Strengthening Community Organisations in Sudan
Strengthening community organisations is the key strategy used in Northern Darfur, Sudan for helping people to help themselves. The area is affected by drought and conflict and is more often associated with humanitarian aid than long term development processes. Practical Action works with Village Development Committees (VDCs) and Women’s Development Associations (WDAs) as a starting point to build resilience.
There are now around 130 of these committees in the El Fasher District and approximately 50 of these were set up spontaneously when local people heard about the VDCs and WDAs and wanted to establish their own. As the number of these committees grew, two umbrella networks in El Fasher and Kassala have been established with the help of Practical Action to bring together the experiences of the individual VDC organisations and to develop new projects, train new committees, seek funding and negotiate with national and international agencies. So far, the Darfur networks have raised over $1 million from UN agencies to support their development activities. These include initiatives to train in fuel efficient stoves, computer training, goat restocking, supporting local extension agents and para-vets to provide affordable services and further replication of plough technology.
The WDA network has reported to have around 25,000 members, and have been trained in food processing techniques, improving family nutrition and opening up new market opportunities. The VDCs cover about 38,000 households, or about 20% of the region’s population, this constitutes a major transformation of civil society capacity. As conflict in the region escalated, the importance of local management and ownership of development activities has been highlighted as these groups could continue even if it is increasingly dangerous for outsiders to travel to the region.