Nakang is definitely a proud woman this season. The ‘rain makers’ have had mercy and the crops harvest has boomed. In South Sudan, majority of women and men do not use the word grocery store or supermarket; to us, our grocery store is the granary behind the tukul (traditional houses), or the supermarket is our crop field (garden). If your granary is full and your crops are doing better in the field, you are the successful one!
Despite war crisis and international media reports of looming hunger in South Sudan, there are still smiley faces in some of the parts of the country that have not been rampaged by fighting. Nakang happens to be luckily one who come from such areas. With help of International aid agencies, such as SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, she has been able to get improved crop seed varieties, trained to improve agronomic practices – a support that is supplemented by the rain makers good will to ensure high harvest. In Kapoeta where Nakang originates, women are in charge of all the agricultural activities, taking care of children, and walk long distances to fetch water. With no time for a happy hour drink or lunch hour coffee! Men’s task is not lighter either, they take care of cattle, which means tracking hundreds of miles away from home in search for water and pasture. For a family such as that of Nakang, house hold food security is a sheer luck of good weather (rains) and continued aid support!
As a social entrepreneur, it looks clear that any innovation that helps Nakang to reduce time in fulfilling each of her daily chores (farming, water etc.), or innovation that reduces the seasonal uncertainty in household food security would benefit her and those like her more. For this case, helping her increase productivity means she will put less energy in opening more land; it will enable her weed less. If she can harvest more for less effort and less time, she may go back to school, or better still she may start up a small business that reduces household food uncertainty. Unfortunately, experience has shown that traditional development work ends at providing help to Nakang to succeed in producing more in a season, but does not go further in helping her to sustainably move out of the seasonal household food insecurity cycles. For example what will prevent smiling Nakang from receding back to poverty next year if rains fail?
Enterprise Inc., a social investment company that deals with identification of business opportunities, incubating and mentoring small enterprises, providing financial literacy and business skills training was formed due to inspiration from the hard work of many women and youths in South Sudan. Youths and women are working hard every day to try to break out of the cycle of poverty and chronic food insecurity, minimize the effects of war on their lives and dignity. Many women like Nakang in Juba, the capital of South Sudan sacrifice their sleep and wake up as early as 4am to go to the general market to procure in bulk, dried fish and vegetables imported from neighboring countries, to be able to sell same in retail markets during the day. Everywhere in Juba, there are many of such women selling citrus, fish, bananas, onions etc. the aim is basic – to contribute to household food security. Unfortunately they find it impossible to expand and become sustainable businesses. For Nakang, she even finds it more difficult to start a business.
Enterprise Inc. was an idea of Atlas Corps Fellow, the idea was nurtured during scores of happy hours with various inspirational persons in Washington DC. It is now a registered a social enterprise in South Sudan. It will initially embark on a journey to ensure that informal micro businesses (as they are always called here) become formal businesses (dignified way of calling it here). In South Sudan it is mandated to identify, nurture (incubate) train, mentor, and connect locally owned small scale enterprises. Enterprise Inc., has partnered with REMEO SCCO a cooperative savings and lending scheme that has registered over 200 small scale entrepreneurs. Together with REMEO SACCO, Enterprise Inc., is working to support the inclusion of informal businesses like those run my rural women like Nakang and Juba vegetable traders into the financial lending scheme to enable them grow their business. Enterprise Inc., will provide business skills training, financial literacy and business plan development to ensure success of these businesses. The idea is to have Nakang maintain her smile whether rains fall or not. Food security should not just be food production, but empowering entrepreneurial women and men will boost their income and enhance access to adequate food all year round.