Focus on Sudan
a country of huge potential
Sudan – a country with many challenges
Although Sudan has many natural resources, including agricultural land, livestock, rivers, oil and minerals, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 141st on the 2006 Human Development Index. At least 28 million people live below the nominal poverty line of a dollar a day. Poverty in Sudan is attributed to several factors notably the lack of basic infrastructure services including energy, flood protection and drainage, irrigation, transport, and water and sanitation. The only exception is in the telecommunications sector, which has expanded to reach a large part of Sudan since liberalisation in the early 1990s. The north and west of Sudan is arid, with frequent droughts (about one year in every five over recent years) and environmental degradation posing major obstacles to food security and deepening the poverty of the people. The east and south suffer frequent flooding, Kassala in the east having experienced flash floods three times in the past decade, with the inundation causing damage to housing, agriculture and infrastructure, and spreading disease. In addition conflict and war in the south, east and west of the country largely affects the marginalised people, deepening their poverty? Currently there is peace for the south due to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Sudanese Government and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Army.
In operational terms it was the introduction of the Darfur programme that had the greatest influence on the charity’s work in Sudan. In 1987 ITDG provided technical assistance to Oxfam’s Kabkabiya smallholders programme in North Darfur at the extreme west of the country. In 1990 the first Country Director was appointed and in 1992 Sudan’s office officially opened its doors. In 1993 an integrated technology programme was developed in eastern Sudan, covering activities such as building materials and shelter; food processing; small-scale manufacturing; and rural transport. Since then Practical Action Sudan has continued to help improve the lives of the country’s poor, with projects targeting the Darfur region in west Sudan, Kassala & Gedarif states in the east and the Blue Nile State in the south east of the country.
Making poor communities less vulnerable
By supporting people with training and encouraging them to work together and to share their skills and knowledge to improve the availability of food, water and other essentials, Practical Action has helped them to reduce their vulnerability and increase self-respect along with their ability to negotiate and to achieve a better quality of life. Food security “I was so lucky to diversify my agricultural products and introduce new cash crops. I have secured enough food for my family and it also enabled me to repay the loans I got from other merchants. “I managed to make good savings, so I do not need to take loans for next season as I have enough money to spend on farming next year. I am going to double the size of area cultivated.”
Abdalla, farmer from Sarafiya in North Darfur
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Practical Action first became involved in Sudan (as ITDG) during the mid-1970s, providing technical assistance to the regional government in building reinforced concrete boats for use as river transport on the Nile in south Sudan. This was followed by many consultancy projects undertaken by the charity’s subsidiary company, Practical Action Consultants (PAC).
Practical Action/Annie Bungeroth
Northern Darfur state is situated on the edges of the Sahara desert and falls within the arid or 'sahel' zone of Africa. Precipitation is concentrated in the short summer period and the area has been struck by a series of droughts. On average, only 10 per cent of the community is food secure. Intensive farming and traditional methods have exhausted the soil and brought a decline in soil fertility. Rainfall is increasingly erratic and unreliable, so that people cannot rely on the amount of rain coming, and where it will fall. Even heavy storms, which occur once or twice a year, can cause problems rather than relief. Over the last two decades the mean annual rainfall has dropped by 64 per cent. The result has been great loss of livestock, crops, natural vegetation and wildlife. Practical Action’s food security programme has focused on involving local communities in retaining the scarce rain that falls in parched Darfur for as long as possible, so that they can irrigate their land and then diversify their crops. Farmers were shown how earth embankments can be built to enable more of their land to be flooded when it rains, enabling it to be cultivated. Farmers were also trained on how they can select and propagate early maturing varieties of improved seeds. Shallow wells and water reservoirs (hafirs) were dug to save local people, particularly women, the time and effort of travelling long distances to find alternative water sources. Hafirs have been dug for
Woman farmer harvesting tomato's gown on wadi land.
Practical Action/Mohammand Majzoub
Training in low-cost building technologies, using straw, clay and rocks to reduce the need for wood, has been provided by Practical Action, and low-income brick producers have been supported in the formation of a building materials producers’ association whose members formerly worked as labourers. Practical Action’s successful work in helping people from Shambob, a village near Kassala town in eastern Sudan, to establish a cooperative society for producing and selling high quality bricks won the Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment. “Before joining Kadugli Bricks Producing Society I worked in the construction market in Kassala. I live in the unplanned Wau Nur residential area of Kassala town. Before joining the society I earned SD400 per day, but the jobs I did were irregular and my social connections were very limited. I am now the president of the society and also work as kiln loader, earning SD750 daily.”
Nasir Abuzeid Tiya
Earth dam and reservoir in North Darfur domestic use (and use by animals) by villagers in North Darfur for hundreds of years and can provide drinking water for a whole village. Work has been done to reduce water losses and raise awareness of the potential for pollution. An investigation found that 80 per cent of the land in wadi areas (depressions with heavier soil) was not being exploited, despite their high fertility, as they were difficult to work with the existing tools and technologies. Most farmers were building traditional terraces that do not make the most of the rain when it comes, and cannot withstand the strength of a storm, wasting crops and water when they are washed away. A demonstration farm showed the use of crescent-shaped terraces in comparison with traditional terraces. All the necessary equipment and tools were produced locally and volunteer farmers (men and women) were trained in how to lay out and construct the crescentshaped terrace. A number of dams have been rebuilt by local people, with Practical Action Sudan providing technical support and some materials. Water caught and retained by the dams has helped to irrigate the surrounding land for plant cultivation, providing vegetables for improved nutrition, fodder for animals, and cash crops. An assessment of the Shangil Tobaya dam project indicates that cultivated land increased eleven-fold to 5090 acres as a result, benefiting more than twice the number of families.
Practical Action Sudan also worked with the brick producers on testing and promoting alternative types of brick-firing kilns, using agro-waste in place of wood, and helped to promote low-cost roofing. Due to their experience in housing and building work, Practical Action Sudan was approached by UN Habitat Consultants, Sonia Zambakids & Brian Nugent, to work in partnership. They hope Practical Action’s housing model in North Darfur, will be replicated in Greater Darfur. Improving lives of internally displaced people Since 2001 Practical Action’s work with communities of internally displaced people in Kassala has broadened to cover a wider range of needs. Latrines have been built, waste services have been improved, and people have been trained in a range of business skills to help boost incomes. Inside the home, work has been done on reducing the hazardous levels of smoke in the kitchen, introducing improved stoves and access to finance with which to make these improvements. Manufacturing Lack of mobility can exacerbate the physical and economic isolation of poor people. In North Darfur, Practical Action has trained metal workers to produce carts, trailers and wheelbarrows, and supported them in creating a manufacturers’ society to improve production and marketing. In eastern Sudan, too, blacksmiths and metal casters have been assisted in creating associations to increase access to credit and develop their skills. Roads The increasing number of carts and other forms of transport in and around the Jebel Si and Kabkabiya communities in North Darfur introduced an urgent need to build rural roads in the area, as the existing paths were unsuitable. Training was therefore undertaken with local people, mobilising community groups to construct roads and dig a well to provide the necessary water. Practical Action Sudan helped to transport cement from Khartoum.
Improving access to basic services
Building materials and shelter “My home was burned down… women were taken and fires were started. We ran with nothing. Our home is 60km from here. We just kept walking… “My children used to be able to go to school, we could pay for them, we could buy them books. Now I have nothing.”
Aziza, Abu Shok refugee camp
In Darfur, many homes have been burned as a result of conflict, and other housing has fallen into disrepair after long abandonment. In eastern Sudan too there is a need for better housing, this time because of the risks from flooding, and because large numbers of displaced people need shelter.
Practical Action Sudan has helped to establish a transport forum with the aim of creating links with similar networks elsewhere and provide advocacy for people requiring access to transport.
Work in perspective
In North Darfur, Practical Action’s work on introducing peacebuilding technologies such as early-maturing crop varieties that allow farmers to harvest before the incursion of animal herders on to their farms, has been abandoned in the context of increasing insecurity. Instead an intervention known as ‘peace building through art’ has been contributing towards greater social integration. Influential women singers, known as Hakamat, and local bands attend workshops to discuss peace. In urban Kassala new work is targeting flood-affected and poor people in all parts of the town. This involves a needs assessment which will take into account the community organisations that already exist. The vision is for a housing forum that will work with these groups on income generation, skills development and services. In the Blue Nile a large food security programme has started to scale up the successful practices and technologies learnt from Practical Action experiences. Practical Action Sudan has been contributing to the transfer of knowledge and technology during the last decade. An information network was set up to strengthen local capacity for gathering and disseminating information through training in data collection and processing, facilitated by resource centres in Khartoum, Fashir, and Kassala and is currently working in partnership with Sudan University for Technology, Community Based Organisations in North Darfur and Kassala University and Community Based Organisations in Kassala.
Practical Action/Awadalla Hamid
Helping poor people access the market fairly
Three projects are being implemented with the aim of improving the quality of life of small-scale women farmers and semi-nomadic pastoralists. The first is to improve women’s status in the marketplace, the second concerns hibiscus and the third livestock. They have been designed to transform relationships, business models and policies affecting the performance of these markets and the prospects for small-scale producers to improve their livelihoods. Activities include: • Participatory market mapping workshops to promote collaboration among a wide range of interested parties (including empowered small-scale producers) to solve problems, address policy issues and exploit market opportunities; • training in technical, economic and organisational skills; • formation of producers’ associations and discussion forums at national and local levels; • Construction of hibiscus storage centres to increase the bargaining power of farmers; • Promotion of a support network of veterinary product shops to improve access of pastoralists to technical information and appropriate drugs; • Training of itinerant, community-based paravets. • Improving women capacities to achieve a women’s movement.
Hibiscus (H.sabdariffa) or karkadeh is a drought-resistant crop which thrives in the sub-Saharan region. It is commonly used in herbal teas and also in a sweet cold drink. It is a useful ingredient in jams, jellies, ice creams and flavourings and has medicinal properties, used to lower blood pressure, aid digestion and treat colds. Large meetings were held in North Darfur to explore market opportunities and ensure that participants understood the problems and potential of hibiscus as a cash crop. A Hibiscus Forum was set up, which produced a manual to help farmers with quality controls and handling of the crop. Training in food processing for women in Kassala and Gedarif also includes marketing support, though the new skills are used to improve food security and nutritional intake as well as for income generation. It has also been observed that the women’s social status is enhanced.
Small-scale hibiscus farmers with their crop
If you would like more about Practical Action’s work in Sudan, please contact: Supporter Services Unit, Practical Action The Schumacher Centre for Technology and Development Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV23 9QZ T +44 (0) 1926 634400 l F +44 (0) 1926 634401 E email@example.com l W www.practicalaction.org
Front cover: Woman farmer harvesting aubergines: Practical Action/Annie Bungeroth
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