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A photo journal: a year of work in the shadow of war

By Practical Action On 04.06.2024 Sudan Crisis 2023Blog

In the heart of Africa, amidst landscapes both arid and fertile, lies Sudan. It is a huge nation, rich with heritage and diversity caught in the complex web of civil war and climate change.

While the violence, displacement, and turmoil of the armed conflict that erupted in April 2023 has grabbed the headlines, millions of Sudanese have faced rocketing food prices and the threat of hunger.

Throughout this time, Practical Action has continued its work in Darfur, Kassala and Blue Nile states enabling people to have the tools, skills and seeds they need to be able to face up to rising food insecurity caused by the twin challenges of a changing environment and collapsing markets.

At Practical Action, we have long maintained that climate change and resource scarcities are among the factors exacerbating the conflict in Sudan.

That is why for the past 40 years we have worked across Sudan helping people adapt to their new way of life.

This photo story brings you closer to the everyday heroes of Sudan. Farmers, pastoralists, and communities who are working together and trying to forge a new path.

With our support, they are building dams to secure water access, running workshops to talk about divisions, and providing new crops and techniques with the potential to enable hundreds of thousands of people to feed themselves and their families.

Through these images, you will see how everyday life continues, as we try and continue to create hope in Sudan despite the dark clouds of war.

Two people riding camels herding a group of goats and donkeys across a desert landscape with clear blue skies and distant mountains.

A New Dawn Over Darfur

One of the root causes of conflict in Sudan has been climate change caused by rival groups clashing over diminishing natural resources, such as water, and fertile land.

For decades in North Darfur, we have established inclusive networks which agreed on migratory routes and shared access to help promote sustainable coexistence between pastoralists and farmers, fostering peace and shared futures.

A man speaks to a group of seated men wearing traditional white robes and turbans in a sandy outdoor setting.

Bridges of Dialogue

Our staff continue to hold and facilitate vital sessions with these networks, which include leaders from pastoralist and local farming communities. They are often connected to different sides, and the dialogue helps promote understanding and cooperation.

Our staff pictured addressing one of such sessions.

The Power of Community

Without peace, prosperity in Sudan for the majority will be impossible. We lay the foundations for this by spearheading community mobilisation and awareness campaigns, planting the seeds of unity and resilience in the face of adversity, fostering a strong, informed community.

An orange Hyundai excavator loading dirt into the bed of a dump truck at a construction site with a barren landscape in the background.

The Waters of Unity

Desertification is one of the key challenges farmers throughout Sudan face. In the past decades, trees have been cut down to create accommodation for displaced people. With no trees, there is nothing to stop the wind from blowing in sand from the ever-expanding Sahara Desert, making it difficult for farmers to cultivate crops.

To help keep this land productive, we join with communities to construct dams using hardware and local help.

Five men outdoors in a desert environment, holding and showcasing large rocks, dressed in casual and traditional attire.
Group of six adults, variously dressed, planting trees in a dry, rocky landscape under a clear sky.

Guardians of the Water

Community water management committees are set up in the villages and supported by Practical Action staff, who help members access governance, management and financial training and become custodians of their water supply so they can ensure there is balanced availability for all community members.

A person riding a camel, which is partially wading through water, under a clear blue sky.

Livestock Flourish and Local Farm Irrigation Success

The dams provide water for livestock and irrigation of local farms. They also improve underground water recharge and reduce conflict over water access. While farmers work on their productive land, pastoralists and their camels gather to allow the animals to drink water from haffirs (small reservoirs).

Group of people in traditional attire standing outdoors under trees at a gathering, with some individuals facing toward a central point of interest.

Seeds of Knowledge

Away from Darfur, resilient and reliable food production is more important than ever as prices rise and importing becomes more difficult.

Practical Action have established farmer field schools in the Blue Nile and Kassala. These schools provide real time learning from demonstration farms so learning gained by one farmer can be taken back to the community and shared.

Three men in traditional attire stand outdoors, with one in the center looking at a mobile phone.

Working Together Amidst Conflict

In times of conflict, using networks to share knowledge and pass on new information, seeds, tools, and skills to neighbours is essential to help people meet their day-to-day needs.

A red tractor plowing a dry field, raising a cloud of dust under a clear sky.

Fertile Grounds

The soil of Kassala state (pictured) and Blue Nile is readied for a promising future as the farmers we work with prepare for potato cultivation. They are sowing seeds of hope in fertile grounds.

Intisar Mustafa Practical Action’s Project Manager for the Sustainable Agrifood Systems Approach for Sudan project said:

“Potatoes offer several advantages for families in this period of conflict, with their short gestation period enabling a steady food supply of quicker yields.
“Even farmers that may not have previous experience with potato cultivation have seized this project as an opportunity to enhance their skills and knowledge, ultimately strengthening their capabilities”

A group of women in colorful traditional attire holding boxes of aid supplies, standing outdoors under clear skies.

Women Leading the Change

The women of Awlad Faragalah farmers group receive seeds. This opens a new chapter of hope and empowerment, holding the improved seeds of their labours and dreams.

A person holding a sprouting potato in their hands, focusing on the growth emerging from the top.

Anticipation of a Promising Season

With our continued support, the air in Wad Sharifi community is filled with anticipation as communities plant potato seeds, promising a season of renewal.

Four people working in a muddy, irrigated field under a clear sky, with some standing in water and one person posing in the foreground.

Preparing the Potato for Planting

Farmers prepare their lands for potato cultivation having learned rapid growth techniques so they can react to a growing food crisis with a sustainable food source.

The Result of Hard Work – a Precious Harvest

In the Garni area, for instance, we worked with Horticultural farmers to construct a community-run seedling nursery which produced over 17,000 forest trees and thousands of fruit seedlings. This is combined with training in how to prepare and choose land, improve spacing, weeding and disease control for positive results as the farmers look forward to successful harvests.

Three women and one man in rural setting exchanging fresh produce, smiling and wearing colorful traditional clothing.

Traditional Crops in High Demand

Okra is a highly nutritious and traditional crop in Sudan used in a variety of ways, including soups, stews and as a type of paste.

A woman in a yellow dress pours longan fruits from a sack, surrounded by men in a lush garden setting.

Harvests of Joy

Blue Nile farmers, witness a season of bounty, transforming hard work into a harvest of joy and prosperity even during this period of crisis.

Two men sitting outdoors, one in traditional white clothing and the other in a t-shirt, displaying handfuls of orange gemstones.

Community Forests Yield High Quality Gum Arabic

We are not only harvesting vegetables for food, but with severe inflation for basic goods and services, it is vital that people are able to grow cash crops too. Community forests planted to help fight desertification are now yielding high quality gum Arabic (Hashab grade) in the Wadi El Ku area of Darfur.

A woman in a black headscarf reaching up to touch a tree branch in a dry landscape under a clear blue sky.

Harvesting Gum Arabic is Spiky

These spiky trees are fearsome to harvest from and require skills and knowhow, but there are many benefits of gum Arabic, some of which will be familiar.

Read all about them here.

Three women in colorful traditional attire holding freshly harvested leafy greens in a field under a clear sky.

Farmer Field Schools

Through the farmer field schools in Kassala state, and the fruitful endeavours of the Alharam Farmer’s group their efforts are bearing fruits as they harvest their mellow leaves.

This is used for cooking and sustaining their livelihoods.

Working With Key Stakeholders To Scale Up Our Work

All this good practice needs to be taken to scale. At the launch of our four new projects earlier this year, Khider Ramadan, Kassala state’s Minister for Agriculture, emphasises the importance of our work and the need for us to continue to work together for the benefit of the Sudanese people.

We continue to influence decision makers to make good decisions so that thousands more people benefit from the work.

A man stands speaking at a podium in a classroom facing an audience of women seated at desks, listening attentively.

Empowering Eastern Sudan

During the Agribusiness project launch in Eastern Sudan, our staff continue to inspire local farmers with messages of growth, innovation, and empowerment, laying the foundations for sustainable community development.

A man in traditional white sudanese attire holding a banner next to a white suv in a dusty outdoor setting.

Staff Ingenuity in Delivering Our Work

Despite the escalating conflict and the challenges, it presents, our staff remain committed to helping people prosper in the face of climate change and conflict. This photo captures our Darfur area coordinator expressing his optimism for the future.

Many of our staff remain in Sudan. Against the odds, they are determined to continue to work, spreading hope by taking action towards a positive future.