Water access boosts crop production and incomes in Sudan's rural east

23 May 2011

image Aisha, one of the leading farmer voices of the Arabaat Development Association , Red Sea State. Photo: Karen Ringuette/UNDP


Khartoum - More than 1,000 farmers living in northeast Sudan now have increased harvests and income due to water irrigation equipment provided through an initiative managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

In Arabaat, a rural community 30 kilometres west of the coastal city of Port Sudan, farmers used to rely solely on rainfall for their subsistence crops in the absence of equipment to irrigate their land.

Through the Sudan Recovery and Rehabilitation Programme, the farmers received generators and pumps, enabling them to tap into rich groundwater sources and cultivate vegetables and other crops all year round, which they can also now sell at markets in Port Sudan.

“There is a big difference now, says Aisha Sharief, who heads one of the Arabaat farms. “Nowadays we have permanent irrigation and alternate crops like sorghum and vegetables.” She also grows tomatoes, okra and arugula.

Hussein Musa in charge of getting the farmers’ produce to market and says that things have improved for them. “In the past some people used wells run by merchants who took 50 percent in profits and farmers earned little. Now each farm has a well.”

As part of the programme, farmers also participated in management training and formed the Arabaat Development Association enabling them to pool resources and supervise other development projects in, for example, water provision and fisheries.

“Previously women were not represented in leadership but now they are part of the way we do business,” adds Aisha Sharief, who is a member of the Association.

Sharief is one of the approximately 1,000 who benefited from the five-year programme to support recovery of those in rural areas affected by the country’s civil war that ended in 2005.

The US$72 million programme was managed by UNDP on behalf of the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan, funded by the European Commission and Norway.