Updates from the Field: Laying Down an Infrastructure for Peace in South Sudan

Community members of Thiet in Tonj, South Sudan. All photos:  Jean Luc Habimana

Community members of Thiet in Tonj, South Sudan. All photos: Jean Luc Habimana

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In March 2017, we launched Rainmaker Enterprise. It was, and always remains, our utmost dream that this organization would provide much needed water infrastructure for the people of South Sudan, and other hard-to-reach regions in Africa, to ensure a more peaceful, stable and prosperous future is forged. Our dream would kickstart in Tonj, the hometown of our founder, James Thuch Madhier. Tonj is one of many regions in South Sudan that has been cut off by chronic conflict, lack of infrastructure and frequent droughts and flooding. After months of remote planning between Canada and South Sudan, we finally reached Tonj early this spring to continue planning face-to-face. Thanks to support from the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, there is cause for great excitement as our dream to restore hope through community-driven approaches in conflict-affected zones is finally becoming a reality.

We’re excited to share updates from South Sudan in preparation for our proof-of-concept project in Tonj.

Community Co-Design

The co-design process is key for understanding the challenges and barriers people are facing in a fast-changing environment. Co-designing interventions with our partner communities enables us to establish strong partnerships and ensure sustainability. We sat down with respected elders, community members and authorities to develop plans and address concerns. Ensuring people’s voices are broadly heard and respected is central to our project’s success.

What We Learned

Lack of access to safe and clean water is a major challenge crippling economic, social and environmental development across South Sudan. People are facing neglected or destroyed water infrastructure, with up to 80% of the country’s population currently lacking access to water, according to the government water authority. There is a lack of reliable water source in the communities surrounding our project site, with the dry seasons getting longer, causing failed harvests and clashes between communities over scarce resources. People must walk long distances to collect water from old pumps or open sources with worn containers. This task falls on women and youth, leaving them vulnerable to attacks and keeping children - especially girls - out of school. Lack of water is driving poverty, health challenges, and food insecurity in our communities.

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For pastoralists who depend on access to water and grazing pastures for their cattle, this photo presents a grim picture of the hardships people face to keep their livestock nourished. This year, families lost hundreds of livestock to starvation and dehydration from the extreme dry conditions. Pastoralists are forced to move further and communities are increasingly pitted against each other over the limited water sources, causing forced migrations and further loss of property.

Traditional mechanisms have historically contained and managed these clashes, but dwindling water resources combined with the broader conflict are straining these solutions. Pastoralism provides the main source of income and food for the majority of the country’s population, with over 70 percent of people participating in the pastoral economy. Secure and inter-communally managed resources are key for South Sudan’s lasting peace and development.

Beyond Water and Sanitation: Solar-Powered Water Pumps for Regenerative Agriculture

The transformational potential of water hinges on infrastructure that can deliver not only for household consumption, but also for livelihood needs, including agriculture and livestock-raising. People shared with us the limitations of the handpumps that have long served rural Africa. We identified the need to install a solar-powered water pump between the two constituencies of Alorweng and Angol in Thiet County, Tonj State. This will feed two water kiosks with tap systems, delivering water to each community through an inter-communally managed distribution system. The water source will also be connected to a water-efficient drip irrigated farm, where we will train and employ the local population on sustainable farming techniques. We aim to provide economic empowerment for women and youth while producing year-round crops, beginning with the groundnut crop, to improve food security and nutrition levels. Our farming approach involves intercropping fruit-bearing trees on the farmland to contain encroaching desertification.

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Land Acquisition and Registration

Our pilot site sits on over 40 acres of fertile and secure land. We settled on the location based on fertility of the land, sufficient groundwater resources, security and steady community relations, and the location of greatest need. Luckily South Sudan is blessed with ample fertile land. Recognizing the importance of sustainable use of South Sudan’s ample fertile land and agriculture for the country’s recovery and development, local and regional authorities were receptive to our proposal. Broad-based negotiations, including traditional and non-traditional authorities and community members, were aimed at ensuring the project will be a source of cooperation from the beginning and that our agreement remains secure for the communities the project serves. We are thrilled to have secured over 40 acres of land for our pilot.  

Stand With Tonj Today

We have concluded an agreement with the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, which will support key costs of the project. This puts us on track for the next step - deployment of the water infrastructure. We are proud of our collective progress and grateful for your incredible support to date - through time, hard work, and donations. The people of Tonj thank you for your continued support that will make a difference in the lives of the community for generations to come. Join us and help to ensure this project becomes a lasting source of peace, health and prosperity.

You can get involved by joining Rainmaker’s team in the 15th annual CAP Network bike-a-thon taking place on June 9th in High Park, Toronto. Ride with us on the day and collect pledges from your friends and family in support of your ride, or support one of our riders/make a donation to the team! All funds raised will support project activities in Tonj. Click the button below to sign up or support the team, Riding Beyond Relief for South Sudan.

This coming Fall, we will be hosting the Second Annual Water for Peace and we will be delighted to see you there. Stay tuned for details.

Thank you for being a part of this exciting journey. Thank you for being a Rainmaker.

Rainmaker Enterprise