RRP Upper Nile helps 203 farmers expand production


Farmers in the Ramallah Group transform unproductive land into vegetable gardens



13 January 2008


Khartoum - Deng Kak has worked on the cotton and sunflower commercial farms for as long as he can remember. Though Deng is among the few lucky people to have land adjacent to the River Nile, apart from household use, the waters of the Nile have never benefited him. The USD 1,000 price tag for a water pump and the accompanying fuel costs are beyond his dreams. When Deng heard that the Northern Upper Nile RRP Consortium was going to distribute water pumps and seeds to groups of ten small-scale farmers, he quickly joined one group. Unfortunately for Deng, the water pumps turned out to be treadle pumps and the seeds turned out to be vegetable seeds. He initially thought of pulling out of the group as he only cultivated sorghum, millet and groundnuts on a small scale during the rainy season and was not interested in vegetable gardening and he doubted that one manually operated treadle pump would be enough for that – let alone sharing among ten people. His group members urged him to stay and he is thankful they did.

Deng is among the 203 small-scale farmers currently being supported by the northern Upper Nile Consortium. The consortium brings together Tearfund, Stromme Foundation, Fellowship for African Relief (FAR) and Mercy Corps as the lead agency for a 3-year development project funded by the EC through UNDP. To help small-scale farmers take advantage of the waters of the Nile, NUNRRP distributed treadle pumps and vegetable seeds from FAO to the farmers to enable them start dry-season vegetable cultivation. Using both CHF and UNDP/EC RRP funding, NUNRRP also provided these farmers with new crops (mainly cassava, moringa and sweet potatoes) that were not being cultivated in this area.

In order to continue in the dry season the RRP supported 203 farmers have found innovative ways to cultivate during the dry season. The Magara group (Geiger payam) for instance has dug a trench from a near-by hafir to access water as the River Nile waters have retreated beyond the reach of the treadle pump.

The Panja group (Jalhak payam) have permanently relocated their garden to an island on the Nile River that is too high to be flooded but has the Nile waters in close proximity. While the Nile waters are completely inaccessible, farmers have also found other ways of accessing water for irrigation. The Monsur group (on the main Renk – Falouj highway) have fenced off a pool created by oil companies (when constructing the road) in which water flows and is available throughout the year and are using these waters for irrigation. The Khor Misuk group on the border between Renk and Melut counties are utilizing the seasonal Misuk river in an area that retains water throughout the year. This group has had to establish a temporary settlement for two families that guard their gardens against animals and theft.

Another major challenge faced by the farmers has been the insects, ants and worms drawn to the green vegetation in their gardens.

Of these, the stalk-borer worm has forced many farmers to replant. This has been a hard learning curve as one group, in an effort to get rid of the worm, bought insecticides that ended up destroying the entire crop but now they have replanted.

To support these farmers in the coming months, NUNRRP will be linking them to the department of insects and pests control in Renk.

To counter strain over treadle pumps, NUNRRP will distribute more treadle pumps to these groups to reduce the ratio from 10 farmers to 1 pump to 5 farmers per pump.

Having successfully reverse-engineered treadle pump technology and started local production in Renk, NUNRRP has now capacitated local artisans to produce the pumps. The RRP is pleased to note that some of the farmer groups, in the interests of sustainability, have taken their own initiative to lease water pumps from commercial farmers. This water is used to fill canals / pools near the vegetable gardens for watering of vegetables using treadle pumps. UNDP/EC RRP in Upper Nile plans to support selected groups of farmers to increase their income and independence by providing access to micro-enterprise funds that encourage savings and small investment loans.

In the future, RRP plans to help these groups procure larger water pumps under cost-sharing to specifically pump water into holding areas near their gardens. NUNRRP will also continue carrying out cooking demonstrations in addition to bush farmer schools to teach farmers how to plant and consume new crops.

To improve and sustain the livelihoods of 23,590 residents and returnees of Northern Upper Nile, the RRP has a budget of €4.5 million to set up seed nurseries and organize seed banks; rehabilitate 7 health facilities and train village health committees; drill water points and equip boreholes with hand-pumps; construct latrines for households, schools, and health centres; rehabilitate 10 schools and construct 3 new schools; and create adult literacy programmes. Mercy Corps is the lead agency, and other partners include Tearfund, Fellowship for African Relief, Stromme, and the Episcopal Church of Sudan.

The programme in Upper Nile is part of the larger Recovery and Rehabilitation Programme, which has projects in ten locations in Sudan: Abyei, River Nile, Red Sea, Blue Nile, South Kordofan, Upper Nile, Warrap, Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal. The Recovery and Rehabilitation Programme is a €54,325 million programme, funded by the European Commission and managed by UNDP on behalf of the Government of National Unity, and Government of Southern Sudan. The programme, which is serving 800,000 Sudanese, has a total of 47 NGOs working together to build schools, healthcare centres, and water networks; improve people’s livelihoods through vocational training, agricultural projects, and peace-building initiatives; and increase capacity through training local government.