Refaat Bashir Mohamed


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Posts by Refaat

  • It’s a happier life with biogas

    April 26th, 2016

    Biomass energy (firewood, charcoal, and crop residues) makes up more than 80% of primary energy consumption in Sudan. Over many years, it has become evident that high dependence on biomass energy is a major factor in forest cover depletion, environmental degradation and desertification. Successive drought cycles that have stricken the Sudano-Sahelian countries since the early 1970s, and from then on, Sudan has suffered lasting, disastrous effects and the encroachment of the desert. The desert and semi-desert represent 51.5% of the total area, and if the low rainfall savannah zone is added, the figure jumps to more than 80.6%. This indicates that the problem of desertification and desert encroachment is of a serious magnitude in the Sudan. The total area affected by desertification amounts to around 1.3 million square kilometers (50.5% of the total area of the country).

    biogas KassalaIn the far east of Kassala state, birds sing remorsefully.  They have no shady trees in which to build their nests.  The trees stand bare because their branches are cut by villagers for shelter, lighting, heating and cooking food. Children are denied the chance to play games under the trees’ shadow as the trees are naked of leaves. Animals do their best to find shade after their long journey fetching fodder. Women and girls were always in the bushes collecting firewood for cooking shouldering their fear of the unknown with the risk of wild animals and sexual assault.  This situation had evoked compassion in policy makers, development practitioners, and development organizations to lend a hand to those vulnerable groups with special focus on women and children.

    The majority of the rural and peri-urban poor in Sudan rely on fuel wood or charcoal for cooking on inefficient stoves or three stone fires, and on kerosene and candles for light. This programme aims to reduce the consumption of biomass energy (wood and charcoal) which has devastating environmental and health effects particularly for women and girls who are primarily responsible for cooking.

    biogas KassalaPractical Action Sudan’s objective is to improve the social welfare of the peri-urban and rural population, contribute to poverty reduction and gender equality and to reduce the environmental impact of energy by having access to clean, reliable and affordable energy services for 20,000 direct beneficiaries and 595,000 indirect beneficiaries by 2017.

    Practical Action, as key player in this field, brought together governments, donors, civil society and the private sector to adopt Total Energy Access (TEA) as an approach to define and deliver energy to the billions of poor people who need it.

    Sustainable Energy for All

    The Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative has three goals:

    1. Achieving universal energy access
    2. Doubling the annual rate of energy efficiency
    3. Doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix

    Practical Action Sudan has a wealth of experiences in achieving access to clean energy which is affordable, accessible and available, through the promotion of user friendly technologies such as improved stoves, LPG gas and recently a biogas pilot project.

    The biogas pilot project was implemented in Elgabrat and Shambob in close collaboration with Program Development Fund (PDF), Sudan University for Science and Technology (SUST), the World Bioenergy Association (WBA Sweden) with research capacity from the Kassala Women’s Development network (KWDAN) and the Elgandoul network. It covers four dimensions:


    Zahra biogas KassalaWHO reported that 4.3 million people, mainly women and children, die each year from Indoor Air Pollution.  The  use of firewood for cooking also causes numerous respiratory diseases as well as headaches, runny nose and red eyes and  diseases.

    Zahra from Shambob spoke to the team,

    “You can see yourself that my family is free from allergic and other respiratory diseases and accordingly no more money is paid to cure such diseases, thank God, Biogas is innocent from all these crimes”.


    Unfortunately it is women and girls who shoulder the burden of walking long distances to fetch firewood for cooking. Hence they were vulnerable to sexual hazards, dropped out of school dropout and were unable to meet their household obligations as well as having insufficient time for leisure with their family. Biogas released them from this trap.


    Most of poor family’s income is devoted for securing charcoal and firewood for domestic use, such as cooking and lighting, at the expense of other things such as school fees, clothes, shelter improvement and other social obligations. Biogas is a breakthrough in improving the livelihoods of poor families.  Animal dung is no longer on the rubbish heap in the backyard and annoying the neighbours, it actually contributes to the eradication of poverty of poor and marginalized groups, and creates of new employment opportunities and income generation sources.  It has opened a window and given a new spark of hope for a better tomorrow to a vast number of pastoralists and agro-pastoralists.

    Mohammed Osham from Elgabarat village said,

    “Now I can tear up the invoices of charcoal and fire wood for cooking!”

    One great challenge still is the high cost of the biogas unit ($400) which is unaffordable not only for lower income groups but also for middle income ones.


    Numerous environmental hazards result from the massive cutting of trees for firewood and other purposes.  There is drastic deforestation, land erosion, desertification, shortage of fodder, little underground water storage, poor rainfall, and even limited biodiversity. Now the turning point is that biogas can leapfrog older technologies of obtaining cooking energy (firewood and charcoal) and invest in cheaper and more environmentally friendly technologies which sustain the environment for generations to come.

    Biogas addresses the issue of inequitable access to energy and contributes to technology justice.

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  • Knowledge enables us to raise our voice

    October 16th, 2015

    “I, myself, believe that ‘seeing is believing’; in the sense that when I see someone smiling in a difficult place, it means that we are on the right track” said Mohammed Ali, the chairperson of El Gandoul Network.

    farmer field schoolTogether with Practical Action we have helped people help themselves and take a leap out of the poverty trap.  Lives have been transformed by making business out of nothing. Can you believe that sometimes what we planned at the project level exceeds our expectations?  Whatever the difficulties, at the end of the day we proved that people have the power and self-confidence to enable them to say ‘we will never give up the fight!’

    tarawaYes, we are farmers and are proud of producing food from this land not solely for self-consumption, but also to feed others. The knowledge we have gained from extension services such as water harvesting, improved seeds, pest control, harvest and storage, remain our main asset now. Yes, now we can help our peers improve their productivity and we can go further to help them approach markets and engage with other farmers and sell their products at a fair price, instead of selling at the farm gate which often is not profitable. Yes, we, as famers, have learned a lot about market opportunities and producers’ forums from Practical Action, in building our capacity.

    Now we can voice our concerns and engage in policy change in our favour through lobbying and advocacy.

    Mohammed Ali ended by saying that “Yes, we are grateful to what Practical Action has done to us and we promise to keep the candle alight.”

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  • The dream of all

    January 28th, 2015

    Since we are working closely with poor people, we try to put ourselves into their mindset. In the early morning when I wake up my main concerns are food, the kids’ breakfast and pocket money to go to school.  Similarly I always worry  not only about the pressing need of daily consumption, but also the needs of my neighbours. This has pushed me strongly to think positively towards our needy and most vulnerable people.457

    Our community based organisation, the Kassala Women Development Network (KWDAN) and Elgnadoul Network  approached women households groups with the highest levels of need to help them to create a new dawn in their lives.

    The team was astonished by their preparedness and their strategy to cope with off farm livelihood options. We did not apply our academic and development methods, we simply we stood alongside them and started to listen and learn from them. Their system of managing credit funds depends on trust among the whole group.

    Barack-Obama-QuoteProudly they said:

    “Our challenge is to sustain life by providing livelihoods options such as poultry and  goats. Now through the generous support of Practical Action we no longer depend on small, seasonal gifts from our relatives. Milking goats and selling eggs has enabled us to be self-supporting women.  Our kids are proud of us. This is the best thing that has happened to us,  it is just like Obama’s slogan about the change we need.”


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