New techniques help farmers adapt to climate change in Sudan

A pilot project in the deserts of northern Sudan is helping farmers adapt to the new realities of climate change and its effects on this fragile ecosystem.
A pilot project in the deserts of northern Sudan is helping farmers adapt to the new realities of climate change and its effects on this fragile ecosystem.

Ahmed Eldaw, like his fellow farmers and pastoralists in northern Sudan, used to practice a form of subsistence agriculture that depended solely on the erratic floods of the Atbara River.

During periods of exceptionally high flooding, he could expect to grow enough sorghum to provide for his family while using the leftover stalks to feed his livestock. But such flooding is very unpredictable, and climate change has had a serious impact on the region, with available land for grazing and cultivation quickly shrinking due to irregular rainfall and desertification.

Highlights

  • Agriculture provides the primary means of livelihood for more than 80% of the population in Sudan and is overwhelmingly (roughly 90%) dependent on rain fed agricultural practices.
  • Since 2011, people in the area have been learning and using new kinds of water harvesting techniques, and have been trained in the use of irrigation pumps, tractors and drought resistant seeds.
  • The initiative is part of a broader push by UNDP to implement pilot climate change adaptation projects in Sudan.

A UNDP initiative that is part of a broader, so-called “National Adaptation Programme of Action” – adopted by the Government of Sudan and supported by UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – is helping people in the area to adapt to the new realities of climate change and its effects on this fragile ecosystem.

Since 2011, UNDP has been assisting farmers with learning and using new kinds of water harvesting techniques, and training them in the use of irrigation pumps, tractors and drought resistant seeds that the project has been providing them with.

Within months of the project’s start, the villagers have seen substantial improvements in their everyday lives. Groups of 15 farmers now each have one irrigation pump, reducing their total dependence on unreliable flooding and allowing them to now cultivate their crops year round, including food for their livestock. Propane gas now heats their cookstoves, instead of expensive charcoal or wood from the surrounding land, and livestock are receiving regular vaccinations. Throughout all of the project’s work, villagers are picking up a crucial education and understanding of the issues associated with climate change in their region and how to adequately prepare and respond to a new and unexpected future.

Farming communities, including Eldaw’s village, Balouk, are also receiving help in planting trees and shrubs that create critical “shelterbelts,” which reduce sand encroachment onto their farming and grazing lands. Most importantly, specialized training in sustainable farming methods have given beneficiaries the tools to plan for the future in the face of escalating climate change effects.

For Eldaw and his fellow villagers the results have been striking. As a direct result of the project, Eldaw has been able to recently – and successfully – plant sorghum on half of his 5.4 hectares of farmland and the rest with tomatoes and crops for animal feed.

“I am happy now,” he says. “This initiative has provided me with the tools to better grow my crops and expand my income.”

The initiative is part of a broader push by UNDP to implement pilot climate change adaptation projects in Sudan and is made possible through the support of GEF’s Least Developed Countries Fund.

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