Sudan community farms cultivate food and financial success

10 Jun 2009

As the sun rises and the smell of ginger-infused coffee fills the air, women emerge from their homes and head to a lush green field of abusabean, a crop used as cattle feed. It grows easily and abundantly in Sudan; provided there is enough water.

Dressed in vibrant colors of fuchsia, orange and yellow; adorned with ornate nose rings and bracelets, these women carry hoes and machetes. They begin chopping stalks, sifting soil, and carrying large bundles of green leaves. Soon after, the roar of a generator can be heard and water begins to flow.

This is one of the 37 community farms made possible through the generators and water pumps provided by the Recovery and Rehabilitation Programme here in Red Sea State; and it is owned and maintained solely by women. These 15 ladies farmed this land in previous years, but their crops were extremely limited due to a lack of water.

The RRP is a five-year initiative (2005-2010), including four years of implementation. The largest and most comprehensive recovery programme in Sudan, the RRP is managed by UNDP on behalf of the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan with funding of € 55.8 million; € 49.75 million of which comes from the European Commission, and € 1.5 million from the Government of Norway. A total of 44 national and international NGOs are working together in 10 states across the country (Blue Nile, Abyei, River Nile, Red Sea, South Kordofan, Northern Upper Nile, Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Warrap and Northern Bahr Al-Ghazal) concentrating on institutional strengthening, improving livelihoods and basic services.

In the Red Sea State; the harsh desert climate and isolation of many of its communities can make projects difficult. But despite the challenges faced these tight knit communities have demonstrated remarkable results. Part of the Red Sea State consortium’s success is because of the excellent coordination at the community level. Before the RRP began in this state, communities had already formed the Arbaat Development Association (ADA), a local organization that intended to address the region’s development needs; but meetings and activities were sporadic and poorly organized.

“Before, this land was dry. We grew only enough to feed the community,” says 43-year-old Aicha. “After the RRP installed the water system we are able to have a business; we not only have food to eat but extra money to buy things like furniture for our homes.”

The main crop cultivated by the women is abusabean; but many of the other community farms here are growing vegetables; and yielding excellent results. Members work on the farms every morning and every evening; and transport the vegetables to the markets in Port Sudan, Atbara and sometimes even Khartoum.

“Everybody talks about the Arbaat vegetables,” says one of the vegetable sellers in the Port Sudan market. “They are grown without pesticides and are fresh and assorted. Really, they are the most popular vegetables here and there is a high demand.”

The demand is being met because of the dedication of community members like Aicha and her partners.

“I am encouraged to work hard and make money so that my son can have a better life,” she says as she stands next to her farm's water pump. “Already since the project began I am able to buy him clothes and books that he didn’t have before.”