Natural Resource Regeneration in Darfur

North Darfur is one of the most drought prone areas of Sudan. 80% of the 1.75 population of Darfur live in rural areas where their lives and livelihoods rely on natural resources for farming, herding and agricultural trade. Low and unpredictable rainfall have placed resources and livelihoods under intense pressure. Problems with tribal conflict, loss of life, property loss and displacement have their source in the degradation of these natural resource based livelihoods.

A project  called ‘Greening Darfur’ was designed to address poor livelihood and food insecurity, resulting from civil war in Greater Darfur, by helping communities to rebuild their livelihoods, through provision of agricultural development services that will improve agricultural capacity and increase access to safe and adequate water supply. The scarcity of water in the targeted areas is one of the chief reasons behind conflict between communities. Expanding improved production practices and availability of safe water coupled with environmental sanitation and hygiene promotion activities will stabilize out-migration, attract resettlement and improve health conditions in the targeted areas. Increased water availability will also facilitate the safeguard of cattle, and therefore sustain the development process and provide further gains in improving household livelihoods.

Practical Action has been building on the last 15 years of work in the region building technical capacities such as improved water conservation techniques such as crescent terraces combined with a wider variety of seeds to help farmers cope with changing rainfall patterns. More dams and water resources have helped livestock keepers look after their animals during times of drought and enabled farmers to grow more vegetables and in turn lessened dependency on food aid.

The technique of rainwater harvesting goes beyond food and livelihood security for farmers, it also plays an important role in conflict prevention. There are conflicts over goz (sand dunes that are cultivated using hand tools but have little water retention capacity and low fertility) land which is a resource used by farmers and pastoralists alike for pasturing their goats, sheep and camels. However because it is overused there are conflicts over use. Through the cultivation of previously underused wadi (clay pans that run alongside a seasonal riverbed which may flow 2-4 times per year, they are fertile and highly productive, but harder to plough) land can be used to help negotiate agreements between communities over grazing, water and fodder access. Practical Action has also promoted the use of donkey ploughs made in conjunction with local blacksmiths to make it easier to prepare the wadi land. Due to this simple practical solution, conflict over land has lessened and the utilization of previously unused wadi land is providing a source of livelihood for poor farmers with limited access to goz land.

In parallel, Practical Action has supported civil society through community based organisations to lead the development process with a bottom-up approach and contribute to peace in the area. This has included working with three umbrella networks; The Voluntary Network for Rural Helping and Development (VNRHD), Alfashir Rural Development Network (ARDN) and Women Development Associations Network (WDA’s). Through the capacity building of established civil society networks and introduction of locally developed crop production technologies thousands of households in North Darfur have become food secure despite the conflict, and have begun to support natural resource regeneration. These approaches have also provided communities with the organisational and technical abilities to negotiate resource access, use and control arrangements with neighbouring groups in what may emerge as a practical and locally mediated form of grassroots conflict resolution. Read More....

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