South Sudanese farmer with disability expands his crops to pursue his art dreams

23 January 2024
ITC News

As a boy, Joseph Laku Michael was shot in the leg during his nation’s civil war. He needs a crutch to walk, but hasn’t let that stop him from expanding his farm and supporting his younger siblings thanks to agricultural training and tools provided by the International Trade Centre (ITC).

At 32 years old, Michael has needed the crutch for as long as he can remember. His father was killed during the war, and his mother died when he was 10. Since that early age, he took on the responsibility of being the primary breadwinner as the eldest child and worked to support his sister and two brothers in Rajaf Payam, in Juba County in South Sudan.

He initially found odd jobs, carrying goods as a porter. His talent for art helped, as he would sell his pieces for extra cash. But he knew he needed to farm to feed his family and earn enough money. His wounded leg made physical work hard, but he still resorted to farming to support his family while studying art at the Juba Technical School.

Initially, Michael faced immense difficulties as he was able to cultivate on a very small piece of farmland. However, later on, the ITC South Sudan Jobs Creation and Trade Development Project gave Michael the requisite training and tools to expand his farmland to a much larger area. He started selling his produce at the trade fairs run by ITC. Those sales earned enough for him to buy a generator to help in irrigating his field which further improved his farm’s productivity. He is now able to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables such as okra, eggplant, cucumber, lemon, Sukuma greens, and pawpaw.

‘I am grateful for the support provided to us farmers through these training sessions which have provided me with the necessary skill and knowledge to improve my agricultural practices. Moreover, I am also able to successfully connect with potential buyers in the marketplace through monthly trade fairs, which gives me a steady source of income, allowing me to pay my school fees and eat healthy food,’ he said.

He’s earning enough to keep supporting his siblings and their children.

Despite living with a physical disability all his life, Michael continues to remain brave in the face of adversity and believes that anyone can find a solution to any challenge life throws at them, and make a difference in society.


About the Project

The International Trade Centre’s South Sudan Jobs Creation and Trade Development project aims to increase the competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and employment opportunities for the South Sudanese population engaged in the fruit and vegetable subsector.

The European Union-funded project contributes to addressing the value addition, competitiveness, job creation and trade development challenges of South Sudan. Specifically, the interventions of the project are expected to improve productive capacities and compliance to standards for MSMEs, increase market linkages for MSMEs and enhance employability and entrepreneurship capacity for the South Sudanese labour force, focussing on youth and women.