Over the past few years Ibrahim Hamid Mohamedain, a farmer from Magdoub A in North Darfur, has been selectively breeding his millet crop, the region’s foremost staple grain. Like farmers across the region, Ibrahim has struggled with increasingly low yields of millet year on year. Whereas twenty years ago one mukhamas (equivalent of 1.25 acres) used to produce 6-8 sacks of millet, it now rarely produces more than half a sack. The reasons for the falling fertility of the sandy soils on which the crop is grown are many, chief among them is widespread deforestation across the region.
Ibrahim realised that one of the (albeit lesser) causes of this deforestation was the practice of local farmers cutting down trees on their farm land, and uprooting tree seedlings, as a preventative measure to reduce the number of birds, seen as one of the main pests of the millet crop.
As an environmentally conscious farmer, he sought a biological and natural form of bird control. One day, his wife Aisha Adam observed that a few of the millet plants grown by her sister were covered in small hairs and were thus resistant to birds and grasshoppers. He took some of these seeds back to his farm, so beginning his three-year endeavor to selectively breed a bird-resistant millet variety which would also have high tolerance to drought (essential in an arid area increasingly prone to rain shortages) and a high yield.
In this attempt, he drew on his experience accumulated as a Practical Action trained agricultural extension agent (from 2004). In 2005 he participated in an exchange visit to neighbouring North Kordofan state with the State Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Research Corporation, where he was taught how to select and propagate seeds. More recently, he participated in a refreshment training course in agricultural production techniques for village extension agents, organised as part of the Wadi El-Ku catchment management project for peace and livelihoods.
Close-up of Abu Suf (hairy) millet
In the 2014 agricultural season he tied a strip of cloth around the first millet stalk to flower, considering this as an early maturing variety and resistant to drought. He also observed that as it grew, the millet head was the biggest, a sign of high production. Most importantly, he also he observed that the same millet head was covered in long hairs which made it difficult for the birds to eat. He observed a second millet variety with a compacted seed head with large seeds that made it hard for locusts and bird to dislodge and eat.
He selected these millet heads and stored them as seeds for the coming year. This second crop was harvested in October/November 2015 with stunning results. Despite being one of the worst rainy seasons in many years, he produced a surplus of millet beyond his annual household’s needs, the only farmer Magdoub A to do so in 2015. The crop was virtually untouched by birds.
Scaling up use of new millet variety
Ibrahim invited Practical Action to attend the harvest, with the aim of seeking support to scale-up the propagation of this new millet variety. Practical Action, accompanied by a team from the State Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC), visited the farm to assess the seeds and to discuss with Ibrahim how his millet variety could best be expanded to the benefit of other farmers in the state.
This scale-up began with Ibrahim training 250 other farmers in Magdoub, and from neighbouring satellite villages, in identifying, selecting and breeding seeds. The next step in the scale-up plan is still being discussed but the provisional plan entails distributing the seeds to 50 farmers in the state who will then grown the seeds; keeping half the crop and passing the other half on to a further 50 farmers. Practical Action also hopes to use these seeds to encourage farmers to adopt agro-forestry. As they no longer need to fear birds damaging their crops, planting Acacia trees on their sandy soils after 4 or 5 years will significantly improve soil fertility. At this point they can also benefit from the trees as Arabic gum gardens supplying reliable source of additional income, through the sale of gum Arabic.
Aisha Adam harvesting her Abu Suf millet
While this variety of millet is not new to Sudan as a whole, with other pioneer farmers developing similar locally propagated improved seeds in several states, his efforts show how with limited training and outside support, farmers can find locally appropriate solutions to their livelihood challenges.
This is in line with Practical Action’s vision of promoting local knowledge that contributes to improving the livelihoods of poor communities. By connecting farmers with governmental institutions such as MOA and ARC, we encourage sustainable development.No Comments » | Add your comment
The primary goal of the Wadi el Ku Catchment Management Forum Project is to demonstrate how the promotion of inclusive natural resource management (NRM) systems and practices can help rebuild inter-community relations, enhance local livelihoods and contribute to peace in North Darfur.
Practical Action and project partner the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have adopted a range of interventions targeting both local natural resource users and custodians, with the latter including technical support for government institutions responsible for natural resource management in North Darfur.
Activities to promote NRM at the local level include:
- Community participatory action plan development for all 34 village clusters in the project area;
- Training of local natural resource management extension agents to act as champions of natural resource management and pass on knowledge and techniques to their wider communities;
- Building water-harvesting structures designed to meet the needs of diverse water users upstream and downstream. (see my other blogs for more information)
UNEP and Practical Action decided to try a different approach to building consensus over natural resources in North Darfur through the creation of a three dimensional map with the participation of local communities and facilitated by a 3D mapping expert from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The project targets a 50km stretch of Wadi (seasonal rain-fed river bed) El Ku. However, to produce a three dimensional map of sufficient detail and topographical scale, the mapping exercise concentrated on only 25km of the project area, with the intention of later producing a second map of the rest.
This participatory process took a little over three weeks. Farmers, pastoralists, native administration, youth, and other community leaders from more than 10 villages took part in the map. Students from two local secondary schools were also enlisted help in the labor-intensive process of creating the papier-mâché base map.
Lively debates were held by community representatives as they discussed the location and types of different natural and man-made resources to be featured in the map, including migratory routes, gullies, clay soils, sandy soils, mountains, water points (e.g. boreholes, shallow wells, and hafirs), water-harvesting structures, crop growing areas and forests. All the while, they were cutting out, glueing, and painting these resources onto the map.
Throughout the mapping exercise, and as more and more layers and resources were added to the map, facilitators from UNEP and Practical Action asked communities what had surprised them about their resources in their area when looking not just at their own communities but the wider mapping area. Five observations were repeatedly heard.
- The almost total extent of deforestation in the area, whereas only 10 years ago significant areas of natural and government forests had existed.
- Many farmers came to realize that while pastoralists are mostly held responsible for crop damage that occurs when they seasonally migrate with their animals, it was evident that greater and greater areas of what used to be open land had been encroached by farmers seeking new cultivable land, making crop damage increasingly unavoidable.
- The extensive formation of deep gullies across what used to be a relatively flat wadi bed had lead to greater water concentration and the consequent reduction in arable land.
- The proliferation of unplanned earth embankments, designed to capture water as it flows down the wadi, played a critical role in the gully formation described above.
- Over reliance on millet growing in sandy soils has had a highly negative impact on soil fertility.
Through the process of creating this map, the community participants gradually reached consensus around the key natural resources in their areas. How far this consensus can be extended to their wider communities and government institutions is yet to be seen, but it is a good start and the map represents an effective physical tool for NRM planning and advocacy to that effect.
The 3-dimensional map, which measures approximately 4.5 meters by 2.5 meters, is on display at the Women’s Development Association Network where it is easily accessible to visitors from communities, NGOs, government staff.
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Not a history lesson but a reminder of the urgency of moving from talk to practical action.
In 1972 a group of scientists at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology – a highly respected US university) published a report ‘The last call’. In it they argued that the planets resources were finite and we were getting close to the limit. We could slow down, change course, find a new pattern to our existence slowly or continue as now eventually leading to catastrophic change.
Whichever way change was coming.
A few months ago I sat in the House of Commons and watched a film about the report and what followed. The Club of Rome published a book called ‘The Limits to Growth’ which sold 30 million copies. President Carter embraced the idea and talked to the American people about change. But President Reagan who followed revoked the idea, insisting growth was good, growth was essential to the American way of life.
Forty plus years on it was a history lesson. But in some ways the Carter – Reagan tension continues played out on a bigger, now global scale.
Change is happening.
For many poor communities catastrophic change is already happening with the increased frequency and strength of cyclones, more flooding, more drought. In Ethiopia they are facing the worst drought for 30 years. In Zimbabwe when I was there earlier this year I heard people talking about changes in rainfall patterns that were devastating harvests.
In the UK this weekend in the North of England and Scotland we’re experiencing severe flooding. And over the past decade in the UK we’ve seen record breaking rainfall (and our records go back to 1879). It’s impossible to link any individual severe weather event with climate change – but these increases in the severity of rain i.e. harder, more intense rainfall, tie in with the predicted impacts.
The reality is that poorest and therefore most vulnerable people – whether in the developing world or in the UK – feel the impact of climate change first and hardest . We need to take action.
The Time for Change is now.
The perceived tension between protecting our planet and economic growth continues to polarise the climate change debate. But if we grow in a way that destroys our ability to inhabit our planet – how does that make sense?
As world leaders gather in Paris for the UNFCCC meeting I read in the press that there’s optimism a deal can be agreed – not enough to keep warming below the vital limit of 2 degrees but a step in the right direction.
I also read that we may have hit a peak in emissions.
And that renewable energy is now outperforming fossil fuels.
Maybe change is starting?
But for change to happen it needs to move beyond political agreement
Agreement in Paris will be a first step in the right direction. But even if there is agreement the ‘devil will be in the detail.’ Fine words are relatively easy but implementation more difficult – and sometimes easy to ignore, or just too difficult to make happen.
So sadly to repeat the words of MIT 43 years ago – change is coming, it will happen, we can plan or we can have it forced upon us but the days of choice are getting shorter and the human stakes much higher.
I believe that if we care about poverty reduction, about people and our planet, we will make immediate, deep and binding change happen now. And plan so that what I hope will be the amazing rhetoric of the UNFCCC conference, the great agreement becomes experienced reality.
This next week is a time of opportunity – lets hope our world leaders step up and make change happen.
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This week heads of state, the Pope, the UN Secretary General and a range of dignitaries meet at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York. They are meeting to launch the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that set a vision for 2030 for human development and environmental sustainability. The SDGs range from commitments to end poverty in all its forms and reduce inequalities, through to more sustainable industrialisation and peace and justice. The 17 SDGs replace the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were agreed at the turn of the century as a vision for progress to 2015. The Guardian does a good summary of the SDGs as well as how they relate to the old MDGs.
There are reasons to be cynical about what goal setting of this nature can achieve. Firstly there is the track record of progress against the MDGs themselves, which is patchy. You can see a good summary by the UN of achievements as of 2104 here. In short, some good progress was made across Asia, Latin America and North Africa, but most of the MDGs were not met in Sub Saharan Africa.
More fundamentally there is the question raised by Duncan Green in his From Poverty to Power blog about how much goals of this nature actually influence behaviour of governments at a national level. As Duncan puts it do we really think that “Chinese decision makers leap out of bed every morning asking themselves ‘how can I achieve the MDGs’?”
And finally you have to wonder whether some of the metrics used to measure progress against the goals really say anything meaningful (or indeed whether the data can always be trusted – a criticism of some reporting against the MDGs).
Despite these reservations, I am a supporter of the SDGs for 3 reasons:
Firstly, standing out against the miasma of bad news and dire predictions for the future that forms our daily media diet, they provide an alternative and positive vision of a possible future. A view that was built at least in part on a very large global conversation around “the future we want”.
Secondly it’s a view around which action can be galvanised. Duncan may well be correct in saying national policy makers don’t jump out of bed thinking about the MDG’s, but that doesn’t mean they have had no influence. Access to clean water supplies was included as a specific outcome for MDG 7 for example and my sense over the past 15 years has been that that increased focus on what progress was being made, which in turn influenced allocations made for rural water supply infrastructure by donors and national governments. Progress on addressing access to water over the past 15 years has been relatively good, albeit there is still some way to go. In contrast, access to energy was not included in the MDGs and consequently much less scrutiny of progress was visible (until the recent UN sustainable energy for all initiative). As a result of the lack of interest in the sector there was a relative dearth of funding for the comparable decentralised community managed infrastructure needed to provide rural communities with electricity.
Thirdly, however imperfect they are, the MDGs and now the SDGs can provide a handle for civil society to hold both national governments and the international community to account. They are a statement of intent that can be held up as a mirror to reflect back how actions have measured up to rhetoric. They are a tool for us to use should we choose to.
There remain reasons aplenty to be cynical about the SDGs. But I still welcome them. In a cynical world they are a statement not just of hope but of intent. And as such they have the potential to reflect back to us all on the effectiveness of our efforts to find a just and sustainable future for everyone on the planet.No Comments » | Add your comment
I’m just back from Zimbabwe, in Gwanda I met people worried about how they will feed their family – the rains have failed or at best been poor – so the harvest is likely to be inadequate. Many people will spend months hungry and poorly nourished.
Yesterday was Food Revolution Day – and while I agree with Jamie Oliver that educating kids about the food they eat is vital, it wont end global hunger. With a rising global population, increased demand for meat and agricultural production hit by climate change how we all access adequate food must be part of a global debate. We may also need to change the way we think.
A couple of months ago now I read an article in the Guardian which argued that as we head for 9 million people on our planet we need to find a new approach to food. One of the ideas mooted alongside reducing waste and 3D printed food, was the widespread consumption of insects. My immediate reaction was ‘hurray for waste reduction’, distrust of printed foods (why distance ourselves even further from nature) and ‘yuk!’ to insects.
While I’ve been offered Mopane Worms in South Africa and a much recommended snack of fried Locusts in The Philippines, I’ve never been tempted – I don’t even like prawns. But maybe on reflection I’m just not open-minded enough in my choice of food.
- Insects are traditionally consumed by more than 2 billion people worldwide;
- There’s great diversity – about 2,000 species known to be edible;
- Environmentally there are significant benefits over eating meat (lower emissions of greenhouse gases, low requirement for land and water etc.);
- There is a huge opportunity for insects as animal and poultry feed (In the EU this is currently hindered by legislation);
- They are good for you – termites for example are particularly rich in oleic acids, the same type of fat found in olive oil
- The ‘Yuk’ factor is possible to overcome – think of worms’ lava in Tequila and Beer.
Turns out Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN, is a big fan! “When you consider the imprint of cattle and other stock on the environment you are better off with insects. Insects have a very good conversion rate from feed to meat. There is no way that we can sustain conventional livestock production environmentally if we want to meet the needs of the growing human population”.
Rather than encouraging the unsustainable growth of a Western type diet shouldnt we be looking at more traditional foods? If 2 billion people around the world eat insects – and appear to like them – they are good for our planet, and can be good for us – Surely the question is why wouldnt we try them?
So if you have a taste for insects I recommend ‘The Insect Cookbook – Food for a Sustainable Planet’ published by Columbia. Great recipes including Bitterbug Bites, Bugitos and Buffalo Worm Chocolate Cupcakes.
I don’t think I’m ready for a cricket lollipop yet but if the rather indistinct protein in say my occasional ready meal was made of insect – maybe I wouldn’t mind (or more likely I wouldn’t think about it). Good for people and the environment – what is there to dislike?
Insects could be the food of the future.
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A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work – Colin Powell
Visiting some of the communities that Practical Action work with has inspired me to reflect on Live Below the Line, so here are my musings. A reflection of Live Below the Line and Practical Action’s work in Mutare, Zimbabwe.
This week thousands of people across the UK have risen to the challenge and are taking on Live Below the Line, an anti-poverty campaign challenging participants to have a strict budget of just £5 for 5 days. I was apprehensive when I took on the challenge a few weeks ago, and it certainly lived up to the billing. It is a true challenge, but I didn’t find it difficult in the ways that I thought I would.
I thought I would struggle eating plain, boring food for 5 days and I knew that a lack of caffeine would have an effect. But the thing I found most difficult was how much time it took to prepare food throughout the week. Each evening, we would prepare dinner and then breakfast and lunch for the following day, spending a couple of hours in the kitchen, creating a meal from basic ingredients. This was made more difficult as our energy levels were running low at that time of day. The food we made was actually pretty good and I ate 39p pizzas for most of the week. For me, being so used to a convenient lifestyle is what makes Live Below the Line so challenging.
Yesterday, I had a fantastic day but learned that actually, during my Live Below the Line week, my life was still quite convenient.
I was walking in the hills around Mutare, Zimbabwe as we visited a micro-hydro scheme that is being installed to bring power to a community.
The beauty of the project is that it is community led and we saw the entire community getting involved, from a group women singing whilst they dug sand out of the river bed to a group of men who were building a business centre that will be powered by the micro-hydro system. This is hard work… really hard, but they are excited about how they are shaping their community and their future.
Later that day, I realised that not only are these people working so hard to transform their community, but they also have a very different definition of hard work. They are doing manual labour to develop their community, but this is on top of the fact that they grow their own food and process their crop. Walking in the hills above the village (viewing the source of the micro-hydro system) we met someone walking the other way. I was breathing hard after the climb and the lady walking in the other direction was carrying a large bag of maize on an 8km walk across difficult terrain to the mill to have it processed into flour.
When I did Live Below the Line, I found it hard work and lots of effort, yet the ingredients were bought from a supermarket less than a mile from my home, and if that was too much effort I could have had them delivered to my door.
What really struck me about my day in Mutare, is that this is not a community of people who are waiting for a fairy godmother to make their dreams come true. This is a community that are excited to put in the sweat, determination and hard work hard needed to transform their community and shape their future, to lift themselves out of poverty, for good.No Comments » | Add your comment
Our world leaders are working towards action on climate change – not a grand top down plan but a bottom up approach whereby all countries will set out their intended national contributions on the basis of what’s fair and equitable. The contributions are then pulled together to form the agreement. The intention is that this treaty will be agreed and signed at a meeting in Paris at the end of 2015.
Should we be worried about this? I think so – let me explain why
1. My action’s bigger than your action!
Have you noticed that governments have a tendency to talk up commitments but somehow when it comes to delivery everything is smaller or somehow more difficult? One current example –where there has been confusion at least over funding – is the Green Climate Fund. It’s a UNFCCC flagship programme intended by 2020 to provide by $100 billion a year to assist developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. It started operations this year after three years of planning but so far has been mired in debate about the level of finance to be provided by governments and what can be provided by the private sector. Currently only a fraction of this sum has been pledged so far, mostly to cover start-up costs’ according to Climate Finance and Markets
Today 49 less developed countries (LDCs) are calling for the process towards the Paris meeting to be speeded up. They worry that looking at all the commitments as a whole it just won’t be enough to deliver a maximum 2 degree average temperature rise, protect vulnerable countries like Bangladesh and/or that the timetable will be so elongated that by the time all of the pledges are in there won’t be sufficient time to work out if what’s proposed is enough.
3. What about the poorest and most marginalized people?
Keeping average global temperature rises to 2 degrees will now require urgent and transformational action. However even if we do managed to contain warming the impacts on poor people often living in the poorest and most marginal areas will still be significant. Their voices and needs are not sufficiently heard and represented in the climate change processes. Read our East Africa director, Grace Mukasa’s blog where she talks about the current unreported drought in Kenya.
4. Why now?
Today and tomorrow we could see the EU lead the way – leaders are coming together for a crucial EU Council meeting where they could decide Europe’s climate and energy targets until 2030. They could set ambitious targets supported by binding actions, they could lead the world on climate change action and by their decisions prompt other countries to be ambitious, to make declarations early and to adopt legally binding frameworks.
Paris is still the best hope for global action on climate change. Now is the time to work hard and push for action. But even if we get a deal in Paris we are still likely to exceed the 2 degree rise. So climate adaptation must go up the agenda on the UN and all the countries attending the talks. Practical Action will be pushing for this at the next UN climate talks in Peru in December.No Comments » | Add your comment
Generally, many challenges face the world (Sustainable Development and Climate Change – Clean Water – Rich poor Gap – Health Issues – Peace and Conflict – Energy – Status of Women …etc.). Specifically, most African nations suffer from military dictatorships, corruption, civil unrest and war, underdevelopment and deep poverty.
The picture looks very dark and depressing but if the nations are capable of producing a Mandela we will get to make the change that we want.
Nelson Mandela’s influence extends around the world, the last noble man, a figure of heroic achievements and an inspiration to generations around the world.
Mandela will be remembered as a remarkable man for all activists across the world.
“Millions of people . . . are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free, like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome . . . Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation.” he said in 2005.
“Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.”
We can learn from influential personalities like Nelson Mandela how to change the world; all it takes is a little time, effort and dedication. We don’t have to change the world for everyone; we can change the world for a couple of people and still leave a positive impact .
Rest in Peace father of Africa, you’ve earned your place in history.
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In the last 60,000 years humans have expanded across the globe and now occupy a wider range than any other terrestrial species. Our ability to successfully adapt to such a diverse range of habitats is often explained in terms of our cognitive ability. Humans have relatively bigger brains and more computing power than other animals and this allows us to figure out how to live in a wide range of environments.
Here we argue that humans may be smarter than other creatures, but none of us is nearly smart enough to acquire all of the information necessary to survive in any single habitat. In even the simplest foraging societies, people depend on a vast array of tools, detailed bodies of local knowledge, and complex social arrangements and often do not understand why these tools, beliefs, and behaviors are adaptive. We owe our success to our uniquely developed ability to learn from others. This capacity enables humans to gradually accumulate information across generations and develop well-adapted tools, beliefs, and practices that are too complex for any single individual to invent during their lifetime.
Practical Action followed the methodology of extracting the potential power of familiarization in communities in rural areas by targeting effective members in villages to provide them with knowledge about local possible technologies to challenge poverty. In other words, to adapt with the existing limited resources to reach sustainable development by providing means of improving adaptive capacity and adaptive needs to identify and develop adaptive measures or practices tailored to the needs of the community.
Back to Darfur- the source of my inspiration. If you visit Darfur and especially Shagra (G) village, remember to look up Nadia Ibrahim Mohammed, who is 33 years old and married with two sons. Practical Action has practical initiatives that tangibly address and improve her adaptive capacity and adaptive needs.
She was recommended by Mr. Mohammad Siddig (North Darfur’s Area Coordinator) in 2006 to be trained as a midwife then was registered as the legal midwife in the village. Later, she has become president of Women Development Association in her village and a member of Community Development Association in Shagra (A –B – G).
In 2009 she worked with Practical Action on the project Greening Darfur. More than 14,000 women were trained by her in making low smoke stoves and community forest management. She has been nominated to be part of the Active Citizens Programme run by British Council with aim of increasing the contribution of community leaders towards achieving sustainable development, both locally and globally.
For a woman from poor community in a challenging environment with a minimum level of education this is impressive. Her ability to store and deliver knowledge to others is really noteworthy. Now in Shagra- G village, she is always there dealing with her communities’ problems. She is gathering real time local information to adapt the best decisions and actions with the methods of her own experience.
My personal point of view, as we are working in a very challenging development field, is that adaptation is a word that we should dig deep inside, because all the possible solutions are hidden behind it:
- Adaptation to poverty means we can adjust the resilience of communities to change and find solutions to poverty
- Adaptation to limited resources means, we can direct targeted community to use them effectively to satisfy their needs
- Adaptation to Climate Change means, we can reduce projected effects for the environment and for human life.
- Adaptation to changing economic environment means we can set adaptation plans as better prepared for new opportunities.
Adapting with our problems would be a more effective means of dealing with them in order to reduce adverse impacts and take advantage of new opportunities.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Sudan is the third largest country on the continent (after Algeria and DR Congo) and the sixteenth largest in the world with an area of 1,886,068 km2. It is a vast country rich in natural resources represented in the fertile agricultural lands, livestock and minerals, forestry, fisheries and abundant water. However, many of these resources remain underutilised, in part because of protracted civil wars.The sheer size of the country means that it covers a diverse range of peoples; there are 597 tribes that speak over 400 different languages and dialects with clear differences in customs and traditions demonstrated in their ways of living, behaviors, practices, and beliefs.Differences in language, religion, ethnicity, and political view make Practical Action Sudan’s work a big challenge. Nevertheless, we want to reach our targeted beneficiaries and we want to make a great impact.
When Practical Action started working in North Darfur 26 years ago, it adopted a strategy of developing and strengthening civil society to enable them to meet the needs of their communities. The organisation started by establishing community based organisations (CBOs), including Village Development Committees (VDCs) and Women’s Development Associations (WDAs) that were capable of leading and implementing their own development activities. CBOs were supported with a range of interventions including seeds and tools banks, grain banks, animal drug revolving funds and micro credit revolving funds. By the end of 2002 Practical Action had helped establish 28 of these CBOs providing outreach to over 50,000 households.When the conflict started in Darfur in 2003, Practical Action found it difficult to access the field for security reasons, so we decided to depend on the CBOs for monitoring and later implementing project interventions. From these efforts it was clear that the CBOs could take on more responsibility. As a result in 2003 a group of WDAs came together to form the Women’s Development Association Network (WDAN) which mainly represented WDAs either inside or in close proximity to Elfasher town. Then in 2005, due to continued instability in Darfur, Practical Action helped in the formation of the El Fasher Rural Development Network (FRDN), this was the beginning of giving autonomy to the VDCs. Following this success, in 2006 a second group of VDCs came together to form the Voluntary Network for Rural Helping and Development (VNRHD). The three networks succeeded in registering with the Humanitarian Aid Commission as Sudanese NGOs.Practical Action then replicated the model in Kassala, with the formation of a Women’s Development Associations Network (KWDAN) and Al-Gandool Network.
Practical steps had been taken to develop the orgnisational capacities of the networks through training and strategic planning. Forms of training provided included: Human Resource Management, Proposal Writing, Report Writing, Financial Management and Monitoring & Evaluation. As a result we are proud to see the networks have continued to evolve, expand, and serve increasing numbers of highly supportive members. They have effectively increased their social capital by consolidating and improving relations between communities and livelihood groups, and their political capital by engaging and influencing state, non-state actors, and market institutions. Most impressive, the Networks have the capacity to build and utilise strategic relations and secure their own funds. For example, by 2011 the three networks in Darfur had accessed nearly USD 4,000,000 from a range of UN and INGOs donors. Presently, the Networks have become empowered to improve the livelihood of their communities, promote the culture of peace, introduce micro-credit system to finance petty trade (goats, donkey carts and tea making), contribute to the delivery of basic services (Health, Education, water),whilst maintaining environmental balance.
The success of our experience has proved that community ownership is the source of change.We will be very happy to replicate and reflect our success with others.
“An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory.”
E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered