Aid group grows garden for locals in South Sudan

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Aid group grows garden for locals in South Sudan

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The first crop of plants, including Korean bell peppers, left, ripen in Tonj. On the right, a 40-year-old resident of the village of Tonj in South Sudan, Daniel, holds a watermelon grown from Korean seeds planted by Korean volunteer organization Himango last October. Provided by Himango

Against the odds, the village of Tonj, in northwestern South Sudan, last month successfully saw its first crops of Korean cucumbers, bell peppers and watermelon seeds bear fruit.

A 45-year-old woman of the village Nandeng stared in wonder at the watermelon growing on the vines on the 33,000-square-meter (eight-acre) plot of land that was provided by the South Sudanese government to the village to expand agriculture cultivation.

Last October, volunteers under Himango, a nonprofit organization under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade dedicated to improving the quality of lives in South Sudan, planted vegetables such as peppers and squash in Tonj.

The village is well-known through the 2010 Korean documentary “Don’t Cry for Me Sudan,” also known as “Don’t Cry Tonj,” which depicts a Korean Catholic priest, the late Lee Tae-suk, dedicating his life to Tonj.

Himango grew under the vision of 61-year-old Lee Kwang-hee, a Korean fashion designer who has visited South Sudan. Since 2011, the organization has planted over 30,000 mango trees in the country. The plan was to increase the livelihood of the villagers.

“It takes five to six years for mango trees to bear fruit,” Lee said. “For the residents to feel the joy of harvest, we sprinkled the Korean seeds, then covered and watered the garden, and the results were unexpectedly successful.”

The first crops to ripen were the cucumbers last month, in just two months after planting. They are currently the length of a hand, and Lee received a picture of them from the village through an e-mail. She forwarded the pictures to the governor of Warrap State, Nyandeng Malek Deliech.

“This is a priceless gift for some of the hungriest people in the world,” the Warrap governor responded. “I am greatly pleased and grateful.”

Park Dong-geun, researcher at the National Institute of Horticultural and Herbal Science, said, “This is the first time I have heard of Korean watermelons growing in an equatorial zone. Increasing cultivation of these crops will be of help to the residents who are lacking in vegetables.”

The organization’s next project, “Himango Village,” plans to build educational, cultural and day care centers in Tonj.


By Kang Hong-jun, Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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