• John

One Year in South Sudan, and a bit of Uganda

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

I left for Juba in August 2019 to work as a logistician for Médecins Sans Frontières in their South Sudan mission. It was a fantastic year - always busy, sometimes stressful, working with wonderful and motivated people in the capital Juba and in the projects in the north of the country and in the logistics base in Kenya. I simply didn't have the time to look after the website - I was too engaged in my work to want to spend my evenings dealing with sales and stock control, and anyway I was learning how to bake sourdough which took up my weekends... So I shut the site down until I got back last week. A bit of admin, a few new displays uploaded, and now it's up and running again (but I'm hoping to go on another mission before the end of the year, so I will have to see whether I can find a way of keeping things running while I'm away).

Most of the photos that I have put on Instagram are from South Sudan, but there are a few of my farm in Uganda as well. You may wonder what butterflies have to do with either farming or logistics. Well, they are an enjoyable means to an end! I make the displays because they satisfy some of my curiosity and because I enjoy making the highest-quality displays that can be found in Britain (I'd like to think anywhere); and the profits go to keeping my farm ticking over. Without this little boost the farm would have had to be closed down ages ago. It's rather a vanity project, as it doesn't make any money, but it's so enjoyable to see it develop and to work with my team and produce eggs from happy hens, passion fruit (fertilised by the waste from the hens), and mushrooms which we grow on waste we buy from cotton ginneries, that I don't want to do anything but keep it going.

I'm planning on spending a couple of months in Uganda at some point after October 2020 where I will sort out my little farm. I haven't been able to visit it since March, when I went for a two-week visit that turned out to be a two-day one, as I had to leave Uganda urgently in order to get back to Juba before all the airports closed. I get the daily report from the farm, sent by Julius, my excellent farm manager, as well as photos every now and then, but you really have to be on the ground to make things work the way you want. It's beautiful there, and besides, that's where my dog lives, so I have to get back sooner rather than later.

Some photos from South Sudan - I will put up some photos of the farm in another post.

A photo of the airstrip in Lankien, taken by the logistician who decides whether it is landable. At one point people were catching catfish there. No flights today.

So we took the WFP helicopter. You can see how deep the rear wheels have sunk into the airstrip. Note the pre-covid greetings.

The aftermath of the flooding near Lankien, Nyirol County, South Sudan. The tukul on the left has collapsed as floodwaters have washed away the mud walls holding the roof up.

Walking back to the project base through the floods. The water was full of little fish, and kingfishers (mostly woodland kingfishers, but also some malachite kingfishers too) would dart out of the trees every now and then.

Football in Wechakweng - Yongjang with the ball.

A view from my tent: full moon, with children singing and clapping until late at night.

Flying in to Leer, Unity State. The airstrip is the open patch in the distance above the pilot's head.

More floods! But this time expected ones. This is Game and me in the swamp between Thonyor and Touchria, near Leer, which fills as the Nile rises in the rainy season. The first time I went there it was completely dry and we could take the land cruisers across. The next week the water had risen to our knees, and I have been told that a week or two after that it will be neck-high. It is an amazing peat-brown colour, obviously very rich.

Stuck in the mud, again. The boys were having a great time after the heavy rain as they had made a slide down a small hillock and were diving down it. They all ran over when they saw the car get bogged.

... and getting out of the mud

Crested cranes near Rubnor. Although these are the national bird of Uganda, they are far more plentiful in South Sudan. The most I have ever seen together at one time in Uganda was three; in Leer I saw over sixty at once. They make a terrific honking noise.

Crested cranes near Pilleny, on the way to Thonyor. The outreach nurse told me that he was pleased to see all these flowers, because they indicate that people have enough to eat - when they don't, they dig up the roots of these lilies.

Thak and Jal (amazing drivers) playing mancala. I wish I understood how this game works.

Bunaeopsis hersilii? Found in Bentiu Town, Unity State.

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