Fish bring new hope to conflict-affected South Sudanese
Morning trading is underway at the recently built fish market on the banks of the White Nile in the town of Bor and business is picking up. Women sellers stand in a corrugated-iron roofed area behind neatly stacked piles of tilapia and Nile perch lined up on white-tiled concrete benches. It may be rudimentary and small scale, but this UN-funded project is making a huge difference to some 20 traders who regularly sell fish here.
“Before the market was built I had to sell fish on the open ground with no shade,” said mother of two Adior Garang. “It was unhygienic and my fish perished quickly. I am also healthier as I do not have to sit in the sun all day.”
And she is making more money. Since the market opened in May last year, Adior Garang has regularly been earning up to 500 South Sudanese pounds (US$3.50) a day, compared to 150 pounds before the structure was built.
Bor has become one of the most important centres for fish trading in the region. Dozens of small tributaries which feed into the Nile River provide abundant supplies of perch and tilapia, in particular, which are brought into Bor in canoes by fishermen and then sold onto the women traders. The women’s profit is around 30 pounds (US$0.20) a fish.
So plentiful are the stocks, that a large proportion is transported by river for sale in the capital Juba, while other fish are dried and preserved in the sun for later consumption.
In Bor, it is not just the sellers who are happy with the new facilities; buyers are equally enthusiastic. Nyanduk Biar has visited the market to buy tilapia. “I am more confident about buying this fish because I know it is fresher than before and so I do not get sick from fish that has gone bad. This now feels like a proper market and everyone gets on.”
Increased violence on the main feeder roads to Bor has meant that the availability of food has worsened and prices have sky-rocketed. Ongoing communal fighting and pervasive insecurity has disrupted trade and further damaged the economy. The availability of fresh fish is helping to make up for the lack of other basic commodities.
The facility cost US$50,000 to build, funds provided as part of a quick impact project or QIP by the UN Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS. The Head of Field Office for Bor, Deborah Schein, said small projects can have large impacts.
“The fish market has brought people together from different communities to buy and sell. This contact helps build trust between communities and trust will lead to increased confidence, promote small businesses, better relationships between communities and ultimately contribute to the development of this region of South Sudan.
“We can see what a big difference a relatively modest investment can make,” she added.