Awadalla Hamid Mohamed


Environmental conservation manager

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Posts by Awadalla

  • Local innovation in agriculture in North Darfur

    February 22nd, 2016

    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.

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  • Community-led 3D mapping of natural resources in North Darfur

    February 16th, 2016

    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.

    Locating natural resources on 3D map

    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.

    Students prepare 3D map

    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.

    3D mappingLively 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.

    Putting the finishing touches on 3D NRM map

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  • Influencing policy and practice in Darfur with dams

    September 22nd, 2015

    The opening ceremony of the Sail Gedaim dam on 13th of August was attended by over 1,000 people from the 20 villages that will benefit from the dam in addition to representatives from local CBOs, women’s development associations, village development committees and the private sector.

    Said Gedaim dam opening ceremonyMore than a dozen senior representatives from various government ministries and departments also attended the ceremony, including the Deputy Governor of North Darfur State members of the technical committee of the Wadi Alku project. The engineers responsible for designing, and supervising construction of, the dam were also present as were staff from project partners UNEP.

    The ceremony was responsible for a number of other achievements including:

    • Linkages established between village communities and higher level authorities in North Darfur, including the Darfur Regional Authority.
    • The voice of poor communities was heard by government authorities through speeches by representatives from the local communities who spoke about many livelihoods, social and environmental issues that affect them.
    • The government endorsed the dam and agreed to provide legal protection for the dam as a shared community-owned asset.
    • Important advocacy and awareness raising issues were raised by the government in relation to stopping the construction of haphazard terraces and earth embankments, which could divert or change the flow of water upstream with disastrous consequences for the dam and threaten to increase soil erosion and degradation wherever constructed. The government promised to form a committee to assess these terraces and remove them if need, replacing them where feasible with more technically appropriate and planned terraces.
    • The Chairman of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) used the opportunity to promise to build a new primary school and health clinic in the area.

    My expectation is that by the end of the project there will be a great change in the policies and practices which will benefit and improve the livelihoods of Darfur’s rural communities including farmers , pastoralists, and IDPs.

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  • Dams to fight poverty in North Darfur

    September 9th, 2015

    Sail Gedaim Water Harvesting Dam: An integrated approach to water resource management in North Darfur

    Over the past six months, Practical Action and its local partners have been busy designing and constructing a new water-harvesting dam in El Fashir  North Darfur. This is one of three dams to be constructed as part of the Wadi El Ku Catchment Management Project, a three-year project implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Practical Action, with funding from the European Union.

    Sail Gedaim damThe primary purpose of the 775 metre long earth dam is to divert water from gullies and to spread it across as wide an area of agricultural land as possible upstream, while ensuring water is also diverted and spread downstream. By thus slowing and spreading the flow of water, a greater area of land will be irrigated increasing the level of water retention which will increase agricultural productivity while also ensuring higher levels of ground water recharge.

    A range of potential sites for the dam were identified and an area named Sail Gedaim, north-west of Zamzam village and 7km south of El Fashir town, the capital of North Darfur state, was selected. A technical study and design of the dam was carried out by technical specialists from the Water Harvesting Centre at the University of Nyala, South Darfur.

    The selection of the final dam site and the design of the dam were made in accordance with the key principles of an integrated water resource management (IWRM) approach. Three of the most important IWRM principles used were as follows.

    1. Widespread consultations with all key stakeholders were held. The needs and usage patterns of different water users upstream and downstream of the proposed site were taken in to consideration. At the same time, key technical, government and policy bodies were also consulted, namely the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Physical Planning and the Ground Water and Wadis department. These diverse consultations ensure all relevant voices and needs are integrated into the design and function of the dam.
    2. The dam is designed to ensure equitable access to water. The dam is designed to improve access to water for agricultural purposes for more than 20 villages upstream and downstream of the dam. As part of the planning process, it was agreed with local leaders that land irrigated by the dam would be fairly divided up between all members of the community.
    3. The long-term impact and sustainability of the dam has been taken into consideration. It was through community consultations, in the form of Practical Action’s Participatory Action Plan Development (PAPD) approach, that the idea of constructing a dam was identified as a priority by all of the nearby 20 communities. As it reflects their own development priorities, the community willingly contributed financial resources, unskilled labour and locally-available raw materials to the construction of the dam. A community dam committee was established that is responsible for dam management and maintenance. This committee includes members from upstream and downstream communities and is gender balanced. Over the coming months the committee will receive managerial and technical training.  In terms of environmental sustainability, a social and environmental impact assessment was carried out prior to construction of the dam to study and document the positive impacts of the dam, such as, increasing soil moisture contain, improving soil features such as soil aeration and to promote greater biodiversity. In addition, the study identified solutions to address potential negative impacts of the dam.

    Darfur opening ceremonyConstruction of the dam was completed in July 2015. The total cost of the dam was a little under US $300,000. Given the dam is expected to irrigate more than 4,000 feddans of land (1,680 hectares) which is farmed by approximately 11,000 households (66,000 people), it represents exceptionally good value for money, especially given an expected lifetime of more than ten years if well managed, operated and maintained. It is also anticipated that the dam will provide seasonal agricultural employment opportunities for IDPs living in the nearby IDP camp in Zamzam, while also providing crops and vegetables for thousands of inhabitants of El Fashir town. To ensure further value for money, locally available raw materials (sand, soil, rocks) were used wherever possible. (Large quantities of soil were extracted for the construction of the earth embankment from a nearby village called Umroawaba, which suffers from acute seasonal water shortages, which in turn presented the opportunity to dig a new hafir (reservoir) for the village.)

    Following the first rains this year, many farmers reported that water had reached areas that have not been irrigated for over 20 years.

    From my point of view, dam technology applied above will change the life of thousands of Darfurians who are seriously affected by ongoing conflict. That is the reason behind the promotion of Technology Justice in Practical Action’s programs.

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