Zalingei, Darfur (November 11, 2013) — More than 4,000 farmers – over half of them women – are utilizing new seeds and implements distributed through a Near East Foundation initiative to restart agricultural production in Darfur with funding from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.
Through the recent conflict it was nearly impossible for farmers to obtain seeds and, without the ability to grow crops on their land, many people were forced to eat what seed stock they had to survive.
Farmer Abdawahab Khatir Mohamed traveled with others from the Kadlingei Valley, who are all excited to return to work their fields, to participate in a week of project training before the seed distribution. They learned more efficient agricultural production techniques – including how to properly use their seeds and store them for the future.
“We used to think that when you are planting, putting more seeds in one hole can give you more plants. From the training workshop we discovered this is incorrect,” said Abdawahab.
Following the training, participants received vouchers to exchange for seeds – at no cost – at seed fairs organized by NEF. In total, the project has organized 13 seed fairs for beneficiaries from 23 villages. Through the fairs, 252,400 kilograms of seeds and 2,950 tools have been distributed.
“Every farmer in the seed fair was given the freedom to choose the types of seeds they wanted according to the type of soil they have,” said Abdawahab.
Abdawahab said that giving farmers control over the selection process, and not forcing them to take a particular seed variety regardless of their needs, is just one of things that has already made the project more successful at helping people rebuild than previous recovery efforts in their area.
Whenever possible, the seeds are sourced nearby to help local producers expand their businesses and to put more money into rebuilding the local economy. The seeds are randomly tested and only those with high germination rates are approved for sale.
Most recently, 500 farmers received vouchers valued at SDG 330 each for purchasing certified seeds of vegetable crops including tomatoes, onions, and broad beans. This amount is enough to plant an area of 3 feddan. These vegetables are planted during the winter season and are primarily used as cash crops for increasing household income.
To help farmers have the most productive yields possible, the project sends extension experts to the field to provide technical support in planting and harvesting – which the farmers will continue to receive through the next growing season.
“My agricultural product this year is far better than the last year,” said Abdawahab. “I benefitted so much from the methods that we have learned.”
Because they feel engaged and supported in every step of the process, Abdawahab and other farmers believe that this initiative is their opportunity to change their lives for the better today and it is giving them hope for the future.
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 nearly 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 www.neareast.org.