Whilst travelling on the dust roads of Eastern Equatoria State and discussing water issues with many people, there are also observations that relate more to a bigger picture than to the actual task at hand. Getting information from local newspapers and the BBC and Al Jazeera channels also helps. Here you will read some parts of this bigger picture I observed.
- The relation between South Sudan and Sudan remains tense. Anyone who wants to understand this more can get the same information that I saw through BBC, Al Jazeera and newspapers. The main issue is the access to oil and its quickly earned massive revenues. What strikes me is that the world is closely watching the situation in Syria, whilst attention for the tensions here is limited. I am just hoping that peace will prevail and solutions will be found by wise leaders from both countries.
- A lot of activity and development is taking place in Juba city. Furthermore, rural people are restocking their cattle herds. The quick development attracts all kind of people from many countries, including Ugandans, Kenyans, Eritreans, Ethiopians, Rwandeans and people from other nations working in Juba. Secondly, most NGOs and UN agencies are present in Juba. Lots of constructions are going on. It’s nice to be in a city where so much is happening, but is it not going too fast? The city is growing with the speed of a pioneer tree species, but pioneer species tend not to last long. Can the city services keep up? It seems the garbage disposal system can’t, with piles of litter (a lot plastic) in the city.
- Deforestation: South Sudan has a few places where indigenous forest is still present, e.g. in the Imatong Mountains. These areas are also rich in biodiversity and have a potential for tourism. But teak plantations, slash-and-burn agriculture and charcoal production all form a risk to these regions. Charcoal is still the main source of energy for the vast majority of South Sudanese. Alternative energy sources deserve more attention. Environmental awareness about the value of forests, e.g. in terms of water retention and other ecological services, is low but important. Most deforestation here is a result of slash-and-burn agriculture and even trees on rather steep mountain slopes are not safe. There is more value to trees than burning and cutting them. Experimenting with other farming techniques and more attention on agro-forestry would be good.
- Different cultures: South Sudan is composed of many different people and tribes. Furthermore, many Southern Sudanese have lived for years in East Africa fleeing the war; others returned from Sudan; others from even further away from US or Europe; and some remained in country during the war. So, many people, all South Sudanese, but with quite a mixture of lifestyles and cultures. It will certainly take time to blend this variety into a national identity.
Enough for now. There are of course many additional observations. I might possibly write about those later. My colleague and myself will return to Holland tomorrow.