Reducing vulnerability in Darfur

The objective of this aim is reducing people's vulnerability to disasters, mainly war and drought, and builds their resilience to coupe with disasters. The activities implemented in North Darfur have been focusing on community capacity building and improved technological responses to poverty and displacement.

Using a donkey plough on the arable wadi land, Umm Bronga, north Darfur In North Darfur we are implementing projects under the following priorities:

  • Conflict and natural resource management - supporting local tribal peace initiatives; encouraging peace building technologies like the promotion of early maturing crop varieties that allow farmers to harvest before the incursion of animal herders on to their farms; increasing community resilience in coping with conflict and drought; and advocating for the rights of marginalised groups
  • Livelihood and food security - supporting community organisations which aim to increase production and productivity by reclaiming more wadi (clay) land; building the capacity of local blacksmiths to produce much needed agricultural tools; providing appropriate seed and tools; building village based extension and paravet services; animal restocking; building terraces and earth embankments; establishing grain banks; and preserving and storing excess yields.
  • Strengthening farmers' voices and influencing development polices - Practical Action Sudan has been working to build farmers' capacity to organise themselves into CBOs, and training them in advocacy and lobbying skills that allow them to negotiate their rights with policy and decision makers.

Over 15,000 families, scattered in about 30 villages, have been reached under this aim. Each village is managed under a development committee, served with a community centre, a seed and tool bank, a women's association centre, an extension agent, and a paravet. Training, technical, managerial or organisational, has been provided for 9,000 individuals.

Against the odds in Darfur June 2009
A report from Mohamed Siddiq, Practical Action's team leader for reducing vulnerability in Sudan, on the current situation in Darfur and our plans for the future. Read more »

Case studies

Alternative housing model for North Darfur

A timber-less house model in Darfur Upon their return to their original villages, the returnees will face numerous difficulties, the most significant of which will be the mass destruction of local infrastructure and homes. It has been estimated that over 60% of the houses were either completely or partially burnt during the civil war. Practical Action implemented a project that focused on designing timber-less house models and train people on their construction.

To this effect, 70 trainees from the IDP camp were selected and received training for 21 days on alternative shelter, building materials and building designs. Four demonstration housing units with different designs and materials were constructed during the training. Through the technical training in construction, some IDPs gained skills that assisted in creating job opportunities and providing a source of income.

The Construction of the Timberless House Model (PDF, 1.5Mb)
A step by step guide with photographs and technical drawings

Knowledge is the most useful aid

Growing crops on arable wadi land after the Umm Bronga dam was completed Abdalla, a 33 year old farmer from Sarafiya village in North Darfur, grew vegetables and snuff tobacco on his small wadi clay soil as winter crops. In 2004, Abdalla and other villagers approached Practical Action Sudan to consider constructing an earth embankment that would enable more of the wadi to be flooded, allowing them to cultivate more crops. Working together, they eventually built five embankments, flooding an area of about 6,000 feddans (1 feddan = 0.42 ha).

A demonstration farm, established by Practical Action Sudan, showed that watermelon could be grown successfully, so Abdalla decided to try this crop for the first time. As a result of the whole extension package introduced by Practical Action Sudan, Abdalla's harvest of watermelon sold for approximately US $4,000 per feddan whereas the tobacco yield was only US $750 per feddan.

Abdalla commented, "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."

Training internally displaced people to manufacture improved wood stoves

A participant in the training workshop on building improved stovesConflict in Darfur has caused a huge population displacement, putting intense pressure on the environment around IDP camps. Wood fuel shortages worsens the environmental damage. IDPs are either collecting wood from far distances, or using scarce financial resources to buy it from nearby markets. In some camps, where nearby sources have been depleted, people, mostly women and children, have to travel further for fuel, exposing themselves to attacks. Whilst in other camps IDPs have resorted to using tree roots, eliminating any chance for natural regeneration.

Alternative fuels and technologies were proposed, but the use of fuels such as kerosene and gas is limited because of cost, accessibility and possible potential hazards. For instance, it costs about US $12million for one month supply of kerosene, and US $1.6 million to buy 200,000 kerosene stoves in addition to the cost of transportation. Promoting improved woodstoves is considered the most appropriate solution - it is affordable and easy to disseminate through extension and using trainers as a multiplier effect to reach as many people as possible in a short span of time. In collaboration with FAO, NCA, Mercy Corps and World Vision, Practical Action Sudan organised training workshops in the three States of Darfur during the period October 2004 - January 2005. 153 trainers have been trained in these workshops on theoretical and practical elements including how to organise training for others. Evaluation showed an average success of 92 per cent. Trainees were taught about other efficient cooking practices that should go alongside the use of efficient cooking stoves. Practical comparative tests proved the initial claim of a 50 - 60 per cent saving on fuel. Other skills for fuel savings demonstrated a 75 - 82 per cent of reduction in time needed for cooking.

Umm Bronga Dam

The community working together to build the Umm Bronga damUmm Bronga, located 40km west of El Fashir, has 12 village councils and a population of 45,000 inhabitants. Despite difficulties arising from the conflict, in 2004 villagers from the area completed a dam started in 2003, flooding over 2,000 acres that were then available for cultivation. In addition to their contributions of around 5,000 Euro they supplied labouring and masonry skills.

Over 200 families who acquired land are now able to grow a wide variety of crops, providing casual and seasonal employment for surrounding villagers.

In spite of continuing insecurity caused by attacks from the Janjaweed, very few displaced people went to IDP camps at El Fashir. Most people prefer to stay here as at least their minimal needs are met. One school is operating in the area.

"That is because the project provided the means for the school," said Mohammed Adam, the Secretary of the Dam Management Committee. "These achievements are made in spite of the low rainfall in the area. If the rains were good, the area cultivated would increase." Farmers are planning to increase the length of the land embankment to allow more flooded areas.

Saving the Baobab tree

A Baobab tree, over one year old but has a shade
enough for a family to sit underA campaign to plant trees mainly baobab trees, endangered species, was launched in North Darfur. The baobab fruits are collected, taken to be eaten in urban towns and seeds thrown in the trash to be burned in inseminators illuminating any chance for natural regeneration. People hardly come across a young Baobab tree. With support from partners, El Fashir nursery was rehabilitated and about 200,000 seedlings were raised and transplanted in El Fashir and other villages in the area.

Art for peace

People usually gather to listen to songs and sit to watch dancing and drama. Lots of tribal conflicts were fueled by songs that motivate tribal worriers to fight fiercely. Songs are usually performed by local female singers known as "Hakamat". Practical Action used the "Hakamat" to reverse the impact of songs. Instead of singing to push people to fight, the prepared songs encouraged people to fill themselves with wisdom and seek peace. A number of folkloric dancing bands were also used in disseminating peace messages. Similarly, drama plays with peace messages were also prepared and performed in El Fashir and Abu Shawk camp. One of the plays was performed in Khartoum in a competition and won an award. It was noted that, it was the first time ever for Darfur has participate in national drama competitions.


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