Hunger can be an everyday occurrence in Akot, South Sudan, especially for orphans, widows and the very poor. During the very long, hot dry season almost everyone is affected by hunger. There are many reasons for this terrible situation. South Sudan is the world’s newest nation, but it is also felt to be the nation at most risk of failing. After decades of destructive civil war and the death of over two million people South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011. Finally, the people of South Sudan would have the opportunity to govern themselves. Their dreams of a prosperous, free nation rapidly faded when the country soon returned to civil war, this time pitting the two dominant tribes of South Sudan against each other. The atrocities of war knew no boundaries. Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese fled to neighboring countries and to safe havens within their own country. The rebel forces soon captured the oil fields that provided most of the government’s funding. What meager resources were available went to fund the war effort.
Even in the best of times South Sudan raises only about 60% of the food its people need. Most of the people of South Sudan are subsistence farmers and herdsmen who raise only enough food to feed their families until next year’s crop is ready. The harsh and unpredictable climate, the lack of mechanized farming, the absence of infrastructure within the country and the ever-present danger of violence in this lawless nation contribute to the ongoing food crisis.
The primary goal of Living Water Community Transformation, Inc. is to minister to the spiritual needs of the community of Akot and the surrounding villages. Yet, we also felt called to minister in a holistic way to help the community lift itself out of its desperate situation. With that goal in mind five community development ministries were started – pastors training and church planting, primary Christian education, women’s ministry, commerce ministry and agricultural ministry.
The agricultural ministry’s goal is to teach the people of Akot how to farm more effectively to produce more food for their families so that starvation is avoided and so that individuals can reach their full potential. The ministry was given 12 acres of land by one of the village elders. This plot of land was cleared, fenced (to protect the crops from animals) and planted in traditional crops of sorghum, beans, peanuts and okra. This food will help feed the nearly 700 school children a nutritious lunch every school day. We are in the midst of installing a solar powered irrigation system that will allow us to raise food during the dry season. We are also teaching students how to raise food in a more effective and environmentally friendly way though an agricultural curriculum for students in school levels 5-8. Teaching hands-on gardening skills will be a part of their education. We will also be teaching members of the community how to use simple drip irrigation systems to raise food in their home gardens during the annual dry season. One of our future goals is to teach the people how to store food so that there is less loss of food from insects and moisture.
The overarching goal for all our ministries is to introduce the people to the one and only true God who loves them with an unfailing love. Just as Christ ministered to the physical needs of people by feeding the hungry we strive to be Christ’s representatives here on earth and reflect His love by following His example.
Written by Raymond Lyrene, MD.