The Rains

July 2, 2014

Our field project managers share the difficulties and the blessings that an early rain season in South Sudan brought

July 2, 2014

With our field project managers back from South Sudan, we’re getting to hear all the stories from this particular season of work first-hand. Jenna and Sandy, our project managers, know a thing or two about rolling with changes – when your life is development work (particularly in a more volatile region like South Sudan), no two days or seasons ever look alike.

One unique aspect of this season that somehow simultaneously complicated and benefited work were the early rains.

While many of us are used to gradual transitions in and out of seasons, South Sudan only has two very distinct and very extreme seasons: rainy and dry. During the dry season, it’s extraordinarily arid: the earth is lined with cracks, water wells dry up and communities are limited to the shade of trees as the mid-day sun becomes too unbearable. On the other hand, the rainy season is often ripe with floods, overflowing roads and all in all, relative immobility as the earth becomes battered with raindrops.

“In Lakes State, there are no paved roads, only dirt. The roads are not great to begin with, but once you add rain into the mix they get very loose and slippery,” Jenna told us. “You can’t get very far on a motorcycle even on the main roads once its been raining. With trucks, you can no longer go into the bush. It causes a real problem for infrastructure projects like borehole drilling, and for getting supplies in.”

It becomes extremely difficult for drill rigs to go into the ground once the rain begins – if the whole rig becomes stuck, the drillers may never be able to retrieve it. Jenna and Sandy also had to work extremely hard to get to our Livestock Watering Stations – as Jenna describes it, a thunderstorm struck while they were in the bush on the way there. A journey that ordinarily took an hour and a half became a three hour trek through muddy terrain, completely unsheltered from the elements on their motorbikes.

Fortunately, there is a silver lining.

The rains happen to coincide with planting season, and without the rain, the communities we help would not have the same success in growing staple grains such as sorghum and corn. These grains are the foundation of their diet and so while some of our work was a bit more difficult to complete this season, the rain was a blessing for the many communities that have developed agricultural initiatives in their villages.