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Sudan: farming during wartime

A woman in colorful dress in a green field of crops

Women farmers in East Darfur tidy their fields. Photo: CARE Sudan

Women farmers in East Darfur tidy their fields. Photo: CARE Sudan

In East Darfur, where conflict and natural disasters have made everyday life a struggle, the unpaid labor of women and girls is often taken for granted.

Despite the hard work, women get nothing for themselves and they even have to ask for money to buy their basic needs, including dignity kits. Hawa, a 32-year-old mother of five from Bahar Alrab, has experienced this her whole life.

“For years, me and other young women villagers like me work hard all the day in the family farms,” she says. “However, when the harvest is sold in the market, we are given nothing.”

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the now seven-month conflict in Sudan has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced 5.6 million. Eighty percent are internally displaced while hundreds of thousands have fled to unstable areas in ChadEthiopia, and South Sudan. This has led to an influx of displaced people in regions like East Darfur, making daily life more difficult for all.

‘Today is a different day’

But Hawa’s agricultural returns have begun to change, along with those of thousands of others, through a CARE Sudan program, funded by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, which helps women establish vegetable gardens for both food and income, and has also assisted herders with veterinary care.

The program, implemented in South and East Darfur since September 2021, targets 23,900 vulnerable and conflict-affected households (119,500 people) in four largely agrarian, traditional areas in the two states, and is planned to run until August 2025.

Woman in green dress and head covering sits on the ground among harvested vegetables
A woman farmer sells her fresh vegetables production in Bahar Alrab, East Darfur. Photo: CARE Sudan

Through this program, women are trained on modern agricultural practices, irrigation techniques, and the use of organic fertilizers to increase yields.

“Today is a different day for me, I sold some of the vegetables I produced as part of the women’s vegetable production group that engaged in vegetable production and got some money for myself for the first time in my life,” says Hawa.

“I worked hard with my fellow women to take care of our vegetables and follow carefully the guidance provided by the trainers,” she says. “CARE provided us with vegetable seeds, and we were guided to plant them along the water-dripping lines after plowing the land and [adding] organic fertilizers.”

“It was lovely to see the small vegetable leaves coming out of the ground. It was like a newborn baby for us that needed care to grow.”

“Day after day, we worked with the agricultural team to monitor the vegetables to ensure they were growing healthily. Women were very excited to see vegetables flowering, telling us that soon they will be fruiting. Our hearts were beating hard every morning to notice that our fruits were growing.”

“When cultivation season approached, I was so excited. I sold my fresh vegetables in the nearby market, and I earned a good amount of money. I didn’t believe that I could have money that I could spend as I wanted.  Last week, I passed through the market, and I saw a lovely colorful dress and told myself that soon I will have my own money and I will be able to buy that dress.”

A group of women in colorful dress standing outside amongst growing crops
Women in their vegetable farms in Bahar Alrab, East Darfur. Photo: CARE Sudan.

Growing voices along with vegetables

The impact of the project has transcended finances and food security.

“In our society, women are not involved in decision-making as many men do not see our value in the community [since] we do not have financial resources in hand,” says Fatima, 26.

“Since we started to have money in our hands and were able to help our community, slowly men started to consult us in public affairs, and we are pushing now for building a girls’ school in our village.”

The project is designed to address the specific needs, vulnerabilities, and capacities of women, youth, farmers, internally displaced persons, host communities, and local institutions. There is a particular focus on marginalized members of communities, including but not limited to female heads of households, youth, and persons with disabilities.

“With our programs, we aim to serve poor women, youth, traditional farmers, displaced people and help them improve their lives,” says Takuna Ruvaro, CARE Sudan Livelihoods and Markets Advisor. “We usually focus on women struggling to support their families and persons with disabilities.“

Three men in white coats standing outdoors next to an animal lying down
Community Animal Health Workers and Ministry of Animal Resources staff vaccinate animals in East Darfur. Photo: CARE Sudan.

Fighting disease in livestock

To fill a gap in official veterinary service, driven by the ongoing conflict, CARE Sudan has stepped in to train community health workers and equip them with the needed tools and supplies to vaccinate animals. The trained animal health workers, equipped with veterinary toolkits, and Ministry of Animal Resources staff, have vaccinated animals in Bahr Al Arab and Abu Karnkea, benefiting some 6,000 households.

“I was feeling stressed and questioned the ability of the local animal health authorities to vaccinate our animals as usual due to the ongoing armed conflict,” says Osman, 45, a cattle herder from Abu Karnkea, East Darfur. “For years, we used to vaccinate our animals before heading north or south in search for grazing lands.”

“Our animals are vaccinated against common diseases in the region. We are ready now to move on with our animals without fearing getting sick,” he adds.

“Focusing on women, CARE Sudan strives to help rural communities access income opportunities through farming or animal breeding,” says Raja Rizwan Ashfaq, Interim Deputy Country Director-Programs, CARE Sudan. “The ongoing conflict has stretched work opportunities, with millions struggling to support their families. The needs are unprecedented. With millions living in dire conditions, we urgently need more resources to increase our reach and impact.”

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