Sustain Darfur: RAIN in Partnership to Make Water in 11 Catchments

The Sustain Darfur program, led by ZOA Sudan, looks at Darfur’s water problems from a catchment perspective. As a member of the Aqua 4 Darfur partnership, RAIN (a brand of Aidenvironment) is assessing the social and technical issues in 11 catchments and identifying opportunities to implement water infrastructure that will reduce fluctuations in water levels and help prevent water shortages for people and livestock.

The magnitude of the task is illustrated by the upper catchment of Nyala. Between 1998 and 2015 the town of Nyala in South Darfur swelled in size from 100,000 people to almost a million. The Darfur conflict had driven these people away from their homes to the safety of the IDP camps around the town. All of them have to get their water from the Wadi Nyala through pumps and wells in the riverbed. But rainfall is scarce in this region and the river that passes Nyala (Wadi Nyala) flows for only a few weeks in the year. To provide sufficient water supplies, the water must be held up in the upstream catchment and the flow delayed to allow groundwater flows to recharge the wells in Nyala.

The program faces many challenges and conflicts that make designing planning interventions an extremely complicated and sensitive task. For example, some of the 11 catchments end in “spate irrigation sites” where all the water from the river is diverted into the fields for the crops. Planning water development infrastructure is then a zero sum game: whatever is kept upstream is lost to the downstream users.

Another problem is that several long distance cattle routes traverse the area and because of drought or other reasons pastoralists arrive earlier in the year than normal. Their livestock eat farmers’ crops, creating resource conflicts. Creating a water source for people and livestock in these areas will be an open invitation for herders to let their animals feast on the crops.

People are trying to return from the IDP camps but are usually too scared to live in their villages. They are farming their land again, but because they do not live near their fields they have no time to take the traditional soil protection measures, called “subkanda,” which not only increase the yield by 20% to 30% but also protect the land from rapid runoff and erosion. This makes promoting soil and water conservation more a question of finding opportunities for resettlement.

These are just some of the social and technical issues. To make matters worse, climatic change prognoses for the region indicate that the Darfur region will draw the short straw and will face more droughts than before.

Sustain Darfur is a program financed by DFID (the UK Department for International Development) which will run for 4 years and covers 11 catchments in Darfur, primarily South and West Darfur. The area is difficult to access due to safety and security restrictions and this year the program staff met in Khartoum.

For more information, please contact Maarten Onneweer.

Sustain Darfur program staff in Khartoum discussing
the issues of the different Wadis