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By Kenyi Yasin Abdallah Kenyi - 27 Dec 2023

Opinion | Cultivating Human Rights through Agriculture: A Comparative Analysis of South Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya

South Sudan gained its independence in 2011 and is home to a population of approximately 11.3 million people. South Sudan faces significant challenges, including a literacy rate of around 27%, an unemployment rate of 13%, and an inflation rate of 37.2%. The economy is heavily reliant on the oil industry, with the agricultural sector playing a vital role in providing food security, supporting livelihoods, and contributing to the country's economy. However, the agricultural sector faces challenges such as limited infrastructure, access to markets, and vulnerability to climate-related shocks, impacting productivity and food security and the government is reluctant to invest in Agriculture and increase national budget on agriculture. Additionally, South Sudan's economy is hindered by dependence on oil, economic instability, limited infrastructure, weak governance, and recurring humanitarian crises.

In the fertile landscapes of South Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya, agriculture not only sustains livelihoods but also weaves a narrative of human rights, reflecting the intrinsic connection between food security, economic prosperity, and fundamental freedoms. This opinion piece delves into the state of agriculture in South Sudan, exploring its intersection with human rights, while drawing comparisons with neighboring Uganda and Kenya.

South Sudan's Agricultural Landscape:

South Sudan, endowed with 95% arable land, stands as an agricultural powerhouse with immense potential. However, this potential encounter formidable challenges, including limited infrastructure, market access hurdles, and a mere 10% budget allocation to agriculture and only 4% of the arable land is used for subsistence farming. The consequence is a missed opportunity to harness the full spectrum of human rights embedded in the right to food, livelihood, and economic participation.

Human Rights Perspective:

1. Right to Food:

- South Sudan: South Sudan faces enduring challenges in realizing the right to food despite possessing extensive arable land. The persistence of food insecurity can be attributed to difficulties in agricultural productivity and distribution. Insufficient infrastructure and technological limitations hinder the adoption of modern farming practices, while distribution challenges impede the efficient flow of food from farms to consumers. As a result, a substantial portion of the population continues to grapple with inadequate access to a nutritious and sufficient food supply.

- Uganda and Kenya: Conversely, Uganda and Kenya have demonstrated commendable progress in safeguarding the right to food. Both nations have undertaken significant efforts to diversify their agricultural practices, leveraging technological advancements and establishing efficient supply chains. This approach has enhanced agricultural productivity, ensured a more varied and resilient food supply, and ultimately contributed to a more secure and accessible food situation for their populations.

2. Economic Participation:

- South Sudan: The right to economic participation faces considerable challenges in South Sudan, particularly for smallholder farmers. Limited infrastructure, encompassing transportation and market facilities, poses significant obstacles to economic activities. Furthermore, the lack of sufficient financial support exacerbates the difficulties faced by small-scale enterprises. These constraints collectively impede economic participation, limiting opportunities for growth and advancement for a considerable segment of the population.

- Uganda and Kenya: Uganda and Kenya stand out for their robust agricultural sectors, playing a pivotal role in economic development. The adoption of modern agricultural practices and technology has led to inclusive growth, creating substantial employment opportunities. The flourishing agricultural sectors contribute significantly to the overall economic vibrancy of these nations. This, in turn, fosters a more participatory economy, where individuals, including smallholder farmers, find avenues for economic advancement and sustainable livelihoods.

Comparative Analysis:

1. Investment in Agriculture:

- South Sudan (10%): The budget allocation for agriculture in South Sudan is notably low, constituting only 10% of the overall budget. This allocation falls short of the sector's considerable potential, limiting the resources available for crucial investments in infrastructure, technology, and capacity building. The insufficient financial commitment to agriculture hampers the sector's ability to fully contribute to economic development and food security.

- Uganda (15%) and Kenya (at least 3%): In contrast, both Uganda and Kenya have exhibited a stronger commitment to the agricultural sector through higher budget allocations. Uganda allocates 15% of its budget to agriculture, demonstrating a prioritization of the sector. Similarly, Kenya commits at least 3% of its budget to agriculture. These higher percentages reflect a recognition of the pivotal role agriculture plays in the overall economy and the countries' dedication to fostering growth and sustainability within the agricultural domain.

2. Agricultural Productivity:

- South Sudan: Despite possessing vast arable land, South Sudan faces challenges in agricultural productivity primarily due to inadequate infrastructure. The lack of essential facilities such as reliable irrigation, transportation networks, and storage systems limits the adoption of modern farming practices. As a result, the potential for higher yields and economic growth in the agricultural sector remains largely untapped.

- Uganda and Kenya: In contrast, Uganda and Kenya have made strategic investments in modern farming practices, leveraging technology and innovation. These initiatives have led to a notable increase in agricultural productivity, with farmers in these nations benefitting from improved methods, access to quality inputs, and enhanced knowledge. The positive outcomes contribute not only to increased yields but also to broader economic growth as the agricultural sector thrives.

3. Market Access:

- South Sudan: Limited market access poses a significant challenge to the realization of economic rights for farmers in South Sudan. Insufficient transportation infrastructure and weak market linkages impede farmers' ability to sell their produce at competitive prices. This hampers their economic participation and inhibits the overall growth of the agricultural sector.

- Uganda and Kenya: In Uganda and Kenya, concerted efforts to improve market linkages and implement favorable trade policies have facilitated enhanced market access for farmers. Strengthened transportation networks and streamlined trade practices contribute to a more conducive environment for farmers to sell their products, fostering economic participation and empowering them to benefit from the fruits of their labor.


The state of agriculture in South Sudan is a critical issue that must be addressed in the context of human rights. The country's heavy reliance on oil and the challenges faced by the agricultural sector has significant implications for the human rights of its population. When considering the state of agriculture in South Sudan, it is essential to compare and contrast the situation with neighboring countries such as Kenya and Uganda, which have different levels of arable land and agricultural development. In 2023, Kenya's agricultural sector contributed approximately 33 percent to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with a total export revenue of 18 billion dollars from agricultural products. Additionally, the import value of food commodities amounted to 3 billion dollars. The industry sector contributed approximately 17.66 percent to the GDP, while the services sector accounted for about 55.06 percent.

The Kenyan national government is spending approximately 8 billion dollars on agriculture because it is considered the backbone of the economy.

Uganda allocated approximately 800 million dollars to support its agricultural sector. Meanwhile, South Sudan is urged to foster a conducive environment for the agricultural industry by allocating at least 20% of its budget to agricultural development. This commitment is essential for promoting sustainable growth and food security within the country.

The areas in Western Equatoria state, such as Tombura, Yambio, and Maridi, as well as Kajo-Keji, Yei, Morobo, and Lainya in Central Equatoria state, serve as the food basket for Juba and the entire country. If the government invests in agriculture and prioritizes peace and the rule of law in the country, these regions have the potential to significantly contribute to food production and supply for the nation.

South Sudan's agricultural potential is significant, with 95% arable land, far surpassing the neighboring countries of Kenya and Uganda. However, despite this vast potential, South Sudan faces challenges in fully harnessing its agricultural resources to ensure food security, economic development, and the realization of human rights for its population. The limited infrastructure, access to markets, and vulnerability to climate-related shocks hinder the productivity and commercialization of agricultural products, impacting the livelihoods and well-being of the people.

In contrast, Kenya and Uganda, with 15% and 80% arable land respectively, have made significant strides in agricultural development, contributing to food security, economic growth, and the protection of human rights. The comparison highlights the potential for South Sudan to invest more in agriculture, as it has the advantage of a larger arable land area. By prioritizing agriculture and increasing the budget allocation for this sector, South Sudan can enhance food production, create employment opportunities, and improve the livelihoods of its citizens.

The state of agriculture in South Sudan is intrinsically linked to human rights, as it directly impacts the right to food, the right to work, and the right to an adequate standard of living. The challenges faced by the agricultural sector, including limited infrastructure, access to markets, and vulnerability to climate-related shocks, have implications for the realization of these fundamental human rights. Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive approach that prioritizes investment in agriculture, infrastructure development, and sustainable farming practices.

Furthermore, the heavy reliance on oil and the economic challenges faced by South Sudan underscores the need to diversify the economy, with agriculture playing a crucial role in this diversification. By investing more in agriculture, South Sudan can reduce its dependence on oil, promote economic stability, and create a more balanced and resilient economic structure. This, in turn, can contribute to the protection and fulfillment of human rights for the people of South Sudan.

In fostering human rights through agriculture, South Sudan stands at a crossroads. The nation's potential is undeniable, yet the challenges pose significant impediments to the realization of fundamental rights. Learning from the experiences of Uganda and Kenya, South Sudan can strategically enhance its agricultural landscape.


1. Budgetary Realignment: Increase the budget allocation to agriculture, aligning it with the sector's potential impact on food security, economic growth, and human rights.

2. Infrastructure Development: Prioritize infrastructure projects that facilitate efficient transportation, storage, and processing of agricultural products.

3. Market Facilitation: Implement policies that promote fair trade, reduce barriers, and enhance market access for farmers, ensuring economic participation aligns with human rights principles.

4. Technology Adoption:  Embrace modern farming practices and technological advancements to boost agricultural productivity, empowering farmers and safeguarding their economic rights.

As South Sudan treads the path towards agricultural prosperity, it must recognize the inextricable link between a thriving agricultural sector and the realization of human rights. Through strategic investments, policy reforms, and learning from regional counterparts, South Sudan can cultivate not only crops but a landscape where human rights flourish amid the golden fields.

The writer is Kenyi Yasin Abdallah Kenyi, a South Sudanese Human Rights Lawyer, and Human Rights Activist currently based in United States of America.

The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made is the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.