Skip to main content

Harvesting Potatoes in Blue Nile State: A Story of Success

By Practical Action in Sudan On 15.04.2024 FarmingFood & agricultureBlog

In Sudan’s Blue Nile State, where farming relies heavily on increasingly unpredictable rains, Practical Action is supporting communities toward stability and prosperity. Amidst the challenges of climate change, we partnered with the International Potato Center (CIP) on the Sustainable Agrifood Systems Approach for Sudan project, aiming to transform local farming practices.

Now, as these successes take root, a promising future emerges for agriculture in the Blue Nile, marked by resilience and innovation.

A group of joyful adults holding and examining potatoes in an outdoor farm setting surrounded by lush greenery in Blue Nile, Sudan.

In Blue Nile state, agriculture is rain-fed, with crops like sorghum, cotton, sunflowers, sesame, and millet. Outside of the rainy season, crops are scarce, and erratic rainfall patterns and increasing temperatures are making it harder for farmers to make a living and ensure enough nutritious food for their communities. Conflict is also exacerbating this situation of food insecurity and displacement of people.

Despite these challenges, efforts are underway to support sustainable agriculture development and improve communities’ resilience in Blue Nile State.

Our Sustainable Agrifood Systems Approach for Sudan project collaborated with the International Potato Center (CIP) to support 14,000 farmers, including displaced people and host communities, in increasing their productivity and profitability by introducing potatoes and sweet potatoes to the area, which are both nutritious and profitable. It also focused on improving how the farmers access the markets to ensure these opportunities can be accessed and have a long-term effect on the whole of the community.

But while the benefits were substantial, so were the challenges. Potatoes typically thrive in cooler climates found in regions farther north, whereas the Blue Nile area, known for its high temperatures, is particularly affected by climate change. Moreover, the farmers we collaborated with lacked prior experience cultivating potatoes or sweet potatoes.

“We will encourage and promote growing potatoes in Blue Nile. We are grateful to the International Potato Center and Practical Action for this breakthrough intervention.”
Mr Mohamed Nasir, Head of Horticultural Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Blue Nile State

Working with farmers to improve outcomes

Four hundred farmers were selected to participate in 20 Farmer Field Schools to enhance their farming practices and secure a better future for their community. So far, sixteen groups have been trained on agricultural techniques for growing potatoes and sweet potatoes, which has provided them with the knowledge and skills to change their practices, such as using the right kinds of soil, preparing the land, managing the pests, harvest, irrigation and storage, etc.

With this new knowledge, it was time to test it.

At one of the demo farms (an area of 1 feddan or about 4,200 m2), despite planting potatoes in the first week of 2024, 2 months later than recommended, they persevered, applying their training. A yield of two tonnes was achieved, with a 3 million Sudanese pounds return, equivalent to 2,600 USD (Bank of Khartoum rates, April 2024), which is considered high revenue.

A group of people, mixed in gender and age, holding a banner, celebrating a potato harvest in a rural field.
Farmer Field Schools sharing the knowledge and techniques needed to grow potato and sweet potato

Based on the success of this intervention, the farmers decided to grow potatoes and sweet potatoes on their land along the river in the winter. They will also grow sweet potatoes on their upland as a summer crop in the rainy season. This will diversify and intensify crop production and increase their resilience to cope with climate change.

As these farmers in the Blue Nile region forge ahead, their journey towards sustainable agriculture and resilience stands as a source of hope not just for their community but for more regions across Sudan, reaching beyond the 400 farmers trained and the 14,000 people reached. There was a misperception that potatoes couldn’t be grown here due to the high temperature. But now, these farmers’ experience demonstrates the transformative power of knowledge and collaboration, showcasing how the most challenging situations can be overcome.

“We used to have nothing in winter, depending only on rain to grow low-yield summer crops. We had little food, and we had to buy it from the market. We didn’t even know how to grow potatoes. Now that we are trained in agricultural best practices, we can provide for our families by selling the surplus to nearby markets”.

Omer Osman Medani, Farmer Field School member