In South Sudan, a large water and development project led by NIRAS advisors has achieved remarkable results and great acknowledgement despite being interrupted by civil war. One of the main reasons for this success has been a sense of local ownership and close dialogue with the involved communities.
Clean water for 330,000 people and 20,000 farmers with improved capacity for cultivating crops and vegetables and for breeding cattle. Income generating activities and small saving and loan associations for women. Increased food security and living standard for families in the region.
Furthermore, 20,000 persons have learned to adapt to climate change by collecting and storing rain water for periods with drought, and 60,000 have access to improved sanitation.
These are just some of the results of the recently concluded water and development project Water for Eastern Equatoria in South Sudan. The project was led by NIRAS and was funded by the Dutch embassy in the country.
Emidio Regol is one the farmers who have benefited from the Water for Eastern Equatoria project.
However, success seemed far from certain, and the odds appeared nearly impossible when the Water for Eastern Equatoria project was launched in November 2013. Just a few weeks after the project commenced, civil war broke out in South Sudan. Likewise, in 2016 the project was interrupted by armed unrest.
In both cases, NIRAS had to withdraw its advisors from the country for several months. The conflicts resulted in even more difficulties in accessing water, health care and food for the local population.
Nevertheless, NIRAS’ team leader Ole Stokholm Jepsen and his team managed to turn the adversities into and an advantage in cooperation with local participants. In agreement with the Dutch Embassy, NIRAS chose to adjust the project so it became more flexible and involved the local citizens to an even greater degree, in order to adapt to the new circumstances.
Ole Stokholm Jepsen points out that South Sudan is still a fragile state, but thanks to the project, people believe that they can improve their living conditions and food security, and develop their own resources through income generating activities.
“This project has managed to focus on how to adapt to climate change and how to involve the youth in creating small commercial companies and other income generating activities. In this manner, the project contributes to the creation of a sustainable and resilient society, as well as preventing migration of young people,” he explains.
Water for Eastern Equatoria has received praise from the South Sudanese authorities. The Governor and the Deputy Governor of the Torit State have both stated that when it comes to self-reliance they have not previously experienced the same degree of changes.
Consequently using the project and NIRAS’ methods has been discussed as inspiration for other development projects in South Sudan.
Emelda Jokudu with her 6-month-old son, Niras Ihiteng, who was named after NIRAS.
The success of the project has also had some unforeseen results. Two South Sudanese mothers have thus decided to name their newborn babies after NIRAS as a gesture of gratitude due to the project’s positive impact on their lives. One of them is Emelda Jokudu, mother six month old Niras Ihiteng.
“When the project started we did not have any income. The children were often sent home from school because we couldn’t pay the fees. We never had enough money for medicine and even buying food in the market was difficult. But after the training on poultry keeping, I got eleven birds. I sold a few chickens and most of the eggs in the market and allowed some to hatch. The situation at home quickly improved and continues to do so. Today, I sold three chickens,” says Emelda Jokudu.
Ole Stokholm Jepsen felt flattered when he heard the story about baby Niras, but he thinks there is a much more important aspect:
“It is encouraging that NIRAS is being recognized for our work in this way. But the real recognition should go to all the South Sudanese citizens who shared the responsibility and took ownership of the project that was carried under our guidance. It is above all their merit that this project has been so successful.”