South Sudan, 1 September 2015 – Seeking to boost relations with the local community, UNMISS has been assisting a Central Equatoria village with farming, carpentry, basketball and kindergarten.
As part of the Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) project, the mission has cleared 1.8 square metres of land for farming in Rajaf village, 15 kilometres south of Juba.
The land was first cleared by the UN Mine Action Service of any potential mines and unexploded ordinance before the Bangladeshi Engineers began preparing it for cultivation on 28 August.
“We are conducting here a farming project with four (military) units (Chinese, Ethiopians, Nepalese and Rwandese),” said Ethiopian Deputy Commander Colonel Murie Legese.
“They are cultivating agriculture to provide for the community,” Col. Legese said. “The farming land will be handed over to the community in Rajaf after a period of two years.”
In addition to the farming project, the Chinese Battalion built a basketball court for Rajaf primary school, which was handed over on 28 August. To help the community repair chairs and tables in the school, the Ethiopian Battalion held a carpenter workshop on the same day.
The Nepalese Battalion conducted a health awareness class on 29 August and donated medical first aid items.
To familiarize the more than 40 children with the presence of UN peacekeepers and stress the importance of education for sustainable peace, the UNMISS Female Peacekeepers Association held a drawing competition at the local kindergarten.
The Association comprises women from the Chinese, Nepalese, Rwandese and Ethiopian battalions who reach out to local communities and engage them in various activities.
Association representative Major Philis Nadio said the women had also interacted with the children’s parents and caregivers. “This is a place where both parents and grandparents are empowered and happy to see their children enjoy and prosper. I am glad to have contributed to that.”
Acting Head Teacher Lina Loro said existing pre-school facilities were in poor physical condition and lacked programmes adapted for children of different backgrounds. “It is unacceptable that many children in Rajaf are not included in any kind of early pre-school programme.”
All Saints Parish kindergarten can accommodate 59 children, aged 3 to 5 years. The students are mainly from low-income families in the local community. The kindergarten is housed in two classrooms within Rajaf Parish Church.
Father Peter Nafuoni of Rajaf community appreciated the efforts and opportunities peacekeepers were providing to people in Rajaf. “We are happy with the efforts and chances provided to us by UNMISS,” he said.