Zalengei, Darfur (April 26, 2012) — In Central Darfur State, the Near East Foundation (NEF) has launched a groundbreaking project to manage conflict, improve livelihoods, and build food security through collaborative natural resource management.
The two-year effort will benefit an estimated 900,000 people in 25 villages, with $1 million in funding from the United Nations Development Programme’s Darfur Community Peace and Stability Fund.
Competition over limited natural resources – land, water, pasture, and forest – is often a root cause and a driver of conflict in the area. But natural resource management also creates opportunities for collaboration and reconciliation as well as income and subsistence. The NEF initiative is unique in Darfur for taking a grassroots approach to building trust through collaborative, holistic management of natural resources between communities that have been in conflict.
NEF is beginning by building a dialogue on natural resource issues that are critical to daily survival and livelihoods. These include water scarcity, land use, and food production.
Through the project, NEF will provide community leaders and citizens with training in collaborative resource management and conflict resolution. It will also promote food security by providing agricultural supplies and training in improved crop and livestock production.
Increasing income and strengthening the local economy are key project goals.
Ultimately, the project also aims to build the capacity of communities and individuals to take ownership of the peace process locally. In addition to training individuals, NEF will help community governments and non-profits develop structures to manage and prevent conflict over natural resources.
“It is our honor to work with communities in Darfur after 30 years in Sudan,” said Dr. Charles Benjamin, NEF President. “NEF has a proven track record of promoting reconciliation and increasing food security through collaborative efforts in the Sahel. We intend to use every bit of our experience to be part of the solution in Darfur.”
Internally displaced people, those affected by conflict, and returning refugees will all take part in the project. Special focus will be given to women and youth, who are often excluded from the dialogue but have critical roles in society and, in turn, any lasting solution.
Specific activities targeting improved food security include adapting production techniques and crop varieties to drought conditions, and providing micro-credit loans to farmers.
NEF’s all-local field staff will partner with local governments in the effort as well as organizations including Hand in Hand Organization for Peace and Development, the Sudanese Organization for Humanitarian Aid, and Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Policy.
The Near East Foundation is a U.S.-based international development NGO leading innovative social and economic change in the Middle East and Africa for almost 100 years. Founded in 1915, NEF helps build more sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive communities through education, governance, and economic development initiatives. NEF field staff – all of them from the countries in which they work – partner with local organizations to implement grassroots solutions and to empower citizens through “knowledge, voice, and enterprise.” To learn more visit http://www.neareast.org.