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He's raising hope in southern Sudan by boosting crop yields – and women's rights

As southern Sudan heads toward independence, Driuni Jakani works to promote peace, small farming, and the rights of women.

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Driuni Jakani aims to transform his rural community in southern Sudan from postwar devastation to economic growth and prosperity.

He's already made a promising start.

In January, southern Sudanese voted in a referendum in favor of becoming an independent nation.

People like Mr. Jakani will be vital to the success of Africa's newest country. "Right now, because of the war years, there are a lot of international organizations here," Jakani says. "But over time, they will move out. And so we need to be ready to serve our own communities ourselves."

Jakani was born in a remote village in Western Equatoria State, in southern Sudan. In 1983, when he was 9 years old, war resumed between the government in the predominantly Muslim north of Sudan and rebels in the mainly Christian and animist south. The war, which continued until 2005, devastated the south and resulted in the deaths of 2 million civilians.

Jakani joined the southern rebels after being forced to witness the rape of one of his sisters by a Sudanese government soldier. "After that I figured you must have a gun to protect your family from others who have a gun," he says.

But he never liked being in the military. So when negotiations to end the civil war began to show promise, he left the army and went to study in neighboring Uganda.

When peace finally came, he returned to southern Sudan to work for one of the many international organizations coming in to support postwar reconstruction.

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