Preserving Resources and Peace

Local Conventions_Sudan_Comic Relief

Eissa is 80 years old and a village leader in a remote village in South Kordofan. During his life, he has seen his village experience times of peace and times of great unrest caused by competition for territory and resources. He’s witnessed the resulting displacement and suffering these conflicts have caused as well as the degradation of the surrounding land and forests. 

In Sudan, NEF facilitates reconciliation among groups in conflict through collaborative natural resource management. This starts with the establishment of negotiated agreements between two or more groups that define the ground rules for management and access to resources such as water points, grazing land, and migration corridors. Eissa had this to report after participating in these negotiations,

“This process has helped us as sheikhs and Omdas (village leaders) tremendously. It helped raise awareness about the importance of conserving our natural resources, especially the forests. It’s also helped us decrease the amount of conflict between the pastoralists and the farmers in the area. The pastoralists are more committed to their corridors and now keep away from the farmer’s fields.”

This has been especially important during the summer when the severe lack of water prompts pastoralists to set up camps in areas called Damras (temporary nomad villages) and utilize the established community’s water pasture for livestock and village schools for their children. Eissa explains how children are uniquely positioned to mitigate conflict in this situation. “Now students at schools, especially the children of pastoralists who are just passing by, are raising awareness about natural resource conservation and management which has helped avert unnecessary conflicts that might occur in the area.”

While Eissa is encouraged by the progress that he’s seen, he hopes that the workshops on how to negotiate these agreements will continue, “We still need more of the management of conflict over natural resources workshops because we think it can extend the knowledge for more nearby Damras in the area.”

Vital to NEF’s peacekeeping and natural resource management initiatives in the region are efforts to increase the role of women in public leadership and group decision-making around these matters. Ensuring that women have a voice in the peacebuilding process is key to achieving long-term changes in attitudes around the valuable contributions of women in their communities. 

Using an inclusive approach, the agreements are collaboratively established with the help of the Near East Foundation (NEF), the National Forest Cooperation (NFC), village leaders, village women’s associations, and local authorities. With funding from Comic Relief, it has been almost a year now since these conventions were put into place in three localities, all with positive impacts.

Empowering Communities by Empowering Women in Sudan

In a village called Abu Jebeiha, NEF is training community members in how to use their new brick making machine. The machine was provided through NEF UK’s Empowering women in Kordofan through non-wood forest products for income and food security, funded by Comic Relief. 


This brick making enterprise is one of 25 natural resource management (NRM) microprojects that form part of a wider effort, providing a sustainable income to communities with limited income generating options, while reducing deforestation and improving forest management practices. In this case the bricks will replace wood as a construction material, reducing the need to cut trees and providing a more durable quality of b­uilding. Other examples of these forest management microprojects include seedling nurseries to increase plant and forest cover in communities where land has been degraded, and providing gas cylinders to reduce the use of firewood. 

Additional efforts focus particularly on women in poor and remote communities, to increase their incomes and improve management of natural resources by introducing new techniques for producing and harvesting key non-wood forest products such as gum arabic, desert dates, honey, sider, baobab, and other local fruits that improve quality while reducing the degradation of the trees that produce them. The formation and capacity building of local “women’s associations” is the main entry point to the empowerment process that NEF seeks to achieve for women in these communities. The “Women’s associations”, act as a cooperative for producers and others to collaborate on marketing, commercialization, and management of natural resources. 

While over 5,500 people have directly benefitted from this work so far, the impacts reach far beyond natural resource management improvements and include enormous economic, networking, and psycho-social benefits. 

Increasing Distribution and Income


With NEF’s help, association members from Al Odiat village have been able to upgrade their non-wood forest products through screening, sorting, adoption of improved storage techniques, new packing techniques, and increased efforts to prevent insect infestations. These enhancements, along with formalized packaging and branding, have resulted in a higher price for their goods. Another goal of the project is to help associations improve linkages with wholesalers, which gives them access to a wider market. The training NEF UK provided on management, communication, leadership, and business coaching has helped the association achieve this. NEF UK is also introducing microfranchising to these communities, facilitating enterprise expansion and creating a brand for these products that will further help them to access local, national and international markets. 

Changing Attitudes and Empowering Women

Fatima_SudanFatima is the chairperson of E’diat Shargia women’s association. Before the project, people in the village were unaware of how to maximize their income from non-wood forest products. Due to their perceived lack of value, the harvesting and management of these products was left to women in the community. When NEF’s project team came to her community, Fatima immediately got involved, seeing the potential impact in the work proposed. “I realized that the only economic resource that was exclusively under the control of women in the village was non-wood forest products,” says Fatima, “I thought that if women of my village managed to unite, they would contribute to increase their income and would gain respect from their husbands and other men.” The village has access to nabaq (Sider), gum arabic and laloub (desert date), but was not deriving much income from these products as they were either consuming them or selling the products raw and unprocessed. “I mobilized the women’s association members (men and women) and convinced them to get trained to produce improved products, this was done through peer training and project staff. Today every woman from the association that is involved in improved production says that she derives important revenues from it,” explains Fatima. Beyond the increases in income, she has also seen attitude and behavior changes related to deforestation, with many men planting sider and desert date plants in fields around the village. “This is one of my greatest satisfactions in life!” she says, outlining how she encouraged village members to set up household nurseries and for men to give land to women so they could plant trees too. She now believes that most the men in her village are supporting the association in various ways, and the village chief has said that the future of the community is now in women’s hands.

Click here to learn more about NEF’s work in Sudan.



Increasing access to clean water in Sudan

group photo at NEF  water point

As the Sudanese people return home, they find conditions much worse than when they left. To make matters worse, an influx of internally displaced people (IDPs) in communities across Sudan has placed a drain on the already overstretched resources available.

Basic infrastructure—most notably water and sanitation infrastructure—has either been destroyed or the existing infrastructure has suffered from a lack of maintenance because of inaccessibility due to the conflict. A lack of parts, tools, and trained mechanics, as well as actual damage from rebel activities, has put many hand pumps out of order, or destroyed them completely, and severely reduced the amount of water available to both the local community, including the returnees, and the IDP population. At the same time, a serious lack of latrines and hygiene puts communities at high risk of water borne disease.

To respond to this crisis, NEF’s teams in South Kordofan and Central Darfur are helping to reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality of nearly 100,000 people by improving their access to clean water, and education on hygiene and sanitation best practices. Working within local communities, NEF has mobilized Water and Sanitation Committees (WSCs) and Subcommittees across seven village clusters (Abassiya, Rashad, Abu Karshola, Um Dukhun, Nertiti, Golo, and Rokero). WSCs are trained on best approaches to sanitation and hygiene, and on how to identify and prioritize infrastructure improvements—from water pumps to latrines. To further ensure the sustainability of the project, NEF helps to train and employ local craftspeople and artisans to manufacture and/or rehabilitate water pumps and latrines throughout the villages.

Asmaa Dawood_WASH-SKS

Asmaa Dawood, one of the Sudanese women who attended the hand pump mechanics training, was impressed by the value of what she learned. She also commented that this was the first time women in her village were included in such a training.

“We have benefitted a lot from this training. We received knowledge on hand pump mechanics so that we— including women—can respond when hand pumps are broken. We are really thankful to NEF for the good service that has been delivered to our community!”

As of last month, NEF has helped identify 1,720 beneficiaries to receive new latrines, and 85 artisans to help construct them—more than 50 percent have been completed. Furthermore, the WSCs have distributed 1,500 hygiene kits, which include hygiene and sanitation education materials. These efforts have so far benefitted over 50,000 people.

NEF’s water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) work in Sudan is funded and supported by USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

Hygeine kit distribution in Golo
Hygeine kit distribution in Golo.
Local artisans at work fabricating latrine slabs
Local artisans at work fabricating latrine slabs.
Hygeine and sanitation education for school children
Hygeine and sanitation education for school children.

Improving Access to clean water in Sudan


Despite being one of the most difficult places in the world to operate as an NGO, NEF has been working in Sudan for over thirty years. As one of the few continuously operating NGOs in the country, NEF is seeing much needed progress in Sudan and making important contributions in some of the most challenging areas.

Sudan’s South Kordofan and Darfur regions have seen ongoing conflict and disruption, resulting in more than three million people who are considered internally displaced. Families have had to flee their homes due to conflict and violence, with devastating consequences for both their health and livelihoods as well as for the local populations in the areas where they have resettled. This has manifested in heightened food insecurity, inadequate access to clean water, deteriorating sanitation and hygiene conditions, and diminished opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.

NEF is working to improve hygiene, sanitation, and the water supply conditions in three clusters in South Kordofan and 12 clusters in Central Darfur. Its work there focuses on the health and well being of conflict-affected people by improving access to potable water and adequate sanitation and hygiene.

NEF is similarly working with local organizations to increase their technical and management capacity to improve access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) as well as increase their ability to address management of their natural resources. By improving the effectiveness of these civil society organizations in the region, it allows them to access, prioritize, communicate, and coordinate local needs of vulnerable groups with regard to WASH and natural resource management.

As a result of a trainer of trainers workshop on WASH and natural resource management in August 2016 in Rongataz, Azoum Locality, a group of four young men who live in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp submitted a complete project proposal to NEF’s partners at the Sudanese Organisation for Humanitarian Assistance (SOHA) related to WASH and health promotion in their area.

“We live in an IDP camp and we have seen how people suffer from the lack of latrines in their homes, and how this issue has led to so many problems related to people’s health, such the prevalence of diarrhea and other hygiene related diseases,” one of the applicants stated. “So we prepared this proposal. Thank God this project and workshop came at the right time, addressing our exact need to solve one of the biggest problems that we are suffering from.”

The training workshop team received the proposal so that it can be reviewed and assessed; after which, SOHA will respond to the group.

“I have benefited a lot from this workshop and it has inspired me to work hard in our area to try to solve the problem, by conveying what I have learned in this workshop to the community to raise their awareness, especially in the IDP camps,” said another participant.

To facilitate the peaceful sharing of natural resources among ethnically diverse communities in the region, NEF has introduced new tools—such as “supra-village” associations (representative organizations to manage local resources), local conventions, and land use management plans. These tools help communities work to share much needed resources more effectively and promote inclusive and collaborative economic development. This work leverages a collaborative approach with targeted communities to complete village surveys and asset-mapping, in preparation for training and capacity building exercises in each community.

DSC_0407NEF also promotes peaceful and participatory economic recovery among internally displaced, returnees, and vulnerable populations in Sudan through microenterprise development and income-generating activities. In South Kordofan, non-wood forest products and natural resource management development focused on women has the potential to increase women’s income by 40 to 100 percent, improve climate-resilient food systems, and promote gender equality. NEF is working with women in South Kordofan to develop women’s cooperative associations that support women’s involvement in the cultivation and economic benefit of forest products such as gum Arabic and honey. In the first few months since the project has launched, NEF has organized nearly 500 people around these activities, over 80 percent of them women.

NEF’s work in Sudan is funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), EuropeAID, and Comic Relief.

The U. S. Agency for International Development administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide.

To read more about NEF’s work in Sudan, click here.


Finding Peaceful Solutions for Nomadic Pastoralists and Farmers in Sudan


Sudan—Subsistence farming is the primary means of income in rural areas of Central Darfur. The vast majority of Darfur’s population consists of rural sedentary farmers and pastoralists. The relationship between the two is sensitive as both rely on the land for their livelihood and their tribes’ survival. A lack of suitable drinking water and rapidly eroding grazing land in the arid region has caused land disputes, often escalating to violent conflict. Drought, depleting natural resources, and unclear boundaries have further exacerbated these tensions.

Having worked in Sudan since 1978, NEF is one of the few organizations with well-established local community support networks and government approval to implement sustainable, holistic solutions to complex regional challenges.

Last year NEF, in partnership with AECOM, implemented efforts to extend resources, economic security, and peace in Central Darfur by reducing tensions between competing users of natural resources through collaborative projects. Working with the local community, NEF is increasing local capacities to implement conflict mitigation and natural resource management techniques while reinforcing peacebuilding efforts.

To achieve its goals, NEF went back to the basics—demarcating migration corridors for pastoralists and farmers from Zalingei to Garsila, digging wells to provide new and crucial water points for people and livestock in the villages of Darlow and Kidibu, and designating 10 hectares of pastures (enriched with drought tolerant seeds) for livestock to graze and rest. These improvements, although seemingly simple, have created opportunity for sedentary farmers and their crops to cohabit more harmoniously with migrating pastoralists and their herds.

2015_Sudan_Mali_ERESP_pasture seeds prep in Delieg   IMG-20150815-WA0004   

In the past year, 1,500 households and 750 head of livestock have benefitted from the new water supply points. In total, enrichment planting and other improvements have enhanced 11,300 hectares of land.

To preserve these structures, the project team has worked with the local community to create and train committees to maintain the water sources and grazing corridors. The committees consist of 15 members, 20 – 30% of which are women.

Community members, including farmers and pastoralists, have noted reduced conflict over natural resources between nomadic pastoralists and settled farmers as the migration corridor has reduced trespassing and damage to crops—addressing a key source of conflict in the region.

Adam Yagoup Hassan, a local farmer, expressed his gratitude and the positive impact these improvements have made on his livelihood when he said, “I have had a good harvest this year compared to other seasons. Because of the pasture enrichment and demarcation, my farm has been protected from nomadic livestock grazing on my crops.”

Government officials have also acknowledged the role that these efforts have made in preventing disputes and curtailing conflict. Mohamed Isehag Mohamed, the Vice Omda (Chief) of Abata said, “NEF has come up with very innovative activities which have really made an impact. We have seen that during this harvesting season, the number of conflicts between farmers has been reduced.”

To read more about our work in Sudan, click here.



Community Veterinarians are Key in Central Darfur’s Economic Recovery


Darfur, Sudan—As a newly minted paraveterinary technician, or paravet, Kharif provides basic animal health care and animal production advice to people in his communities. “Before attending the paravets’ workshop, I was leading a very difficult life because I didn’t have a real full-time job to rely on,” Kharif said. Today, 50 cattle owners—each with about 150 head—rely on Kharif to take care of their livestock’s health. “You can imagine how big my workload is,” Kharif said. “My personal financial distress has been completely relieved and now my children are doing well at school as a result of my economic stability.”

Through its Resources, Livelihoods, and Security initiative, NEF brings together communities in Central Darfur—now emerging from years of devastating conflict—to help them craft sustainable solutions for economic recovery: micro-enterprise development, agricultural production and, natural resource management. Livestock is a cornerstone of the local economy, and animal health is critical for the livelihoods of NEF’s partners.

Through the paraveterinary program, NEF partnered with the Department of Animal Wealth of Central Darfur to create a network of 25 paravets equipped to help maintain livestock health and to treat common diseases. Participants recruited from partner communities attended a 21-day course on fundamentals of animal care and a three-day business development training. The paravets operated as private entrepreneurs, operating sustainably on a fee-for service basis, which helps them recover the costs of medicines and earn an income.

Another new paravet, Hamid was not only able to increase his daily income but also now trains others to take care of animals. Many of the most common animal diseases are easily preventable with better practices and care. With his new skills, Hamid believes he has “a personal responsibility to help raise pastoralists’ awareness of best practices for animal health.”

Before he received training, paravet Abdelkarim used trial-and-error methods to treat animals. “I wasn’t very confident about what I was doing, because I lacked fundamental scientific knowledge and skills. After the training, I feel far more self-confident. I know what I am doing and I can see the positive results of treatments.” Abdelkarim also opened a small store selling veterinary medicine. This is important in this area, because pastoralists lack immediate access to drugs for their livestock.

Since its launch in 2013, the Resources, Livelihoods, and Security initiative has impacted the lives of thousands of people, many of whom have had a history of conflict with each other. Along with the 2,330 people who took part in business-training workshops, 460 people gained access to clean water from 23 water pumps installed in 13 villages, and 7,000 farm families acquired certified seed and tools through NEF-organized agricultural fairs.

NEF’s Resources, Livelihoods, and Security initiative has received support from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, AECOM, and United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).

Click here to read more about our work in Sudan.


Hawa, An Inspired Entrepreneur

DARFUR – Near East Foundation beneficiaries are known to be industrious and inspired when starting their enterprises. In Sudan, the beneficiaries of NEF and the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance’s Resources, Livelihoods, and Security project are no different. Walking through the markets of Abata, a small area southwest of the Central Darfur State capital of Zalingei, you will find Hawa Zakariya Mohamed, an NEF beneficiary and cloth seller. Hawa, 36, has a recently widowed niece with two children who fell on hard economic times.

“I benefited so much from NEF’s business training workshops,” Hawa says, “and I still remember every bit of it, so I began to teach my niece. Because I have had such good fortune from my business, I gave her money to start her own business.”

Hawa’s niece, 28, did just that. Using the tools and training Hawa taught her from NEF’s workshops, her niece began to sell traditional Sudanese foods in the same marketplace.

“She benefited from my advice and would always apply what she learned,” Hawa says. “My niece has now surpassed the hardship of life she had been in and she is moving forward. This has made me so content and satisfied.”




This story is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of the Near East Foundation, and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States government.

Musa Mohamed’s Business Starts Cooking

Musa Adam Mohamed

DARFUR – Musa Adam Mohamed sits in his small business, selling kitchen utensils. He lives in the Abata area of Sudan, 35 kilometers west of Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur State. Musa, 43, is a beneficiary of the Near East Foundation’s and the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance’s Resources, Livelihoods, and Security program. He decided to start this business as part of the NEF project because he noticed a need in the local market.

“I have solved the women’s problems regarding the purchases of the kitchen utensils, which are so important to them,” Musa says. “I make it so easy for them by selling them these commodities in reasonable prices and in convenient installments, especially for those who can’t pay immediately.”

Musa’s business sense and willingness to deal with his customers are paying off. His small business is expanding to the point that he is considering approaching a bank for a loan.

“I am thinking of starting something new in the big markets in Zalingei,” he says. “Thank you, NEF, and all the best for you in your efforts … You’re doing a wonderful job.”




This story is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of the Near East Foundation, and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States government.


NEF’s Legacy in Sudan


Since NEF established its Sudan program in 1978, our field staff have worked tirelessly through decades of civil war and regime change to deliver hope and lasting change.

Here’s a brief history of our impact in communities throughout the country.

1970s and ‘80s

Early on, NEF’s projects in Sudan focused on building local institutional capacity for sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry. In 1986, a decade-long initiative was launched to promote beekeeping (with African bees) by collaborating with a group of young Sudanese professionals to form the Sudan Bee and Agricultural Association in central Sudan and Darfur. The training center in Kabum in South Darfur continues to function—nearly 20 years after NEF’s direct support ended.


NEF expanded its technical training capacities to include programs in project design, participatory development, gender sensitivity, finance, and community health. NEF staff trained more than 2,000 Sudanese government officials and local development professionals through experiential learning workshops.

In the late ‘90s, NEF launched a micro-credit program for low-income people in the states of North Kordofan, North Darfur, and Blue Nile, and eight large communities of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) around Khartoum. NEF staff also worked with three communities in North Darfur to train midwives and set up revolving funds to assure availability of affordable over-the-counter and prescription medicines. The program ultimately expanded to 10 communities, where the funds continue to function even after years of conflict in the region.


NEF began a series of integrated projects in the Dar Es-Salaam al-Rabwa IDP community outside of Khartoum, whose more than 40,000 residents lacked access to basic health care, education, and water. The first task was to construct the community’s only health clinic. Originally designed to provide basic services to local residents, the center expanded to offer pre-and post-natal care, primary health care, and maternity services to nearly 2,000 patients per month. Management of the health center has now transitioned to a local aid organization experienced in health care delivery.

Beginning in 2004, NEF mobilized local communities to repair and improve their water supply systems. By the project’s close in 2008, more than 2,100 individuals had access to potable water, and the community health clinic and local schools were connected to the new pipe network. In addition, NEF staff worked with community associations to construct and renovate local primary schools, organize women’s literacy classes, and establish microcredit and microenterprise programs.

Today, NEF’s projects in Sudan focus around peace building through collaborative natural resource management and livelihood support, raising awareness on HIV-AIDS, and developing income-generating skills among internally displaced people. 

Click here to read more about our past and ongoing work in Sudan.

NEF Welcomes Ian Bremmer to President’s Council

New York, NY (April 16, 2014) — The Near East Foundation (NEF) is pleased to announce that Ian Bremmer, distinguished political scientist and author, has joined its President’s Council.

“The Near East Foundation represents a spirit and commitment to political stability and economic well-being needed now more than ever in the world,” said Mr. Bremmer. “I’m honored to join the President’s Council and support NEF’s critical efforts.”

Mr. Bremmer is Founder and President of Eurasia Group, the leading global political risk research and consulting firm. His firm provides financial, corporate, and government clients with information and insight on how political developments move markets.

As a member of the President’s Council, he joins other diplomatic and global leaders who provide strategic guidance for NEF’s economic development and participatory governance efforts throughout the Middle East and Africa.

“Ian is one of the world’s foremost experts on global issues, and we are very grateful that his strategic insights will help inform our work to reduce poverty and build cooperation throughout the region,” said Shant Mardirossian, Chair of NEF’s Board of Directors.

Mr. Bremmer created Wall Street’s first global political risk index and has authored several books, including the national bestseller, Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World. He is a columnist for the Financial Times, Reuters and Politico Magazine, and is frequent contributor to numerous other print and television media outlets.

He holds a PhD in political science from Stanford University and was the youngest-ever national fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is a global research professor at New York University, and has held faculty positions at Columbia University, the EastWest Institute and the World Policy Institute.


Eurasia Group is the world’s leading global political risk research and consulting firm. By providing information and insight on how political developments move markets, we help clients anticipate and respond to instability and opportunities everywhere they do business. Founded in 1998, the firm’s name reveals its early focus on the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, but today our research platform is global. Our analysts monitor political, economic, social, and security developments in Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and North America. Headquartered in New York, we have offices in Washington, D.C. and London, as well as on-the-ground experts and resources in more than 100 countries. Our analysts are highly trained political scientists with extensive experience in the public and private sectors. To learn more visit

The Near East Foundation is a U.S.-based international NGO leading innovative social and economic development in the Middle East and Africa since 1915. For nearly 100 years, NEF has worked to empower citizens in disadvantaged, vulnerable communities. NEF field staff – all of them from the countries in which they work – partner with local organizations to find grassroots solutions to their development challenges. NEF’s “knowledge, voice, and enterprise” approach is helping build more prosperous, inclusive communities throughout the region. To learn more visit