Sara Eltigani Elsharif


Recommended reading:

Posts by Sara

  • Transforming knowledge into action: animal route demarcation in North Darfur

    September 21st, 2015

    September 21st is the International Day of Peace.
    The theme of this year’s commemoration is “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All”

    Throughout history, Darfur has witnessed many tribal and ethnic conflicts between the communities living in the region. Most are caused by competition over resources between the nomadic pastoralists and farmers, and exacerbated by climate change caused by drought and desertification.

    Pasture is scarce in some areas of Darfur, and there is also a shortage of surface water and because of its proximity to traditional rain-fed agriculture areas. Conflicts between pastoralists and farmers have often erupted into armed conflicts and tribal wars.

    For generations, Darfur people settled arguments through making peace agreements between different tribes by demarcating, or opening, animal routes for pastoralists to follow during their annual round trip from south to north within the Darfur region. These agreements met pastoralists’ needs and also guaranteed farmers’ rights, preventing the invasion of animals onto farms, while preserving the customs, traditions and rights of everyone.

    Practical Action in North Darfur has successful experience in promoting peace and resolving conflicts between farmers and pastoralists through facilitating the demarcation of migratory animals’ routes, and increasing access to water and grazing lands alike. The Darfur Community Peace and Stability Project (DCPSF) was implemented in North Darfur, with its main goal being: to build Effective Communities’ Capacities and Livelihoods to Contribute to Peace Building and Stability in North Darfur State.

    We achieved this through:
    1. Identifying conflict areas and villages.
    2. Collecting information about the selected villages: Identifying the tribal or community leaders, population, ethnicity, numbers of farmers and/or pastoralists, infrastructure, natural resources and village mapping.
    3. Identifying main routes: Drawing maps with support from authorities, such as the Ministry of agriculture, Ministry of Urban Planning, Farmers and Pastoralists Unions.
    4. Applying Practical Action participatory development planning following these steps:

    • Bringing a facilitator who has background knowledge of the community.
    • Meeting with the community, stakeholders, women, youth, pastoralists, farmers, labourers, government and splitting them into groups and having them write their group’s concerns and problems.
    • Bringing them back for an open discussion about their problems.
    • Placing all issues in a list and vote on which is the biggest problem; identify top three problems, discuss the cause and its impact and target affected groups.
    • Completing a survey with the community.
    • Assessing the surveys, data and vote and return them to each group to give analysis and find solutions.
    • Developing an action plan with the community after formation of a committee of one representative from the groups mentioned earlier.

    Concrete red pillar indicates close Agriculture zone

    5. Presenting the plan to the relevant government agencies for approval and support and provide security.
    6. Finally implementing the plan, preparing tools, equipment and the necessary machinery to demarcate routes.

    Equipment and tools required

    • Concrete pillars 2.5 m long
    • Metric measuring tape
    • Three colors of paint
    • Hand Tools
    • Cement

    Demarcation method

    1. Drill 1\2 metre down in specified areas and install pillar.migratory route
    2. Measure a width of 150 metre and install another pillar opposite the first.
    3. Measure a further 500 metre along the route.
    4. Mark pillars as agreed. Paint red if it is in a close Agriculture zone, and pastoralist should commit to demarcated route. Paint yellow if the agriculture zone is some distance away from the route. Paint white to mark a ‘no cultivation area’ which is open for grazing.


    1. Siniah: is a rest area for both people and animals after traveling more than 20 kilometres distance. A 5-square kilometres area where pastoralists stay for more than a month to rest. There are some services, such as water and an amount of pasture. Usually they are close to the market where they can sell meat, dairy and buying basics such as sugar and food.
    2. Al-Mabrak: a pastoral area , about 2.5 square metres. It is a place to rest, for no longer than two weeks. One of the main purposes of Al-Mabrak is to enable small and vulnerable animals to regain strength and then continue the journey.

    Finally, institutions such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP – funder of DCPSF) recognise that “development cooperation itself needs to apply the lessons of experience, and improve its own flexibility and practices to maximise its contributions in helping build peace and prevent violent conflict” (Wood 2001, 10). Here comes the importance of mobilisation and exchange of knowledge between all peace building different entities. In the words of Kofi Annan, “we realise more and more that knowledge is what makes the difference: knowledge in the hands of those who need it, and of those who can make best use of it” (Clarke and Squire 2005, 110).

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Mobile Data Collection System in Low Smoke Stoves Project

    February 5th, 2015

     Using Mogli MRV+

    Over the years our Low Smoke Project in North Darfur has proven successes as well as meeting beneficiaries’ expectations. This project illustrates the fruitful partnership between Practical Action, Women Development Association Network (WDAN), and Carbon Clear Company to facilitate access to LPG for  poor households .We are using a revolving fund system to encourage using a clean energy source and reduce the consumption of fuel wood in urban Al-Fashir. This partnership has achieved great outcomes worth mentioning whenever the opportunity arises.


    • 7000,+ stoves in use in El-Fashir
    • First carbon credit project in Sudan
    • First Gold Standard project to use LPG
    • Improved access to modern energy
    • Reduced indoor air pollution
    • Strengthened local delivery infrastructure
    • Strengthened communities
    • Reduced regional deforestation of approx 80 kg wood/ 30 kg charcoal per household each month
    • Cuts in carbon emissions of approx 4t/CO2e per stove-yr

    A key factor of success is good planning to monitor project activities and proper distribution of roles and responsibilities among partners. The following flow chart summarizes monitoring activities:

    Low smoke stoves (2)

    As seen above local networks are responsible for completing surveys for example (Kitchen Survey Questionnaire about 4\A4 papers for 40 households every 3 months – Usage Survey Questionnaire 1\A4 paper – Leakage Assessment Questionnaire 2\A4 papers for 100 households). Practical Action staff in Al-Fashir collect all the questionnaires, translating them from Arabic to English, scanning all hard copies, and using SPSS for analysis to prepare first draft report. Then the draft report is shared with Practical Action head office in Khartoum for comments. Finally, after Carbon Clear in UK performs its role as mentioned in flow chart, the report will be sent to the Gold Standard Foundation who will issue carbon credits.

    This monitoring mechanism is effective in a small project but it’s time consuming.  Our project now seems to be expanding to rural areas in North Darfur. That’s why it’s time for a technological platform through which monitoring activities can be done faster.

    Mobile Data Collection solution (MDC) works effectively in this case. In end of 2014 MOGLI MRV+ has been used by our staff in Darfur as system runs on Android mobile devices and tablets and functions Online or Offline. Allows our staff to collect, share, and visualize geographically tagged data in real-time “GPS CAPTURE”. It can be linked with Flicker and upload pictures at the moment captured. Moreover, it provides Mobile Signature and Multi-language function.

    To know more see this video on YouTube :


    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Al-Gandool network “Time to speak to the world”

    March 18th, 2014

    As I mentioned in my previous blog , Practical Action Sudan adopted a strategy of developing and strengthening civil society to enable them to meet the needs of their communities and to access and influence institutions and decision making process at state level . Now we can speak loudly and proudly about the works of our networks in North Darfur and Kassala.

    Sample of Agricultural  Extension Message

    Sample of Agricultural Extension Message

    Al-Gandool network registered with HAC (Humanitarian Aid Commission Kassala) in 2006, in accordance with the law of voluntary and humanitarian work in Sudan. It’s main goal is “to promote the participation of targeted communities in sustainable development by building their capacities and transferring knowledge”. The network includes 50 VDCs (Village Development Committee) in 5 localities of Kassala State. The network is providing all necessary coordination, facilitation and support to deliver many developmental services such as agricultural, pastoral, education, health, and water services.

    Moreover, Al-Gandool network is an important Knowledge Node for our Practical Answers project in eastern Sudan as they are disseminating our knowledge objects (booklets – videos – audios – extensions messages) and answering any technical enquiries received from villagers to provide practical solutions.

    knvisitAt the end of 2013, Al-Gandool Network boldly knocked on the doors of globalization as they started to understand the significant role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in transforming the way governments, business and individuals learn, work and communicate with each other.  It is important that they are employed strategically within development programmes to promote access and sharing of relevant knowledge as well as fostering participation of the poor in decision- making processes that affect their lives.  ICTs can help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). A new website has been launched by the network to break through the geographical barriers and promote their work more widely.

    With confidence, we can say networks are empowered successfully and we will not hesitate to support them more.

    No Comments » | Add your comment

  • Nelson Mandela “From Prison to History Pages”

    December 10th, 2013

    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.

    nelson-mandela-quotes-to-be-greatFamous Sayings:
    “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.



    2 Comments » | Add your comment
  • Power of adaptation

    December 9th, 2013

    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.

    IMG_6784Back 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
  • Networks of Community Based Organisations leading on poverty reduction

    Al Fashir, Sudan, Al Fashir
    September 18th, 2013

    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.

    Picture 021

    scan0001 Old pictures show WDN’s activity in food processing

    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.

    Food Processing Training in Kassala

    Food processing training in Kassala

    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.

    Visit with FRDN to school in Al-Fashir

    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

    2 Comments » | Add your comment
  • LPG A Clean Energy Source in North Darfur

    April 9th, 2013

    On 25th March 2013 Practical Action Sudan launched a new report titled ‘Poor People’s Energy Outlook (PPEO) 2013’. The third edition of the publication of the PPEO series prioritises energy issues from the point of view of poor people to meet their needs and achieve universal energy for all by 2030.

    On 3rd April I attended an energy programme review in our North Darfur office that involved numerous stakeholders participating in our Low smoke stoves project. The review was attended by members of community based organisations, government representatives, and the private sector.  I feel that the E.F Schumacher’s phrase “Small Is Beautiful” is applied to its fullest in this project. The project started in 2008 with the main goal of ‘Contributing to poverty alleviation through improving the livelihoods of poor families by switching to a clean energy source, LPG, for cooking purposes.  Recently the Low smoke stove project team has been awarded the gold standard and has been officially registered as the first greenhouse gas emission reduction project in Sudan.DSC01023

    In the Darfur region fuelwood (firewood and charcoal) is the main energy source used in the household, services and industrial (bricks, bakeries, oil) sectors. At the household level firewood and charcoal are burnt in traditional inefficient stoves, such as the three-stone stove and traditional metal stove which causes indoor air pollution and serious health and environmental problems.

    The most enjoyable and useful part in the discussion was when Izdehar Ahmed Mohamed (Project Manager) asked the attendees what lessons they had learned and the positive impacts of the project? I found their answers impressive:


    The Forest National Cooperation representative said that ‘less deforestation in the project areas  compared with the past, and the culture of afforestation is increased which will have a positive environmental impact. We just need enthusiasm to continue what we have started together’.

    The Women Development Association Network (WDAN) representative answered ‘there is less indoor pollution as the result of low smoke in the kitchen, which has led to a noticeable improvement in the health of women and children’.

    The Civil Defense representative said that ‘community awareness has increased about the correct and safe use of LPG’.

    The Nile Petroleum representative who supplies the LPG to WDAN added ‘the WDAN are a valued customer through which we apply the principle of Social Responsibility.’

    I’m really proud of our team in North Darfur and the achievements they have made. We will continue to adhere to our principles to reach technological justice, a world free from poverty, and find a solution to climate change to reach a sustainable urban environment.

    1 Comment » | Add your comment
  • Work can change a woman’s life

    December 5th, 2012

    In September I had the chance to visit our work in Kassala in the eastern part of Sudan.  Travelling there took 9 hours. Although it was an exhausting journey, we enjoyed the beauty of the journey, the green spaces and towering mountains covered with trees, like a beautiful painting painted by a masterful artist.  Pastoralists and farmers were grateful for the blessing of rain this year, despite the difficulty of storing water in those rural areas. 

    We visited Bagadir village, 30 Km from Kassala, which is inhabited by tribes called Bani Amer, who have migrated over the years from the Arabian Peninsula.  Some also live in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Eritrea and different parts of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

    Women are not considered a good omen for this tribe and their role is limited. Moreover women are not allowed to leave the village for any reason and their fundamental role  is parenting and serving men.

                                          Food in times of scarity

    Practical Action Sudan has introduced ‘Jubraka’,  small farms for women, usually established near the house to provide food for farmers’ families during the critical time of food scarcity. In these farms women have been cultivating crops such as okra, watermelon, henna  and bananas, using our new  advanced  drip irrigation technique. Our visit coincided with the period of fruiting and I’ll never forget the scene.  I see the taste of success in women’s eyes, their efforts paid off.

    My colleague Nahid Ali Awadelseed started to talk with the women, gathering in the corner where a thatched umbrella is erected. Usually, during irrigation and taking care of the farms women gather to do craft work or drink coffee. We start to chat with them and find out their opinions of Practical Action’s work in their community

    One 16 year old girl, Afrah Karar, spoke on behalf of all the women. I admired her courage and her ability to express herself and asked if she had education or training. I knew Practical Action had offered her agricultural training in Kassala but unfortunately her father refused her permission to leave the village.  We were able to send a trainer to her village to help pass on this knowledge to the rest of the women. 

    Then Siham Mohamed Osman, the leader of this programme of work for Practical Action, asked the women a question:

    “Do you sell your farms’ production in the markets outside the village or do the men not allow it?”

     I was impressed by the swift answer from one of the women telling us that the men had began to abandon their stupidity.  I felt this was an amazing answer. Women’s work has started to change the customs and traditions of the tribe and then to change the status of women within their community.

    Small works lead to small change and small change is the start of big success.

    Much can be done to empower women. Practical Action is taking action by putting women’s empowerment at the center of development plans in our work. There can be no development, and no lasting peace on the planet, if women continue to be relegated to subservient and often dangerous and back-breaking roles in society.

    8 Comments » | Add your comment