In Darfur, women farmers tackle a rapidly changing climate
Women are able to make a difference in several fields, including agriculture. But they need support and empowerment
Khartoum Abdulrahman Al Duma spent much of November harvesting sesame and peanuts on her farm in the Darfur region in Sudan.
In Darfur, land can be hard to sow, parts are semi-arid and prone to droughts, which are becoming worse amid the climate crisis. The region has been beset by conflict for the past two decades, compounding the challenges for its inhabitants.
But Al Duma's crop turned out to be a bumper one. That's thanks in part to training she received under an initiative led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Called the Wadi El Ku Catchment Management Project, it trained Al Duma and dozens of other women on how to harvest, store and market their produce. For women in the region, many of whom have been widowed due to the conflict, peanuts and sesame flowers are an important source of income.
We believe knowledge is our weapon to fight climate change.
Mariam Abubakr, Wadi El Ku project team
"After selling our products and getting the money we have many things to do, including sending our children to school and starting a small business," said Al Duma.
The training she received was part of a larger UNEP effort to create economic opportunities in Darfur, especially for women, and to help the region cope with a fast-changing climate. Perched on the southern reaches of the Sahara Desert, in a region known as the Sahel, Darfur has seen rainfall dwindle in recent years.
The Wadi El Ku project, which is concentrated in a river valley near the city of El Fasher, has also supported the construction of weirs to conserve and regulate rainwater. In existence since 2014, the project has won plaudits for supporting local livelihoods and reducing conflict between nomadic livestock herders and farmers.
"Women are able to make a difference in several fields, including agriculture. But they need support and empowerment," said Mariam Abubakr, part of the Wadi El Ku project team. "We believe knowledge is our weapon to fight climate change and harvesting season proves that. I'm glad to see these women reap the fruits of their effort."
In 2020, more than 60,000 native seedlings were planted in the region to act as a buffer against the desert. Project teams also helped residents build weirs, or low dams, to conserve rainwater and protect against flooding.
More recently, teams worked in the villages of Ed-Elbaida, Bahr-Omdurman, Sag-Elnaam, Wad-Kuta and Wada to train women in modern farming techniques. The women are working a 30-acre plot of land donated by local sheikhs. The project helped get the farms up and running, preparing land, providing ploughs, and donating groundnut, sesame and sorghum seeds. That support helped the women-led farms weather a dry growing season better than many in their area.
"We have acquired new agricultural skills and practices through the season, and we are committed to train other women during the next season," said Abdelrahman
The Wadi El Ku Catchment Management Project is funded by the European Union and implemented by UNEP in partnership with the Government of Sudan and the non-governmental organization Practical Action.