assistance to build programs and markets and provide services in response to needs of emerging private enterprises. VEGA/AMED built capacity for the development of the construction industry and agricultural markets, particularly the establishment and growth of marketing associations and cooperatives. By using international and regional volunteer consultants and in-house expertise, VEGA/AMED provided technical assistance to various entities, including government, farmers and development organizations, on the market-oriented development of specific agricultural sectors as well as general agricultural markets. The program utilized the expertise of 136 short- and long-term volunteers from the U.S., Sudanese diaspora, and the East Africa region who donated 3,150 days. When possible, VEGA drew upon Sudan’s diaspora for technical and training support.
Throughout VEGA/AMED, volunteers proved to be very effective in filling a vast need for training and capacity building, which could be delivered through volunteer assignments. However, another lesson learned was that it is important to couple volunteer technical assistance with more sustained forms of technical assistance since a volunteer tends to carry out short-term assignments. This adjustment made the program even stronger and became a best practice for VEGA LWA programs.
Mr. Limbo is one of 12 Sudanese diaspora that volunteered their expertise under the VEGA/AMED Program. After 27 years, Mr. Limbo, a native of southern Sudan living in Cairo, returned to his hometown as a volunteer under VEGA/AMED to provide computer literacy training in Juba and Wau on computer basics, typing skills and use of software such as Microsoft Word and Excel to private and public-sector participants. Participants are now able to produce typed documents, create tables and organize their desktops. Mr. Limbo also held a separate session on computer networking and maintenance, including syllabus development, for 10 IT trainers at the Juba Computer Training Institute. He has since moved permanently moved permanently to South Sudan to support the development and growth of the country.