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Sudan: seed for a better future

02-07-2009 Feature

Lingering conflict and unpredictable climate have conspired to bring misery to Darfur. Communities struggle to survive, sharing their scanty resources with people displaced by fighting. To help restore livelihoods and, ultimately, self-sufficiency, the ICRC provides the population with seed, tools, food and technical expertise.


  © ICRC/P. Dutilleul    
  Civilians in Jebel Mara, in North Darfur, head home with food, seed and farm tools distributed to them by the ICRC.    
    The dry hills and mountains of Jebel Marra and Jebel Si strain under the burden of searing heat. For the fifth year running, ICRC employees have embarked on another major distribution of seed and tools to farming communities in Jebel Si and Eastern Jebel Marra. " The road is bumpy, the conditi ons quite harsh, but the journey and the results are definitely worth the effort, " says Charlotte, an ICRC delegate.

The distribution of seed and tools is a major task that involves many departments and people. In North Darfur the ICRC has had to hire temporary staff and request support staff from its sub-delegation in Nyala (South Darfur) in order to carry out this mission successfully. " I was struck by the sheer size of this operation, " says Charlotte. " The sight of a twenty-truck convoy travelling through the desert gives an idea of how many people we help. There are moments I will never forget: the sea of colours of Darfuri women wrapped in their thobs (traditional cloth) and men in white galabiya (traditional robes); the wind and the sand in Samra; and, my first haboob ( sand storm) in Tabassa. It was impressive. We had to seek refuge in a little tuko (hut) and sleep like sardines. We were exhausted, but full of laughter and the experience itself just kept us going. To me it was all so inspiring. "

 Replenishing the bread baskets  

Jebel Si and Jebel Marra were once considered the bread baskets of Darfur. However, the long-running conflict in Darfur has caused food shortages in these areas. People have fled the conflict in the surrounding plains and looked for refuge in these mountainous regions. This massive population movement has put pressure on host communities who are obliged to share their meagre resources with internally displaced people (IDPs). To help the host communities and the IDPs improve their livelihood and nutrition, the ICRC supplies them with seed and tools. 


The coming months are crucial for the farmers of Jebel Marra and Jebel Si. " If they hope to harvest by the end of the year, they have to plant their crops by mid-June, after the onset of the first rains, otherwise the season is lost, " explains Philippe, an ICRC delegate.

Besides seed and tools, the ICRC also distributed food, including beans, oil, sugar and salt and other items like soap. " The food will help farmers concentrate on their farming activities instead of looking for daily jobs to enable them to feed their children, " explains Delvin Walter of the ICRC.


 Harvesting hope    
  © ICRC/P. Dutilleul    
  Vilagers in North Darfur wait to take home seed, food and farm tools they received from the ICRC.    

Some 27,700 farmers and their families – 137,980 people – have benefited from the ICRC operation over a period of two months. The initiative involved the distribution of 278 metric tonnes of seed along with 28,715 tools, 1,965 metric tonnes of food and 43.3 metric tonnes of soap.

Omda Mohammed Abdelrasool Taha Abdulshafi, head of Fanga Suk village in North Darfur is clearly satisfied. " Despite an unpredictable climate, with irregular intervals of rains and drought, our harvests get better every year. Some seed, like okra and watermelon, is not only suitable for this area, but also very fast-growing. "  He explains that many people cannot afford items such as sugar, oil or salt, which the ICRC supplies. " We thank ICRC staff for all the assistance they give to our communities. It will be difficult to see them leave after all these weeks, as we have got used to having them around. Once this big operation is over and they all leave. We will feel a big void in their absence "