Adapting to a changing climate in East Sudan

The people in eastern Sudan are severely affected by the dire consequences of climate change. The instability of rainfalls is changing all the rules and balances of the agriculture on which their livelihoods fundamentally depends. In the region of Gedaref, the impacts of climate change can be a matter of life and death. 90% of the population is involved in agriculture. Most of them depends on subsistence farming, and only a small minority is able to grow a surplus to sell on local markets. With global temperatures rising, the threat of drought for the people of Gedaref is ever-present and frightening.

In 2015, the German Red Cross in collaboration with the Sudanese Red Crescent began a two-year project to reduce the negative impacts of climate change on small farmers in Gedaref. The main goal was to increase agricultural production and strengthen the resilience of those affected by the reduced rainfall. The project focused on 12 communities, which consisted of 800 households. Benefiting approximately 10% more women, the project is also gender balanced.

In close collaboration with local structures and actors, this EUR 1 million project trains and supports communities to fight malnutrition. Planting new seeds and training farmers in new and more sustainable techniques has had a considerable impact on the livelihoods and resilience of vulnerable communities.

For instance, the training on the production of organic fertilizers has enabled local farmers to reduce costs and the negative health effects of the chemical fertilizers and pesticides they were previously using. “Now I’m able to make my own fertilisers using what I have in my farm; not poison which is harmful for our health,” says 70-year-old Fashir Wedaa Abdella.

Farmers receive training in new techniques to battle climate change in a field school in Gorisha East © German Red Cross

The project also supported the community in developing a specialised food production chain, with products from different food groups to ensure a balanced diet, and the creation of a surplus to sell on the market. The training programme also covered various aspects of nutrition, production, and the utilisation of vegetables. Asha Ishaq Sharif, a 45 years old mother in a 12-person household, says: “With all the things they taught me in the trainings I can do things better. I can take care of my family now - I can even make some money on top of what we grow for us.”

The project put an emphasis on sustainability when improving the economic situation and the needs of the local farmers. The measures to provide economic growth in the short-term, are designed not to undermine the resources and environment for present and future generations.

An example of such measures is the tree plantation component of the project, which has helped not only to reduce soil erosion, but also to increase water levels, thus improving the overall health of the community. Throughout the two years of the project, more than 10,000 neem trees were planted in the region. Moreover, the project has helped the communities to install and manage rainwater harvesting systems, rendering them more resilient to droughts. These systems are established using local resources, which makes them sustainable and replicable.

Rainwater Harvesting, Shueib Village © German Red Cross

The combination of new organic farming techniques, ecosystem restoration and the sustainable rainwater harvesting systems, has enhanced the longer-term sustainability of the production chain.

The project has helped households in Gedaref to substantially increase their income and, therefore, improve their health and education.