USAID Extends Abyei Rehabilitation Initiative
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has extended funding for the IOM-USAID Abyei Rehabilitation Initiative through 2018. The programme is designed to mitigate the risk of conflict and promote recovery in Abyei Administrative Area, an oil-rich territory of more than 10,000 square kilometers contested by Sudan and South Sudan.
The programme began in January 2013 in response to unmet needs related to armed conflict, displacement and longstanding intercommunal tensions in the area. The first phase focused on reconstructing infrastructure in Abyei town, much of which was destroyed during an armed attack in May 2011.
While the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement mandated a referendum to determine Abyei’s permanent status, the vote has yet to be held due to disputes over who qualifies to vote and composition of the Abyei Referendum Commission.
Abyei’s disputed status has limited government resources for basic services. Rehabilitation Initiative infrastructure projects – such as rebuilding schools, health clinics and water points – provide a majority of public services in the area today.
In mid-2014, the programme shifted its focus toward reinvigorating economic activity in Abyei and improving access to livelihood and educational opportunities. With the support of partners, IOM and USAID conduct vocational and informal livelihood trainings, teach business skills and English literacy, and engage students in peacebuilding and conflict mitigation activities.
The trainings place a strong emphasis on supporting women and youth and represent the first educational opportunities for many of the students. As one female student explained, “I support five grandchildren in my house. Walking two hours to take this business class is nothing for me, because I need to learn these skills for them.”
To date, 670 people have completed the training courses. Most recently, 53 students graduated from five-week livelihood classes on food processing, baking, dairy production and basket weaving. At the end of the courses, the students formed business groups and received a business start-up kit. IOM and its partners will continue to provide daily mentorship to the groups over the next six months to ensure sustainable and successful businesses.
Many graduates of the courses now run thriving businesses in Abyei. One group established a wholesale trading company that has enabled them to save nearly 23,000 South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) – or approximately USD 1,500 – in just five months, using village savings and loans techniques learned in the business skills course.
Prior to this, these graduates had no access to savings. Their wholesale business is also supplying the local community with much-needed staples, such as flour and cooking oil, that were previously scarce in Abyei town.
Over the next two years, IOM and USAID will continue to focus on expanding livelihood opportunities, infrastructure projects and peacebuilding activities, as well as improving the agriculture and livestock sectors in Abyei.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Office of Migration (IOM).