SOS Sahel program in Darfur

SOS Sahel Sudan’s vision is to implement a long-term strategy designed to develop the targeted communities by building their capacities to manage their natural resources and strengthening livelihoods. SOS Sahel Sudan is now fully independent national NGO working in partnership with several NGOs, UN agencies and academic institutions including DRA, SOS UK, Oxfam, NCA, Concern, PA, ZAO, UNEP, FAO and WFP. It is governed by a strong Sudanese Executive Committee of 15 people, elected from a General Assembly of 46 members. SOS Sahel operates programmes across six states of Sudan – Red Sea, Kasala, North Kordofan, South Kordofan, West Kordofan and North Darfur.
Darfur program
In SOS Sahel Sudan’s 2010-15 strategic plan it was identified that the organization should further expand its geographical coverage to other states. Darfur, Blue Nile and White Nile were mentioned because of their humanitarian needs. Therefore in November 2011 SOS Sahel opened an office in El Fasher where several projects were implemented so far. These are including livelihood project funded by EU, Community Environmental Action Plan (CEAP) funded by UNEP, Community based social peace building and co-existence funded by AECOM/ USAID, Resource-based conflict reduction project funded by Practical Action and Capacity building of CBOs funded by WFP.

  1. Livelihood project

SOS Sahel Sudan livelihood project was designed based on the Market Monitoring and Trade Analysis MMTA findings and recommendations, The overall objective of the MMTA is: to deepen analysis and understanding of trade and markets and of the impact of conflict on key commodities in Darfur in order to identify how livelihoods, economic recovery and peace-building can be supported through trade.

The SOS Sahel livelihood component is aiming at building the capacity of communities in North Darfur involved in trading and marketing of leather and other key livestock by-products to improve their livelihoods.

The project implementation started by a feasibility study about North Darfur potential for leather and other livestock by-products, which identified the major livestock’s by-product production and marketing concerns  that informed SOS Sahel about appropriate strategies to be used to build local capacities to stimulate people economic recovery,

Project Target groups:

The project focus was the traditional small-scale sector in North Darfur, namely, butchers, skinners, tanners, leather collectors, leather traders, leather processors and handicraftswomen,

Hence the project strategies focused on working among communities and relevance organizations include women based development organization, governmental institutions to build their capacities, mobilize their knowledge and resources, to overcomes common leather trade challenges

Capacity building

The visibility study highlighted some gaps which was addressed and incorporated into the planned capacity building program to improve implementation in the following areas:

  1. Capacity building for staff and CBOs to promote high quality marketing of hides and leathers
  1. Capacity building for people working in the production and marketing of animal by-products, including staff from the State Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries in leather trading issues.

Furthermore These capacity buildings intervention was achieved throughout project life (2 phases 2013 and 2014), during which several trainings and workshops were presented to 470 leather workers, technicians, and Artisan, CBOs, where participants develop necessary capacity and skill, that contributed to profitable leather trading in North Darfur.

Project immediate impact:

  • The project indirect beneficiaries are 2850 of leather workers families’ members, and dependents, beside the wide range of benefit going indirectly to all community members
  • The project participatory approach, employed resulted in strong linkages and relationship  between all stakeholders resulted in good understanding of their  roles and responsibilities 
  • The women proven positive participation that reflected in value added to their handicraft product such as colourful accessories, shoes, bags, these product prove to became more in line with market needs
  • The project approach help community to address markets issues in collective way and peaceful manners they adopt forums consist local leaders, tribes leaders, CBOs, DRA market numerators, and localities authorities to maintains a continuous dialogue with each other to enrich the fair marketing of local products for the promotion of community livelihood
  • In order to sustain the project imitative the project invested in capacity building of  North Darfur ministry of Animal Production and fisheries’ where Veterinary Doctors and assistance acquired necessary skills on leather processing used during project implementation to actively help leather workers and traders to improve their products, more over they further guarantee extra support in the future

Linking the project with other actors

  • The project was able to maintain effective links between communities, SOS Sahel and  Ministry of Animal resources and Fishers at state and federal level involves the Federal National centre for leather quality improvement, include  involvement of  experts from this centre in trainings of Veterinary staff and assistance, this linked was extremely important, and will help to throw stones to stagnant pool of leather trade issues
  • Other links being built was with SOS Sahel, leather workers, butcher union, and Locality Authorities, and the latter owned all slaughterhouses, they agree upon Ministry of Animal production and fisheries to take leading and became a reference for address animal by-product issues at state level.
  • SOS Sahel belief that North Darfur Women’s were playing key role in leathered production and trades especially the  villages and town leather craftswomen, to reach these artisan women, SOS Sahel established functioning relationship with partnering the Women Development and Peace Building Network (WDPBN). The WDPBN had been founded in order to pmmrovide a platform for women in North Darfur to exchange ideas and collaborate on business initiatives. The network has a large network of CBOs across North Darfur and the project areas of intervention. (WDPBN) made an appreciated effort which facilitated establishment of efficiency linked between SOS Sahel and CBOs working on women’s development at a locality level. This enabled SOS Sahel to reach a greater audience for the training workshops.
  •  UNDP North Darfur approached SOS Sahel for specifically share SOS Sahel experiences and to see how the UNDP Animal by-product program and survey could be integrated into the SOS Sahel livelihood programme and future programming.

Challenges and Lesson learnt:

  • In spite of important of Animal by-product and activities implemented, that grounded on professional visibility study, limitation are evidence, it is simple number game as we are dealing with a big poor society living under poverty and struggling for better livelihood, the project success stimulate even more questions about project limited coverage among uncovered communities, more the Ministry of Animal production and fisheries acquired a lot experiences to support these communities in remote areas but still the questions of how they can pay for capacity building program, travel cost needed to share their experience remain   unanswered
  • Whilst the issue of poor condition of slaughter houses was challenging, it still remained unsolved, the Elfasher locality presented proposal for resources to improve slaughter house working condition i.e. shelters, concrete platforms, water containers and other, further more they calling for SOS Sahel and other relevance organization to support and to link them with donors, interest expressed by some organizations but has not yet shown the real will to fully support

  1. Community Environmental Action Plan (CEAP)

The project overall objective is to improve the abilities of nomadic pastoralists and resident communities to manage their environment and natural resources in a more sustainable manner and to cope effectively with environmental challenges such as climatic variability and intensified land-use through community-based environmental action planning processes (CEAP)

Specific Objectives:

  • To engage nomadic pastoralist communities and resident communities in the same landscape units in community environmental action planning and natural resources management 
  • To build capacities of local CBOs of Nomadic pastoralists network to enable them to lead CEAP processes and environmental activities within nomadic pastoralist communities
  • To adjust CEAP approaches to the specific needs of nomadic pastoralist communities

Project Rationale

The environmental degradation has played a key role in the conflict in Darfur. The inhabitants depend heavily on the natural resource for their socio-economic activities. First of all, land and water access are crucial for sustainable livelihoods. The majority of people earn their livelihoods through subsistence production, either farming or animal rearing. With the increasing competition for land and water resources and the lack of local conflict resolution mechanisms, the competition between the two livelihood groups became violent. Furthermore, the issue of climate change presents a continuing problem in Darfur. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports convey that sub-Saharan Africa will experience some of the most significant effects from climate change, such as increasing occurrence and severity of droughts. Darfur has already experienced some of these changes as documented by the UNEP post-conflict environmental assessment. Climate change impacts in Darfur can present significant implications for future conflicts due to the lack of conflict resolution mechanisms, low capacity, and absence of an adaptation strategy. Pastoral nomads who are used to moving from one area to another have been greatly affected by the impact of climate change and thus, they should be involved on environment and natural resource planning and management.

Background of the project sites:

The project area lies within EL Fasher rural about 40 km from El Fasher town to the west, and bordered by Tawila locality from south, Korma and Kutum localities from the North and North west respectively. The landscape generally is characterized by sandy soil, and clay plains, with gentle slope to the east, the semi arid thorny acacia trees and shrubs scattering here and there, and the evidence of vegetation degradation and soil erosion is noticeable in the area. The seasonal runoff water from Jebel see hills from the far west runs across the area to the east up to Wadi Alkoy near El Fasher forming several seasonal water course streams called Wadis and Khours. However, the landscape characteristic and natural resources available shaped people’s livelihood strategies which are mostly farming and herding. Additionally, people grow millet and sorghum in the sandy Goz lands during rainy season while grow vegetables and some cash crops such as watermelon and tombac (tabaco) on Wadis (alluvial fertile soils). Additionally, nomads and agro-pastoralists used to rear livestock in surrounding communal lands, and/or also migrated seasonally in search of better pasture, and water for grazing and watering their animals. The low rainfalls and drought spells are characteristic of the areas, so some farmers who have access to wadi lands use water harvesting to increase soil moisture and also raise the ground water level. Water harvesting techniques include contour trenches, farm bunds, and also check dams, thus the seasonal farming labor opportunity are available.  Some poor depend on this type of farm labor.

The project area population dynamics are a mixture of pastoral nomad and agricultural farmer groups living in 4 village councils namely Kuaim, Sarafaya, Kussa, and Umassal . The total population is 22,498 persons grouped into 3,214 HH. The main tribes living in area are Etifat, and Eregat Arab, Zaghawa, Tongour, Berti and other small tribes.

Based on community shared resources, economic ties and common interests two CEAPs have been established - one in Sarafaya and Kusiam and the other in Umassal and Kussa. The 6 month CEAP pilot project (March - August 2013), designed to develop participatory community based natural resource management activities through the employment of a community participatory approach, required the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders including local leaders, the nomadic NGO networks, state Ministry of Agriculture, local CBOs, Voluntary Network for Rural Development and HAC as well as entire nomad and resident farmer communities living in the project area.

Proposed activities

  • Formation and training of CEAP team (Team leader and 3 officers) from SOS Sahel with nomadic pastoralist members.
  • Conduct one training workshop in Elfasher, North Darfur State. The targeted groups are 40 representatives of Darfur Nomads Peace and Development Network and Jebel Medob network.
  • Select 2 pastoralist communities from the 2 networks and work with them on CEAP process.    
  • Support community initiatives that promote shared management of natural resources, for example management of water and grazing areas, construction of a Hafir (water reservoir) and demarcation of livestock corridors at conflict flash points.
  • Linking the respective communities with local government technical departments (Water and Range & Pasture Administration)

In addition, project will provide capacity building to local civil society organisations – including working with existing organisations, and encouraging excluded groups such as women and youth to set up their own organisations.

Project results and short term impact

  • Several positive developments have been observed among the CEAP community committees in terms of commitment to work together, organization, and an enhanced sense of ownership. For example, the Amassal and Kussa communities took the initiative to call  and organize  collective working day, all people contributed with tools or food without asking any assistance from Sahel to maintain the weak parts of the new dams to avoid any damages might caused by flood. They were also able to claim their rights by establishing good contact with service providers, the government bodies and organizations. The same happened with Kuaim people who managed to build rooms for the water station engines to protect them.
  • The partners’ interest in the working together approach was also demonstrated in several ways including supporting and participating effectively in all project processes, encouraging communities to unify and pay special attention to peaceful co-existence and fewer conflicts over natural resources
  • Although The complex situation of the area is challenging, but the advantage of participatory approach contributed to changing perspectives about protecting surrounding resources to improve livelihoods, the exchange visits between villages especially during activity implementation also helped to mend torn relationships between communities in the area.
  • The communities accessibility to reliable drinking water improved for some of 750 HHs in particularly the women. Women travelling and waiting time for water collection  saved from about 6-7 hours to 1- 2 hours or so, the competition and conflict around water accessibility reduced, even the price of water collection is going down, now from SDG . 8 to SDG .7 for Rawia (Rawia is 4 plastic Garry cans and watering of donkey) the water point management system is very flexible in payment specially for poor people they accepted cash or in-kind payment even less than 1 – 2  Garry cans can be collected for free
  • The dam construction at Amassal is a real change for Nomadic communities about (693 HHs beneficiaries). It is seen as a good opportunity to diversify their livelihood strategies that were severely disrupted by the ongoing difficulties placed on them by insecurity and drought cycles. They now have access to cash crops to improve their income, and reliable water for HHs consumption and for their animal drinking. In the other hand some of 1300 HHs of Sarafayia communities have their lands restored. The Wadi flooded more than once and the constructed check-dam is still strong and its bed is full of water to the maximum. The community looks full of hope and appreciation to see their needs effectively met, They contended that they have not had such a sizable area covered in water for over 13 years, a sign that this is good progress in working towards improving their livelihoods.

  1. Supporting Social Peace

The SOS Sahel Sudan contracted the Development Initiative Group (DIG) to organize two rounds of training workshop on Supporting Social Peace for group of local leaders and community activists from two localities of North Darfur State (Dar Elsalam Locality and Kalimindo Locality).

Two rounds of the Supporting Social Peace training workshops took place in Alfashir and lasted for 10 training days during the period 23rd of December 2012 to 3rd of January 2013. Sixty persons from the two targeted localities attended the training workshops. The training workshop was carried out according to a framework that has been developed and prepared by DIG in response to SOS Sahel Sudan request, which has been agreed upon as a base for this assignment.

Lessons learnt and ways forwards:

  • One of workshop impact and good sign is committees Action plan stated here in this report and workshop recommendation captured by the facilitator report and the commitment made by commissioner to support the social peace committees with all means
  • It is too early to talk about the impact of the workshop it was just beginning but some evidence and sign of hope during the course of the implementation of workshop are captured and posted here and I would like to share it with you in this report,   , it became noticeable and clear the evidence of  the willingness of communities leader in their efforts to find ways to escape community from these plight and suffering , showing that they are tired from endless conflict and blood shading , this proved by their commitment to attended  the workshop regardless the Ramadan hot weather, and the beginning of farming time  people traveled all the way  from far distance up to 70 km by donkeys and rented cars, while some of Abo zirgia committees members even  came one day before the event and spent night  in Abo Zergia waiting the facilitator and team to arrive from Daralsalam
  • A lot of stories are told in this workshop but while  I listened  to local leader expressing his feelings in his speech in opening session I just caught by his words about the impact of ELFasher workshop,  he started his talk saying  that it is look like dream this gathering of locality people of different tribe, he disclosed  we are before like one big family, we have  strong social relation such as inters marriage and friendship, economics ties but because of conflict all these gone and we went apart, he continued to say for years it was difficult for us to  visit each other, or support each other in hardship or happiness events like in pervious good times, and he see the Elfasher workshops as an unique opportunity he thought it will  not happened again to meet but it became reality in ELFasher and this workshop in his area is also good for their future, just the reality of  staying days in one room, eating and chatting together and analyzing their situation is a meaningful change and  a big  step towards peaceful life as proverb says the count of walking thousand footsteps  begin with  first step, thank for AECOM and Sahel they are really donning a wonderful job
  • The commissioner and his followers and even some participants attracted our attention about very important change happening since elfasher workshop, they mentioned that during Elfasher peace building workshops the participant exchanged their phone numbers to maintain good communication between them, and it is work, the commissioner said he is very happy to see this happened, regardless the grievance and some bad experience between community members happened throughout the course of the conflict but now there is evidence of relatively improvement in people  relation  at least at communities leaders level, he also told us that these connections resulted in restoring of animal stolen by armed robbery  groups the robbed community leaders reported the case to other leaders in the area,  latter they received message from tribe leader leave in Daralsam reporting that while the robbers with stolen cattle’s passing his  area  some of his tribe men tried to  stopped them  but they flee leaving the cattle’s behind  actually many cases like this have been  reported  to commissioner and locality police, and community look at it as positive side of the workshops and the   good communication established as result of it. We also notice during Daralsam workshop participants contact with Abo zergia leaders about the progress of workshop and some coordination established accordingly
  •  the women participation in committees seem to be very weak , also the numbers of participant attended the forums expected to be more than actual attendance, but taking in account the time of workshop which  was just after one day from first big rain in the area and that all families members particularly women are out  busy with cleaning and planting their fields, beside that the Ramadan hot weather is another factor contributed to this but generally quit reasonable representative of communities members and women attended opening sessions. We hope to consider these factor in the future events.